Friday, February 27, 2015

12. New Teenagers and the Teen Canteen

When Nancy and I were in seventh grade in Gettysburg in the Forties, a popular place to go to meet friends, dance, and play games on a Saturday night was the Teen-Canteen.  There were several locations over the years, but the one we remember best was in the first block on the east side of Baltimore Street  

As a new teenager in 1944, dancing to recorded music at the Canteen was an intimidating experience, not just for me but all boys my age. Typically, I stood awkwardly with my friends on one side of the dance floor  and watched while Nancy and the girls danced with each other. Rarely were the boys brave enough to invite a girl on to the dance floor.

I hoped to gain some confidence when Sissy Sherman, a neighbor who was in high school, gave me some private lessons. While Sissy taught me how to hold a girl and how to lead her, she never did anything for my courage. As a result when I visited the Canteen, I just stood around looking self-conscious and stupid like most of the other new teenage boys.

Nancy, on the other hand, danced often at the Canteen with her group of friends and on occasion, with an upper class-man.

The years during World War II were part of the big band era, and some of the most popular dance bands in 1943 and 1944 were Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Vaughn Monroe and Harry James. A few of the top vocalists of the age were Frank Sinatra, Dinah Shore and Bing Crosby.

When the Canteen closed, we often went to the Sweetland, a local ice cream parlor for a burger, a coke or a sundae . . . sometimes all three!

In Nancy’s diaries from the Forties, she often described a Saturday night at the Canteen by writing, “I had a swell time.” The adjective “swell” was probably the most used word to describe a guy, a girl, a movie or a good time at the Teen Canteen.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

11. Exploring the Gettysburg Battlefield

In earlier posts, I mentioned that when Nancy and I were growing up in Gettysburg in the Forties, the Battlefield was ours to hike, bike and explore. We were aware of remote streams, fields and paths through the woods which tourists and probably many local residents never knew existed. 

On more than one occasion, we explored a rock quarry in the woods southwest of Culp’s Hill.  At that time, we weren’t aware of another quarry in Rose’s Woods which has special significance for Nancy. In 1863, Nancy’s GGGreat Uncle, Francis C. Ogden, was a tenant farmer on the Rose's property where over 6,000 men were killed and wounded on the second day of the Battle. That fight occurred in a field Ogden had plowed and planted. Today, it's called The Wheatfield. 
It’s quite possible that the Gettysburg Granite from the quarry in Rose’s Woods provided the stone for the farmhouse where Nancy’s uncle, his wife and six children lived.

The quarry near Culp’s Hill, the one in Rose’s Woods and several others on the Battlefield provided material for many of the monument bases and markers placed at the flanks of where regiments were positioned in July of 1863.

We took the Battlefield for granted in the Forties and never gave much thought to how it was developed over the  years, with the monuments, markers, memorials and cannon visitors see today.  

According to a 1944 report by the Dean of Gettysburg Guides, J. Warren Gilbert, during the first veterans reunion in 1887, there were no official roads on the Battlefield, and visitors were required to use private lanes on farm properties. Only a few monuments existed then. Today, there are more than 26 miles of paved roads and over 1,300 monuments, markers and memorials.
Our granddaughter, Lindsey Bailey, a GGGG Grandniece of Francis Ogden, is in the photo above. The stone building in the background is the Rose Farmhouse. The picture was taken in 2014.

Friday, February 13, 2015

10. Gettysburg and World War II

The United States involvement in World War II began December 7, 1941 and ended with the Japanese surrender on September 2, 1945. Though it was fought thousands of miles from Gettysburg, its effects were quite apparent in our hometown, even for junior high classmates like Nancy and me.  

Everyone had a relative or friend in the service. Nancy had a cousin and an uncle fighting Nazi Germany, and I had an uncle fighting the Japanese in the South Pacific. My dad was also called to serve in the Seabees, but he remained in the States.

The July 3,1944 issue of the Gettysburg Times included an Independence Day Tribute honoring the more that 3,100 men and women from Adams County who were in the service in World War II. 

A headline in that edition reported that, “At least 20 Adams Countians Have Made the ‘Supreme Sacrifice.”  Another headline noted that several others were Prisoners of War in Japan and Germany.

Food and fuel rationing during the war had a negative impact on everyone in Gettysburg especially those businesses that depended on tourists. Nancy and I remember when we rode our bikes on the Battlefield during the War, it was often devoid of traffic.

Life was not the same for residents of Gettysburg as it was before the War, but our sacrifices were insignificant compared to those who served in the Armed Forces far from home. 

Thursday, February 5, 2015

9. Governors Visit Gettysburg on Memorial Day 1944

Memorial Day in 1944 was the biggest happening in Gettysburg since Lincoln spoke at the National Cemetery in November of 1863. An estimated crowd of 11,000 including Governors from 37 states attended the annual event.

The most photographed man that day was Thomas E. Dewey, Governor of New York and leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination.

Nancy and I were Seventh Graders, and I was a Boy Scout assigned to a position on the square probably to assist the police in crowd control during the Parade. As the Governors passed by on their way to the National Cemetery, Governor Dewey’s car stopped just in front of where I was standing. 

The window on his car was open and when he extended his hand toward me, I responded with a good firm Boy Scout handshake.

Almost a thousand children from Lincoln, Meade and High Street Schools participated in the Parade that day. Each child carried an armful of flowers which were carefully placed on the headstones in the Cemetery. According to reports, the Governors were visibly impressed. Some called the sight inspiring.

That afternoon, the Governors and a huge crowd attended the formal program in the Cemetery which was broadcast on 200 radio stations across the country

While Governors, school children, residents and visitors observed Memorial Day in Gettysburg, a headline in the local paper the next day reported that British troops were only 17 miles from Rome as World War II continued in Europe.