A Glance at the Past
At the end of June, 1944, we left our church family and all the families in our town and in our country, waiting anxiously for news of their boys fighting in Europe following the landing on D-Day, June 6th and the further fighting as they fought against the German Army, trying to force them back out of France. Other families, with their boys fighting in the Pacific, were waiting for word of the invasion of Saipan and whatever islands would come next. It still amazes me how slowly news traveled 75 years ago. There was no TV. Girard’s two movie theaters, the Wellman and the New Mock, ran news features between movies. There movie patrons could see our fighting forces in action, all in black and white and heavily censored removing disturbing images, and always two to three weeks after the battle. So, too, were the dreaded telegrams received by families telling them of the death of injury of their boy in the war two to three weeks prior.
Now, in the month of July, bad news for individual families was still coming in by wire, telling of Girard boys killed or injured either in the original beach invasion, or in the days following in the surrounding countryside, attacking the German soldiers who were able to put up a strong defense using the rural hedgerows as hiding places to pick off our men. The July 7th edition of the Girard News told of the wife of Lester Scott, living at 137 ½ N. Market St., receiving a wire that her husband had been badly injured on June 13th following the initial invasion. His injuries included a fractured skull, a broken nose, and a fractured jawbone. A three week lag time between the event and the delivery of the news seems to be typical. Thus, families were under constant stress . . . wondering. And, still, life in wartime went on. Almost all industry had been diverted from peacetime products to items needed by our military. Ration coupons were needed for almost everything you had to have. Enough gas coupons to get a person to work and back home. Sugar – butter – shoes – meat – clothing – Scarcity was just a part of daily life. Gradually, however, word of the battles in France began to get better. When a working temporary port was constructed in the days following June 6th, then our heavy weapons, especially tanks, became available. Suddenly the hedgerows didn’t provide the German
troops with cover. As more and more of our troops were unloaded in France, the German defenders became outnumbered. Our troops were making steady progress. People all across America began to feel that a turning point in the war had occurred. It wasn’t exactly “optimism” but hopelessness and pessimism became harder and harder to find. Confidence increased. It was evident in Girard. The Fifth War Loan had kicked off early in the month of June, and, by the end of June was only a small fraction of the way to its goal. But, then good news from the Front in Europe came in. Now, by July 14th, the News could report that the bond drive went “over the top”. Girard had met its goal and even exceeded it. And, life went on.
In our church, many of our Sunday School classes and members of WSCS were holding their monthly meetings outdoors because of the wonderful summer weather. Group 3 of the WSCS met on Tuesday, July 25th, at the home of Mrs. Harry Blair on E. Prospect St with 20 members present. Group 4 of the WSCS met on Thursday, July 27th at the home of Mrs. Charlotte Schoenfeld on St. Clair Ave, with 20 present. And the Friendly Class, the largest adult Sunday School Class, met on Thursday, July 13th, with 95 present. Group 3 and the Friendly Class said there would be no August meeting. Group 4 decided to hold an August meeting on the 10th at the home of Mrs. Edward Clark.
The July 21st edition of the News reported that Mr and Mrs Mike Brutka of McKinley Heights received a wire from the War Department that their son, Pvt. John Brutka had been killed in action on June 12th. That was just 20 days before what would have been his 20th birthday.
The war may have turned for the better but there would be many more of those telegrams before it would be over.
That was the month of July, 1944 – seventy-five years ago in our church, our town and our country.
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