This is the first of four releases presented by the Ellwood City Historical Society concerning the “We Can Do It!”, exhibit to be held at the History Center, 310 Fifth Street, Ellwood City.
ON THE EVE OF DESTRUCTION
The local newspaper featured a cartoon Santa warning readers that there were only 15 shopping days left before Christmas. In what may have been an omen of global warming, the high temperature the day before had reached a balmy 62 degrees, so this reminder of the approaching holiday may have seemed mistaken to the locals who, nonetheless, went about their business as usual. Still, with the evening lows touching the mid-30s, many residents were enticed to dream of milder climes. Who could blame them for being inspired by an ad promoting “something new, something different: A night in Hawaii,” offered at Yankee Lake in Brookfield, Ohio for one night only on the Sunday morrow where they could dance to Lani McIntyre and his Hawaiian Islanders and take in the charms of the Hawaiian lassies in the “Original Waikiki review.” At least for one night, they could imagine themselves safely ensconced in a tropical paradise surrounded by azure blue waters and flower leis.
They, as most of the United States, were blissfully ignorant of the horrific disaster that was about to unfold on that very island utopia leading to a manifestation that would hurl 126 sons of Ellwood into eternity and forever change the lives of the rest who lived through it.
True, the specter of a devastating war had hung in the air for some time, but on this day, with Christmas so near, that war seemed distant and remote. Only the headlines about Russian military advances in Eastern Europe and local measures like defense rallies and calls by the governor and the newspaper for a lowered national speed limit to save gasoline and rubber reminded most that we were facing a national crisis that would require many sacrifices from all Americans.
They could, if only for a brief time, forget about the ballooning national debt fueled by massive defense spending, the repayment of which, lamented a senator from Georgia, would saddle our younger citizens to the second and third generation. It was Saturday night in Ellwood City after all and in spite of the litany of troubles, the good people could dance or take in a movie or stay at home by the radio and be entertained by news programs debating the U.S. participation in the war, or the hit show Truth or Consequences, or Bill Stern’s Sports Newsreel. And although almost all of them would vividly recall where they were at 1:00 the next afternoon, on this Saturday evening, with Christmas just around the corner, there was shopping to be done and cookies to be baked. The troubles of the world could wait; it was Saturday night in Ellwood City, December 6th 1941, the eve to the “date that will live in infamy.”
You can immerse yourself in this historical era that drastically changed life in Ellwood City forever by visiting the Ellwood City Historical Society’s presentation of the Senator John Heinz History Center’s travelling World War II display at the Ellwood City History Center, 310 5th Street, from December 2, 2017 to January 23, 2018. The exhibit, sponsored by Erie Insurance, the Eberly Foundation, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, may be viewed throughout this period on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from noon to 4:00 p.m., Fridays noon to 6:00, and Saturdays 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Next: Some Gave All.