We left our church family seventy-five years ago, at the end of March, looking forward to Easter, which fell on April 1st in 1945. Also, on Easter Sunday, the Wellman Theatre opened its run of the wonderful film, Meet Me In St, Louis, finally coming to the theatres of smaller towns like Girard. months after opening in the larger cities in the East. I don’t know how many Girard folks went to see the film on Easter afternoon, but Peter Wellman had advertised it heavily in the Girard News, and he wouldn’t have done that if he felt he was wasting his money.
Back on March 2nd, a Girard sailor, Albert J Betts Jr., had been killed by a hit and run driver near his Naval Base in Richmond, Virginia. Now, in the April 6th edition of the News, it was reported that the driver had been arrested in Florida – not exactly good news but at least they caught up with him. The News also reported the deaths of two more Girard boys, in the Pacific theatre of the war, on March 7th and 15th. The same edition of the News also reported that the City of Girard had exceeded its local Red Cross Fund Campaign Goal of $13,000. The April 13th edition of the News reported that a boy reported missing in action in December was now reported to be a Nazi Prisoner of War. And, a second boy, reported to be missing in action in February in Italy, was now reported to be a POW. A new boy has been reported missing in action over Germany March 22nd. The April 20th edition reported one boy wounded in Germany and one boy missing in action in Germany. And finally, the April 27th edition reported two boys killed in Germany and one wounded. Thus, the bad news kept coming, even as the war was obviously being won by our boys.
Meanwhile, in our church, the ladies of the Women’s Society of Christian Service (WSCS) were meeting on April 4th to plan a Banquet Dinner to mark their Anniversary on April 20th. That would be held on Friday evening at 6:15 at the church Fellowship Hall with twelve tables set, one for each month of the year. Friends and Family would be invited for this mass Birthday celebration. After the business meeting with the banquet plans finalized, the ladies wrote V-Mail letters to our young men of the church serving overseas.
As I write this History Blog seventy-five years later, I find myself now, sheltering in place in my winter home here in Florida, leaving it only once a week to purchase groceries early on Tuesday mornings when Publix opens at 7 AM to let people over 65 shop early before the rest of the crowd arrives at 8. This was not what I had planned to do. I think of the WSCS ladies planning for their birthday – anniversary dinner, not knowing what competition they would be facing on that date. How could they know, that on April 12th, our President, Franklin D. Roosevelt would die suddenly, at his Warm Springs, Georgie home. He had been our President since 1932. He was the only President many young people had ever known. There would be a huge Memorial Service in Girard for FDR on the 15th, with many, many in attendance. Our new President, Harry S Truman would have to preside over the ending of the war.
When the ladies finally held their banquet on the 20th, the world was changing at a breakneck pace. In early April American troops had liberated their first Nazi Concentration Camp with the pictures of emaciated living and piles of dead prisoners seen in newsreels and weekly magazines. On April 25th, American and Soviet troops met together at the Elbe River, thus cutting Germany in two. On April 30th, Adolf Hitler and his newly married bride, Eva Braun, committed suicide. The war in Europe would soon be over.
April 1945 – 75 years ago in our church, our town, and our country.