At the end of June, 1944, we left our church family and all the families in our town and in our country, waiting anxiously for news of their boys fighting in Europe following the landing on D-Day, June 6th and the further fighting as they fought against the German Army, trying to force them back out of France. Other families, with their boys fighting in the Pacific, were waiting for word of the invasion of Saipan and whatever islands would come next. It still amazes me how slowly news traveled 75 years ago. There was no TV. Girard’s two movie theaters, the Wellman and the New Mock, ran news features between movies. There movie patrons could see our fighting forces in action, all in black and white and heavily censored removing disturbing images, and always two to three weeks after the battle. So, too, were the dreaded telegrams received by families telling them of the death of injury of their boy in the war two to three weeks prior.
Now, in the month of July, bad news for individual families was still coming in by wire, telling of Girard boys killed or injured either in the original beach invasion, or in the days following in the surrounding countryside, attacking the German soldiers who were able to put up a strong defense using the rural hedgerows as hiding places to pick off our men. The July 7th edition of the Girard News told of the wife of Lester Scott, living at 137 ½ N. Market St., receiving a wire that her husband had been badly injured on June 13th following the initial invasion. His injuries included a fractured skull, a broken nose, and a fractured jawbone. A three week lag time between the event and the delivery of the news seems to be typical. Thus, families were under constant stress . . . wondering. And, still, life in wartime went on. Almost all industry had been diverted from peacetime products to items needed by our military. Ration coupons were needed for almost everything you had to have. Enough gas coupons to get a person to work and back home. Sugar – butter – shoes – meat – clothing – Scarcity was just a part of daily life. Gradually, however, word of the battles in France began to get better. When a working temporary port was constructed in the days following June 6th, then our heavy weapons, especially tanks, became available. Suddenly the hedgerows didn’t provide the German
troops with cover. As more and more of our troops were unloaded in France, the German defenders became outnumbered. Our troops were making steady progress. People all across America began to feel that a turning point in the war had occurred. It wasn’t exactly “optimism” but hopelessness and pessimism became harder and harder to find. Confidence increased. It was evident in Girard. The Fifth War Loan had kicked off early in the month of June, and, by the end of June was only a small fraction of the way to its goal. But, then good news from the Front in Europe came in. Now, by July 14th, the News could report that the bond drive went “over the top”. Girard had met its goal and even exceeded it. And, life went on.
In our church, many of our Sunday School classes and members of WSCS were holding their monthly meetings outdoors because of the wonderful summer weather. Group 3 of the WSCS met on Tuesday, July 25th, at the home of Mrs. Harry Blair on E. Prospect St with 20 members present. Group 4 of the WSCS met on Thursday, July 27th at the home of Mrs. Charlotte Schoenfeld on St. Clair Ave, with 20 present. And the Friendly Class, the largest adult Sunday School Class, met on Thursday, July 13th, with 95 present. Group 3 and the Friendly Class said there would be no August meeting. Group 4 decided to hold an August meeting on the 10th at the home of Mrs. Edward Clark.
The July 21st edition of the News reported that Mr and Mrs Mike Brutka of McKinley Heights received a wire from the War Department that their son, Pvt. John Brutka had been killed in action on June 12th. That was just 20 days before what would have been his 20th birthday.
The war may have turned for the better but there would be many more of those telegrams before it would be over.
That was the month of July, 1944 – seventy-five years ago in our church, our town and our country.
We left our church family seventy-five years ago in May of 1944, celebrating Memorial Day on the last day of May with a Memorial Service both on the Girard Viaduct and tossing of a wreath off the bridge into the Mahoning in memory of our Navy Veterans lost at sea, and then a long march to the Cemetery with further Memorial Service for those Veterans who lost their lives on land in service to their country. I am writing this a few days before the 31st, and I have just participated in a Memorial Day Parade where I now live, in Lake Milton. Now that Memorial Day is celebrated on the Last Monday of May, we often find ourselves with almost a week of days left in May after the celebration. So, while describing a Memorial Day service 75 years ago, I am also savoring the recent honor of driving the Parade vehicle carrying a 92 year old Veteran, Murle McLaughlin, who served in the Pacific theatre of World War II, where he participated in the Battle of Iwo Jima. In our Memorial Day Parade at Lake Milton, we also stopped at the bridge, where Murle’s Wife, Kaye, tossed the wreath over to honor the Veterans lost at sea, and Murle delivered the Prayer for them. Then he got back into our Golf Cart and we proceeded to the American Legion grounds where the rest of the service was held. It is so amazing to realize that the service is almost identical to that service held in Girard 75 years ago, and, while I do not participate in the Girard Memorial Service any more, I know that it, too, is almost identical to that service 75 years ago.
The first issue of The Girard News in June, on Friday, June 2nd, reflected on the Parade held there just two days prior. There were various short stories about Girard men, “somewhere in the British Isles”. I believe I noted in a previous month’s blog, that our men were not allowed to tell their families where they we stationed in the weeks and months leading up to the big invasion. No one could know because the planned landing site was a huge secret. Now, of course, we know that they landed at Normandy, but General Eisenhower and his staff did everything they could to signal that the landing would be at Calais, the closest place across the channel from England. So, our town’s Mothers and Fathers of service men received V-Mail (special letters reduced in size for mass shipping back home) from “somewhere” in England or in the British Isles. An example of this was on the lower part of the front page of the June 2nd issue, “Three Brothers From Girard, All Serving Somewhere in the British Isles”. Then followed pictures of the three men, Paul, Andrew and John Bozin, with a description of when they joined, and their current rank and position. They were the sons of Mr and Mrs Dimitry Bosin, 309 Skoplee Avenue.
I was eager to see what the News would say about the invasion, so I paged forward to the July 9th edition. This was 3 days into the invasion. June 6th was “The Longest Day” – the first day of the largest invasion ever attempted in the history of the world. To my surprise the News said – nothing. They must have known that the invasion had begun. The Girard Ministerial Association announced that during the summer they would hold bi-weekly Sunday evening Union Church services at 7 PM at the High School Stadium, weather permitting, or at the High School Auditorium in case of rain. Each Pastor of the Association was assigned a specific date to preach. Our Rev. Maly was scheduled for August 6th. I am assuming that these extra church services were a response to the invasion which involved so many young sons of Girard families Almost 160,000 troops landed at Normandy, the 6th, with more arriving each day after the initial beachhead had been achieved. By the end of June, 875,000 men had landed, and were fighting their way into France, pushing the Germans back toward Germany.
With little news coming from Europe, our Girard families concentrated on what they could do to help the War Effort. Nationwide, the Fifth War Loan began. Our country needed to raise 16 Billion dollars to continue the war effort on both the European and Pacific theatres, to provide our soldiers with ships, tanks, guns, planes, trucks, and food and clothing so that they could finish their jobs. Of that 16 Billion dollars, our communities of Girard and McDonald were asked to purchase $600,000 in bonds. As of June23rd, the News reported that only $100,000 had been raised. The Chairman of the Girard Bond Drive, E. L. Houser made a plea in the News article of that issue – “At a time when the invasion of Europe has begun, and it seems as if the Jap Fleet has finally come out to fight, we will need more supplies to rush to our troops. The bonds purchased in the present drive might be the decisive blow to defeat the Axis.”
Meanwhile, life at our church continued with folks enjoying the summer weather and the longer days. The women’s groups continued to meet. The Friendly Class, our church’s largest adult class met and had its annual election of officers. Edward L. Clark was elected President, George Minze Vice-President, and Mrs. John W, Nace Secretary-Treasurer. They, along with many other church groups, were planning a picnic for their August meeting.
The January 30th edition of the Girard News finally brought some news from the Invasion of Europe – unfortunately not good. “Pvt. Leighton G. Allison, son of Mr. and Mrs. E. E. Allison, 713 N. State St., was killed June 10th during the invasion of France. His parents were informed in a wire from the War Department.” And, “Cpl. Earl Bundy with the Glider Infantry, was wounded in the invasion of France. His parents, Mr. and Mrs. Earl Bundy of 445 W. Liberty St. were informed in a wire received from the War Department Thursday.”
Suddenly the great difference between our families’ lives 75 years ago and our lives today becomes VERY CLEAR. We get our news in the present – on-line or 24/7 news channels, or text. The gliders were the first troops into France. Cpl. Bundy was wounded on the 6th. His parents finally got the telegram on the 29th.
On that sad note we will leave our church family and our town in June of 1944 – 75 years ago.
We left our Church Family back in April of 1944, looking forward to the coming summer, but preparing for a possible outbreak of rabies and also an increased risk of polio, or infantile paralysis as it was often called then.
Much of the material for this blog comes from The Girard News, our town’s weekly newspaper, published every Friday. It was very popular, even up through the 60’s when we first moved to Girard. Many young people had Girard News routes. As a Girl Scout Leader in the 70’s, I often sent the paper photos and stories of our girls’ activities. Our church also contributed stories about church activities. Often the News has more information about our church activities then our church archives have.
Last month I reported that Girard had failed miserably in its goal of raising $17,000 for War Bond Sales. The initial amount raised was only $9,284. After extending the drive for an extra week, the amount raised grew to $13,111, a more respectable figure, but still almost $4,000 short. Now, on May 5th, the News announced that, after receiving the donations of Girard workers in out-of-town mills, Girard had actually exceeded the $17,000 goal. Way To Go, Girard!
Now, however, in the May 19th edition of the News, came the announcement that a new War Bond Sale would be conducted beginning June 12th, with a goal of $600,000 for the entire Mahoning Valley area. It is hard for us in 2019 to look back 75 years ago and marvel at how our country was able to build up a huge army and navy so quickly after being surprised at Pearl Harbor. By May of 1944, a mere 2 ½ years after December 7th, 1941, “a date that would live in infamy”, our navy was dominating both the German navy and the Japanese navy. Our planes were ruling the skies over both countries. And we were preparing to invade Germany occupied Europe with the largest sea invasion ever attempted in the history of the world. Everyone knew the invasion would be coming soon, as thousands of American Soldiers were already in England, and more were on the way. All this was possible because of our huge industrial complex, working 24/7, and the purchase of war bonds by virtually every citizen. And, of course, there was the rationing of everything from tires to meat to provide food and equipment for our fighting men and women. Thus, almost all of the news about our church folks back in 1944, was dominated by the war.
At the end of May, Girard High Seniors were looking forward to graduation. There were 110 of them in 1944. Most of the boys would probably be drafted sometime in the near future, or maybe they would enlist so that they could have some control over which branch of the military they would serve. They faced an uncertain future.
Memorial Day in 1944 came on May 31st, as it always did back then. No long weekend holidays – in 1944 it fell on a Thursday. So, on Thursday morning, May 31st, the parade formed up at 9:30 at the Girard Viaduct, where a wreath was dropped into the Mahoning to honor the Naval dead of Girard. Then, participants reformed in front of the City Building to march to Liberty Union Cemetery to honor the dead of other branches of the Services. There was a flag raising ceremony by the Boy Scouts, and a speaker, Rev. Paul Gerard, pastor of the Hubbard Presbyterian Church. Approximately 500 people took part in those weekday morning Memorial Day services.
Our Church Family and our Town in the month of May, 1944 – seventy-five years ago during World War II.
We left our church family back in March of 1944 looking forward to Easter which would occur on April 9th seventy-five years ago. Much of the information I can find about our church during those past years comes from The Girard News, a weekly paper published every Friday and available on microfilm at the Girard Free Library. On the last issue in March of ’44, on the 31st, the News indicated that the City of Girard had failed badly in raising its $17,000 for the latest War Bond Drive which concluded on the last day of March. Our town had only raised $9,284, just a little over half of the goal of $17,000. Peter Wellman, owner of Girard’s two movie theaters and a very active supporter of all of our town’s civic life, said that “The quota assigned to Girard was out of proportion to its population”. The deadline was extended one week, and the April 7th headline of the News proudly proclaimed that in the past week Girard people had raised almost $4,000 more and had a much better amount of $13,111 toward that still too high quota of $17,000.
April 7th was also Good Friday and the News gave each church in Girard as much space as needed to describe their Easter Sunday’s Services. Rev. Maly simply reproduced the entire order of worship from the Organ Prelude through the Postlude. I will share the highlights: The Choir Anthem was “Now Is Christ Risen From The Dead”. After the Responsive Reading followed several prayers including lighting of candles for each service man and woman. The Offeratory Solo was “I Know That My Redeemer Lives” sung by Blodwyn Evans. The Sermon was given by Rev, A. E. Maly and was untitled. A Reception of New Members followed the Sermon. Then the Benediction and a Seven-fold Amen by the Choir, and finally, the Postlude ended the Easter Service. Sunday School attendance was 399. Church attendance was probably similar. Then everyone went home to an Easter Dinner with family and/or friends. A & P Grocery Store offered whole ham at 38 cents a pound, 2 dozen eggs for 59 cents, and a Jane Parker Easter Cake for 53 cents. Many of those Easter Dinners had an empty chair where a service man or woman used to sit. Many Girard families were counting the number of Christmas and Easter Dinners with an empty chair, and hoping that this one would be the last.
You may remember that, back in November I reported that Girard High School students were beginning a bond drive of $75,000 to purchase a P-51 Mustang Fighter Plane for the War effort. Now in the April 14th edition, the News announced that the drive had been a huge success with the students coming in $45,000 over their goal. So there was now a P-51 Mustang named Girard High Indians to go along with the B-25 Mitchell Bomber named City of Girard flying . . . somewhere . . . in the world of war.
The April 21st edition of the News announced that the War Manpower Commission ordered a 48 hour work week effective May 1 for all companies employing 8 or more workers. That was a sobering order. All defense production had been working 24/7 from the very beginning of the war. Now everyone, except for a few mom and pop stores, would have to work a full 6 day week, or, perhaps five days with longer business hours, to provide the folks who were working so long and hard, a better chance to purchase food and other necessities. It is hard for us to comprehend, but, back in the day most stores closed at 5 PM, 6 at the latest.
Another difference in the lives of our Girard Church Family who lived through WWII – Recap Tires – Again, this is something we just cannot comprehend. Even new tires back in the years after the war, barely got ten thousand miles before they died. Re-treads, about the only kind of tire available to civilians, were notorious for delaminating or falling apart if they got too hot. Here is a Firestone Spring Savings Ad from that same April 21st edition of the News: “Factory-Controlled Recapping - $6.70 for a 16” tire – No Ration Certificate Required – The Firestone Factory-controlled method assures you highest quality materials and the finest workmanship by factory-trained experts. You get longer mileage, guaranteed satisfaction.” I don’t know how much satisfaction was guaranteed. My Dad, like most people, was thrilled to be finally able to purchase real new tires when they became available sometime after the end of the war.
Here is another difference in our lives today and the lives of our families back in 1944. The April 28th issue of the News featured announcement from the Girard Board of Health. Seeking to stop a possible Rabies Epidemic in the coming summer months, they would shoot and/or impound all stray dogs . That sounds pretty drastic. But, it was the only way they could deal with it back then. Now, with all pet dogs receiving rabies vaccinations, practically our only acquaintance with the disease is through contact with wildlife such as raccoons. But there were no rabies vaccinations available back in ’44. Rabies epidemics were real and frightening. They always seemed to occur in the summer. Another disease that seemed to occur most often in summer was polio. In 1944 there was no preventive vaccine for polio. The President of the United States was in a wheelchair because of it. It would not be until the 60’s that we would all line up to get our dose of the vaccine. We tend to forget about diseases like polio and rabies when we go to classic car or boat shows, and look back to what, to us, seem like simpler times. They weren’t.
So, with summer weather just around the corner, we will leave our church family back in April of 1944 – still deeply enmeshed in World War II – Seventy-five years ago in our church and in our town.
We left our church family in February of 1944, performing their usual work, family and church activities against the backdrop of bond drives, scrap drives, paper drives, blackouts, and ration coupons required for almost all necessities of life including gasoline, tires, milk, coffee, meat, shoes, and winter clothing. Everyone knew that something big was being planned to continue the war in Europe. Many of the young men who had recently been drafted or volunteered, were able to visit back home before being assigned to this unknown next part of the war. Our Sunday School Secretary had decided to note in the Sunday School Record Book the names of Service Men and Women who happened to be home that particular week. Last month I reported on those who were home during the month of February. Now, in the month of March, 1944, she noted on March 12th that “Howard should come home for a few days.” On March 19th, “Alberta is home for a week.” Finally, on March 26th she reported that “The weather is very warm. The sun is shining bright. Lieutenant Alice Gosnell is home and Alberta is home. Tommy Dorsey was at the Palace (a Youngstown theater) last night. Everything clicked. I got a raise.” Reading these 75 year old notes, I could feel her happiness on that warm spring Sunday. I don’t know where she worked for that “raise” she referred to. Anyone who is remotely connected with working in our church knows that the raise was not related to church work. The only church employees were the Pastor, Custodian, the Organist and Choir Director. No one ever got rich working for the Methodist Church.
More happy news, this time from the Society section of The Girard News: “Evelyn Bundy Weds Harry Bundy on March 5th”. They were married Saturday evening in the Methodist Parsonage, Rev. Arthur Maly officiating. Cpl. Bundy will return to Shreveport, Louisiana where he is stationed, and Mrs. Bundy will make her home with her parents for the duration.” So many young men and women got married before they were to be separated by the war – not just in Girard, of course, but all across our country. By the time the war was finally over, these young couples, married but living separately because of the war, would create an unprecedented need for housing. This need would be answered by new construction of large tracts of housing located outside of the already crowded cities, creating suburbs, and a new way of living with greater emphasis on the automobile. But that is something we know; it was to be discovered by our families of 1944 in the future, a happy time for those who made it through the war.
Back to our church happenings in March of 1944: The Friendly Class held its monthly meeting the evening of March 8th at the church. They had an outside speaker as well as a dinner meeting. Their speaker was I. W. Sherman from the Mahoning County Experimental Farm in Canfield.On March 10th, Group 3 of the WSCS met at the home of Mrs. J. B. Burtsfield for the first of a series of Vanishing Tea meetings. Twelve women were present. On Tuesday evening of the 21st, Mrs. Wormer was the hostess for the second in a series of Vanishing Tea meetings for the benefit of the WSCS. Fifteen women were present. The March 24th Edition of The Girard News announced that our church would hold special services every night beginning Monday, March 27th and ending Good Friday, April 7th. Services would begin at 7:30 PM each evening. Rev. Maly would be doing most of the preaching with Dr. Paul G. Mayer of Cleveland delivering the sermon on Monday and Tuesday nights. Special music would be provided. And George McElhaney would lead the singing.
With this special Lenten series of services, we will leave our church family in March of 1944. One final little historical note from March, 1944 -- On March 2nd, the 16th Academy Awards ceremony was held at Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood. Casablanca won the Academy Award for Best Picture.
We left our church family in January of 1944 in the midst of a City of Girard War Bond drive to raise $500,000 worth of U. S. War Bonds. The drive ran from the beginning of January through February 15th. This was a huge amount for a town of Girard’s size. The $500,000 figure represented the face value of the bonds. The actual price was lower, but not that much lower. I remember, in school, purchasing twenty-five cent stamps to fill a small book. When filled, the book contained $18.75 worth of stamps. This was then traded in for a $25.00 bond. If that 75% ratio applied to the Series E Bonds which were being sold in this bond drive, it would mean that Girard folks would have to give $375,000 to purchase $500,000 worth of bonds. That is a huge amount of money, much more than could possibly come from a small town like Girard. On Friday, February 4th, the Girard News, Girard’s weekly newspaper, announced that the Girard merchants were donating prizes for auction bidding to help the Bond Drive. The auction would be held on February 12th at 8:30 PM at the Girard Theaters. The Theaters, of course, were the Wellman and the New Mock, side by side on Liberty Street, and both owned and operated by Peter Wellman, a very civic minded gentleman who often volunteered his theaters for worthy causes. (Here is a typical worthy cause that Pete Wellman supported: Back when The Wizard of Oz came to local theaters, probably in the spring of 1940, Mrs. John Powers, Chairwoman of the Dandelion Eradication Committee of the Girard Women’s Garden Club, asked every elementary child in Girard Schools to pick 100 dandelions and put them in a paper bag. These were to be turned in to their teachers, who would then give them a ticket to see The Wizard of Oz at a special Saturday showing at the Wellman Theater. The results were so great that a second special showing of the movie had to be held for the dandelion pickers.) Even with the auction for prizes, the Bond Drive fell short, but still reached the three-fourth figure of $375,000 worth of bonds sold. If the 75% ratio applied to these series E bonds, then Girard residents contributed a little over $281,000 toward the Bond Drive. That is still a great amount of money, and this of course was not the first nor would it be the last War Bond Drive. The War was a constant part of life in 1944.
Still, church life continued as well. On the last day of January, the WSCS met at the home of Miss Roma Lambert of 516 E. Kline St., per the February 4th edition of The Girard News. (Clyde and I purchased that very house from Miss Lambert back in ’65 of the last century. We raised all four of our children there. Our youngest daughter, Becky, and her husband, Michael, bought the house from us a number of years ago, and still live there. It is a lovely big old house with a large front porch, and a walk-up attic to which Clyde and I added a full dormer extension, so that all four of our children could have their own bedrooms – which brought a semblance of peace to our family life. Just a few houses up from there resided the Jack Powers family – Jack was the son of Mrs. John Powers referred to in the story of the dandelion eradication project. They were wonderful neighbors, and Jack was one of the Saints of our church. As a young man he made the Cross that we all look at on Sunday morning, hanging over the choir. He was always active in our church, and a great encourager of others in the church. I always saw him as a good neighbor and a friend. Researching this month’s blog has brought back many fond memories. Jack never missed Church or Sunday School. Because he was brought to Sunday School by his parents as a very young child, his perfect attendance records were just a few years shy of his age. I believe his records went well into the 70th decade. Maybe someone else knows the exact number. Somewhere in his later years, he broke his arm. It snowed the following Saturday night, not a lot, maybe 4 inches. We all had snow blowers at that time and I blew out our drive and sidewalk, then, remembering Jack’s arm, I blew a path up to his house and blew out his drive, too. It didn’t take more than 15 or 20 minutes. No big deal. Then back home and got ready for Sunday School and Church. In church that morning, Jack handed me a beautiful orchid which he had raised in his little greenhouse on the rear of his home. That is the kind of guy he was.. All the children in the neighborhood knew that, if they had to sell something for school or scouts, they should stop at Jack and Norma’s house first because they would always buy. As I said, this blog is bringing back old memories)
Back to the WSCS meeting at Roma Lambert’s house: Miss Lambert was assisted by her sisters, Mrs. Harriet Bowser and Miss Anna Lambert. They entertained Group #3 of the WSCS. Group 2 of the WSCS met Tuesday evening, February 22nd, at the home of Mrs. David Phillips, 417 E. Liberty St. During the meeting, plans were made to serve dinner to the Kiwanis Club Tuesday, March 2nd. And, again, Group 3 of the WSCS met on the evening of February 28th at the home of Mrs. E. Hood of E, Prospect Street. We have no information about Group 1, or even if it existed. So, from the last day of January to the last day of February, the ladies groups of our church were meeting regularly.
The Sunday School and Church held their regular Sunday Morning meetings. We don’t have church attendance records but we have Sunday School notes. The attendance for the month of February, 1944 ranged from a high of 303 to a low of 263. The Sunday School Secretary often commented on individual people for that Sunday. At first I thought she was referring to young students when she noted that so-and-so was home this weekend. Duh!! I finally realized that she was referring to members of the military who were home that weekend. I keep saying that World War II took over all aspects of our church families’ lives. I should have realized it much sooner. On February 6th, she noted that Foster Hotchkiss was home this morning, and Howard was moved to Tennessee this week. No remarks on the 13th. On February 20th, the following: “ Jack Powers was here last Sunday. We checked. Howard is going to be a navigator. Alice Gosnell went to Army two weeks ago.” And on the 27th, “ Mary Jo and Alberta are home. David Maly came home Friday.”
So, what went on in February of 1944 on the war front? In the Pacific, our troops landed in the Marshall Islands and captured them. In the European theater, on February 14th, General Dwight D Eisenhower established the SHAEF headquarters in London, England. SHAEF stands for Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force. It was moved to London in preparation for what would be the D-Day invasion in June. SHAEF would consist of all Allied Airborne divisions, brigades and paratrooper transport wings, The First Canadian Army, the Second British Army, The First United States Army, the Third United States Army, the Fifteenth United States Army, the French First Army and the Seventh United States Army – All of these would be moved to England.. General Eisenhower would begin preparations there for the largest naval invasion in history. Of course, our church families did not know that. They suspected that something was coming. They would find out when it happened.
February, 1944 - as experienced by our church family, our town, and our country
We left our church family in December of 1943, doing whatever they could to help the War effort, including buying War Bonds, collecting scrap metal and paper, enduring rationing of almost all necessities, and praying for their family members and friends in the armed services fighting for our country.
On New Year’s Eve, they might well have listened to Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians on the radio, broadcasting live from New York City’s Roosevelt Grill in the Roosevelt Hotel. His Auld Lang Syne was always the first song to be played after the stroke of midnight, and maybe it still is in Times Square. Its message of remembering old friends, and taking a cup of kindness seems like a good way to begin a new year, both 75 years ago and right now.
New Year’s Day fell on a Saturday in 1944, so the next day was the first Sunday worship in the New Year. We only have the Sunday School attendance, and it was down considerably from the Sunday before Christmas attendance of 308. At 233 though, it was more than the attendance of the last Sunday in the year 1943, which was only 181.
The following Tuesday, Unit 3 of the Philathea Class met at the home of Mrs. Raymond Miller at 637 E. Kline St. A luncheon was served after the meeting. The next meeting would be at the home of Mrs. Hazel Rees on Forsythe St.
A new Bond Drive of E Series Bonds was launched beginning in January. Girard’s quota for this drive was set at $500,000.
Remember that in last month’s Glance, D. J. Rees was alone in his bank in mid-December, when three men walked in, forced him into the basement and locked the door, and then escaped with over $1,000 cash completely unnoticed by anyone in our town. They apparently got into their car and drove away.
Now, in the January 14th edition of The Girard News, came the welcome news that the bank robbers had been caught in Akron. They had both escaped from the Moundsville, West Virginia State Penitentiary back in October. Their names were William Spencer, 39, of Massillon, Ohio and Ellwood V, McClure, 39, of Charleston, West Virginia. These guys sound like they were professional thieves, and Mr. Rees was probably fortunate to escape any harm during the robbery.
Also in that same issue of the News, was an ad for a subscription to the Girard News. There was a photo of a young man in Naval attire with the caption, “Harry D. Humble Receives The Girard News Every Week. Does your boy?” There was a coupon to be filled out with the service information. Cost was only $1.50 per year, in Advance.
And, finally, in the same issue: “June Evans is the lovely Bride of Sergeant John Kielb, married in the Church Parsonage at 4 PM, Friday, Jan. 7th, by Rev. Arthur Maly. Sgt. Kielb has returned to Camp Reynolds and Mrs. Kielb has resumed her work at the offices of the Carnegie-Illinois Steel Corp.”
Readers of this history blog will remember how, in reporting on our church during the decade of the thirties, there were many times when the minister and other staff members were paid whenever funds became available, often weeks after they were due. The indebtedness of the church had originally been $50,000. It simply could not make the payments as required after the stock market crash of 1929, and the Great Depression which followed. The church was saved from foreclosure by the fact that it was a church, and there was absolutely no market for a church in the Depression. Still the Trustees felt the moral responsibility of reducing their debt, and so they announced in the News Edition of January 22nd, that a drive to reduce the debt of the Methodist Church would be conducted during the month of February. I. R. Howells, Chairman of the Trustees, asked that church members purchase a War Bond in the Church’s name during the first two weeks of the month. Then, during the last two weeks the Trustees would also solicit cash and subscription pledges. This would be a good time to have the congregation work on the debt of the building constructed about fifteen years ago. Many members who made pledges to help pay for the new building had lost their jobs, or found their pay reduced drastically during the 1930’s. Now, however, because of the war, there was full employment, and wages were rising. So, the Trustees were making a realistic proposal to get the congregation back on the path of paying the debt incurred when our beautiful church was constructed.
Meanwhile, in World War II during the month of January, in Europe, our men were working their way north through Italy. They would become bogged down in Anzio for months. In the Pacific, the war became one of island hopping, attacking islands held by the Japanese to enable the U S forces to control the Pacific Ocean, always moving toward Japan. In the end of January they began moving on the Marshall Islands. As noted before, our church family and just about everyone in the US, got their information about the war from newsreels, radio newscasts, and their daily newspaper.
January, 1944 – our church family, our town and our country - in the midst of World War II.
We left our church family in November of 1943, enjoying their Thanksgiving dinners, many with an empty chair at the table because so many families had sons, fathers, or brothers in the armed forces, fighting in the Pacific Ocean or islands or in Europe, in Italy at this point in 1943.
However, before we get into December activities, the first edition of the Girard News in the month of December, reported on a lovely surprise party held at our church on the Monday before Thanksgiving. Miss Edith Howells, who had taught for 30 years in the Philathea, Alethea and Wesleyan Classes of the church, thought she was merely attending a Sunday School meeting. Instead she found herself the Guest of Honor at a Tea and Program that had been put together in secret by her class members. She was also given a gift of jewelry.
Now on to the news of December, 1943: You will remember that back in the August, 1943 history, the folks of the City of Girard were trying to raise the huge amount of $175,000 to purchase a B-25 Bomber, which would be named “The City of Girard”. This was in addition to their usual quota of War Bond purchases. But, at the conclusion of their August fund raising drive, they were still $13,000 short of their goal. There was no story in the News stating that the goal had been reached . . . until now, in the December 13th Edition of the Girard News was a huge Headline: “City of Girard, Ohio” Now In Combat.
There was also a photo of a B-25 Mitchell Bomber beneath the headline. The News went on to report that the majority of the money had been raised during those two large rallies back in the summer, and that the remaining $13,000 was made by some individual donors who helped the City meet its goal. So, somewhere out there, in the awful skies over World War II, was a bomber with the name of “The City of Girard”. I can just imagine how proud everyone was to have a bomber named after our own town. I wonder if, when the Moms, Dads, and Wives and Children of Girard’s men at war were praying for their safety, if they also included the men flying bombing raids in “The City of Girard”? Maybe some of our members into their nineties can remember those prayers.
The December 17th Edition of the Girard News certainly commanded attention: “GUNMEN Rob Bank In Daytime Holdup”. D. J. Rees was alone in the Bank when the three men walked in. They forced him into the basement and locked him in. Then they left with over $1,000 and got into their car and drove away. No one outside apparently noticed the men or what kind of car they drove. They attracted no attention. Police Chief Flory called in the FBI from their Youngstown office to help with the investigation. To Be Continued. . .
Meanwhile, Christmas was coming. Christmas Day fell on a Saturday in 1943. There is nothing that I can find about a Christmas Eve service. I don’t believe they were as popular then as they are now. The Sunday before Christmas was the 19th, and that was the special Christmas Service.. We have the Sunday School attendance books for this era. That Sunday’s attendance was 308 scholars and teachers. The Sunday School Secretary noted that the weather was a little warmer after being very cold the prior week. She also reported that she and Betty were preparing boxes of candy for the church party. That might have referred to the evening service when there would be a Young People’s Concert. The morning Church Service consisted of a “program to be presented in a form of a service depicting the Nativity of Jesus. Christmas Music by the Church Choir will be a part of the Service.”
With that, we will leave our Church Family in December of 1943, enjoying their Christmas as much as they could, while praying for those family members in the war. - Seventy-five years ago in our Church and in our Town.
We left our church family in late October of 1943 watching the movie This is the Army at the Wellman Theater, with the money from their admission fee going to support the Army Emergency Relief Fund. The beginning of November brought a short respite from the war news with local elections. The headline of the Friday, November 5th edition of our town’s local weekly newspaper, The Girard News, provided the results of the election: “Whitford Re-elected Mayor for Third Term”. A Sub-headline also offered the following information: “Voters Okay School Levy”. The News also reported that the movie, This is The Army had raised $800 to benefit the Army Emergency Fund, and that the Paper Shortage was still critical and that paper drives would continue.
Plans were announced for the commemoration of Armistice Day which would be held the following Thursday, November 11th. Participants from the VFW and the Legion would meet at the Liberty Street Bridge at 10:15 to honor the Navy dead. Then, beginning at 10:45 Memorial Services will continue at the Auditorium of City Hall. VFW and the American Legion have asked that local stores close between 10:45 and 11:45 so that their employees might attend the Memorial Services. The High School would close at 10 AM so that their pupils might attend. What they called Armistice Day, we now call Veterans Day. The day originally celebrated the end of World War I which occurred on November 11, at 11 AM in 1918. This year will mark the 100th anniversary of the end of the “War to end all Wars”. as that war was referred to. Future events would result in that same date being retained but the name of the celebration was changed to Veterans’ Day and we honor all fallen veterans from all our wars.
Under “G I News” in that same edition was the following: Cpl. William Maggs, son of Mr and Mrs Garnette Maggs, has been promoted to the rank of Sergeant at the Army Air Base of DeRidder, Louisiana where he is stationed.
Meanwhile. Church and Sunday School were continuing as usual. Sunday School averaged just over 300 attendance the first three Sundays of the month, but dropped to 283 on Thanksgiving weekend. Unfortunately we have no records of church attendance for this period, but I believe we can assume it was similar.
The Friendly Class reported on their monthly meeting in the Nov. 19th edition of the News. They met at the church on Wednesday evening, Nov. 17th. After their dinner, they had musical entertainment by Miss Bernice Price, Miss Norma Clark and Miss Maryner Mieding. Plans were made for a Christmas Party and Gift Exchange to be held on Wednesday evening, December 8th.
Meanwhile, recruiting for the Women’s Army Corp began in Girard on the 19th at the Civilian Defense Office in the City Building. All women between the ages of 20 and 50 who had no children under 14 years of age, were eligible to enlist.And on November 11th,, when students were dismissed from school to attend Armistice Day Services, they also held a special assembly at the school to plan a bond drive of $75,000 to finance purchase of a pursuit plane. They asked that any people planning to purchase war bonds, to please purchase them through the high school so that the students would get credit for the bonds toward the purchase of the $75,000 pursuit plane.
The War news that our church family read or listened to on the radio was relentless, some good, some bad. The Navy and the Marines were fighting a fierce battle in the Solomon Islands in the Pacific. Our American troops along with the British were fighting their way north through Italy, Lebanon got its independence from France on November 11. There were two meetings of our President and other war leaders to determine future strategy. The first was in Cairo on November 25th, attended by our President Franklin Roosevelt, China’s Chiang Kai-shek, and Britain’s Winston Churchill. Then in Tehran, our President Roosevelt met with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. At this latter conference, the three leaders would establish an agreement concerning a planned June 1944 invasion of Europe with the codename “Operation Overlord”. Of course, this plan was top secret. It would not have been announced in the papers or on radio. GI’s V-mail letters home would black out any reference to where they were or where they were headed.
With that information we will leave our church family planning and participating in their Thanksgiving Day celebration and dinners, many in our town with an empty seat at the dinner table for a son or husband in the service, and the family had no idea where he even was.
That concludes our glance back at November, 1943 – 75 years ago in our church, our town and our country.
We left our church family in late September, 1943 with the announcement of the marriage of June and Bill Maggs. They had actually been married in Oklahoma City back in January, about the announcement was just revealed in September. Many young Girard couples were married in other towns because of the war. Now in the month of October, another young couple from our church announced their wedding. Dolores Humble and August Colapietro had been married in St. Louis, Missouri on September 19th. They had a brief honeymoon in St. Louis and Cleveland before Corporal Colapietro had to return to Camp Polk in Louisiana, while Dolores returned to her parent’s home and to her job at Ravenna Arsenal.
The stories of these two young couples from or church family are similar to stories of hundreds of thousands of young couples throughout our country. It is hard for those who did not live through World War II to comprehend how much the war affected all aspects of daily living. Almost everything was rationed. There were regular “drives” for scrap metal, old tires, paper and cardboard. There seemed to be a perpetual sale of Wartime Savings Bonds, with new quotas every month. The Girard News proudly announced in October that Girard had oversubscribed its quota with the huge sale of $857,807 in War Bonds.
From our time in 2018, we know that both of these young couples, married in distant cities in 1943, made it through the war, raised families and lived long and happy lives together, sharing their gifts of music, enthusiasm, reliability and encouragement as important members of our church family.
Unfortunately, not all Girard men made it back alive. In that same edition of the News, was the announcement that First Lieutenant Frances Stegna, son of Mr. and Mrs. Francis J. Stegna of 22 E Second St., had been killed in a plane crash at Portia, Arkansas on September 30th. Sometime when you are not in a hurry, you ought to walk across Main Street and check out the World War II memorial. According to the 1940 census, there were 9,805 people in Girard back then, fairly similar to today’s population Fifty-nine men from Girard made the ultimate sacrifice in World War II. Their names are listed on the memorial.
The first Sunday in October fell on the 3rd of the month. In the October 1 edition “Church Notes” column of the Girard News, Rev. Maly had noted the times of the Sunday School and Church Service as well as announcing Holy Communion at the Church Service, and that the church would be celebrating both Rally Day and World Wide Communion at the service. Remember how he left the after Easter Sunday announcement of “Church Notes” run all summer long which must have amused people who consulted it weekly. Now, he did it again, running the same Rally Day and World Wide Communion announcement through the next three Friday editions of the News. Finally, in the October 3rd edition the ‘Church Notes” column for our church read simply: “Sunday School 9:30 to 10:30, Church Service 10:30 to 11:40. Now, probably with a sigh of relief, he could just let it slide unless something really noteworthy had to be announced.
The Headline for the Girard News October 23rd edition read: “This is The Army Opens Here”. The main article went on to explain that Irving Berlins’ musical proudly produced by Warner Brothers, would open Thursday night at the Wellman Theater. It would run through November 3rd. The movie featured George Murphy, Joe Louis, Joan Leslie and Ronald Reagan, along with real men from our armed services. All money would benefit the Army Emergency Relief Fund. I had never heard of this movie, so I googled it. It had been proposed by Irving Berlin to the war department early on. It was a sequel to an early musical production he had done back in World War I. It was all done to benefit the Relief Fund. He insisted on using, along with professional stars, regular men from the armed services who had been in the entertainment field before the war. He also insisted that the cast be integrated. This was too much for the Armed Forces with were definitely NOT integrated at the time. (They would be in 1948 by President Truman, but that is another story.) A compromise was reached that the cast would be integrated, but would not appear together at any time on the screen. This was probably the first integrated company of men in the modern Armed Forces, but only when they were no on the screen. Anyway, the movie premiered at the Warner’s Earle Theater on August 12th, 1943, roughly 2 ½ months before it got to Girard. It grossed $9,555,586 for the A.E.R.F. Many of the soldiers who had participated in the movie held reunions every five years after the end of the War. Their 50th and final reunion in 1992 was in New York’s Theater District.
With that interesting little story we will leave our church family and other Girard families at the end of October in 1943, at the Wellman Theater watching “This is The Army” – seventy-five years ago in the history of our church and of our town.
Connect with Pastor Vicky, Dave DiBernardi, Sally Wagner and Shane Russo as they share what God is doing in our lives and what we are learning as we grow.