We left our Church Family last month in October of 1944, with the War dominating almost every part of their day to day living. As usual for our information. we are indebted to The Girard News, Girard’s weekly paper, published every Friday, and available today at Girard Free Library on microfilm. On Friday, December 1st, the News announced Girard’s bond sales so far had reached $115,000, but our goal was $535,000. Beginning Monday, the Bond committee would be conducting a house to house canvass of the entire city. The next edition of the News on December 8th carried the headline, “Halfway Mark Reached in 6th War Bond Drive”. Apparently, the house to house canvass made a difference.
That same edition of the News reported that one Girard boy was missing in action. This would mean that his parents and other family members could still hope for . . . something.
That Dec. 8th edition also had some Christmas Ads that I found interesting. The contrast to our prices today seem so low, but often a family only had an income of around $2,000 per year. Wages were beginning to go up after so many years of the Great Depression, and because of scarcity of workers with so many men serving in the military. Here are some prices from Ads of 1944: Firestone Tire – ReCaapping for a 16” tire - $7. (New tires were only available with a coupon. You had to recap what you had.) These Gas Stations also sold special bakeware for Christmas – 1 ½ quart size glass cookware $1.75, a 1 ½ qt. double boiler $2.69, and a FireKing 1 qt casserole 35 cents. In addition, Bob Anderson of Anderson Texaco was also selling “the finest and largest selection of Christmas Trees I’ve ever had”.
The role of women was changing during the war years, also. Many companies found that women were capable of doing work formerly done by men including work on an assembly line, driving trucks, even flying planes. Many women also volunteered for and served in the military, mostly as office workers, drivers, and medical personnel.
An ad for the bond drive supplied the following statistics: “It costs us twice as much to fight the Japs” (as opposed to the European theatre where everything was closer to us and also closer together. The Pacific Ocean was so big and battles so far apart, just moving the ships and men around cost much more.) “The War is costing the US over 10 million dollars an hour” “$175,000 every minute” “$3,000 every second”.
Finally, an ad from First National Bank of Girard describing a new, wonderful service they were offering: “It’s Easy and Safe to Pay Bills By Check. Easy Because You Pay Your Bills By Mail – Save Time and Energy. Safe Because Your Check is Your Receipt For Every Bill You Pay. Stop in Today and let us open a checking account for you.” Oh, those modern inconveniences! Many companies paid their employees in cash back in the forties, even into the fifties.
The December 15th edition headlined an event similar to the one we’ve just experienced. “Girard Digs Out From Record Snowfall” I am writing this today just one day after Girard experienced a 50 car and truck pileup on 80. The 1944 snowfall (9” to a foot) fell on the Monday, Dec. 10th and paralyzed highway traffic for hours.
On the front page of this edition of the News was a picture of Pvt. Stephen W Genetta, 18, who joined the Army after graduating from Girard High School in June. He “is currently serving with the infantry at Camp Jos. T Robinson in Arkansas.” I think that would make him 93 years old now. My late husband, Clyde, and Steve were good friends. He served Clyde as Best Man when we were married. Steve and Betty were very active in the church back in the day. We used to visit each other often when our children were small and Betty was still alive. I believe he is still living at their family home on Forsythe, with his son Gary and daughter-in-law, Angie. Thank you, Steve, and all of our veterans - both from WWII and all the later ones. In that same edition, and on the same front page, were reports of 2 Girard boys killed – one in Germany and one in France. And on Monday, December 18th, all of the ladies who were members of the Philathea Class enjoyed a Christmas Program and Dinner in Fellowship Hall. Unit 1 was the Hostess Group for the evening.
The Girard News of December 22nd reported one Girard boy killed in France. The Friday, Dec. 29th issue reported that 2 Girard boys were home, recovering from wounds.
Although Girard folks were probably unaware of it at the time, one of the most horrible and deadly battles of WWII began in the middle of December and was finally finished in January. It is known today as the Battle of the Bulge and it involved a surprise and deadly German offensive to split the allies’ line. It occurred during an overcast and stormy stretch of weather, and our airplanes could not respond to help until the weather cleared. Because the Germans were generally a smaller and attacking force they simply killed any men trying to surrender to them. Therefore, our troops and our allies also did not take prisoners. It was the most costly battle of the entire war with heavy losses on both sides. Men who fought in it would always remember it as awful. Years later, when my younger brother, Bob, was a youth, he had two good friends in the neighborhood. Their father had been in that battle. One day, they all happened to be together, and talk, somehow, turned to WWII. Bob asked Mr. N. if he had taken any prisoners during the war. “No, we didn’t take prisoners,” he said quietly. Bob told me of that conversation many more years later. The war would mark everyone who lived through it.
December, 1944 – 75 years ago in our church, our town, and in our country.