We have now reached December 18, 1941, in our trip to the past. It was a historic month. The Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor just eleven days before and the United States was at war.
Everyone was behind the effort in big ways, as well as small. For example, a local businessman who volunteered with the Defense Stamp Publicity Sales Program was hosting a movie at the local movie theater.
Speaking of “moving pictures,” as they were called back then, you could enjoy newsreels, cartoons, and serials in addition to the featured film. Playing that week was a romantic comedy called “When Ladies Meet” starring Robert Taylor, Greer Garson, and Joan Crawford.
As many of you know, we have a community here in Hernando County – Masaryktown – that was founded by Czechoslovakian immigrants. In 1941, the residents of Masaryktown were whole-heartedly behind the United States in their fight against Hitler because their homeland had been under German occupation since 1938.
In a letter to President Roosevelt, the Czechoslovak National Council of America wrote: “…we are rejoicing again that we have an enlightened, far-seeing and democratic leader who has saved America from disaster and humiliation.”
The letter continues: “We regret, too, that America was deaf in 1937 when you sounded the first warning against international gangsters…”
Towards the end of this message, it states that eleven men from Masaryktown had joined the Army before the draft was even introduced, and, sadly, one had died at Pearl Harbor.
An advertisement in the newspaper that day encouraged people to buy war bonds and war stamps as Christmas gifts. Another advertisement suggested other “suitable” Christmas presents, such as cigarettes – a perfect stocking stuffer at just $1.25 per carton. You could purchase that special someone who had a sweet tooth a two-pound box of chocolates for the low, low price of just $1.50. Depending on how addicted a person was to cigarettes or chocolate, those gifts could keep on giving for at least a week or so. Back when people still wrote letters, a box of “fashionable” stationery was just 49¢.
Even Hernando High School’s campus paper, “The Hilltop” had news about the war effort. For example, a couple of the school’s clubs donated money they had raised to the Red Cross to help with the war effort. They had originally planned to use it for a party. Other news in the school’s paper concerned a performance by the Glee Club. Many of the students’ last names are carried by current Hernando County residents – Emerson, Hedick, Snow, Mondon, and Springstead. These teenagers were the parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins of many people who still live in the area. High School football was a big topic then, as it is now. Some of the star players, like Tom Varn, were boys whose names we all recognize.