We left our church family at the end of September of 1941, pondering the dark events occurring in Europe, especially the attack by a German submarine on the USS Greer in the Atlantic Ocean near Iceland, and then, at the end of the month, a massacre by German troops assisted by Ukrainian police of over 33,000 Jews at Babi Yar. We know our church family when they attended church meetings, or Sunday School classes, or just before and after church services, must had talked to each other about these disturbing incidents, yet I can find no mention of anything in the official records of meetings. Having been responsible for taking notes of meetings of the Trustees quite a few years back, I know how that works. You only write down the highlights of official reports of committees, motions made and seconded, and the outcome of the vote. The words “a discussion ensued” covered a lot of ground.
On October 2nd, the Official Board met at the church. The President of the Board, J J Wiand presided over the meeting which was opened by Prayer by Rev. Maly. It was well attended by 22 members, many of whom gave reports on various groups of the church, including Sunday School, the various women’s groups, the men’s group, and the youth groups. Most of the reports were of upcoming meeting dates, and, especially in the women’s groups, how often they would be meeting. The women’s groups had been re-organized last spring, and they were still sorting out when and where to meet. The all-important Financial Report was read and approved. The Sunday School Superintendent, Mr. Teeter, reported that the Sunday School attendance for the children was on par, but the adults were falling off. The Pastor gave his report on a number of upcoming events. Mrs. Harris gave the Junior Church report, and she requested a cupboard to be made or purchased for supplies. Motion was made by Mr. Burtsfield and seconded by Mr. McElhaney to set aside $50 for the Junior Church cupboard. Motion carried. There was discussion about Rev. Maly’s request for a shuffle board court painted on the floor of the auditorium and also about complaints received by Mr. Hotchkiss about bulletins. Apparently nothing was resolved about either of these, and the meeting was adjourned.
The first Sunday of October fell on the 5th. Total Sunday School attendance for the day was 324 people, including both children and adults, students and teachers. This was about 25 more than had been counted in the month before. The next Sunday, the 12th, was Rally Day, and Sunday School attendance was 397. The 19th attendance was back to 324. On the last Sunday in October, a special service combined both the morning Worship service and Sunday School, and no attendance was taken.
It’s always interesting to see how little money people had 75 years ago. We happen to have in our archives, both the amounts of money collected by the Sunday School and by the Church offerings for the month of October, 1941. On October 5th the 324 people who attended Sunday School contributed a total of $18.67; on October 12th the 397 people contributed a total of $21.45; on October 19th the 324 people contributed $16.49. The average contribution was about 5 cents per person. Of course, the Sunday School included many children, who would only contribute minimal amounts. We also have the amounts from the Sunday morning worship service collections, but not the number of people who attended each service. On October 5th, the morning collection was $95.88; on the 12th it was $87.65; on the 19th it was $100.88; and on the 26th, the special combination service of both Sunday School and Church, the collection was $78.85. One of the most amazing differences between us and our church family of 75 years ago, is the amount of money we have. We know, of course, that many things were very much less expensive back then, but also we have a lot more “stuff” in our lives today than they did then. We probably have four or five times as many outfits of clothing, maybe more. Closets in houses 75 years ago were much smaller than they are now. Kitchen cabinets are expected to hold about three times as much as they were expected to hold then. Our refrigerators are at least 2 ½ times as large as their ice boxes or small electric refrigerators were. And, speaking of size, we are much larger than our church family people were 75 years ago. Without going into the nitty-gritty details, we will simply note that many of us today sleep on queen or king-size beds, while back then every couple apparently fit comfortably on a standard size mattress.
We know that our church family was going about their daily lives while simultaneously watching Europe and Asia fall apart in World War II which seemed to involve every country but ours. In the month of September we had noted that the USS Greer, a destroyer, had been attacked by a German submarine torpedo which, fortunately, missed. Now, in October, however, two United States destroyers were attacked by German subs. On the 17th the USS Kearny was torpedoed and damaged, killing eleven sailors. Suddenly, American military men were casualties of the war which we were trying seriously to avoid being drawn into. Then, on October 31st, more bad news - the USS Reuben James was torpedoed near Iceland, killing more than 100 United States Navy Sailors.
We will leave our church family pondering this sobering news – October, 1941 – 75 years ago in our church, in our town, and in our country.