We left our church family in February, 1943, living with war news every day, watching their young men going off to serve, listening intently to the evening news on the radio or in the newsreels between the movies in the local theaters, while still going about their usual daily activities.
A large 32 county blackout was held on the evening of March 4th, a Thursday. This would have been more serious than the previous dimouts. Street lights would be off, traffic would be limited to essential only, whatever that was determined to be. No lights were permitted to be on in houses or offices, unless the windows were completely covered by heavy, black, light-blocking curtains. People were to remain in their homes for the duration of the blackout. Of course, anyone working in a factory producing something essential for defense could not stop for a practice blackout. Thus, all the steel mills along the Mahoning River were busily working 24 hours a day, with the glow of the molten steel and the lights of the mills the only light visible in the entire Mahoning Valley. Looking back, it seems silly to black out all the homes, etc. while leaving the very necessary mills producing steel fully exposed. However, people wanted to know what they should do if we were attacked, and these practices helped to put in place plans for dealing with that possibility. Stopping the production of steel was out of the question.
That same evening, apparently earlier, our Official Board held their regular monthly meeting. This must have been one of the shortest in our church history. Two items were considered. #1 – the Minister was given permission to purchase colored bulletins for Easter and, #2 – All bills due should be paid. And then they turned out the lights, and went home to prepare for and participate in the blackout.
On Friday, March 5th, Women’s Society of Christion Service Groups #1 and #5 met respectively at the homes of Mrs. Mildred Patterson, 49 Howard St., and Mrs. Reese Evans of Morris Lane.
On Sunday, March 7th, we have from our archives the report of the Sunday School. Attendance was 270. The collection from these scholars was $13.81. The weather was noted as “cold” and under Remarks, “Paul S. home on leave”. Next Sunday, the 14th, the weather was noted as “fair and warmer”, and the attendance was up, too, at 317. March 21st was also “fair and warmer” with attendance at 316. Under Remarks, “Alberta and Oscar have the measles.” The last Sunday in March was the 28th. The attendance was 332 with a collection of $20.66. The weather was reported as “Bright sun but cold. Spring is here!” Remarks – “Marjorie’s got the measles.”
On March 4th, the 15th Annual Academy Awards ceremony was held in Los Angeles. Of course there was no TV then, but it was probably broadcast on the radio. Mrs. Miniver won the Best Picture Award. Girard had two movie theaters, the Wellman and the New Mock. Both were well attended. Movies were much cheaper then and probably attended by a higher percentage of the population than today because there was no competing way to experience movies at that time. You generally watched a double feature with a newsreel and a cartoon in between. What would have been in the newsreel during March of 1932? Probably footage from the Battle of the Bismarck Sea, which had occurred on March 2nd and had a lot of both movie and still footage. In this battle of the South Pacific, both US and Australian forces sank numerous Japanese convoy ships. It was good news and it probably helped to keep up the morale of our families at home worrying about our boys at war. Unfortunately, also in March occurred two very bad convoy attacks in the North Atlantic of our ships by German U-boats. The early one on March 9th and 10th sank 7 of our ships. Later, on March 16th through the 19th, 22 US ships were lost in the largest North Atlantic “wolfpack” attack of the war. Bad news like that was often held back from public knowledge. These attacks most likely would not have been shown in the newsreel between movies at the Wellman or the New Mock.
On a happy note, and probably completely unnoticed by anyone in Girard, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma opened on Broadway in New York City on March 31, 1943, beginning a run of 2,212 performances which would not end until May 29th in 1948, a record-setter at that time.
So, with that small ray of sunshine, we will end our Glance back at the month of March, 1943 – our church family, our town, and our country 75 years ago.