Wednesday, August 26, 2015

35. Class Schedules, Sports and the Teen Canteen

On our first day as freshmen at Gettysburg High School in 1945, Nancy and I found our homerooms with no problem, but locating our classrooms for English, Algebra, Biology, Civics and Latin were a bit more difficult. Yes, we took Latin, and we were bored.  

When it was time to consider clubs and activities, Nancy was elected to the Student Council and chose to work in the library. She was also very enthusiastic about joining the Girls’ Athletic Association, and over the next four years she was very active in basketball, volleyball and field hockey. Unfortunately, there were no interscholastic teams for girls at that time. I played JV football and basketball and won a letter in Varsity track in the spring.   

An article that fall in the Maroon and White, our school newspaper, reviewed the previous two varsity football seasons reporting that the team only won one game. During that time, they were outscored 409 to 42. We wondered what it would take that year to make the team a winner?

An article in that same paper urged students to “do your bit to give your athletic teams a new name.” Unfortunately, Nancy and I were seniors before our teams would no longer be called, “Junior Bullets” or “Little Bullets.” names borrowed from the “Bullets” of Gettysburg College.

Outside of school, Nancy and I were socially active with our friends often at the Teen Canteen on Friday and Saturday nights. Opened in 1944 in the YWCA on the square, it was later moved to a vacant building in the first block of Baltimore Street. We slow danced and jitterbugged to the music of Harry James, Les Brown, Johnny Mercer and the other bands of the Swing Era.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

34. September 1945 : Freshmen at Gettysburg High School

Nancy and I began our freshman year at Gettysburg High School on Tuesday September 4, 1945, a day after Labor Day and less than a month after VJ Day and the end of World War II. 

The local paper reported that tourist travel over the battlefield during Labor Day weekend was the largest since 1940 and topped all wartime figures by a huge margin. The National Park Office reported that 11,390 tourists had visited the battlefield that weekend, more than all the visitors that came during all the war years combined.

Nancy and I entered the High School just a block off Baltimore Street, in the approximate location of the current renovated Middle School. The school’s front door was less than 100 yards from the backdoor of Nancy’s home on Baltimore Street.  I lived on East Middle Street, just a four minute walk from the school. We were fourteen at the time, and though we knew each other well, we wouldn’t be dating for another two years.

As we began this next chapter in our lives, we were excited and eager, but often confused moving through the long and unfamiliar halls looking for our next class.

Thanks to the generosity of fellow classmate, Barb Seiferd, Nancy and I have many copies of The Maroon and White, our school newspaper which was so well done and which received many national honors during our four years at GHS. We will refer to the paper often in future posts.

The October 10 issue of that paper reported that we had 175 students in our freshman class. Nancy and I were surprised to see that number, because four years later only 140 students were in our graduating class. Sadly more than half the classmates with whom we shared our joys and our successes over four years are deceased.

At the time, we had no thought about building memories that would last a lifetime. We just wanted to find the next class and arrive on time.

Monday, August 3, 2015

33. August 1945 in Gettysburg

Three of the most significant events in American History occurred in August of  1945,  just as Nancy and I prepared to enter our freshman year at Gettysburg High School.

On August 6, 1945, President Harry Truman announced that a single bomb, more powerful than 20,000 tons of TNT, was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan. It was an atomic bomb, the most powerful explosive ever used in the history of warfare, and it killed between 70,000 and 80,000 people.

The United States was now in a position to obliterate rapidly and completely every major industrial center in Japan, the nation that had attacked Pearl Harbor without warning on December 7, 1941.

On August 9, three days after the bombing of Hiroshima, the United States dropped a second atomic bomb on the city of Nagasaki, an important port and industrial center.

News of the Japanese surrender arrived in Gettysburg on Tuesday at 7:00 in the evening on August 14, 1945, and the town “went wild.” Fire sirens, factory whistles, horns and church bells sounded constantly for over a half hour, and people filled the square talking about the good news.

Nancy and I still have an original copy of the Victory Edition of the Gettysburg Times published that day. The good news was reported in three inch bold face type on the front page. The bad news appeared on page two where it was reported that 118 Adams Countians were killed or died in the service in World War II. Eight were still listed as missing in action. Hundreds were wounded and two county men were still listed as prisoners of the Japanese.

The other good news was more personal. The end of the war meant Nancy’s uncle and cousin and my father and uncle would soon be coming home.