Looking Back 75 years ago to the month of July, 1942: Apparently the celebration of Independence Day (or, the 4th of July, as it is commonly known today) was fairly low key in Girard. Neighboring McDonald, however, celebrated with a parade and a community picnic. This was the first 4th of July celebration since the beginning of the war. The 4th fell on a Saturday in 1942, so it should have been perfect for a long weekend celebration of our country’s birthday. But the clouds of war were hanging heavily over our church family and our little town of Girard. Just back at the end of May, they had celebrated the graduation of the largest class in Girard’s history. Now, the July 3rd edition of the Girard News reported that 345 Girard boys, between the ages of 18-20 had registered for the draft, either at the American Legion Home or the Girard Draft Board office. That would probably include almost all the boys in the May graduating class, those in the earlier January graduating class, and all of those boys in the previous year’s classes. The article went on to state that only those boys who had reached the age of 20 by January 1st would be subject to immediate call-up. I graduated from South High School in Youngstown in 1955. I well remember my favorite history teacher recalling the South High class of 1942 when we were studying WWII, which was recent history when I studied it in my junior year in 1954. She remembered how the senior class seemed to have suddenly grown to adult-hood right after the attack at Pearl Harbor on December 7th. Some of the boys immediately enlisted. Others waited until graduation. But the entire class seemed to change right before her eyes from carefree teenagers to adults in their behavior both at school and home, or wherever they went. As she told us this story, I remember wondering if our class could possibly grow up so suddenly. I doubted it.
Our church archives are rather sparse for the month of July, 1942. We know that our church’s schedule for Sundays was as follows: 9:30 Sunday School, 10:30 Morning Worship and 4 PM Vesper Service. We assume that our usual meetings were taking place, although for some reason the minutes of the Official Board are missing for July and August. The Girard News July 3rd edition also reported on a trip by the Fellowship Class of our church to the lakeshore for the past weekend. Sixteen members went along with a chaperone. (A very outnumbered chaperone, I would think.)
For the remainder of our Glance back at July, 1942, I will try to recreate what our church family was seeing, hearing, and thinking about in that month. For example, there was an ad in that same edition of the News for an appearance by Glen Miller, in person, and his orchestra at Yankee Lake on Rt. 7 in Brookfield, on Sunday evening, July 5th. You could buy your tickets in advance at Sammy’s Service Station for $1.25 per person. That sounds great! Glen Miller was very popular. The price sounds pretty cheap to our ears. But the biggest problem would be getting there. With gasoline and tire rationing in effect, a drive up to Brookfield might just be too far away. The Editor of The Girard News was now running a weekly column called “This Week On The Home Front” where he tried to explain how government rationing worked and how best to cope with it. He began with explaining how the government had responded to the market raising prices because of shortages caused by the war manufacturing suddenly dominating the entire economy. The government’s response was twofold: rationing and price ceilings. The price ceilings had only applied to commodities in its initial May 13th introduction. Now, beginning July 1st, the price ceilings were extended to cover services performed in connection with those commodities. Thus, the consumer was as protected as much as the government was able to protect against the suddenly shifting economy.
Next, he went on to explain how Girard’s housewives could approach canning season, which was just around the corner. The local War Bond and Rationing Board was the place to go to get a canning sugar allowance. “ She should have the following information with her when she applies: (1) The names of all members of her family having rationing books, (2) Number of quarts of fruit she canned last year, (3) Number of quarts of fruit on hand, (4) Number of quarts she plans to can this season, (5) whether sugar is to be used for preserves, jellies, jams, or fruit butters, (6) excess sugar she had on hand (that is the amount more than two pounds per person at the time she registered for her books, and any subsequent reductions).”
Also, “In the face of protests, Joseph B Eastman, director of the Office of Defense Transportation, is standing firm on ODT policy that travel to and from fairs is non-essential. He warned farmers that there would be no new rubber sources for the tires for their vehicles for three years. Said Mr. Eastman, “If convinced that postponement of fairs will contribute to the good of the country in time of war, the farmer will not give it a second thought. All he wants, I am sure, is to be convinced.”
The Editor went on to point out that manufacture of many sizes and varieties of the same item was now regarded by the government as a waste. Therefore, all should expect to find fewer sizes of the same item, as material for containers was needed for the war effort. Also, the government had reduced by half the various sizes of dental drills. You might notice this if you would need to have a cavity repaired. And cosmetic containers would be in short supply. Metal lids for cosmetics would be gone. Manufacturers were experimenting with wood, plastic and paper substitutes. The Editor also announced the current price ceiling for anti-freeze: $2.65 per gallon for permanent, $1.40 for non-permanent.
Reading just one week’s instructions on dealing with rationing and price ceilings, along with periodic announcements of scrap drives, blackouts, and compulsory registration – one can better understand just what our church families were experiencing 75 years ago. Of course, hovering over all their day to day activities was their biggest fear.
This fear for one Girard family was realized and reported on in the July 24th edition of the Girard News. The headline read “ROBERT DUPOLA KILLED IN INDIA – Girard’s First War Casualty Killed in Air Crash” Although he had been killed on July 13th, his mother only received the telegram from the War Department in Washington a few days before the News article on the 24th . He was Lieutenant Robert G. Dupola, son of Mrs. Dan Prodnick of Trumbull Rd. He was 27 years old. He was a bombardier in the U S Army Air Corps. He was the first Girard boy to give his life for our country.
On that somber note, we will leave our church family 75 year ago in Girard – July of 1942.