Monday, December 28, 2015

50. The Legendary Coach Forney and Basketball in 1946

In January of 1946, George Forney returned to Gettysburg High School, after serving in the Navy during World War II. He immediately reassumed his duties coaching the basketball team which finished the season winning seventeen games and losing only three.

In 1946, basketball was a very different game than fans watch today. First, we dressed differently. We wore black high top sneakers, belted short shorts, sleeveless jerseys tucked into our shorts and black leather kneepads which no one wears today. 

The free throw lane, or key, was only six feet wide in 1946. There was no three point shooting, and there was no shot clock which meant a team could freeze the ball forever. The result was a game which emphasized defense more than teams do today. 

When George Forney returned as coach in January of 1946, his team averaged 41 points a game and their opponents averaged only 29! In a conference game that season Gettysburg beat Waynesboro 45 to 6 which suggests that Waynesboro didn’t score a goal in at least one period.

The freewheeling style of basketball we know as “run and gun” was never practiced while Nancy and I were at Gettysburg High School.

George Forney coached football, basketball and track at Gettysburg until his retirement in 1973. He is  a member of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame, and the current gymnasium at the high school bears his name. He died in 1993 at the age of 95.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

49. Christmas in Gettysburg in 1945

Christmas, 1945 was a very special time for millions of people in our Country. World War II was over, and those who had served in the armed forces here or overseas were welcomed home. For some, it had been three years or more since loved ones were together at Christmas.

Bing Crosby sang the most popular song in December, 1945, and it expressed the sentiment of many when he sang, 
“Kiss me once and kiss me twice, and kiss me once again. It’s been a long, long time.”
I was in the Marine Corps from 1952 until 1955, and during that time, Nancy and I spent every Christmas apart. It was a painful experience, but my life was never threatened like those who served during the war.

Nancy’s uncle who served as a chaplain in Italy and Germany, was discharged in August of 1945, and my Dad, who was a Seabee, was discharged in December of  that year. It was a very happy Christmas for both families.

While millions of Americans celebrated the Holidays with loved ones when World War II ended, there were others mourning the loss of  loved ones who never came home. Many would return, not as they left, but with serious injuries suffered in service of our Country. 

Nancy and I continue to observe Christmas in Gettysburg as participants in the National Wreath Project sponsored by the Sgt. Mac Organization. Each December we help decorate Christmas wreaths and place them on the graves in the National Cemetery. Members of the family we dreamed about when we fell in love in the Forties join us for this memorable experience.

Monday, December 7, 2015

48. Remembering Pleasant Aromas

Several students from Dr. Michael Birkner’s Historical Methods course at Gettysburg College have asked Nancy and me about our memories of specific streets in our home town in 1945. Responding to these requests has brought to mind places we haven’t thought about since we left Gettysburg as a married couple sixty-two years ago.

One location is Ernie's Texas Lunch on Chambersburg Street between the Lutheran Church and Washington Street.  With a menu that reminds guests of a diner from the Thirties, Ernie’s features old favorites like chili cheese fries, onion rings and classic hot dogs including chili dogs and one with everything.  

If you were blindfolded while walking on Chambersburg Street, you could find Ernie's Texas Lunch from the distinctive smell of onions, peppers and hot dogs cooking on the grill in the front window.

And if you crossed to the south side of the street, there was another business you could find with your nose before you saw it. A roasted peanut machine stood  in front of George’s shoe shine parlor and shoe repair business, and for a couple of pennies, you could buy a small bag of roasted peanuts in their shells. The aroma of those hot roasted peanuts could be recognized up and down the block.

One more place we remember where the aroma was exhilarating was Henning’s Bakery in the first block of York Street. It was the wonderful scent of warm bread that stimulated the senses and made the place so memorable.

I hope our comments about places we remember in 1945 are helping the Gettysburg students with their history assignment. It certainly has been fun for us to recall the charm of those businesses mentioned above.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

47. No Television in 1945 But We Were Entertained

According to a website titled The History of Film, Television and Video, there were fewer than 7,000 working TV sets in the country in 1945. If there were any TVs in Gettysburg in 1945 when we were growing up there, neither Nancy or I knew about it. 

The first TV we remember was in the window of Baker’s Battery Service on Baltimore Street which was one of the first stores to sell TVs in Gettysburg. Because there were only nine stations on the air in 1945, and the closest was in Philadelphia, we doubt if there was a TV in Baker’s window at that time.

In 1945 we found our entertainment in school activities, listening to music on the radio and records and going to the movies. It was not unusual to attend two movies a week, and each show included a cartoon and a newsreel as well as the feature film.

The Academy Award for the best film of 1945 was Lost Weekend, the story about an alcoholic writer on a four-day bender. Our favorite that year was Anchors Aweigh, a musical comedy starring Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly. Both movies are available on YouTube.

Nancy’s diaries reveal that she often listened to Your Hit Parade, a radio program that aired on Saturday nights. The popular program, sponsored by Lucky Strike cigarettes, played the most popular songs from the previous week. The two most popular songs in 1945, remained at number one for nine weeks. They were Till the End of Time by Perry Como and Sentimental Journey by Les Brown.  

Despite the lack of TV in 1945, we were always entertained.