A Glance at the Past
We left our church family in late September, 1943 with the announcement of the marriage of June and Bill Maggs. They had actually been married in Oklahoma City back in January, about the announcement was just revealed in September. Many young Girard couples were married in other towns because of the war. Now in the month of October, another young couple from our church announced their wedding. Dolores Humble and August Colapietro had been married in St. Louis, Missouri on September 19th. They had a brief honeymoon in St. Louis and Cleveland before Corporal Colapietro had to return to Camp Polk in Louisiana, while Dolores returned to her parent’s home and to her job at Ravenna Arsenal.
The stories of these two young couples from or church family are similar to stories of hundreds of thousands of young couples throughout our country. It is hard for those who did not live through World War II to comprehend how much the war affected all aspects of daily living. Almost everything was rationed. There were regular “drives” for scrap metal, old tires, paper and cardboard. There seemed to be a perpetual sale of Wartime Savings Bonds, with new quotas every month. The Girard News proudly announced in October that Girard had oversubscribed its quota with the huge sale of $857,807 in War Bonds.
From our time in 2018, we know that both of these young couples, married in distant cities in 1943, made it through the war, raised families and lived long and happy lives together, sharing their gifts of music, enthusiasm, reliability and encouragement as important members of our church family.
Unfortunately, not all Girard men made it back alive. In that same edition of the News, was the announcement that First Lieutenant Frances Stegna, son of Mr. and Mrs. Francis J. Stegna of 22 E Second St., had been killed in a plane crash at Portia, Arkansas on September 30th. Sometime when you are not in a hurry, you ought to walk across Main Street and check out the World War II memorial. According to the 1940 census, there were 9,805 people in Girard back then, fairly similar to today’s population Fifty-nine men from Girard made the ultimate sacrifice in World War II. Their names are listed on the memorial.
The first Sunday in October fell on the 3rd of the month. In the October 1 edition “Church Notes” column of the Girard News, Rev. Maly had noted the times of the Sunday School and Church Service as well as announcing Holy Communion at the Church Service, and that the church would be celebrating both Rally Day and World Wide Communion at the service. Remember how he left the after Easter Sunday announcement of “Church Notes” run all summer long which must have amused people who consulted it weekly. Now, he did it again, running the same Rally Day and World Wide Communion announcement through the next three Friday editions of the News. Finally, in the October 3rd edition the ‘Church Notes” column for our church read simply: “Sunday School 9:30 to 10:30, Church Service 10:30 to 11:40. Now, probably with a sigh of relief, he could just let it slide unless something really noteworthy had to be announced.
The Headline for the Girard News October 23rd edition read: “This is The Army Opens Here”. The main article went on to explain that Irving Berlins’ musical proudly produced by Warner Brothers, would open Thursday night at the Wellman Theater. It would run through November 3rd. The movie featured George Murphy, Joe Louis, Joan Leslie and Ronald Reagan, along with real men from our armed services. All money would benefit the Army Emergency Relief Fund. I had never heard of this movie, so I googled it. It had been proposed by Irving Berlin to the war department early on. It was a sequel to an early musical production he had done back in World War I. It was all done to benefit the Relief Fund. He insisted on using, along with professional stars, regular men from the armed services who had been in the entertainment field before the war. He also insisted that the cast be integrated. This was too much for the Armed Forces with were definitely NOT integrated at the time. (They would be in 1948 by President Truman, but that is another story.) A compromise was reached that the cast would be integrated, but would not appear together at any time on the screen. This was probably the first integrated company of men in the modern Armed Forces, but only when they were no on the screen. Anyway, the movie premiered at the Warner’s Earle Theater on August 12th, 1943, roughly 2 ½ months before it got to Girard. It grossed $9,555,586 for the A.E.R.F. Many of the soldiers who had participated in the movie held reunions every five years after the end of the War. Their 50th and final reunion in 1992 was in New York’s Theater District.
With that interesting little story we will leave our church family and other Girard families at the end of October in 1943, at the Wellman Theater watching “This is The Army” – seventy-five years ago in the history of our church and of our town.
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