Tuesday, December 30, 2014

4. Seventh Grade at Lincoln School

Nancy and I entered Seventh Grade in Lincoln School in Gettysburg in the fall of 1943. In December of 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, and the  U. S. declared war on the axis powers of Japan, Germany and Italy.

The students at Lincoln School were enthusiastically involved in the War Effort. Each week, we bought Government Saving Stamps which ultimately, were converted to bonds to help purchase everything the military needed to fight the war, and we collected mountains of tin cans, aluminum foil, lard, milkweed pods for life-jackets and metal for guns and tanks,

Nationwide rationing gas began almost immediately, and depending on how your car was used, a family might only be allowed as little as four gallons a week. Food was also limited and each family was provided with ration stamps to use when purchasing meat and groceries. Many families, including Nancy’s, grew their own vegetables in small plots called Victory Gardens. 

The War prompted a groundswell of patriotism expressed in songs like Remember Pearl Harbor, and Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition. We also listened to the big band sounds of Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey on our radios and on 78 rpm records.

Although we eagerly supported the war effort, those of us attending Seventh Grade in Lincoln School were still just kids. During school we participated in organized sports, and after school, we rode our bikes everywhere, played with friends, listened to the radio, and on weekends went to movies and attended church.

Seventh grade was significant for Nancy and me because it was the first year we passed to different rooms for classes, and I specifically remember passing through Mr. Bream’s Geography Class and noticing Nancy, a pretty girl with dark hair wearing a different novelty pin every day. Little did we know then that many years later we would celebrate our sixty-first wedding anniversary.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

3. Sixth Grade at Lincoln School

When my family moved to Gettysburg from Hanover in 1942, I was enrolled in the sixth grade at Lincoln School, a two story brick building and former high school which stood at the junction of York and Hanover Streets. Sadly for Lincoln School graduates, it was demolished in 1969.

This was 1942 - 1943, and World War II was raging in Europe and the South Pacific. A newspaper column called With our Servicemen reminded everyone WWII wasn’t just a headline. The war was personal, and each week we learned the names of our local men and women who were in basic training or being transferred from one base to another throughout the world. 

To finance the war, the government  initiated a national defense bond program, offering baby bonds selling for as little as $18.75 which paid $25 in ten years. Lincoln School students enthusiastically supported the bond program by purchasing 10 cent saving stamps each week in their homerooms and placing them in a stamp book until they had accumulated enough to exchange for a bond.

The school was just a little over a block from my house, so I went home every day for lunch. When I arrived, the radio was playing the Kate Smith show featuring her own popular songs and guest stars of that era like Al Jolson, Jackie Gleason and Dorothy Lamour. It was Kate Smith who introduced God Bless America on her radio show in 1938.  

After lunch, if I had time before school started again, I would stop at Sherman’s Grocery Store across from the school. Before large supermarkets, “Mom & Pop” stores could be found within easy walking distance of most homes. At Sherman’s, we bought bread, milk, a wedge of cheddar carved from a huge wheel that sat on the counter, butter in bulk or for a treat, penny candy, a popsicle or a bottle of Coke.

After school, I went home, changed clothes and when the weather permitted, played football, basketball or softball with friends in the neighborhood.

Monday, December 15, 2014

2. East Cemetery Hill

When Nancy was in third grade in Gettysburg, her family moved to a house on the east side of Baltimore Street at the base of Cemetery Hill.  It was a two story, brick home which was standing during the Battle of Gettysburg. 

If Nancy had lived there on July 1,1863, she probably would have been hiding in the cellar with family members. In the late afternoon that day, Union troops were retreating south on Baltimore Street to Cemetery Hill under heavy fire from the Confederates.

If Nancy had lived in that home on November 19, 1863, she would have seen President Abraham Lincoln and local dignitaries up close and personal on their way to the National Cemetery.  

When Nancy and I were growing up in Gettysburg in the Forties, a feature attraction on East Cemetery Hill was a huge round brick building called the “Battle of Gettysburg” Cyclorama.  Inside, visitors were surrounded by a  377 foot long painting depicting in spectacular realism the chaos of battle during  Pickett’s Charge.

The Cyclorama was brought to Gettysburg in 1913 for the celebration of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Battle. It is now located in the National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center.  

On East Cemetery Hill, about 400 yards from Nancy’s house on Baltimore Street, there was a monument for Union General Oliver Howard who looked out over the steepest and best hill for sledding in Gettysburg. When the snow fell in the winter, Nancy and her friends spent many hours enjoying that hill which was the scene of fierce fighting in July of 1863.

The sled ride from the top of the hill ended on Wainwright Avenue which led north to our high school and south to Culp’s Hill. In the spring the road on the east side was lined with fragrant blossoms of honeysuckle.

Friday, November 7, 2014

1. Discovering the Battlefield

The Gettysburg National Military Park was our nature preserve to explore and our wilderness to adventure in when Nancy and I were growing up in the small Pennsylvania town that became famous throughout the world. From the time we were children, sites like Culp's Hill, Spangler’s Spring and Devil's Den were destinations to discover and probe alone or with friends. 

My family moved to Gettysburg in 1942 when I was in sixth grade. Our first home was on East Middle Street just a few hundred yards from the entrance to East Confederate Avenue on the Battlefield. That road led to a series of small streams spanned by what we called First Bridge, Second Bridge and Third Bridge. The latter is at the base of Culp’s Hill, scene of fierce fighting on July 2-3, 1863.

My earliest recollection of playing on the Battlefield was in the boulders near Third Bridge. There my neighbor, Johnny Aghinbaugh, and I gathered dead tree trunks and laid them over the boulders that were about six feet apart and four feet high. Then we piled brush and leaves over the trees, and we completed the coolest “fort” from which to hide from our imaginary enemy. I can remember Mom preparing sandwiches and Koolaid for us so we could retire to our fort well supplied.

A few years later, our Boy Scout Troop 77 (Bound for Heaven) played Capture the Flag in the field across from our fort. The spirited, rough and tumble of that game probably helped prepare me for eight years of high school and college football.

Another memory of Third Bridge area was a field of tall grass northwest of the stream. After exploring that field one day by myself, I returned home covered with what we called “chiggers.” It reminded me that hot weather and artillery and rifle fire were not the only concerns both the Union and Confederate soldiers faced during the famous battle. 

December 9, 2014