Monday, February 20, 2017

101 Minstrel Shows and Coach Forney

When Nancy was a sophomore at Gettysburg High School in 1947-48, she faithfully recorded in a diary her activities for each day.  On Friday, April 2, 1948, Nancy wrote that she and two friends attended the Lion’s Club Minstrel Show in the school auditorium. The show featured club members in blackface performing dances, solos, jokes, comedy skits and music by a sixteen voice chorus. 

Minstrel shows were a form of entertainment developed in the 19th century and were the first theatrical form that was distinctly American. They were performed by white men in blackface lampooning black culture in America. Al Jolson appeared in blackface in 1927 in The Jazz Singer, the first talking motion picture.

As the civil rights movement progressed and gained acceptance, and because of their overt racist references, minstrel performances were ultimately discontinued. Today most people would consider minstrel shows repulsive and offensive.

On April 5, 1948, the local Rotary Club honored the members of the Gettysburg High School basketball team for a very successful season winning seventeen of twenty-two games and scoring 910 points to opponents 752. I was proud to be a contributing member of that team.

In a speech to the Rotarians, Coach George Forney said, “The job of the coach consists principally in telling the boys their faults, and only in that way can improvement be made.”  It was clear from his comments that Forney left the accolades and applause to the community.

Monday, February 13, 2017

100. The Cost of Winning WWII

When Nancy and I were growing up in Gettysburg in the Forties, the most important event of that decade was World War II which ended on VJ Day, August 15, 1945.  By the spring of 1948, our lives had returned to normal, but an article in The Gettysburg Times that year  reminded us once again of the cost of that war.                                

On March 6, the Times reported that the bodies of three men from Adams County who were killed in WWII would arrive in the United States in a few days. 

T/Sgt. Richard J Gross of East Berlin was killed in August of 1943 while serving with the Air Force in New Guinea. Pvt. Maurice Small of Gettysburg, was 27 when he was killed in action in Normandy on July 13, 1944, and  Pvt. George Spertzel of York Springs, was 25 when he was KIA in France on July 31, 1944, and 

Adams County records indicate that 3,100 men and women served in World War II, and 110 men from the County were among the 419,000 citizens of the United States who lost their lives in that conflict. 

Those buried in the Gettysburg National Cemetery are remembered in annual Memorial Day Ceremonies, and each December a Christmas Wreath is placed on the headstones of veterans of World War II as well as others who have served in the armed forces of the United States.. 

Nancy and I, along with friends and family, are honored to participate in the Christmas Wreath Project each year. 

Saturday, February 4, 2017

99. Our School Newspaper: The Maroon and White

When Nancy and I were students at  Gettysburg High School from 1945 until  1949, our school newspaper, the Maroon and White, was published every two weeks. It was a remarkable achievement for a small school, especially in light of the fact the paper was 11x17 inches and typically six pages long.

Several factors were responsible for the success of this excellent publication which was free to all students. The experienced advisers, Louise Ramer and Ruth Mundis, gave direction and guidance to a huge staff of nearly sixty students from all four classes. In addition, each issue of the Maroon and White featured numerous display ads from local businesses.

The Wednesday, March 10, 1948 issue of the Maroon and White included fifty-six ads, and recently, Nancy and I walked down memory lane as we reviewed them.

Among the most popular places advertised in the school paper were the Majestic Theater which featured three movies plus a newsreel and cartoon each week; the Sweetland and the Delecto where friends gathered after school, sporting events or after leaving the Canteen; and Smitty’s Store located on what is now LeFever Street, for snacks, sodas, ice cream and soft drinks.

The sports news in the March 10 issue of the Maroon and White included a wrap- up of our recent very successful basketball season in which the team won seventeen games and lost five. Senior Kenny Fair, the leading scorer, was first team All-Conference and honorable mention All-State.

The March 10 edition also carried an ad for Adams County Motors, the Ford dealer where Nancy and I bought our first new car, a 1955 Ford Fairlane Town Sedan, the prettiest car we ever owned.