Friday, September 25, 2015

38. Slow Dancing and Jitterbugging in 1945-46

When Nancy and I were freshman at Gettysburg High School in 1945-46, one of our favorite activities was dancing with friends to the popular music of the day.

Music for dancing was available from several sources including the radio, the Teen Canteen on Baltimore Street, Woodlawn on the Chambersburg Road or school dances. If we had a favorite song we wanted to play over and over, we bought the 78rpm,10 inch record for seventy-five cents and played it on our personal record player.  

The most popular place to dance on a weekend or a holiday was the Teen Canteen where a juke box usually provided the music. On Labor Day in 1945, one hundred and seven teens showed up and danced to the music of the Junior Jivesters from Gettysburg High School.

Nancy and I danced often at the Teen Canteen, but not in our freshman year. We'll save those stories for another day.

When we started dating as juniors, one of our favorite places to dance was Woodlawn on the Chambersburg Road. A colorful jukebox was available with the most popular music of the day, and each song cost a nickel.

Our favorite bands when we were freshmen were Harry James, Les Brown and Woodie Hermann, and our favorite songs were Sentimental Journey for slow dancing and On the Atchison, Topeka & the Santa Fe for jitterbugging.The most popular novelty song was Chickery Chick.

Nancy and I don’t dance much any more, but we still listen to the music from our high school days on Big Band Jukebox on Live 365 and Forties on Four on Sirius Radio. 

Saturday, September 12, 2015

37. Rationing in World War II

A report in the September 9, issue of the Gettysburg Times in 1945 announced that the end of World War II shoe rationing could end by October 1. The article reminded us that we have written about the rationing of food during the war, but haven’t mentioned more than a dozen other products that were controlled.

Shoes are almost as important to a military machine as food and weapons, and in World War II, the military had a great need for leather for shoes and combat boots.  Just two months after the War began, each civilian man, woman and child was limited to three pairs of leather shoes a year.

Two million trucks were manufactured during the War, and they all ran on rubber tires, the very first product to be rationed. The Japanese controlled the rubber producing regions of Southeast Asia, and we did not yet have adequate manufacturing capacity for making synthetic rubber.

To save wear on tires and improve mileage, a nationwide speed limit of 35 mph  was enforced on all highways during the War. The reduced speed saved wear  on our cars as well, an important consideration since no new cars were manufactured until after the war.

Nylon stockings weren’t rationed during the war. There weren’t any. All supplies of nylon were essential to the war effort for parachutes, ropes and netting. American female ingenuity met the challenge by carefully applying a makeup liquid that looked like stockings and finished it off with an eyebrow pencil  to resemble a seam.  Fake nylons only lasted until the real thing was once again available. Thank goodness! 

Nancy and I don’t remember any specific hardships growing up in Gettysburg during the War. Despite rationing, we had adequate food, clothing and shelter, and any inconveniences we experienced didn’t seem to bother us.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

36. Growing Up in Gettysburg: High School Football in 1945

The fall of 1945 was a time of great anticipation for many families in Gettysburg. World War II was over, and the men and women of Adams County who had served in the military were on their way home. Joyful reunions with loved ones who were apart, sometimes for years, were occurring all over the County that fall.

At Gettysburg High School, students were anticipating another football season. After winning only one game during the past two years, the team was making a fresh start under a new coach, Bill Ridinger, who had an enviable record at Columbia High School.

Those of us who were just beginning to compete in high school football were nervous and excited wondering how we would perform playing the game which in 1945, looked a bit different from what we watch today.
As a freshman, I played Junior Varsity football. We played in hand-me-down uniforms and equipment including unpainted leather helmets with no face guard. Matter of fact, I played football from 1945 through 1951 and never wore a face guard which was only available if you had a broken nose.

Our football jerseys were made of  wool, and the pants were  a canvas material that hung loosely on our legs. Our shoes were also hand-me-downs from the Varsity, often disfigured from many years of wear.

We played the game on a natural grass field.  I still remember the pleasant odor of newly mown grass on a chilly fall evening under the lights.  Sometimes after rain, we played in mud, and when a grass field was frozen, it was like playing on concrete. Artificial turf on a football field was unknown until 1966 when it was installed for the first time in the Astrodome in Houston

The game was different as well. I didn’t experience two-platoon football until I played in college in 1950. All through high school I played offense and defense, and substitutions were rare. Quarterback were trusted to call the plays and a no-huddle offense was unknown. Passing was limited.

Although the uniforms, fields and formations may have changed since 1945, the human element has not. Football is still a game played with passion, commitment, perseverance and enthusiasm by those who love it.