This month I am reporting on the month of December, 1941, seventy-five years ago in Girard First United Methodist Church history, and also, of course, seventy-five years ago in the history of the United States of America. If you have been reading my previous little monthly reports, I have noted some of the increasingly ominous world news that our church family would have been seeing at their visits to the local movie theaters along with their radio newscasts, as well as newspaper reports, even in the local weekly Girard News. None of this has been reflected in our church archives, which are usually reports of the business proceedings of various church groups. But we know our church family had to feel anxious and worried about world and national events. Our local young men were being drafted into the armed forces, ostensibly to be trained for our defense if war should come.
As a history buff, I have wondered how to approach this month’s church history, because it was so shattering and life changing for every American. I finally decided to tell it as a story is usually told, from the start of the month to the finish, only of course, we have the luxury of 75 years of hindsight, while our poor church family members had no idea how it would all come out.
The first meeting we have on record for this month was on Thursday, December 4th, 1941. The official board met at the church at 7:30 PM. It consisted of the usual call to order by the board President, an opening prayer, reading of the minutes of the November Meeting, and the Financial Report. The Supt. of the Sunday School, Mr. Teeter, reported that attendance was good, and the plans were in place for a program on Thursday evening, Dec. 23rd, for a Christmas program. Then came the Pastor’s report: Rev. Maly reported on receiving new members and making sick calls. He also reported on plans for special services for Christmas, including an evening service on Dec. 21st, and an 11:30 PM service on Christmas Eve. He was also planning two programs of “sound” movies on New Year’s Eve, one in the afternoon, and one in the late evening. With that, the meeting was adjourned, probably with everyone present thinking ahead to the wonderful Christmas services, and apparently a new experience for New Year’s Eve.
The next day, Friday the 5th, was the first edition of the Girard News for the month of December. In the Sports section, it reported on Coach Koppel’s plans for the Girard basketball team. He had two lettermen returning: Elmer Aho and Bill Williams. Coach would fill the remaining slots from the following five boys: Pandel Savic, Tony Romanowsky, Dave Hall, Nick Sherock and Harry Bundy.
The next date in our progress through the month of December, is the Sunday School attendance report for the first Sunday, Dec. 7th. There were a total of 312 members present, including both students and teachers. The total amount collected in the Sunday School offering was $17.22. Now, of course, we all think of Sunday, Dec. 7th, 1941 as the beginning of World War II for our country because of the surprise attack on our United States Navy Fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii by the Imperial Japanese Aircraft from their Navy carriers. We have all seen the photos and the movies and know that the attack began at 7:48 AM that Sunday morning. However, morning in Hawaii is more like afternoon in the United States. Our church family would have been home from Sunday school and church and probably finished their Sunday dinners by roughly 2:30 PM when they would have first heard about the attack, if they happened to be listening to their radios. The word would have spread quickly and soon everyone would be glued to their radios. With this devastating attack on our country, everyone knew that we were really at war, our worst fears had been realized, and that everyone’s life was going to be different from that day forward. Japan would not formally declare War on the United States until the next day, Monday, December 8th. They also declared war on the British Empire, and attacked Hong Kong less than eight hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Ten hours after Pearl Harbor, they also attacked the Philippines and destroyed our air craft on the ground at Clark Field there. With all these attacks occurring seemingly simultaneously, President Roosevelt called a joint session of Congress that Monday, at 12:30 PM to speak to the country about the attacks of the previously day, which he called “a date that will live in infamy”, and to ask Congress for a declaration of war upon Japan. This speech was broadcast live over all four major national networks. It attracted the largest audience ever for a radio broadcast and was heard in over 81% of our country’s homes. Within the hour following the speech, Congress gave the President the Declaration of War upon Japan, and he signed the bill at 4:10 PM that same day. On December 11th, Germany and Italy also declared war on the United States. We responded in kind. It was a wild, wild week.
On Wednesday evening we know that the Friendly Class, our largest adult Sunday School Class, met at the church for their annual Christmas party. We can only imagine how they felt as they went through the ritual of a Christmas party, while wondering what the future would bring to each of them and their families. They would get a small taste of what was to come when they got their weekly issue of the Girard News that Friday afternoon. The large bold black two columnheadlineread DefenseCouncilForCivilianProtection To Organize At Meeting Of City Officials
For the next three years, the folks who did not go off to fight, who stayed at home, would constantly be vigilant, practice blackouts, write letters to their sons, nephews, neighbors, and other young men serving, watch with apprehension how the war was progressing, and long for the awful war to be over. Bur, of course, they also celebrated Christmas as they had planned back in that innocent first week of December. And, in the issue of December 26th, the last issue of the year 1941, the Girard News reported that the Boys Basketball Team had beaten Newton Falls 37-22 in their first home game of the season.
On that happy note we will leave our church family in December of l941, hoping for better news in the coming year.