We left our church family in late November of 1940, looking toward Christmas and wondering what would happen next in the war raging in Europe, Africa, and the Far East. Already some young men of Girard had been summoned by the draft and had reported for duty. We can only imagine what their families were thinking about as they prepared for Christmas, knowing there would be an empty seat at the holiday table. As always we are indebted to The Girard News, available on microfilm at the Girard Free Library, for much of the information provided here.
December 1st came on a Sunday, and Rev. Maly’s sermon topic was “Silent Christmas”. I have to wonder where he went with that title, knowing how much of our favorite Christian music involves Christmas. It might have referenced conditions in the war-ravaged parts of Europe and China and Northern Africa, all of which were home to fellow Christians trapped by the war being fought around them, often with intentional “collateral damage”. We can only guess at his sermon topic. We have some members who could have heard that sermon seventy-five years ago as children. But they probably weren’t paying attention or perhaps they were in Junior Church which had just been started under the direction of Mrs. Dan Harris.
Friday, Dec. 6th, the Althea Class held their monthly meeting at the home of Mrs. James Lewis of Morris Ave with Miss Zeila Garrett as co-hostess. Then, on Monday evening, at the church, the December Quarterly meeting of the Women’ Society was held. Mrs. Ross Williams presided over the business session and Mrs. Margaret Krehl had charge of the devotional service. She introduced Mrs. Carl Mieding who reviewed a book, “The Three Sisters” by Cornalit Spenser. This was followed by Chinese songs delightfully sung by Miss Beatrice Bullen accompanied by Miss Bernice Price on the piano.
The following Wednesday, the 11th, the Friendly Class had their monthly dinner meeting at the church. This was their Christmas Party also. The Friendly Class was probably the largest class of our church Sunday School. It was mostly composed of couples. Members were asked to bring their own table service, and bread and butter. There was a ten cent gift exchange for both men and women. [Sometimes, these little bits of seemingly uninteresting trivia just astound our 21st century brains. Just try to imagine a ten cent gift exchange! Whenever you younger folks become impatient with those of us who are youthfully challenged, particularly with understanding the costs of some things, just try to remember where we came from. The world was very different seventy-five years ago.]
But, in many ways, it was very much like our world. We Methodists always like to eat together. Saturday, December 14th was the annual Turkey Dinner, served in Fellowship Hall by the Ladies’ Aid. They also took orders for aprons that day, which was a money maker for them.
On Monday, the 16th, the Philathea Class met at the home of Miss Mary Elizabeth Evans on E. Kline St. Miss Ida Belle Hood presided over the business meeting and also had charge of the Bible Study period. They made plans to pack Christmas baskets for the needy.
On Friday evening at 7 PM, Dec. 20th, our Sunday School held its annual Christmas party. One hundred eighty children attended. The program included songs, recitations, and two playlets – “Santa Claus’s Necktie” and “The Little Gray Lamb”. Santa Claus also visited with a small present for each child.
The Sunday before Christmas, Rev. Maly’s sermon title was “No Room for Christ”. Our church celebrated Christmas week with two extra, special services. The first was the Sunday evening service which consisted of a program of scripture reading and song by the choir followed by a Communion Service. The second special service occurred on Tuesday, Christmas Eve, at 11:30 PM, a service of carols and lights. The Girls’ Choir directed by Miss Elizabeth Frack led the singing of carols. Rev. Maly gave a brief message on ”The Privilege of Participation”. For an hour preceding the service, a program of Christmas Carols was broadcast from the church tower. This is the first reference I have found for our usual Candlelight Service on Christmas Eve. In the preceding year, the youth group had conducted one on their Sunday evening meeting before Christmas with the public invited. But, this is the first Church-wide Candlelight Service I have found - December 24th, 1940. It was a time when our church family – as all American families – was anxious about the future and in need of a service of carols, and light, and hope.
After Christmas, of course, comes New Year’s Eve. The News had ads for various places of entertainment. The Blue Crystal Nite Club on South State St. offered dance music to the music of Don Ricard’s orchestra, with five floor shows, one every hour, beginning at 9:30. There was a $1 cover charge. The Blue Crystal is, of course, no longer. But the Mahoning Country Club is still around, albeit under different management. It offered the music of Chet Hagen and his orchestra, along with “great food, finest liquors, favors and noise-makers”, all for $3 per couple, and that included breakfast. Another place, right in downtown Girard, still in business and still run by the same Acerra family: The Royal Gardens offered “floor show, music, dancing, good drinks, good food, noise makers and favors” with a $1 cover charge.
That was the last day and evening of the year 1940 – seventy-five years ago in our church, in our town, and in our country.