Let us continue looking back at our Church Family seventy-five years ago, that is in March of 1942, the third full month of our nation at war with both the Axis powers in Europe, essentially Germany and Italy, and Japan in the Pacific. Ever since the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on December 7th, there had been a string of bad news from the war zone. To review what had happened, the next day after the Pearl Harbor attack, the Japanese attacked the Philippines which was occupied by U S forces under General Douglas MacArthur. In spite of having the example of the surprise attack at Pearl, General MacArthur also was surprised and not prepared for the Japanese, who invaded Luzon and destroyed all the American Aircraft on the ground at Clark Field. The Japanese army there quickly advanced, and by the end of February had the U S Army trapped on the Bataan Peninsula on the Island of Corregidor in the Philippines. The news from our European Allies was just as bad. It seemed as though each day brought news of a ship lost to submarines, or battles lost to the German or Japanese armies.
Through all of this bad news, our people went about their day’s work, albeit with new rationing rules in effect, along with daylight saving time year round until the end of the war. There were community drives for materials needed by industry to produce the planes, ships, trucks, guns, etc. needed for war – scrap metal, including tin cans, old tires, old newspapers, books, etc. There were practice air raids, where all lights were turned off so that enemy bombers could not easily find centers of population.
The Girard News, our weekly
newspaper, printed a chart to tell how to distinguish enemy aircraft from ours. The trick was to look at the insignia on the underside of the wing, and then you could confirm it by the insignia on the tail rudder of the plane. For example, the German planes had a black cross (with all four sides of equal length) on each wing, and on the rudder a black swastika in a white circle with a red field as background. The Japanese planes had around red rising sun emblem on the wings and an unmarked rudder. The Italian one was more tricky. The rudder of the Italian planes had the Italian colors of green, white and red vertical stripes, with the Royal Arms symbol in the center of the white stripe. The wing insignia was unrecognizable to me. It was a Roman “fasces”, which is “a bundle of rods bound together with an ax protruding from it”. This was an ancient symbol of Roman power, and, according to Wikipedia, that same symbol has been appropriated for identification by some current white supremacist groups. I have just now learned this new word – fasces (rhymes with “at ease” if you are trying to pronounce it) – and more about its current meaning than I really wanted to know. I lead such a sheltered life. I would have recognized it right away if I spent more time with white supremacist groups. I guess the reality is, I will probably never have another occasion to use it, either in print or in polite conversation. I was only 4 years old in March of 1942. If I had been 10 or a little older in 1942, I know that I would have spent some hours holding that Girard News article in my hand, while looking at the sky for possible enemy planes.
But, to return to our church family 75 years ago, we do know that March had five Sundays in 1942. Sunday School and Church attendance was excellent – 284, 289, 300, 282, and 339. We only have the numbers for the Sunday School, but assume Church attendance was similar or perhaps better. On Wednesday, March 4th, the Official Board attempted to have its monthly meeting that evening, at 7:30. Unfortunately, only four people showed up: W E Hotchkiss, Bert Shank, Henry Crider and John Wiand. They waited until 8:30 PM when they gave up and went home as they did not have a quorum. They set March 19th, as the date when the meeting would be made up. We have two copies of the minutes of this make-up meeting. One is in pencil, very rough, with half of it crossed out with a big X. It is written on the back of the words to various songs, a couple of which I recognized: “We’re Marching to Zion” and “Shall We Gather At The River”. The other three songs: “Joy-bells Ringing In Your Heart”, “I’ll Go Where You Want Me To Go”, and “I Shall Know Him, I Shall Know Him” were not familiar to me. But it was neat to read those words that our family was singing 75 years ago, probably in Sunday School Class. The other copy, a more formal one, is written in ink in a pleasing hand. Both copies dealt with the apparently sudden resignation of the church janitor, Fred Crum beginning April 1st. The Board deferred to the Janitor Committee to recommend a competent person to replace Mr. Crum. The Pastor’s Report came next. Rev. Maly reported that the Evangelistic Campaign had been successful. He also reported on choir robes and the Cross, with no details given about either. The last piece of business was a motion by Mr Crider, seconded by Mr McElhaney that the Pastor get special Bulletins for the Easter Sunday Service. Motion carried. There was no reason given for the lack of attendance on the usual meeting day – I would speculate that some sort of “bug” was going around, resulting in many folks coughing, sniffling, etc., and just deciding to stay home that evening.
The March 13th edition of the Girard News mentioned that Girard Schools would practice Air Raid Drills every day for a two week period, to prepare the teachers and children in case the real thing occurred. It also reported that nine people in the city had been treated after attacks by rabid dogs. It was sort of a small article that didn’t even give the names of the people bitten. That is a fact about the “good old days” that we tend to forget. With all dogs requiring licenses and documented rabies shots, our biggest danger now for that disease is from wildlife. And the county is even dropping food laced with rabies preventative where wildlife can find it. Rabies is a disease most of us don’t even think about.
On a happy note, that same edition of the News also reported on a birthday party held at our church. Mr Lyman Lease was honored by the Men’s Bible Class for his 88th birthday. The News noted that Lyman Lease was the oldest man in the Bible Class at our church.
With that, we will leave our church family for the month of March, looking forward to Easter, and warm spring weather, and just maybe, a piece of good news from the war front. This concludes our monthly visit to the past - March, 1942 – seventy-five years ago.