Saturday, May 30, 2015

25. Growing Up in Gettysburg: A Tragedy in Eighth Grade

Gene Herz, or “Hertzy" as his eighth grade classmates referred to him, was a student at Lincoln School which Nancy and I attended in 1945. Many years earlier, when Nancy lived on Liberty Street in Gettysburg, She and Hertzy were playmates. 

On Thursday morning March 8, Nancy and Hertz were in Miss Boyer’s study hall class when he got up from his desk in the farthest row from the door, walked across the back of the room, through the door and shot himself in the head in the hall just outside the classroom. The time was 11:15 a.m.

Eugene Hertz did not regain consciousness and died at the Annie Warner Hospital in Gettysburg that same day at 1:05 p.m. He was sixteen.

Over the past seventy years, I have heard several accounts of this shocking incident from fellow classmates who were present in the room. For example, I remember hearing from a few students that Hertz showed the .22 caliber revolver to the class before he left the room. Someone used the phrase “brandished the gun.”  

At some point, Nancy and others hid under their desks, and just recently, our friend Janet Upton who was in study hall that day, told us that she and other students huddled together in the rear of the classroom.

I remember taking a spelling test in a nearby classroom when the gun went off and my pen moved erratically across the paper when I heard the shot.

After Hertz’s death, some students at Lincoln School remembered that Hertz  was despondent because his brother and friends were in the military service in World War II, but he was too young to join. They also remember Hertz threatened to commit suicide, but a police investigation following the incident never revealed a reason for the tragedy.

Monday, May 25, 2015

23. More about Eighth Grade in 1945

When Nancy and I were in eighth grade at Lincoln School in Gettysburg in 1944-45, our students bought Savings Stamps and War Bonds and collected scrap iron and other materials to make equipment for our troops fighting in World War II in Europe and the South Pacific.

In January of 1945, Lincoln School students won the Adams County Salvage Honors for collecting 12,688 tin cans the previous month. That was 61 cans per student, one of the highest ratios in the State.

Later that month, the Gettysburg Times reported that our eighth grade homerooms bought so many War Bonds, the money raised could buy a walkie-talkie, a pair of binoculars, a blockbuster bomb, a first aid kit and a Jeep!

Also in January a new Youth Center opened on Chambersburg Street for junior high students on Friday evenings from 7 to 10. In a previous post, we noted that  at junior high dances, the boys hung out together and watched the girls dance. Rarely did you see boys and girls dancing together.

I started at center on the Lincoln School basketball team in eighth grade, and Nancy was a cheerleader. Basketball was a different game in the Forties. Set shots were made with two hands and foul shots were scooped up from below the waist. 

There was no game clock, and freezing the ball meant fans could take a nap, and the score would be the same when they woke up. Scoring was a reason for celebrating . . . by fans only. A player who celebrated after scoring would find himself on the bench for the rest of the game.  My average of two goals per game was enough to rank me second in scoring for the season.

When the season was over, our captain, Bill Eisenhart, had a party at his house where most of us smoked cigarettes and thought we were cool. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

23. Going Upstreet in Gettysburg

Everyone who is familiar with Gettysburg remembers that four main streets converge in the center of the village which locals call the “Square.” Those of us who grew up in the famous historic town, lived within easy walking distance of that Square, the center of commercial activity.  

When we were in eighth grade at Lincoln School, Nancy lived at the bottom of the Baltimore Street Hill, so she and her friends walked “up-street” to get to the Square. I lived on East Middle Street, and I called the trip going “uptown.”

Nancy’s diaries from 1944 and 1945 reveal that she went up-street a lot, mostly with friends and most often to eat! Her favorite places were the Delecto and Britcher and Bender on Chambersburg Street, Shuman’s on Baltimore Street and Faber’s and the Sweetland on the Square.

After school, sporting events, the teen canteen or just for an evening snack, teenagers gathered at such places to drink cherry cokes, eat hamburgers or dine on special treats like CMPs (Chocolate, Marshmallow, Peanut) sundaes. 

On Friday and Saturday nights, the older high school boys gathered in front of the Sweetland “Watching All the Girls Go By.” Some girls were embarrassed when the boys ogled or whistled but most obviously enjoyed the attention.  

Eighth graders weren’t driving yet, so out-of-town eateries were not included on our social schedule until a few years later. Then we were eager to drive to our out-of-town favorites where we could not only eat but enjoy dancing to jukebox music.

Nancy and I loved growing up in Gettysburg in the Forties, and we make nostalgia trips back to our hometown two or three times each year.  

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

22. Fall of 1944 in Eighth Grade

In the fall of 1944 when Nancy and I were in eighth grade at Lincoln School, the local news reported costly damage to coin operated viewing machines on the Battlefield. Apparently, in an attempt to recover the dimes used to operate the giant binoculars, the tops of the $700 machines were broken open. 

In addition, two monuments were damaged and names were scrawled on others. Vandalism was also reported at Spangler’s Spring. Undoubtedly, it was incidents like these that ultimately led to the National Park closing from dusk until dawn.

When I turned twelve in 1943, I joined Boy Scout Troop 77 at the Methodist Church on East Middle Street. Jack Cessna, the physics teacher at the high school, was the scoutmaster, and he kept us active working for merit badges and camping on the Battlefield and sites throughout Adams County.  

My days as a Boy Scout ended the night our scoutmaster took us to a Gettysburg High School football game during a scheduled weekly meeting. Gettysburg was losing the game when our scoutmaster ordered us back to the meeting room. I went AWOL so I could watch the rest of the game, and that was the end of my career in Scouting.

It was late in the football season when Johnny Aughinbaugh and I were invited to practice with the varsity. Subsequently, we were ground down, swallowed up and spit out by linemen fifty to sixty pounds heavier and three or four years older. I still wonder why the coaches thought that was a good idea.

On November 7, of 1944,  President Franklin Roosevelt won his fourth term with Senator Harry Truman as his Vice President, The following April, Roosevelt died, and a month later, the war with Nazi Germany was over. President Harry Truman would now lead our country in the war against Japan.

Friday, May 1, 2015

21. More about 1944 and Eighth Grade

Nancy and I have lots of memories from eighth grade at Lincoln School which began September 18 after a two week delay because a new case of polio was discovered in the County earlier in the month.

Front page news on September 15 announced that World War II was going well for the Allies. US Marine and Army assault forces were converging on Palau and Morotai which General Douglas MacArthur, hero of the war in the South Pacific,  called the last stronghold barring our troops from the Philippines.

In Europe, George Patton’s Third Army invaded the Nazi stronghold of Nancy, France, and Russian troops were storming into Warsaw, Poland.  

According to Nancy’s diary, the number one song on the Hit Parade on the radio was I’ll Walk Alone sung by Dinah Shore. The only entertainment medium available to us at that time was movies, radio and 78 records.

TV wasn’t available until after the War, and then the first shows we  watched were on a a small set in the window of Baker’s Radio and Television Store on Baltimore Street. Each night, crowds would stand outside the store watching college and professional sports.

Going to the movies was a weekly ritual, and each time a new movie came to town, we were there. The Academy Award for best motion picture in 1944 went to  Casablanca with Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. 

One of the most misquoted lines in the history of movies was spoken by Bergman who asked  piano player Sam (Dooley Wilson) to “Play it, Sam. Play ‘As Time Goes By.’”  Bergman never said, “Play it again, Sam.”

Our first science project in eighth grade was a collection of leaves which we dried, identified and placed in an album. Another collection that fall in which every school child in the US participated was gathering milkweed pods used to make life saving jackets and belts for the military. The goal across the country was to gather 1,500,000 pounds of milkweed!