Christmas 1941: 70 years ago in Union County Holiday season observed only weeks after attack on Pearl Harbor
Christmas Day 1941. The holiday fell on a Thursday 70 years ago.
Since it was a Thursday, that week's edition of The Gazette-Democrat arrived on the same day as Christmas.
Union County's celebration of the holiday was dampened by sad news.
On Dec. 7, 1941, only a couple of weeks before Christmas, the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii and plunged the United States into World War II.
The news from Hawaii quickly hit home.
"Many Attend Memorial for Jim Smith Sunday" a headline on page one of the Dec. 25, 1941, issue of The Gazette-Democrat read.
"An impressive memorial for James Rutledge Smith, son of Mr. and Mrs. Virgil Smith, who was reported lost in action in the attack by the Japs on the U.S. fleet in the Pacific, was held at the Baptist church in Jonesboro Sunday evening. The church was filled to capacity with friends and relatives," the story about Mr. Smith shared.
Mr. Smith had enlisted in the Navy on Sept. 8, 1938.
"For more than three years Jimmie was in training for the defense of our land and government and it seems to us a tragedy of the worst kind that he should be taken in the first onslaught," the story continued.
"His name will go down in the history of Union County as being the first to be reported from this county to be lost in action."
The sad news, however, quickly gave way to joy for Mr. Smith's family and the community. The Gazette-Democrat reported in its Jan. 1, 1942, issue that: "It was a happy Christmas Day for Mr. and Mrs. Virgil Smith and all the relatives and friends of their son Jim.
"It was Christmas morning that they received a letter from Jim written on December 17 in which he said that he was feeling fine after they had received notification from the U.S. Government that he was missing and all believed that he was dead.
"They also received a wire from a friend of Jim's in California verifying the fact that he was alive and in good health."
Such good news no doubt was welcomed during what might have otherwise been a gloomy holiday season for a community and nation now at war.
War also affected an event which had been held for a number of years in the county.
"Because the United States is at war and all efforts should be put toward the end of a complete victory, the members of the Woodrow Wilson Memorial committee called off the dinner and Memorial services that were to have been held at the Giant City Park Lodge Monday evening. This is the first year since the death of President Wilson that Union County has not honored him and in doing so this year it is only because of the all-out emergency that exists."
A look back at the Dec. 25, 1941, issue of The Gazette-Democrat showed that even in a time of war, there was time to celebrate Christmas.
A controversial film, diptheria and small pox immunizations and high school basketball highlighted some of the other news which made page one of that week's paper.
"The most controversial motion picture ever to come out of Hollywood, RKO Radio's 'Citizen Kane,' at last will be presented locally, following its triumphant success as a roadshow in the country's greatest cities. It will be at the Ritz Theatre in Cobden, Sunday and Monday. Needless to say, this is the picture produced, directed and acted in by that storm center of the entertainment world, Orson Welles."
"Welles' Mercury production 'Citizen Kane' tells the story of a man with a passionate temperament, who craved power, power over lives, money and loves, and who tried to live as a god through the power his fortune gave him."
Another page one story reported: "It was announced this week by Mr. R.O. Harris, county school nurse, that clinics will be held at 10 centers during January and February at which time some nine hundred children will receive immunization against diptheria and small pox.
"Union County doctors, volunteer workers and regular school nurses do the work."
School news of another sort was featured in a story headlined: "Wildcats Win Over Chester Here Friday."
Readers learned that the "Anna-Jonesboro jumped back into the winning column last Friday night when they defeated the Chester Yellowjackets, on the local floor, by a score of 28 to 21."
Following the win, the Wildcats could look forward to "two weeks rest during the holidays but will come back on January 6, and meet their traditional rivals, Cobden, on the local floor."
One item which might have been of interest did not appear in the paper. "Because of the new government rulings, papers can no longer give total rainfall, extreme weather conditions, etc. However, there was a great amount of rain Monday."
A look through the other nine pages in that week's newspaper showed that Christmas, and the war, indeed were the focal point of life in Union County.
In Jonesboro, The DMFW Club called off their Christmas party which was to have taken place Wednesday, Dec. 17th, at the home of Mrs. Cecil Davis of Anna, in regards for the passing of Jimmie Smith.
In Wolf Lake, work on the grade school was "going fine and will be completed near Spring."
The annual Xmas program of the Wolf Lake Little Theatre was held in the domestic science room at the high school Monday night and a large crowd attended.
The Royal Neighbors of America were pleasantly entertained last Thursday night with a Christmas party at the home of Mrs. Elizabeth Sorrels. The party was visited by Santa Claus and gifts were exchanged.
The Davie School PTA presented a Christmas program by the children of the school last Monday evening. The program consisted of a play "Raggedy Ann Helps Santa" by the first and second grades. A play by the third and fourth and fifth grades gave scenes of the Nativity and sang carols.
The second annual Community Christmas program was held in the Cobden High School gymnasium Monday night. The program was sponsored by the local Lions Club. Members of each church in town took part in the program.
Mt. Pleasant school will have their Christmas program Wednesday and then will have a nice vacation.
Old Santa came to Sitter school last Friday night and treated the children. They also had a nice program.
At Ware Station, "Seward Follis, our barber, is now established in business here."
Readers of the Elmo news learned that "Mrs. James Hubbs and Mr. and Mrs. Richard Sweet assisted Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence Tripp with their butchering Thursday."
Those looking for a holiday treat could try a recipe for spiced nuts which was featured in The Housewife's Corner. The recipe called for:
1 cup nut meats (any kind preferred, but select perfect halves)
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmet
1 egg white, slightly beaten
Mix spices and sugar. Add nut meats to egg white, a few at a time. Stir to coat thoroughly. Drop into bowl of sugar and spices. Coat thoroughly. Place on a buttered cookie sheet and bake at 300 degrees F. for 30 minutes.
Many of the corres-pondents who wrote for the paper at the time shared a special message during that Christmas week 70 years ago. As the Big Creek correspondent wrote: "The writer wishes every reader of this paper the best of a Christmas possible and a Happy New Year."