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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

McCook in 1943

Monday, January 21, 2013

Former Marine Officer Harold Larmon
In 1943, McCook, along with the rest of the nation, was consumed by "The War." That was the foremost topic of every conversation and indeed, affected everything we did during that period.

In the time between the First World War, which ended in 1918, and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, on Dec. 7, 1941, the United States had let military preparedness slip -- to the point that our Navy, Army, and Air Force were hopelessly outdated. German and Japanese spies had duly noted this fact, and 1. The Japanese felt that they could knock out the entire United States Navy Pacific Fleet in one fell swoop, with the Pearl Harbor attack. And 2. The Germans were convinced that citizens of the United States were against going to war and could never build an effective military force before Germany finished off Britain and Russia.

What happened between 1941 and 1943 was something of a miracle. Almost overnight factions in the United States put aside their differences, rolled up their sleeves, and got behind the war effort like no other time in the nation's history, before or since.

Nebraska Senator George W. Norris
Overnight automobile factories were converted to making planes, tanks, and trucks. Shipbuilding plants were expanded, to turn out destroyers and aircraft carriers. Men signed up for military service in record numbers and able-bodied young men were drafted into the service, with a minimum of grumbling over "forced service." Meanwhile, construction workers, women in ever increasing numbers, scrambled to build new forts and airfields, barracks and training facilities for the new recruits.

For those not in military service, or the business of building things for the military, they also contributed to the "War Effort," with their sacrifices, buying War Bonds, and keeping life moving as normally as possible in times of rationing of key commodities and shortages on just about everything else.

The Jan. 22, 1943, of the McCook Gazette reflected this wartime scene. Some of the following items from that paper described something of the scene in Wartime 1943.

Marine Lt. Harold Larmon ran into Bob Smith, of the "McCook Singing Smiths" on a naval vessel in the South Pacific. Bob, quite naturally, was leading the Christmas Carols. Harold also met up with Wendell Cheney (later a long time judge in McCook), in Hawaii, where Cheney was stationed.

There were several members of McCook's Chamber of Commerce serving their country. Charles McCarl, attorney, Cheney, Merle Confer, Ernie Fischer, Chuck Smith were mentioned. Wayne Korf (of Barnett Lumber) wrote that he had passed the holidays in England with a hospitable couple who had made their home available for several service men.

Ralph G. Brooks, Wymore, later McCook School Superintendent, and Nebraska Governor, had been defeated in his bid for a Congressional seat in November '42, and had been appointed to the Gage County Price and Rationing Board.

The Gazette advertised that Official War Service Flags were available at the Gazette office for $1 each -- to honor your loved one in the service, and were to be hung in a window or on the front door.

Volunteer knitters were being recruited to work in the Red Cross production room, upstairs in the Penney building (now known as the Merit Building at C St. & Norris Ave.) Home nursing classes were being offered by the Red Cross. Mrs. Eugene Bush said that it was "the aim of the Red Cross to have in every home at least one person with knowledge in home care of the sick."

McCook Junior College was running ads reminding the citizens that the nation needed teachers -- "renew your old certificate at MJC," and Nurses, get your first 2 years at MJC."

Carl Rossitto had been assigned to McCook as a State Patrolman. Ben Hormel was President of the McCook Rotary Club, and Tom Colfer was the song leader. At the Kiwanis Club, Ray Search had been elected to be their new President.

Some issues have not changed much from 1943 to 2013. The first Bill being introduced into the Unicameral was one arguing the merits of alcohol as a motor fuel blend. A speaker from the NU Chemurgy Dept. discusses "grain, alcohol and plastics" and there were reports that wheat might replace corn as the primary grain in the production of alcohol.

State Senator Tom C. Osborn (not to be confused with Dr. Tom Osborne, Congressman, Cornhusker Football Coach and Athletic Director at NU.) asked the Unicameral to investigate $261,000 in expenditures since 1933, using Paul F. Good, special counsel. Good was appearing before the US Supreme Court, which was considering the Wyoming-Colorado-Nebraska suit over distribution of Platte River Water. The case had been in court 10 years.

A Republican River water pact, to allocate water to Colorado (54,100 acre feet), Kansas (190,000 acre feet), and Nebraska (234,000 acre feet) was introduced in both houses of Congress by Sen. Hugh Butler and Rep. Carl Curtis. Senator George Norris had introduced similar legislation two years earlier, but it was vetoed by President Roosevelt.

Anne Bute, Farm Bureau Home Demonstration Agent, had a column, in which she urged conservation of fats in the home, and offered tips for extending household equipment.

The Denver Stock Show sales went above $2M for the first time. Montfort Bros. of Greeley bought the grand champion carload for $27. 25 a hundred weight, second only to the all-time high of $37 in 1942. Locally, wheat was $1.19 , corn 77 cents per bushel.

Farmers needing new equipment were urged to submit applications to the Farm Machinery Rationing Board by Febr. 1st. Public Power Co.had an ad stating, "New appliances will have to wait -- until victory. But they'll be better than ever. Buy War Bonds Now -- New appliances later. Ads by Sliger Motors, the Chrysler-Plymouth dealer at 302 E. 1st, and Volentine Motors (Ford), C. St & West 2nd, stressed their service departments. Schneider Motors, the Studebaker-Hudson dealer had one new sedan, for "an eligible buyer." Hormel Motors (Chevrolet) at West 1st & B. had 3 universal radios for sale, at $25.98.

The American Legion was asking for donations of hunting knives for the US Army Forces and received a real assortment of some 84 knives. Kids were promised a free pass at the Temple Theater for a pound of copper, brass, or bronze.

The railroad industry was important to the war industry, with three main passenger trains, the Exposition Flyer, The Denver Zephyr, the Pioneer Zephyr, and numerous mile-long freights serving McCook. McCook also had a busy taxi service, with one driver recording more than 150 calls before six p.m., and 165 miles driven on Jan. 18, 1943.

Women had invaded the previously "male only" Police Department. Mrs. Glen Soss and Mrs. Zetta Nelson were hired to free male officers for patrol duty. There was also an auxiliary police force, including Tom Colfer and messengers chosen from the Senior Boy Scouts, including Frannie Weiland. Western Union had an ad in which they were looking for a "Male or Female" messenger who had a bicycle.

In his autobiography, "The Fighting Liberal" George Norris wrote, "I came back to Nebraska in 1943 because Washington, in all those years, never seemed to be home. The only home I can remember in all of its distinctiveness is Nebraska. I am a part of its soil, and its soil is a part of me."

Source: McCook Gazette Jan. 22, 1943

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Walt Sehnert
Days Gone By