We left our church family at the end of January 1941, their first full month of experiencing our country at war. It was a month when everyone in our church and in our town wanted to do whatever they could to help our country. They bought U S Savings bonds, they organized First Aid classes, and they were planning a patriotic Party and Dance at the High School Gym, with the proceeds going to the Girard Chapter of the American Red Cross. The news from the war itself was almost all bad in the early months. Following the attack at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, the Japanese also attacked the Philippines which were occupied by American troops under Gen. Douglas MacArthur and by Philippine troops. Japanese troops invaded the Philippines, holding US and Philippine troops under siege on the Bataan Peninsula, while Japanese warplanes bombed Manilla. Now, in February, there was more bad news. Singapore surrendered to Japanese forces. On the very next day, the 18th of February, two very bad accidents killed more than 200 American sailors when their ships ran aground near Newfoundland. On the 19th, Japanese warplanes bombed Darwin, Australia. A Japanese submarine actually fired 17 high-explosive shells toward an oil refinery near Santa Barbara, California, on February 23rd, doing little physical damage but great psychological harm. And, finally, on Feb. 27th, in the Java Sea, a force of Dutch ships were defeated by a Japanese force, causing approximately 2,300 deaths of Dutch sailors, leaving the Japanese Navy in control of the sea in East-Asia. With all this awful military news, there were a couple executive decisions that affected folks’ personal lives. The first, on February 8th, was a nationwide adoption of daylight saving time. The second, on February 19th, allowed the United States Military to define areas as exclusionary zones. These zones affected the Japanese on the West Coast, and Germans and Italians primarily on the East Coast. This would eventually lead to thousands of American Citizens, primarily Japanese, being interned in camps for the duration of the war.
So, against the backdrop of unrelenting bad news and change and disruption in their lives, our church family, as did all American families, tried to go about their lives as best they could. Sunday, February 1st, people came to Sunday School and Morning and Evening Worship. The Sunday School attendance was 276 people including students and teachers.
On the evening of Thursday, the 5th, the Official Board met at the church. One of the reports by the Sunday School Supt. noted that for the last quarter, the average attendance increased by 18 pupils. Mr. Crider reported that the repairs had been made to the heating plant, and all were working properly again. He moved that the Janitor Committee confer with the Janitor about extra pay for his extra time worked due to the heating trouble and during the repair. Then, on Sunday, after the morning service, in response to the announcement about continuous Daylight Saving Time, there was a special meeting of the Official Board. They moved, seconded, and passed a resolution that that the church will adopt and conform to the National Change of Time to Daylight Saving.
In its Friday, February 6th edition, the Girard News announced that the Tire Rationing Board No 78-3, which governed the sale of tires for the entire city of Girard, was allotted 13 passenger car tires and 19 tubes for the month of February. Trucks were allotted 12 tires and 10 tubes. That was pretty strict rationing, that would greatly affect how much driving each family could do. The News also reminded folks that farmers would be liable for filing Income Tax Returns for the first time this year.
In that same edition, the News advised that the Employment Services were seeking Aircraft Workers. The Employment Service was assisting the U S Army Air Corps in recruiting approximately 100,000 aircraft workers, nationwide.
In the Friday, February 13th edition, the News stressed that all men, not previously registered, between the ages of 20 to 45, must register. In Girard registration was at the Stern Building or the American Legion Home from 12 noon to 6 PM on Saturday, the 14th, or Sunday, the 15th. Or, they could register on Monday, from 7 AM to 9 PM. This notice got my full attention. I was so young then, not quite four years old. But my Dad would have been 32 years old in February of 1942. He was on the older end of potential draftees. And, he had a wife and one child (me). My brother, John, would be born one year later, in February of 1943. In 1944 my parents purchased their first (and only) home, an older (built in 1872) home which needed extensive repairs. I can remember my Dad coming home from work every evening and working on the house until it was his bedtime. Later, I learned that he had been classified 1A by the Draft Board, and he was so afraid that he would be taken away from us before the house was safe for us to live in.
As it finally played out, he was never called up. However, his younger brother was called, served as a paratrooper, was dropped behind the lines in France on D-Day, and made it through, fortunately.
I know that the combination of coming of age just at the start of the Big Depression, and then later, the fear of going off to war marked both my parents, and probably a great many of my friends’ parents, too. I think I was a member of a very lucky generation. We came of age in a time of peace and prosperity. We had great confidence in our futures – more than our parents did. Our parents had lived through the bad times of both depression and war. We (mostly) never experienced that. And so, I will conclude this glance back 75 years ago in our church, in our town, and in our country. I saw it all as a child – but my parents and all of the people their age and a little younger – they lived it and did their best to protect us, their children, from the reality of it.