Gratiot’s Finest Hour, June 1945: “Rain, Rationing, and Returning Home”

Above: An Alma College wartime wedding takes place for Norman Hearn and Winnona Clegg; the Seventh War Loan Drive met a lot of obstacles in Gratiot County; Sergeant Archie McFarlane of St. Louis was officially listed as killed in action, one year after he disappeared.

Heavy June rains dumped flooding on parts of Gratiot County, causing damage to farmers and homeowners. Interest and support for purchasing war bonds for the war effort now hit an all-time low.

 In reality, war fatigue was setting in, even though Gratiot County just celebrated the defeat of Nazi Germany. Even though the war had ended in Europe, people learned that the rationing of many things continued indefinitely. Even while some Gratiot County men came home from Europe the news about the dead and wounded did not seem to end.

It was June 1945 in Gratiot County.

 The Draft in June 1945

Although Europe started its second month of peace after Nazi Germany’s surrender, young men in Gratiot County continued to enter the draft. On June 6, sixteen men left for Detroit for pre-induction examinations. Another large group followed on two separate buses headed there on June 19 for induction. Several eighteen-year-olds made up this second contingent.

The news in Michigan now was that 48,000 men under age 26, who had previously been rejected for military service, now faced re-examination for probable induction into the armed forces. The State Selective Headquarters stated that ten to fifteen percent of these men would now be admitted due to lowered physical requirements. Previous factors such as flat feet, being underweight, teeth problems, or having hay fever, which formerly excused prior candidates, now could be assigned to duties with limited physical service.

Places like Ashley made a note of those who left the village that summer. On June 19, Paul Beck, Orville Ballard, Steve Paksi, Gerald Shaw, and James Vanek all now entered the service.

Rationing

Although the war in Europe was over, rationing in Gratiot County continued in June 1945.

The Office of Price Administration announced quotas of 2,000,000 civilian tires, but the tire situation remained critical as there still were not enough tires to go around for everyone. Early in June, the Gratiot Price Administration Board approved 183 applications, most of them being for grade one passenger tires. At the end of June, the board issued 242 certificates, but compulsory inspection of tires remained in effect for those who wanted new tires. Just purchasing a new car remained a dream for most people in Gratiot County as the War Production Board said that factories would only produce 691,018 new cars in the United States for the remainder of 1945.

Gratiot homemakers continued to feel the pinch of doing without certain food items. One of these areas dealt with sugar rationing. The price administration stopped issuing sugar in Michigan in late May when too many people applied for certificates for sugar canning. A total of 3,745 applications came in before the suspension of certificates, causing the board to issue a freeze on sugar rationing. By June 18, the county began to reissue canning sugar to eligible residents, but only in reduced quantities. The proposed June allotment of 42,325 pounds (later raised to 63,480 pounds) meant that many homemakers waited until July or August just to get sugar certificates.

Another food item, butter, also suffered from rationing. Some farmers in the county believed housewives saw butter as a luxury that they could not afford and protested about reduced butter purchases. With the increase of red points used for butter, women went for oleomargarine, which cost less. When oleo became scarce in stores, grocers had no problem having butter on hand. However, butter continued to go untouched, all because of raises in ration coupons for purchasing butter..

To prepare for the upcoming summer and harvest season, E.L. Mutchler, chairman of the Gratiot County Victory Garden committee, urged people to grow a Victory Garden. Concern spread that the country would not have enough of the right kinds of foods in the winter if people did not raise a garden. Seed dealers and vegetable seed salesmen said that sales were down as much as thirty percent from 1944, indicating that many in the county were not preparing for the anticipated food shortages.

Both tin and paper remained in demand, and citizens needed to do their part to recycle for the war effort. Alma, Ithaca, and St. Louis all had grocery stores designated as locations where housewives could deposit tin. Tin supplies reached their lowest level since Pearl Harbor. The public had to be careful in preparing and cleaning the container before dropping it off at designated locations. Boy Scouts did a tin and paper pickup in Alma on June 16. Boy Scouts in St. Louis held a similar drive at the end of June, picking up prepared materials from porches and curbsides. The Alma drive yielded 15,945 pounds of paper, and the tin went to a train car, which waited to accumulate a full load for when it would ship in August. Complacency and overconfidence about the end of the war in Japan were seen as reasons why more people in Gratiot County did not contribute to the two drives. However, five Boy Scouts received the General Eisenhower War Service Medal in Riverdale for each contributing over one thousand pounds of scrap paper during March and April 1945. Charles Smith, Gordon Hyde, Myron Sadler, Bernard Kellicutt, and Charles Langin were all recognized for their work. Twelve medals went to boys in Ithaca who had similar achievements. They included: Keith Vernon, Larry Trexler, Robert Simmet, Dale Vernon, Duane Vernon, Floyd Hall, Bob Pressley, Allyn Ensign, Donald Rinard, Bill Hill, Tom Haley, and Jimmie Rogers.

People with Gratiot County ties ran afoul of the law regarding rationing violations. Walter Girard, who worked in the Alma office of a Saginaw finance company, was indicted for trafficking in gasoline ration coupons. Girard worked for the OPA office as a chief investigator for the Saginaw area, including Gratiot County. In all, the men were charged with selling coupons amounting to 370,000 gallons of gasoline.

In another instance, Stella Daniels of Ashley took 1,000 live chickens and ducks to a farmers market in Hamtramck. Daniels planned to drop off her load of poultry for regular customers and sell her poultry at ceiling prices. A problem occurred when hundreds of other shoppers found out they could not purchase any of the fowl on Daniels’ truck. This food issue resulted in a stampede of women who knocked over empty poultry crates while demanding to make purchases. One man made off with the duck, but it was recovered. After things quieted down, a police captain notified Daniels that in the future, she could only sell her poultry to buyers who waited in line. If she wanted to continue honoring presales, Daniels had to have the poultry delivered beforehand and not brought to the market.

Bond Sales in Gratiot County

Newspapers still urged people to continue their support for the war effort by buying bonds. At the Puffer School, teacher Ruby Hoyt told the St. Louis Leader-Press that her students made their Defense Stamp goal of $250 for the school year. Her students also gathered up 2700 pounds of waste paper for rationing.

At the start of June, Alma achieved 84 percent of its quota for E Bond sales by purchasing $152,800 worth of bonds. A week later, the Gratiot County Herald announced that overall sales in the county were only at 39.7 percent of the county’s overall goal. People just were not buying war bonds, at least not at the rate that they did before V-E Day. A special bond show took place on June 19 at the Strand Theatre, in which those who purchased bonds could attend “Without Love,” starring Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn. People who wanted to buy Bonds could do so in the Strand’s lobby. As the end of June approached, sales rose nearly to the 50 percent mark. A big factor in people not buying war bonds was that they believed the war was in its last stages with Japan after the defeat of Nazi Germany. 

Farming in Gratiot County

As June began, Gratiot County encountered heavy rainfalls and flooding. Some farmlands in the county, such as sections 22 and 27 of Emerson Township, had up to 100 acres of cropland underwater, causing severe damage to farms as water submerged fields as well as gardens and basements. Despite this, Gratiot County’s agricultural agent, C.P. Milham, told farmers that they should prepare for a possible July and August drought.

Better news came to farmers who raised cattle in the county as the county AAA office offered payments to farmers who sought to increase meat production. Revenues amounted to fifty cents per hundredweight on choice cattle that weighed over 800 pounds. Gratiot County dairy herds did well with milk production. Supervisor Howard Kaufmann reported that tests on 347 cows in 26 different herds yielded an average of 34.4 pounds of butterfat. Kenneth McNabb of Ithaca had ten Jerseys heads that averaged over 50 pounds of butterfat.

Those who planted crops were warned about other potential problems in their fields. Farmers needed to be on the lookout for bean maggot damage, different types of mustard plants, and loose smut. The hay crop would probably be short due to the cold and wet weather. In better news, farmers found more farm machinery for sale on the market due to a broadening production of implements with rubber tires. More farmworkers were also available in Gratiot County under the Victory Farm Volunteers, which offer

offered young people work between the ages of 14-16. In an encouraging move, more youth turned in applications for summer work than had taken place in 1944. Farm wages were about double the amount paid early in the war in 1942.

Service Notes – Letters, People, Places

Letters from overseas continued to appear in the county’s newspapers. Some of the published letters appeared to be brief; others took up several columns of that week’s issue.

After spending a few days in Paris, France, Major F. W. Acton of Breckenridge told his mother that he was now in Northern Germany. Most of his letter described his visit to places like the Cathedral of Notre Dame. Most of the areas in Germany that he now saw reminded him of Northern Michigan with its trees and lakes. Corporal Doug Eastman wrote back to his wife and daughter in a letter dated May 25, 1945. He lamented the fact that he needed 13 more points to be discharged. Eastman said he had seen fighting with the 29th Infantry Division with the worst fighting near Julick, Germany. Private Leroy Brice of Alma served near Hamelyn, Germany, while convoying Russian civilians back to the Russian lines. Brice believed those in his convoy were happy to be headed back toward Russia because they were singing and shouting on the way to their drop-off point. Sergeant Victor Egres of Ashley wrote home to his neighbors. In late May, he was in Luckstedt, Germany, and thanked his friends for writing to him. Mail now was uncensored near Magdeburg, where the Americans previously fought Hitler Youth in a big battle. Egres worked as an interpreter, and he was surprised how much food the Germans had in that part of the country and the availability of Lugars and Mausers that the Americans picked up in trades. He was still sorry and moved by the number of friends he lost in the war against Germany.

Lieutenant Alfred McCuaig of Alma described his role as a Navy privateer based on Okinawa at sea. McCuaig’s plane sank a small Japanese oil ship near Shimona Island. Lieutenant Paul Snacker wrote home to his family that he was glad to hear that the war in Europe was over, “but I think some of the people back (home) are forgetting the Jap(anese).” Snacker planned on staying in the Pacific until the war ended. Corporal Leland Thum wrote to the family from his location in the Philippines. He appreciated seeing pictures from home, news of a family wedding, and he apologized that he could only send a Peso home in a letter for Mother’s Day. Merle Brauher of Middleton also was in the Philippines. Brauher told his sister that he expected the war to go on for a long time in the Pacific as “They will never give up. I have seen the Japanese blow themselves to death rather than surrender.”  In one instance, Brauher tried to get a Japanese woman and her baby out of a cave, but he and his men had to kill a Japanese soldier before getting the civilians out. Brauher thought that Japanese children he encountered welcomed food and water and were generally unafraid of American soldiers. Corporal Bill Lapaugh wrote to his sister in Alma about how he enjoyed a fried chicken dinner in a Filipino home. The people there willingly traded food for cigarettes, soap, and other soldiers’ things. After almost seven months, Lapaugh got his Christmas package from Gratiot County. He was still thankful to receive it.

Private T.A. (Jim) Evey, originally from Sumner, wrote a long letter to his grandparents describing the intense fighting on Iwo Jima. Evey’s letter went into detail about his challenges on the front lines as he was in direct combat with the Japanese. The letter ended with him telling how he killed a pair of enemy soldiers after suffering a wound that put him in the hospital for five days. Elton Mills also wrote to his mother, describing how his fox-hole looked like a bathtub with the amount of rainwater that it had in it. The Army was trying to take the southern end of the island, and at times Mills got to sleep in a hammock.

While the war was over in Italy, Sergeant Elwin Gillis of Breckenridge described the farming areas around Foggia, Italy, as having wheat, oats, barley,  all much like mid-Michigan farms. On one night, he went with a Major and flew in a B-25. In December, Private Glen Mutchler of Alma told his parents about his Bronze Star. Mutchler was amazed at the bread and wine that the civilians gave him as he passed through villages. The bread, which was whole grain and tasted good, was very hard. Some men in his outfit chipped their teeth while trying to eat it. Private Charles Allen of Alma told his parents that he had been in Italy only eight months, but he had been in Milan where he saw Mussolini’s body. “He sure was a mess and a few others with him. I will tell you about it when I get home,” Muchler added. Allen said he was growing tired of eating eggs but welcomed the wine.

 Private Edwin McGillis described his experiences driving truck supplies in France, especially in the Cherbourg area on D-Day. McGillis drove over 100,000 miles on two trucks during his service in Europe, which involved seven countries. He thanked GMC for such well-built trucks. Lieutenant Harold Fandell of Alma served as a pilot on a B-24 Liberator with the 8th Air Force. Fandell and his cinnamon-colored cocker spaniel (named Buddy), which Fandell got for $52 from a London pet shop, appeared in a photograph. Lucky became the good luck mascot of Fandell’s outfit.

Where are Our Servicemen and Servicewomen?

Sergeant Andrew Gager of Middleton served as a mechanic with the Eighth Air Force Fighter Command in England. Gager worked on P-51 Mustangs. Staff Sergeant Willard Holton of St. Louis now served in the 9th Army of Occupation in Europe. Sergeant Georgiana Peet received the Certificate of Merit at a ceremony in Marseilles, France. She had been overseas for 21 months in Africa, Italy, and Southern France. Lieutenant Thayer Rayburn of Ithaca served with the 340th bomb Group, 12th Air Force during the Battle of the Brenner Pass in Northern Italy. In late May, Sergeant Willis Clark of Ithaca received the Bronze Star Medal for service in the Infantry Antitank Company, 101st Airborne. Clark was cited for his work with a mine-laying platoon. In one such instance, he and another officer found two minefields and neutralized dozens of mines along a vital road in enemy territory. In the end, Clark and his men removed 1,780 mines. Corporal Doyle Plank of Alma and Private Kenneth Cross of Ithaca continued to serve with the 12th Air Force in Italy. They were with a force that flew tactical support for ground forces in that theater of the war. Private Francis Burkett of St. Louis served with the 36th Division troops of the 7th Army, which crossed the Siegfried Line and saw bitter fighting in the city of Hagenau. Private Romaine Oswald returned to Miami, Florida, after 38 months as a truck driver in the Southwest Pacific. Oswald was a farmer from St. Louis. Lieutenant Lester Fenner, also from St. Louis, was still in Italy. He had been transporting jeeps of soldiers from Genoa to the East Coast. Fenner had been engaged in serious action near Mt. Gard and thought he would not survive at one time. Corporal Jerry Jeleneck of St. Louis received the Bronze Medal for his efforts in the Fifth Army front in Italy. Jeleneck was a radio operator with the 604th Field Artillery Battalion of the 10th Mountain Division. He received the Bronze Medal for laying wire lines during three days of heavy fighting against the enemy. Corporal Fred Terwilliger of Alma served with the 101st Airborne and made it to Berchtesgaden, home of Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest. He received the Bronze Star for heroism during fighting on Christmas Day against the Germans. Private Nester Higgins of Alma received the Silver Star and two French decorations for gallantry of action on March 20, 1945, at Ensheim, Germany. Higgins showed courage and gallantry in action when he held off an enemy attack upon his company’s position with only his Browning automatic rifle. His efforts allowed his company to withdraw safely from the area.

Lieutenant Colonel William Kyes of Elwell continued his work as pilot of a B-24 Liberator in the India-Burma Theater. His group knocked out its 100th Japanese bridge in late April. Steve Lacko of Ashley wrote to his mother that he received his Christmas box that she packed for him. It only took eight months to reach Lacko, but the fruit cake was the best he had ever eaten. Seaman 2/c Robert Wiles of New Haven Township was aboard a ship somewhere in the Pacific. Wiles enlisted in late July 1944 and had attended Great Lakes Training Center. In the Western Pacific, D.L. Karpal of the United States Navy fought aboard the USS Indianapolis. While the ship saw action at Okinawa, the Indianapolis was attacked by the Japanese while on the way home from delivering the Atomic Bomb. Brothers Oliver and Floyd Miller of Ithaca were both on Iwo Jima. Oliver was a United States Coast Guard member, while Floyd was a radio operator with the Army Signal Corps. After serving on the USS Franklin, Seaman Myron Humphrey wrote home to his parents. Humphrey was picked up at sea by the USS Pittsburgh during a battle in March. He was now on Guam. Private Philip Bolinger of St. Louis fought off bees and a Japanese enemy attack with the 31st Infantry Division on Mindanao in the Philippines. Bolinger and his platoon were caught in the open and had to fight off over 200 Japanese soldiers for thirty minutes, most of whom came at Bolinger and his men with only fixed bayonets. “In this half-hour, the Japanese were less effective than the bees,” one report said. Jack Cutshaw, water tenders second class, was aboard the USS Hancock when it downed 71 Japanese aircraft during a raid over Tokyo. The USS Hancock saw action at Okinawa, Iwo Jima, and the Philippines. Private Carl Denman of Alma served in China, where he trained Chinese soldiers for combat. Denman had been in Burma for almost one year before this. After many bombing missions over Western Europe as a bombardier navigator, Lieutenant W. Robert Wagner of Alma came home on a 30-day leave. He expected to end up in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, with his unit as they awaited orders. Lieutenant Ralph Scheifley came home to Alma on a week’s leave. Scheifley spent fourteen months on a minesweeper, and he received the Bronze Star for his work in landing supplies in Southern France. Fireman Russell Murphy and Seaman William F. Brown, both of Alma, completed amphibious training in Virginia. Murphy had already been in the Pacific, and Brown had seen action in Southern France. News came that Private Doris Hall served at the 25th WAC Hospital Company at Percy Jones Hospital in Battle Creek.

POW, WIA, KIA

Those who had been Prisoners of War under the Nazis either began their journey home or had just arrived back home. Lieutenant John Ellis Mix of Alma had been in a German POW camp since being captured on January 2 in Belgium. He wired his parents about his arrival in Boston, but he did not know when he would be home. Sergeant George Mahin, Jr. of Elwell, was liberated on May 3 in Austria after 13 months as a POW. He was expected home soon, according to the United States Adjutant General. Private Ted Barton of North Star had been a POW since December 26 and now returned to the United States Military Control on May 7. Private Irwin Morey of Wheeler came home in mid-June after spending nine months as a POW. Sergeant Claude Murdock came home to Perrinton on June 16 about the same time as Morey did. In late May, Murdock wrote a letter home to his sister explaining that he was slowly recovering from significant weight loss due to his time in a camp. When he got home, Murdock received a sixty-day furlough.

Sergeant Herb Whitaker of Ithaca was expected home after telephoning his parents from Standish, Massachusetts. Whitaker spent 2 ½ months in four different German camps. He had been shot down near Coblenz, Germany, while onboard a B-17 heading for Dresden.   Lieutenant John Barden of Ithaca, who was home, told the Gratiot County Herald about his experiences as a POW. He spent almost exactly one year in German camps after his P-51 went down over Nordhausen. After being moved to Frankfort and then Sagan, Barden noted that he was marched toward Nurenburg and Mooseburg, where he was eventually liberated on April 29. Finally, Private Anson Foster of St. Louis came home on June 1. He had been taken prisoner on September 1 in Italy and spent time in Moosburg Camp and the Memmingen Prison. He also received a sixty-day furlough.

News continued to arrive about the many Gratiot men who were wounded while in the country’s service. Corporal Mike Mikula of Elwell suffered severe wounds to his right eye and face while in battle at St. Lo, France, in June 1944. He remained a patient at Wakeman General Hospital in Camp Atterbury, Indiana. After 240 liquid meals, five operations, seven hemorrhages, 106 shots of penicillin, and a pound of sulfa drugs, Mikulka now felt well enough to walk the 7 ½ miles of halls in the hospital. Mikula wrote, “…I am so glad I lived to see the Nazis defeated, and I do wish a similar disposition of the Japanese.” On Christmas Day, Private Ivan Coleman, Breckenridge High School graduate, suffered an eye injury and then a body wound in France on February 27. Coleman arrived in New York City after being in hospitals in France and England. Private Elsworth Tissue of Ithaca was wounded on Okinawa in late May. Fortunately, the wounds were not serious. Private Joe Kelly of Ashley suffered injuries from a Japanese thrown hand grenade on Okinawa. After surgery, he was on his way to a hospital in the United States.

 Fireman First Class Earl Weaver, Jr. of Lafayette Township, was wounded aboard a ship hit by a Japanese suicide plane on May 1 after leaving Iwo Jima. Weaver was sent to another ship, but his wound was minor. Sergeant Virgil Nelson of Perrinton was wounded on May 20 while on Luzon. He had been overseas since September 1, 1944. Private Inel Townsend of Alma also received slight wounds while on Luzon with the United States  25th Infantry Division. Robert Rich of St. Louis received his discharge from Percy Jones Hospital on May 10. Rich went through four operations that left him with a three-inch stub of his left arm. Lieutenant Elder Thrice of Alma, who was now at Cheb, Czechoslovakia, had been wounded three ties, with the last wound coming on May 7. He was recovering and up and moving again. Private Marvin Haas of North Star was treated in Chickasha, Oklahoma, for wounds he suffered in Germany on February 7.

The news of those men who died in service to Gratiot County hit families and communities the hard during June and made their way into county newspapers. Sergeant John Townsend received the Bronze Star Medal after his death near Dancola, Luxembourg, on January 10. Townsend was buried in the United States Military Cemetery at Hamm, Luxembourg. His wife, Faith, received notice of her husband’s award from President Truman.

St. Louis residents learned that Private Melvin Thrush, who had previously been reported as missing in action in Italy on March 7, was now given up as dead. He left behind a wife and three children. Sergeant Archie McFarlane had previously been listed as missing over the English Channel while in an air raid over France. Strangely, another member on McFarlane’s plane was Alma’s, Sergeant Marvin Fenner. Both men had been missing for almost one year. One of the rare moments during the war was when two local Gratiot men served aboard the same plane, only to lose their lives in the same incident.

The Haag Family in Sumner was shocked to learn that their son-in-law, Private Ralph Rud, died of wounds he suffered on May 7 while fighting on Luzon as a member of Michigan’s 32nd “Red Arrow” Division. He died one week before his 26th birthday, leaving a wife and three daughters. Staff Sergeant Harold Bruce Phillips lost his life in a plane crash near the United States Marine Corps air station in Santa Anna, California. Phillips was on a routine flight and was headed back to land when a pilot in another plane lost sight due to fog. The two planes hit each other, and Bruce could not bailout. Phillips lived close to the Sumner area and graduated from Crystal High School in 1936. Before becoming a Marine, Phillips served nine months in the Canadian Army in 1941. Upon entering the Marine Corps, he saw action at Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, and Bouganville. Along the way, he was wounded twice in the legs and suffered from malaria. Upon return to the United States, he married the nurse who cared for him in the South Pacific.

In Elwell, a Sunday School there dedicated its opening worship service to four boys who had paid the supreme sacrifice. They included: Willis LaPaugh, Marcus Steele, Howard Mahin, and Earl Langworthy.

And So We Do Not Forget

Planning for summer softball action started in Alma. Six Alma city teams played slow-pitch three nights a week on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at Conservation League Park. The United States Naval training station at Alma College planned to invite other fastpitch teams to play on Tuesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Fastpitch softball played under the lights, but games would not start until July…Leonard Refineries planned to market petroleum-based products after the war concluded. Only minor adjustments were anticipated at the plant to move from wartime to a civilian-based economy…Breckenridge High School’s graduating class of 1945 said goodbye on May 31 at the high school. Seven members were already in the service…The National Housing Administration-approved fifteen new dwellings in St. Louis. Under the quota, ten family dwellings could be built for sale and another five for rent…A new heating system, drinking fountain, new bathroom facilities, and redecorating the interior of the building were all planned at the St. Louis community center building…The Blue Star Mothers of Breckenridge sponsored a skating party at the Crystal skating rink. The group also planned a Father’s Night at the Methodist Church. Families were encouraged to bring pictures of their sons who served the country in the service. The chapter also bought two more $100 bonds…The veterans’ counseling center in Ithaca continued to see more activity as returning men from the service for advice and help with any questions they had while returning to life in Gratiot County…Easter Seals sales raised a total of $1,134.00 in the county. The sales took place through county rotary clubs and public schools.

The city of St. Louis received permission to drill a well at the corner of Corinth and Prospect streets north of the Pine River. One well in the city was down, and two others had been reconditioned…Heavy weekend rains fell upon Gratiot County in early June, resulting in a “freshet” which did damage but was heaviest along the Gratiot County-Saginaw County lines. Water reached the running boards of vehicles in some places…C.D. Sailer of 701 Michigan Avenue, St. Louis, had an egg laid by his Leghorn hen that measured 8 1/8 inches by 10 ½ inches around. Sailer found out that there was one normal-sized egg inside the larger one…Two Alma boys were caught and charged for siphoning gas out of Alma cars at the rear of the Chevrolet garage…George Kemp of Alma paid the price for leaving his car parked with the keys in the ignition. His Plymouth Coach, parked at Smith Memorial Hospital, came up missing early one Sunday morning. Kemp and the police found it a few hours later, parked in the spot where he left it. Joyriders returned the car…Most Alma merchants all agreed to close their stores on Thursday afternoons starting at noon for June, July, and August…Central Michigan College of Education graduated 124 students. Three belonged to Gratiot County: Katherine Kasel, Jessie Becker, and Orthelia Elaine Miller…Large numbers of children flocked to the second summer of activities put on by the Ithaca Recreation Department. On an opening afternoon, 135 children came to the sessions and 235 participated on the first full day. Coach Hiram Becker was the director. A wading pond for children in the village would be available later in the summer on the school grounds…Pompeii planned to play the Saginaw Colored Yanks in a baseball game. The Saginaw team consisted of players from the Saginaw Black Sox and Yankees…The Associated Women of the Gratiot County Farm Bureau held their first annual banquet at the Park Hotel in St. Louis. A group of 135 women enjoyed a duck dinner…Alfred Wolansky became the manager at the Merrill Plant of the Michigan Bean Company. Before this, Wolansky managed the Wheeler Plant of the Breckenridge Farmers Elevator…The Happyland Shows brought “sensational riding devices” to Alma under the sponsorship of the Alma Leslie McLean Post Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Ithaca Postmaster Clyde Daniels retired after nearly 45 years of service in the postal system. Daniels started out as a clerk working before and after school sorting mail…A Correlated Migrant and Vacation school program debuted in Breckenridge at the high school. Three Breckenridge churches helped provide food for lunches for the children. Miss Merle Wildman and Miss Rawlings came to work among the Mexican children…The Gratiot County Fair was planning to take place July 17-21. Harness racing would be coming back…The State Highway Department announced plans for widening one mile of US-27 in Ithaca, along with US-27 south to the southern city limits of St. Louis. There was also word that the highway from Main Street east to M-46 also would be improved…The Ideal Theatre in Ithaca featured “Eadie Was a Lady” starring Ann Miller and Joe Besser. Saturday was matinee day at 2:30 p.m…A new modern bowling alley with five alleys was planned to open in Ithaca in the fall above the Kroger Store in the Arnold Building. Four of the alleys would be used for team play, the other for open bowling…A tragedy occurred in New Haven Township when three-year-old William Eugene Bollinger was killed in a small brooder coop. The boy was killed instantly when the top door of the brooder fell on his neck while he tried to return an injured chick to the coop. Services were held for the boy at New Haven Center Church…Fifteen Sowers children surprised Arlan Edgar on his birthday…The Alma City Commission voted to purchase a new fire truck for approximately $10,000.00. The commission also voted to spend $685 in order to electrify the old clock in the city hall tower…Summer arrived in Alma on June 21, featuring temperatures of 77 degrees by 3:00 p.m. There was no rain on the first day of summer…The Breckenridge Public Library received $48.83 in a check from the State Board for Libraries. The library met its certification qualification for 1944-1945, and local tax support had been maintained for the library…Summer band took place at Ithaca Public Schools under the direction of William Ladd. The program planned to take over four and possibly as long as eight weeks. Junior bands started practice at 8:00 a.m…Doctor Thomas Carney of Alma left town for a week’s vacation at the old Carney homestead in New York, going by boat from Detroit to Buffalo…The St. Louis wading pool soon opened for children. So far, a cold, wet spring had dampened interest in the pool. However, several people applied for the job of pool supervisor…The Alma City Commission announced tentative plans for a new roller skating rink in Alma. Max Creaser of Lansing appeared before the commission to ask for a lease to start construction on the new rink near the west bank of the river south of the Superior Street Bridge…Finally, a Sadie Hawkins party on June 15 at the Alma Community Center. Prizes would go to the girl and boy best dressed as Li’l Abner and Sadie Hawkins.

And that was life in June 1945 during Gratiot County’s Finest Hour.

Copyright 2022 James M Goodspeed

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