We left our church family in July of 1943, 75 years ago, almost totally engulfed in World War II. Just about every family had a relative, spouse, or good friend serving . . . somewhere. Their letters home couldn‘t tell where. All mail was read by censors before being sent back home. If they accidentally mentioned something that would reveal where they were, it would be blacked out by those censors who were just trying to protect the troops but the folks receiving those letters with huge black areas didn’t see it that way.
Girardites had begun in the month of July to attempt to meet a new goal in their fundraising for the war. In addition for their usual quota of War Bond purchases, they were trying to raise $175,000 to purchase a B-25 Bomber which would be named “The City of Girard”. They had kicked off the campaign in the month of July. Now in August they would have a Ladder Climbing Event on August 14th held in the first block of West Liberty Street. The ladder was 80 feet tall, mounted on a huge Fire Department truck loaned to Girard by the City of Warren, because Girard Fire Department had nothing approaching that size. At this event, held on a Saturday afternoon, the master of ceremonies would climb the steps of the ladder as the pledges came in, announcing them into the microphone that he carried so that the crowd could hear him. The Ladder Climbing Event netted an additional $17,000, bringing the total collected to $162,000. They were close – only $13,000 to go. They extended the drive one week, but there was no mention of the B-25 Bomber “The City of Girard” in the following week’s Girard News. The August 27th issue of the News was concentrating on the coming school year, with Girard students returning to school September 7th. I have to assume they did not meet their goal and there was no Bomber named “The City of Girard”.
Our church family in the month of August, 1943, continued with the usual summer activities. Sunday School attendance held steady as did church attendance. Gasoline rationing was quite strict. People with cars were only allowed to buy enough gasoline to get them from home to work and back during the week. Driving elsewhere was greatly discouraged, if not impossible. Vacations, if your employer gave you one, were probably spent at home. Tires were also rationed and they did not begin to get the mileage from a tire that we expect today. Victory gardens were encouraged. By 1943 many people had planted one in their yard. By August they would be harvesting their favorite vegetables.
By 1943, war movies were coming out of Hollywood, and Girard’s two theatres were playing them to audiences. Newsreels always were shown between movies. Much of the war news reached Girard folks from these newsreels. In August of ’43 they would have been watching news of Operation Tidal Wave when 177 B-24 Bombers of our US Air Force bombed oil refineries at Pioiesti, Romania on August 1st. The next week’s batch of newsreels would have probably featured movies from the Battle of Vella Gulf in the Pacific theatre, as the Americans defeated a Japanese convoy and the Army drove the Japanese from Munda airfield on New Georgia. Next week would feature the meeting held in Quebec City of our President Roosevelt with Canadian Prime Minister MacKenzie King, and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. And the newsreels from the last week in the month would probably celebrate the meeting of the US 7th Army under General George S Patton and the British 8th Army under General Montgomery at Messina, Sicily as they celebrated the completion of the Allied Invasion of Sicily on August 17th. The newsreels seen in the theatres tended to be a week or more behind the actual event. The news heard on the radio might be a bit more up to date. Bad news was not always reported right away. By 1943, however, things were starting to turn around. U S industrial might was beginning to show itself. On August 4th a brand new carrier, the USS Intrepid was launched in Newport News, Virginia. Our auto and heavy equipment companies were turning out trucks, jeeps, tanks, and all kinds of construction and earth moving equipment. Ship companies were turning out all kinds of vessels. Small boat companies were making landing craft for beach invasions, as well as river and PT boats. Locally, our steel mills were producing steel products around the clock. The Arsenal at Ravenna also ran 24/7. So many extra people were needed in the workforce that women were being hired to perform jobs traditionally done by men. Girard’s School Board was anticipating a drop in enrollment for the coming school year because so many older students had been hired over the summer by local employers. The Board feared, with good reason, that many of those who were 16 or older would simply not go back to school.
This was our church family and our town in August, 1943 – 75 years ago.