We left our church family at the end of August, 1940 dealing with the specifics of the merger of the Methodist Episcopal Church with the Southern Methodist Episcopal and the Methodist Protestant Church. Thus, on September 4th, a Wednesday, the women of the church met to reorganize based upon the agreed-upon order of the new women’s groups. On Sunday, September 8th, during morning worship, they would launch the new local chapter of their organization - the Women’s Society of Christian Service. Here are the new officers: President – Mrs. Rose Williams, Vice-President – Mrs. Margaret Krehl, Secretary of Christian Social Relations and Local Church Activities – Mrs. Minnie Davidson, Treasurer – Mrs. Ethel Williams, Secretary of the Day Guild – Mrs. Mary Knight, Secretary of the Evening Guild – Miss Mary Frack, and Secretary of the Young Women’s Guild – Miss Beatrice Bullen. For this information and much of what follows, we are indebted to the Girard News, Girard’s weekly newspaper, published every Friday, and available on microfilm at the Girard Free Library.
On September 11th, the new Charles Clothing Shop opened with Smiley Burnette himself cutting the ribbon. Smiley would also appear at the New Mock Theatre that week.
The September 13th edition of the News announced that the number of telephones in Girard had returned to pre-depression numbers. There were now 1,570 phones in the city. The previous high had been 1,355 back in May of 1930. By 1935 this was down to 736 phones as many Girard families were financially distressed by the Great Depression. The next day, a Saturday, Girard’s football team played their first game of the season, against McDonald. Girard won easily, 13-0.
Sunday, September 15th, the morning message was delivered by J S Burtsfield who spoke on “The Importance of Laymen in the Welfare of the Church”. The next Sunday, Rev. Arthur S Maly took charge of his new Pastorate at our church. Rev. Maly came to Girard from the Ridgewood Methodist Church of Cleveland.
“On the following Monday evening, September 23rd, Rev. and Mrs. H. K. Hilberry were honored at a Farewell Dinner. They concluded a four year pastorate here in Girard, and left Wednesday for their new home in Jewett, Ohio. John Wiand, President of the Official Board presided. Brief talks were given by Henry Crider, representing the church board, Francis Teeter, Superintendent of the Sunday School, Rev. Hilberry, Rev. P J Sinner of Trinity Lutheran Church, Rev. Monroe Duffie of First Baptist Church, Rev. W L Woodall of First Presbyterian Church and Rev. P J Keckley of the First Christian Church. Group singing was led by G G McElhaney with Mrs. McElhaney at the piano, and Miss Beatrice Bullen, soloist accompanied by Miss Bernice Price. Rev. Hilberry was presented a gift of money and Mrs. Hilberry a gift from the Women’s Bible Class and the centerpiece at the speaker’s table, an attractive arrangement of fruit and flowers, given by Mrs. John M Powers.” One hundred fifty people attended.
And so we bid adieu to Rev. Hilberry. I had become quite attached to him over the past four years of reporting on his interesting sermon titles. When Marge Betts told me how he had saved her life by calling on his old roommate and friend, who had become a famous surgeon in Washington DC. His friend came to Girard, examined young Marge, and had her come to DC for surgery on the tumor in her mouth which no local doctor felt qualified to perform. When she told me of that I realized that Rev. Hilberry was also a very caring Pastor and Girard M.E. was fortunate to have had him here for four years.
About our Pastors – We have, in our Archives, a complete list of Girard Methodist Pastors going back to our beginning in 1843. In the early years there were many pastors who only served for one year before being transferred elsewhere. I can only imagine how difficult that must have been for those families and pastors. By the 1940’s pastors were being kept at one church for longer periods. Rev. Hilberry’s term here was on the short side. Perhaps he was being rewarded with a larger church that paid a higher salary. Rev. Hilberry’s salary was $83 for one-half month. Technically he was at Girard through September 15th, and he was paid his salary for that period on October 2nd. Rev. Maly was paid the exact same salary and his check of $83 for the period Sept. 15 – Oct. 1 was issued to him on Oct. 18th. These money amounts seem very small to us, but money was still scarce In 1940. For example, our Sunday School was very large, drawing many children and adults. The average daily attendance for the month of September in 1940 was 285 persons. Then, as now, collections were taken each Sunday. The average collection from those 285 persons was $14.13. It was a different world!
It was also a world at war. America was not at war, but – just as Rev. Hilberry was preparing to leave us and Rev. Maly was joining us – on September 16th, President Roosevelt signed into law the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940. This was the first ever peacetime draft in our history. Some Girard men would have their numbers called in the near future. The war was on the radio and in the paper every night. The blitz (nightly bombing of London by the Germans] had begun on September 7th. It would continue for 57 consecutive nights. There is barely a mention of the war in our archives. The minutes of meetings deal with financial matters, plays and music, Sunday School attendance, etc. But the war was gradually becoming more and more a menacing force that everyone feared and wanted to avoid, if at all possible. The newsreels at the movies showed the devastation in graphic detail. We can only imagine the worries of our church family and the prayers they offered for their children and other family members who might have to go and fight if war came.
With that thought, we will leave our church family in September of 1940 – seventy-five years ago in our church, our town, and our country.