Gratiot County’s Finest Hour, September 1944: “Harvest Time and the Cost of War”

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Above: St. Louis Leader runs an advertisement for help with the 1944 sugar beet harvest; Gratiot County residents were in line to get their next gasoline rationing cards; First Lieutenant Galon Mallory of Seville Township is awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his service aboard a B-24 Liberator in Italy.

          The fall harvest was beginning in Gratiot County in September 1944. The county had experienced a significant summer drought but Gratiot was fortunate – more rain fell at the right time and crops were among some of the best in Michigan. Victory Fever continued as people believed that the war in Europe would soon be over, but they did not realize that final victory and the end of the war was a year away.  Hope for a conclusion to the war that fall ran wild as American troops seemed to be moving quickly across France to the western edge of Germany.

    People in Gratiot County were told to think about men who were in enemy concentration camps. Christmas gifts and how to ship them to Europe were some of the ways to show support. Also, the Blue Star Mothers in the county were very active in raising money for Christmas gifts. Conversations and plans about creating a memorial for all of Gratiot County’s servicemen and women who fought in the war was something that the Blue Stars wished to see happen.

         As the crops started to be harvested, the third year of Gratiot County’s involvement in the war continued.

In the Service

       Selective Service reported to Congress that the United States Armed Forces had an estimated 11,417,00 people defending the United States. These numbers remained throughout the rest of 1944 and fewer men over the age of 26 would be drafted. An estimated 83% of those drafted in July consisted of those between the ages of 18 and 26.

       News from Central Europe kept Gratiot County newspaper readers up to date on the status of those in the service. Sergeant Howard Dickinson of Middleton was fighting along the Arno River with the 133rd Infantry. Dickinson had been in the service for three years, making his way from Tunisia to Italy,  while fighting in Cassino, Anzio, and Rome. The 133rd Infantry became a highly decorated unit during the war. Private Glenn Mutchler wrote home in early September to his parents in Alma. He said,  “The war sounds good to the fellow listening to the radio, but to the fellows facing the enemy it’s just another day and another battle in which (a soldier) has lost a few more friends.” Mutchler recounted having a nice chicken dinner, with a wing and neck to eat. “I don’t know how a chicken can live without legs but these we get never seem to have any after they’re cooked.” It had been just over one year since Mutchler entered the Army. There were radios available where he was at in Italy.

        Sergeant Marvin Mates of Breckenridge wrote home to his parents. Mates was in the 15th Army Air Force in Italy and was a ball gunner on an M-24. On one mission his plane was attacked by ten Nazi fighters, but his crew shot down four and damaged more enemy planes. His Liberator made it back to base even though it had one engine out and another one missing. Dale Eckelbarger of Ithaca returned home after 23 months in North Africa and Italy. After 22 days at home, Ecklebarger returned to Florida for another assignment. He had been a mechanic who worked on fighter planes for the British 8th Army. Private Warren Collison of St. Louis, who was with the 3rd “Marne” Infantry Division in the Fifth Army in Italy, received the Combat Infantryman’s Badge for fighting the Germans in Italy.

        Private Joseph Zigray also was cited for his service in Italy with the 101st Military Police Battalion during February. Sergeant Wallace Moore of Middleton was with the 12th Army Air Force and served as a radio operation gunner on a Marauder crew in the Meditteranean. His group had been bombing rail installations in Florence, Italy. Moore was awarded a medal for meritorious achievement. He entered the service in August 1941 after leaving his studies as a history major at Alma College.

       Servicemen also wrote home from France. Bud Welch wrote to his mother about seeing a dance in a French village, and it was one of the first held there in four years of Nazi occupation. Welch danced a couple of times, “I just hung on, and boy what a whirl.” Welch had recently seen combat at St. Lo. Louis Macha wrote to friends in Ithaca about the invasion of Southern France in late August.  Richard Shoemaker of Alma was also in France, and he wished that he could write more often. However,  his unit’s constant movement meant he had little time to write. Shoemaker heard about those Americans who were defense workers and who worked during strikes back home. Private Gerald Isham of Middleton wrote from France and was interviewed by the Detroit News about having visited Belleau Wood and the World War I cemetery there.

         Wally Moore of Alma was in the news. Sergeant Moore, a radioman in the air corps, was awarded a medal for completing 60 missions over Europe. Moore had been a star athlete at  Alma High School and briefly attended Alma College. Lieutenant Galon Mallory of Elwell had his picture in several of the county newspapers. Mallory flew 50 missions over enemy territory for the 15th Army Air Corps and received the Distinguished Flying Cross for his service. Sergeant Kenneth Bebow of St. Louis was working night and day with the hedgerow busters in France. Young Timothy Long of the same town was one of two Gratiot men to now have served in both the Pacific and European Theaters during the war. He was now somewhere in France or Germany.

         Technician 5th Grade Stanley Bobit from St. Louis wrote home that he had captured two Nazis while on guard duty – with only one shot. During early morning guard duty in France, Bobit saw movement in a field and shot at moving figures. Although he shot over them, both Germans fell to the ground and quickly surrendered. One was a German Master Sergeant. Bobit received a letter of commendation for his duty. Private Lyle Fillhard was with the 237th Engineer Combat Battalion which had been at work the northern coast of Normandy just five minutes after H-Hour. His entire battalion made it on shore within twelve minutes. The unit appeared in a recent issue of “Stars and Stripes.”

        News finally arrived in Ithaca about the whereabouts of Don Barden, who now was somewhere in Burma. Always on the move, Barden thought that his current placement “can best be described as one step this side of Hell, and I do mean it. I can’t imagine any place worse, but I suppose if there is one, we’ll find it next.” While serving in the dense jungle, Barden’s unit dealt with heavy rains, which usually occurred several times each day. The ground was always wet. He also wanted people in Ithaca to know that Burma was not free of the Japanese. Private Ralph Cheney wrote to his mother that while mail was slow in New Guinea,  he just received Gratiot County Herald newspapers that were three months old. By early August, Cheney was living in a basement dug out of the clay soil. The area was four and a half feet deep and held space for four cots. Cheney thought it was a comfortable location.

       Sergeant Russell Whitford of Ashley came home after serving two years overseas in China and India. A high-speed radio operator who received a medal for his service, Whitford soon headed back to California for more overseas duty.  Allie Inbody was a Machinist Mate Third Class and had been in New Guinea since February. He wrote home to tell his wife and daughter about life in the Seabees. Don McMullen of Ithaca was promoted to first lieutenant after completing the first officers training course to be conducted in Australia. McMullen graduated from Ithaca High School, attended Central Michigan Teachers College, and had worked in the Fleming Clothing Store in Ithaca. He had been in the service for two and a half years.

      Over in Saipan, Private Stanley Miller of Breckenridge was in a hospital due to malarial fever. This was his second trip to the hospital in two months. Miller had been knocked out by a concussion blast and had to be hospitalized, but he was back on the front lines twelve days later. Sergeant Ned McKee of Alma was also on Saipan. He was one of many men working fifteen hours a day to prepare the island as an airbase. Private Gene Jellison of Alma wrote that he had spent two years serving in the Marianas Islands. Jellison had been a part of the first American landings there, and he lamented that he barely had time to write home on V-mail. If anyone back home wanted to send something to him, Jellison hoped for candy, gum, or fruit cake.

       Out in the Central Pacific, Charles Parkes of Alma wrote home about meeting natives and how he traded with them to obtain grass skirts, shells, and mats. Parkes wanted to make a necklace out of the seashells. He also recalled attending a program put on by Jack Benny and Carol Landis. Aviation Machinist Dale Swan of Arcada Township came home after 21 months in the South Pacific. His job involved working on planes that went out of the combat zone. Lieutenant Harry Doyle of St. Louis wrote to his grandmother and told her that he was safe in a fox hole in New Guinea. He had already survived three Japanese night raids and considered himself as safe as any man in his area. Doyle’s grandmother told the St. Louis Leader that she did not think that the situation sounded so safe.

       Captain Hazel Dill, formerly from Breckenridge, was one of nine Michigan nurses that served in a United States  Army General Hospital in England. Much of her work dealt with treating soldiers who were wounded in France. Another Gratiot woman, Private Margaret Jessup, was stationed at Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania where she worked in the filing department at post headquarters. She was an Alma High School graduate and had been in the service since October 1943. Ensign Esther Grover of Middleton had been in Del Monte, California as a hospital nurse. She just became a Junior Grade Lieutenant. Although the parents of Lieutenant Martha Leyrer had not heard from her for quite some time, a letter arrived in St. Louis that Leyrer was now in India. Corporal Mary Wolford sent a letter home to her parents, telling them that she had been transferred from England to France. Wolford had three brothers in the service: one in San Francisco, another in South America, and one in Belgium.

       In the United States, Private Frank Masarik of St. Johns just completed paratroop training. It was unclear where he would go next.  Lieutenant Lewis Jolls of Ithaca arrived in Florida and awaited a new assignment after completing thirty missions as a pilot on a B-17 in Europe. He received the Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal. Calvin Space of Perrinton completed basic training at Submarine School in New London, Connecticut. A 1943 Fulton Township graduate, he also graduated from the only submarine school of its kind in the Navy. Lieutenant Norman Keon spoke to members of the St. Louis Rotary Club regarding his time in New Guinea. Keon, who was seriously injured in a jeep accident, had spent several months in an army hospital and was now home on leave. Keon served with an anti-aircraft battery. Coxswain Gene Gilmore, who formerly worked for the Alma Record and St. Louis Leader, now was home on leave from the United States Coast Guard Station in Philadelphia. He had been there for the past nine months.  Charles Johnson, former professor of religion at Alma College, was now in the Army as a Presbyterian chaplain.  People were reminded that three Rademacher boys from Alma left to serve the county: Paul and Francis to the Army, and Michael to the Navy. Jasper and Donald Stockwell got word back to their family in Alma that the two brothers had met while in Hawaii. They both thought of those back home.

       In other news, Infantryman Hugh Rodenbo of St. Louis had gone to France on D-Day with Headquarters Battery Number 6334 and had not seen his parents in three years. He had no sympathy for American strikers in the workplace. Rodenbo announced the big news that he had married an English lassie on December 18, 1943. She was an ATS in the British Army, and Rodenbo hoped to bring her home when the war ended. Alma College was making plans for its Bon Voyage Dance as a closing function for those men who would be leaving for service through the V-12 Program. It would be held October 14 in the Memorial Gymnasium. There was also a fire drill on camps at 11:30 one Friday night on campus so that members of the V-12 unit could help Alma firefighters. The test was to determine if Wright Hall had adequate fire protection.

Those Awful Acronyms: WIA, MIA, POW, KIA

       More sad news came to Gratiot County regarding the war and those who defended the country. Petty Officer Wayne Parks of Alma survived an attack from a Japanese zero in India. However, he was severely wounded in the back by shrapnel. Robert Sherwood, a Marine from Ithaca, was seriously injured in Guam and was in a hospital in New Caledonia. Donald Wright from St. Louis wrote two letters that appeared in the St. Louis Leader. Wright told how he woke up in a hospital with fifty beds out in the Pacific after being seriously injured. Many of the men who were with him were in worse shape. Yet,  Wright was up and walking for the first time in over two weeks. Private Eugene Jellison suffered wounds in the Pacific on July 21, but he was recovering. Seaman 2nd Class Ray Willert suffered severe injuries while in the Pacific. He lost his right hand, suffered a severe facial wound that required plastic surgery, and had dropped to 128 pounds. Willert was a 1927 graduate of Middleton High School.

        Lieutenant Royal Klein was in a rehabilitation hospital in England. He had been wounded while flying over Germany. Klein asked readers of the Gratiot County Herald to please send Christmas items to his fellow servicemen who were in the hospital with him. Klein believed that the men there would appreciate anything that readers sent. Others from the county who were wounded in Europe included Ralph Wood of Newark Township, Fred Smejkal of Ashley, and Willard Haag of Elm Hall.

        Mervel Peacock of St. Louis was up and walking again after receiving leg wounds in France on August 8.   The parents of John Freeman of Alma first received news that their son, William, had received an eye wound from a grenade fragment. After returning to duty, the younger Freeman was wounded again on August 13. Freeman recovered and was back with his quartermaster corps. Private Leslie Tanner, who was injured July 3 during the invasion of France, was resting in an English hospital, and would soon be heading home to the United States. Cloyd Heath of Ithaca also was injured during the invasion of France. However, no other news was available. Private Robert Childers of Middleton was also injured in France, but his wounds were considered to be minor. Duane Stockwell of Alma was awarded the Purple Heart in Italy for injuries suffered June 1. On that same day, he received his Alma High School diploma in absentia. Stockwell was a corporal and served in North Africa before being sent to the Anzio Beachhead. On the home front, Private Keith Way from New Haven Township fractured his right arm and had other injuries in an automobile incident during maneuvers at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

       Some of the hardest news in September dealt with those who paid the ultimate price for their service. Sergeant Donald Wood’s wife received his Purple Heart certificate in the mail. Wood was killed July 19 in France. Memorial services took place in Alma for Corporal Ralph Vandemark and Sergeant Edgar Cook. Both men died earlier in the summer. Similar ceremonies took place at the Ithaca Church of God where a candlelight service was held for Myrl Putnam who had been killed in France. Another memorial service was held in the county for Lieutenant Dale Shillinger who died while serving as an airplane pilot in Brazil.

       People continued to hear about those who had been captured as prisoners of war. One of the recurring stories centered around Sergeant Benny Zamarron of Ashley. He had been missing since May 8. However, Zamarron wrote home that he was safe and uninjured. Zamarron was a 1941 graduate of Fulton High School. In another strange twist, Sergeant Vernon Bishop of Bannister, who attended Bannister High School, had been missing since almost the same day that Zamarron was shot down. Word arrived that Bishop was now a German prisoner of war after being captured. Sergeant Bishop had been a top turret gunner on a B-17. No one knew why it took so long for his family to be notified. The Button family in Alma also received news that their son, Dean Button, was in a camp after going missing on a mission over the Ploesti Oil Fields in Romania.

        Other Gratiot County men who were prisoners of war in Germany included three former Alma College students: Fred Hartt, Sol Cicinelli, and Jack Kelly. Hartt had attended the college and was a star athlete; Cicinelli and Kelly were Alma College graduates.   Better news came when Ivan Monroe of Alma wrote home to his parents that he had been captured on August 11. However, Monroe escaped from the Germans just a short time later. Monroe quipped in a letter home that “It was no trick at all to escape from the Germans.”

         More Gratiot men came up missing in action. Denver Welsh from Bethany Township was lost at sea during a hurricane off the coast of the United States. Welsh had been aboard a coast guard cutter at the time and had been back in the service for only five weeks. In early July, Welsh spent seven days aboard a life raft before being rescued and weighed only        115 pounds. A Breckenridge student, Welsh had served one year in the Army in Panama before receiving a medical discharge. After returning to Gratiot County, he joined the Coast Guard in 1941. Sergeant Joseph Thomas of Alma was missing in France since September 1.

Red Cross Activity

       The Red Cross worked to keep the public aware of the needs of those Gratiot men who were POWs, as well as helping POW families. A total of fifteen county men were now prisoners of war, and a special display appeared in different parts of Gratiot County to keep the memories of these men alive. The exhibition started in Red Cross headquarters in Ithaca,  moved to the window of J.L. Barden and Sons, then it went to W.D. Baltz’s store window. After a few days,  it moved to St. Louis. The display featured a capture package, which held essential items to be sent to POWs. Also, the Red Cross display had seven large posters depicting life in a German POW camp, a map of known camps in Europe and the Far East, and the contents of different food kits. For any captured POW to have a Christmas package, items had to leave Gratiot County in early September. Reverend J.C. Thompson from the Edgewood Church of God was in charge of distributing Red Cross boxes to anyone who wanted to send Christmas items to loved ones in a camp.

       The Gratiot County Red Cross Chapter in Ithaca prepared to move to another location in the Cities Service Building. The headquarters sat next to the county rationing office. It operated from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM every day with Sarah Hunsicker in charge. Sarah Rasor of Ithaca served as county chairman in charge of knitting and sewing for all county chapters. Ithaca’s chapter was at work on making 150 hospital garments and 144 kit bags.  The St. Louis branch also had been hard at work and completed almost 30,000 types of hospital dressings. This group of twenty St. Louis women put in over 288 hours to achieve their mission, and Florence Marr led all volunteers with 45 hours of work. Their next assignment involved creating bed shirts and pajamas from newly arrived material.

Rationing in Gratiot County

       Gratiot County continued its journey to preserve the use of items for the war effort. While the rationing office was open six days a week (10:00 AM to 5:45 PM Monday through Friday and for four hours on Saturday), there was still a need for volunteers to help out at the office. The county looked for fifteen people to make a “patriotic contribution” by donating a few hours each month to work in the Ithaca office.

       Tires and gasoline remained closely monitored. Automobile tires, especially Number 1 tires, were becoming increasingly hard to find and supplies were critical. The last time that Gratiot County took applications for new tires, the county turned away requests for 728 tires as they just could not get any more. In 1944, it was not uncommon for the rationing board to be running short on average of 500 tires. While 200 to 300 Gratiot applicants were given permits to buy tires, the applicants often could not find anyone in the county who had tires in stock. In mid-September, the board granted 216 tire certificates and most of them (175) were grade one tires.

      Obtaining gasoline could be another problem. The rationing board issued “A” gas books to motorists over a three day period starting September 19. How were they obtained? Teachers in area schools were called upon to help issue the new books. Anyone wanting a new book had to be registered. Old “A” books had to be turned in and applicants also had to turn in their “Tire Inspection Record.” In Alma, those who wanted the books went to Hillcrest, Lincoln, Republic, or Wright schools. In Ashley, a person had to go to Houserville. Some of the teachers who served as site custodians at Alma’s schools included: Ethel Webb, Melva Giles, Martha Hale, and Reeta Peterson. Over at St. Louis, the schools closed on Monday and less than 700 people showed up for their new books. However, more came during the next two evenings.

        Before the books were handed out, teachers and workers had to attend an afternoon session at the Gratiot County Courthouse. The distribution of the new books meant that schools were closed one day in order to allow teachers to operate the program. Those individuals who lost their old “A” books had to wait until October to reapply for new gas books. These new gas ration coupons were good for four gallons of gasoline starting after midnight on September 21. By the end of September, a total of 6, 583 new “A” books had been issued in Gratiot County,  200 less than those given out one year earlier.

        Some goods remained rationing point free in September such as raw dry beans, fruit butter, and prune juices. Most canned goods also remained point free, such as canned asparagus, lima beans, mixed vegetables, and others. Even though sugar remained in high demand, women were encouraged to can fresh fruit even without it. Women could crush some of the fruit juice and add it with water in place of sugar. However, processed foods still went up in point value. In some cases, canned and bottled fruits doubled in point value or went up even more. Housewives still received up to 50 blue points each month to obtain some of these goods, but they had to use them up by the end of the month or lose them. Surprisingly, many Gratiot women were encouraged to pool their tokens in order to use them up by the end of the month.

       In other rationing news, Victory Gardens in Alma were eligible for cash prizes for their summer work. C.H. Barnes was given the first prize of $10 and second prize of $5 was divided among four Alma teachers. A group of 36 Mennonite ladies in Newark Township met and canned 550 quarts of peaches and sent them to C.P.S. camps. Mennonite men met and canned corn and blackberries, as well as cherries. In 1943, the Mennonites canned over 1,000 quarts of fruit which they sent to C.P.S. camps.

       Not all rationing news was good. The OPA office in Saginaw filed suit against Ida Berman of Berman Iron and Metal in Alma for not maintaining records of their business operations and for not properly invoicing waste paper shipments. A slaughterhouse-five miles south of Ithaca was fined over $1000 for overcharging the sale of meat. Claude Hunt and Fred Frisbee paid the fines. Their sales exceeded the price ceiling of 1/8 a cent to one cent per sale. Preparing to hunt in the fall of 1944, hunters found that bans had been lifted on ammunition sales. Farmers and ranchers had previously had the main access to ammunition; now hunters could obtain more for the fall hunting, but they had to sign for all of the ammunition that they purchased.

Bond Sales

       The United States Treasury announced that people could start cashing in E Bonds beginning October 1. The government was concerned that people needed the money and would want to cash them in as soon as possible. Those who tried to cash in their bonds needed to do so at an incorporated bank or trust company. The biggest drive to raise money would start in October in the county for the National War Fund. Gratiot County’s goal was to raise at least $19,500 and five districts were drawn up to contact people for their support.  These donations helped the USO, War Prisoners Aid, United Seaman’s Service, and nineteen other relief organizations.

       St. Louis schools again encouraged students to help with the sale of war stamps and make weekly purchases. The schools had done so since 1942, and each Wednesday was set aside for war stamps sales.

Farm News in Gratiot County

       Much of the news dealt with the start of the harvest season.  Gratiot County farm agent C.P. Milham told farmers to expect the first killing frost in early September. He urged farmers to beware of poor harvesting methods. Farmers with bean harvests were encouraged to stake their beans, even though it took more time to do so. Also, when they needed to treat their wheat before it was planted as this prevented stinking smut disease. The harvest of corn and beans was expected to be better than in many places in the state because Gratiot County received rainfall at critical times during the summer.

       Interestingly, many farmers hoped for a reduced pheasant population in the county as many believed that too many pheasants ruined their soy crops. The farmers also resented some Gratiot pheasant hunters who hunted in the soybeans. Farmers thought that hunters and their dogs damaged the soybeans and hunters were asked to stay out of Gratiot County soybean fields during pheasant season.

      The 1944 growing season was not as good as 1943; however, the county was fairing much better than other areas in the state. It all came down to getting rain at the right times during the Michigan drought.

       Sugar beets looked like they would yield more per acre than in many other places in the state. The field office and sugar factories hoped for anticipated yields of 8 ½ tons per acre in Gratiot County. However, farmers appeared nervous about one thing – how would they get enough labor to harvest the beets? Mexican workers were then harvesting tomatoes in southern parts of the state. Still, the sugar beet factories encouraged farmers to contact them to obtain help for sugar beet harvesting. The factories in both Alma and St. Louis ran advertisements in newspapers asking for men and women to apply for work during the processing season. The need for workers sounded urgent.  By September 28, the Lake Shore Sugar Company said that beet harvesting had started on local farms. To combat the worker shortage,  Gratiot County was about to get help from a previously unknown source. German prisoners of war who would be coming to Alma and St. Louis.

       Milk and cream producers would be paid for their July and August subsidies if they presented all their slips at the right time. AAA paid farmers 35 cents per hundred for milk and 6 cents a pound for cream. The place Breckenridge farmers went for payment included N.J. Roth’s garage.  The county agent also told of a new program that encouraged returning veterans and industrial workers to consider starting their farms in Gratiot County. This plan could be a challenge to some because land prices had returned to World War I levels after a disastrous dip during the Depression.

And Lest We Forget – Daily Life in Gratiot County:

        In late September, the St. Louis junior class planned its “kickoff dance” on a Friday night in the gymnasium…The Alma Commission discussed a plan to return Alma to “Central War Time” for the fall and winter…Hunting stamps for migratory birds were on sale in the Alma Post Office…The Gratiot County Free Fair was off to a good start in Ithaca…The Alma community center building had been cleaned and was ready for use for the public. Wednesday nights were reserved for adult activities. Musical attractions and amateur shows were just some of the things planned…A polio outbreak was feared in Alma when 19-year-old Alice Titus contracted polio. The outbreak led to Alma Schools issuing a statement that they hoped to remain open…Over at the Strand Theatre, “Mr. Winkle Goes to War” starring Edward G. Robinson was playing, and a matinee was 12 cents…The Gratiot County 4-H Beef Club took 39 head of cattle to a club show at Michigan State College. It had 32 members with three leaders. The club was only two years old…A war correspondent from Pearl Harbor wrote that many servicemen in the Pacific were bitter. Americans back home were preparing for Victory Day celebrations for the war in Europe. Fighting in the Pacific remained hot, and the final defeat of Japan was believed to be several years away…The Blue Star Mothers of Alma sponsored a performance at Alma High School. “Victory Vanities” was the name of the show and proceeds were planned to go to the servicemen’s memorial fund…Alma was listening to information from the state regarding reimbursement for post-war projects in the city. The city stood to receive $4,000 for some of this work…St. Louis prepared to go to Central War Time starting November 1 starting the first Saturday night in October…Alma leaders continued to discuss how to celebrate V-Day when it occurred. “What shall we do on Victory Day?” was the topic of discussion…Pastor Jesse Pratt came to the Ithaca Baptist Church to discuss her experiences as a missionary in Swatow, China. Pratt was captured by the Japanese and placed in custody after Pearl Harbor. She later was repatriated from Shanghai, China…Another missionary held captive by the Japanese, Reverend L.C. Osborn, who had been in China for 28 years. He spoke at the St. Louis Nazarene Church about being interned for six months in a concentration camp before being freed…The Ithaca Blue Star Mothers asked for help from the community to make sure that all Ithaca men in the service received a Christmas box. People were asked to bring fresh produce to Muscott’s Hall to raise money for the boxes…The Fulton School Board of Education planned to sell three school houses, outbuildings, desks, and other items at the East Fulton School on September 11…Five servicemen who were home on leave spoke to the Ithaca Rotary Club. These men included Jim Haley, Robert Evans John Hodges, Leonard Wilson, and Lawrence Shively…Michigan Chemical Corporation wanted men for war work. Good wages, security, and safe working conditions were some of the benefits….A large pile of gravel and sand was placed on the property of the Lakeshore Sugar Company in St. Louis. It was for road improvements on M-46 east of town…Eugene McClure left his position as manager of J.J. Newberry’s in Alma, only to take proprietorship of the Wright Hotel. McClure obtained a lease on the hotel…The cost of becoming a citizen in Gratiot County was about to go up. It would now cost $3 for filing a declaration of intention and $8 to file a petition for naturalization…  In Breckenridge, the Blue Star Mothers raised $260 through a chicken supper and bazaar. It drew Blue Star Mothers from across the county, and the funds were used for Christmas boxes…Victor Manzullo, a former chef at Alma College, became the chef at the St. Louis Park Hotel…Alma Schools was up a total of 17 students from one year ago. Alma announced that it had a total enrollment of 1,658…The area around the St. Louis Municipal Light and Power Plant continued to be part of a beautification project. Now the footbridge dam would be painted…Victor Jaeckel and Mrs. Fred Sigourney became the new owners of Paul’s Shoe Market in St. Louis. Jaeckel still kept his job as manager of the Strand Theatre.

And that was Gratiot County’s Finest Hour in September 1944.

Copyright 2019 James M Goodspeed


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