We left our church family of seventy-five years ago, in late May of 1941, celebrating the graduation of Girard Seniors, and worrying about their futures, along with the future of everyone. Europe, Asia and North Africa were all engulfed in war. The U S was neutral but Girard young men along with others in America, were being drafted and sent off for military training. Mahoning Valley steel mills, after a long decade of limited production and employment, were now churning out steel as fast as they possibly could, as our military prepared for the worst. It was a time of uncertainty for everyone, not only in our church and town, but throughout our country.
As usual, much of the information found here comes from the pages of The Girard News, our town’s weekly newspaper, published every Friday, and available on microfilm at Girard Free Library. The June 6th edition of the News reflected this uncertainty with two different headlines on its front page. The first mirrored the booming economy – “Building Permits at 300% of Last Year”; the second the uncertainty – “USO Drive Citywide” described the new efforts to raise $1500 from our town to provide “services for our defenders”. It described this new nation-wide program to benefit our servicemen. From our view here in 2015, we know they would go on to support, and read about, and see on the newsreels much concerning the USO in the coming years.
The June 12th edition of the News reported that a ship, the Robin Moor, carrying $5,000 worth of leather from Girard’s Ohio Leather Co. to Capetown, South Africa, was sunk in the South Atlantic by a German submarine.
But, our Church life went on as usual. Sunday, June 15th, was Children’s Day. The following youth had key parts: Recitation “Welcome to You” Nella Weaver, Recitation “A Greeting” Marjorie Purdum, “Song and Finger Play” Beginners Department, Recitation “If I Were Big” Norma Lou Teeter, Recitation “Just Watch” Sandra MacLean, Piano Solo Carl Peterson, Clarinet Solo Jacqueline Williams, “Samuel” Junior Church Group, Clarinet Solo Russell Girt, Piano Duet Jacqueline and Mary Jane Williams, Vocal Solo Norma Clark, and “Jesus My Teacher and Master” Junior Church Group.
On Monday evening, the Women’s Society of Christian Service held its quarterly meeting at the church with an interesting guest speaker. Former policeman, Ray Lawrence, of Youngstown, spoke on the evils of narcotics. A covered dish dinner followed the business portion of the meeting. Friday evening, the Althea Class met at the home of Miss Jacqueline Didier on E Wilson Avenue. Election of officers was held. Saturday, the 21st, a large Double Wedding Ceremony was held at the church in the afternoon, with the marriage of Miss Ruth Brittain to Fred Bullen, and Miss Mary Marks to C Leroy Brittain. Our Rev. Maly officiated assisted by Rev. Philip J Sinner of Trinity Lutheran Church. The reception was held at the Brittain home at 137 E Broadway with 200 friends and relatives attending. That must have been a grand wedding and reception!
June concluded with the Sunday School Picnic, always a fun time with food and competition for all ages. Winners of the Sports Contests were: Doris Pauley –Penny Scramble, Janet Clark – Girls’ Foot Race, Barbara Wormer, Donna Jean Hood and Lubella Shields – Girls’ Pie Eating Contest, Alberta Gosnell and Mary Lou Parker – Siamese Twin Race, Walter Rock – Boys’ Bag Bursting Contest, Jimmy Thomas – Little Balloon Kicking, Mrs Gertrude Clark – Ladies’ Baseball Throwing, Mrs. Olive Bahn – Basketball throw, George McElhaney and Jack Davidson – Badminton Distance Hitting, David Edwards – Boys’ Foot Race, and Betty Nace – Older Girls’ Race.
All of this wonderful, normal, summer fun church activity was taking place in an increasingly awful, ominous, lethal world war, with our country and the Soviet Union the only large countries remaining neutral, watching, worrying, waiting, for an attack that might suck us into what had become a world-wide war. In early June, Chongqing, China was bombed. During the bombing, four thousand residents crowded into a bomb shelter were asphyxiated. Older members of our church family, who had been young children forty years before, reading of this tragedy, would remember the young couple - Kasiah and Dr. James McCartney, who left our church in 1890 to be missionaries at Chongqing, China, building a hospital there in that poverty stricken country. Kasiah would die young in 1894, at 26, never recovering from the birth of her second child. Our church family would erect a large plaque to Kasiah’s memory. It is still in our Narthex. Her husband would return to China, continuing to work at the hospital he founded, until his death in 1928. Those who, as children, remembered Kasie and Jim would have wondered at the news of the bombing and great loss of life. They would have wondered about the fate of the hospital and those people who had been healed there. I can picture them staring sadly at Kasiah’s plaque, questioning the evil unleashed by the war, wondering how long we could stay out of it. Later on June 22nd , German troops would invade the Soviet Union. Now we were the only large country remaining neutral.
This is where we will leave our church family in June, 1941 – seventy five years ago.