Newspapers – A Window into the Past (Part 4)

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Newspapers – A Window into the Past (Part 4)

Sun, 08/30/2020 - 11:37
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We have now reached December 18, 1941 in our trip to the past. It was an 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. 

In 1944, the war was still going strong and the August 3rd issue of that year had plenty of news. The paper carried a copy of a letter that one local mother received from her son, Sgt. Leslie Lewis, who was a prisoner of war in Germany. No doubt he sugar-coated the conditions at the POW camp for his mother’s sake. Here is an excerpt from the letter: 

“Dear Mom: They treat us with respect and we do very little work. We get our food from the Red Cross and it’s plenty to get along on, but it’s strictly rationed. ….Please don’t worry about me, for I’m getting along fine. Love, Leslie.” 

Rationing was not just something that happened in Europe, Americans had to endure rationing, although shortages here were not as severe as overseas. Sugar, meat, shoes, fuel oil and gas were just a few of the items that were rationed. Books of ration stamps were handed out and goods could be obtained by redeeming a certain number of stamps. Of course, you still had to pay for the items.    

Women were encouraged to do their part by joining the Women’s Army Corps (WAC). They were respected and praised for their service to our country. 

The advertising in the newspaper wasn’t concerned with being “politically correct” when it came to selling War Bonds. Readers were encouraged to buy these bonds to help pay for airplanes, tanks and gasoline in order to defeat the “brutal Japs.” Appealing to guilt and sympathy was a very effective method. A soldier in a drawing utters these words: “Every Jap we kill makes my chances of getting home better.” The ad explains further, “Even as you read these words, American men are dying in the fight against Japan.” Readers were asked to, “Look into your heart and ask yourself honestly: ‘Have I stopped fighting. Have I stopped buying War Bonds because I think the war is about over?’ You’re not a quitter. Your answer is NO!”

The big news in the November 9th issue that year was the re-election of Franklin D. Roosevelt to an unprecedented fourth term. Little did anyone know that he would not live to finish his term, dying only five months later. At that time, Hernando County was predominantly Democrat.  

On a lighter note, the classified ads showed how inexpensive, relatively speaking, real estate was. Someone was advertising a three-room cottage with kitchenette in Crystal River that included a screened-in porch and a garage on three fenced-in lots with a large poultry yard and garden within 400 feet of the bay for just $2,250! I wonder how much that property would go for today? 

In Brooksville you could purchase a six-room home with one bath on a paved street on a large lot complete with forty fruit trees for $3,000 on terms. A six-room house four blocks from the courthouse was “priced to sell at $1,000 cash.”

On the war front there was good news for a local family. Their son, Second Lieutenant Sam Hatton of the Army Air Force, was awarded an air medal for “exceptionally meritorious achievements.”

While here in Brooksville, the wife of Lieutenant Irving Boyette, who was stationed in England, gave birth to a 7½ pound baby girl – Lynne Sharon Boyette. I hope Lieutenant Boyette was able to get cigars to pass around to all his buddies. 

Next week we’ll see more of how the local newspaper reported the war and read about a tragedy a local family faced. 

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Newspapers - a window to the past: August 3, 1944, Brooksville Journal

In 1944, the war was still going strong and the August 3rd issue of that year had plenty of news. The paper carried a copy of a letter that one local mother received from her son, Sgt. Leslie Lewis, who was a prisoner of war in Germany. No doubt he sugar-coated the conditions at the POW camp for his mother’s sake. Here is an excerpt from the letter: 

“Dear Mom: They treat us with respect and we do very little work. We get our food from the Red Cross and it’s plenty to get along on, but it’s strictly rationed. ….Please don’t worry about me, for I’m getting along fine. Love, Leslie.” 

Rationing was not just something that happened in Europe, Americans had to endure rationing, although shortages here were not as severe as overseas. Sugar, meat, shoes, fuel, oil and gas were just a few of the items that were rationed. Books of ration stamps were handed out and goods could be obtained by redeeming a certain number of stamps. Of course, you still had to pay for the items.    

Women were encouraged to do their part by joining the Women’s Army Corps (WAC). They were respected and praised for their service to our country. 

The advertising in the newspaper wasn’t concerned with being “politically correct” when it came to selling War Bonds. Readers were encouraged to buy these bonds to help pay for airplanes, tanks, and gasoline in order to defeat the “brutal Japs.” Appealing to guilt and sympathy was a very effective method. A soldier in a drawing utters these words: “Every Jap we kill makes my chances of getting home better.” The ad explains further, “Even as you read these words, American men are dying in the fight against Japan.” Readers were asked to, “Look into your heart and ask yourself honestly: ‘Have I stopped fighting. Have I stopped buying War Bonds because I think the war is about over?’ You’re not a quitter. Your answer is NO!”

Note: If you lived in Hernando County during the 1940’s and 1950’s or had close relatives that lived here during that time and would like to share news of what was going on back then, email me at [email protected] . We may print some of your observations, as space permits.

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