We left our church family at the last week in October 1940, celebrating Homecoming Sunday with a covered dish dinner downstairs at the conclusion of the morning service, where everyone could visit and enjoy the fellowship. After the dinner there was “peppy” singing and a talk by Dr. Garth of Youngstown. For this information and much that follows, I am indebted to the Girard News, Girard’s weekly newspaper, published every Friday and available on microfilm at Girard Free Library.
The Friday Nov. 1st edition of the News headline was “Largest Vote in Girard’s History is forecast”. Girard had been growing throughout the 1930’s both with immigrants fleeing the poverty of Europe, rural Americans from the southern states seeking jobs in the northern cities, and recently immigrants from Europe seeking safety from the war. The American Legion had worked diligently nationwide (and the News told of the Girard Legion’s work) to offer citizenship classes for the immigrants, and these folks, along with the southern Americans, had swelled the voting rolls. The election of 1940 was an historic one. President Roosevelt was seeking a third term, citing the dangerous state of the world as reason for breaking the two-term limit established by custom, but not by law at that time. He was opposed by Wendell Willkie, a member of the liberal wing of the Republican Party. Much like the recent election of 2012, Willkie (Romney in 2012) tried to win support of the isolationist wing (Tea Party wing - 2012) of his party even though he was an internationalist (Moderate Republican - 2012), waffling on what America’s role in the European chaos (Health care, Foreign affairs - 2012) should be, losing support of many from both wings of his party. Roosevelt easily won re-election, carrying many Democratic candidates at the local and state level with him. This was a stunning break with our country’s tradition of Presidential terms of office. Four years later, with the United States in the third year of World War II, the country again broke with tradition and voted Roosevelt an unprecedented fourth term. These two elections aroused fear and anxiety among many people that a very popular President could, in effect, become a Dictator, winning term after term. It would eventually lead to the passage of the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution in 1947, which was ratified by the required number of states into law in 1951. So, today, President Franklin Roosevelt remains the only President ever to serve more than two terms, and by law, no President will ever serve more than two terms.
Back to 75 years ago in Girard: There was another front page headline in the Nov. 1st issue of the News – “Draftees Numbers Are Drawn”. In Washington DC, on September 29th, the draft lottery had begun. It affected sixteen men from our small town of Girard. They would have to report for duty, take physical exams, and, if they passed, become members of the U S Armed Forces. The News did not list their names. Were any of these first from our church family? I have no idea. I am certain, however, as successive numbers were drawn, some from our church would be drafted. It was a fate that hung over most young men 75 years ago. And, it would continue throughout the war years. I can remember my own Dad, in 1944 when he was 35 years old, leaving home to catch a train to Cleveland to report for a physical and other registration, and returning home with a card stamped 1-A. He had two children at that time, and worked for Strausbaugh Motors, which was supplying Dodge trucks and parts for the war effort. He never had to serve, but had the atomic bombs not produced a Japanese surrender in 1945, he, along with unknown thousands, would have been called up for the invasion of Japan. However, in 1940, it was just beginning. The US was still technically neutral even though our sympathies were strongly for England and its allies. Our merchant ships were supplying war materials to England, and on November 8th, our first merchant ship was sunk by a mine off the coast of Australia. But, of course, everyday life went on. On that same day, the Girard News reported that Foster Hotchkiss would be in an organ recital at our church on Sunday afternoon at 3:30. He would be assisted by Russell Girt, a clarinetist of McDonald. The News went on to report that “Hotchkiss is a pupil of Bernice Price and has been studying organ for three years. The public is invited.”
The next Friday’s edition of the News reported that, “On Wednesday evening, November 13th, the Friendly Class met at our church for their monthly meeting. Their guest speakers were “Mr. and Mrs. Similac of Youngstown who told of their travels through Checko Slovakia (sic), accompanied by motion pictures in Technicolor of the scenery and people.” This was followed by a dinner at 6:30 and a meeting after, when it was decided that the December meeting would be a Christmas Party with Mr. and Mrs. F. K. Teeter in charge.
Thanksgiving came and went. The last issue of the News in November reported in the “Church Notes” that Rev. Maly’s sermon title for Sunday, December 1st would be “Silent Christmas” and that Junior Church would be starting under the direction of Mrs. Dan Harris.
With that, we will leave our church family in 1940 – seventy-five years ago in our church and in our town.