Labor Day 1942: A Short-Lived Bus Line And Lots Of Rationing
This is a series that has run on holidays on Lynnfield Patch over the past year looking back at local life in the World War II era. We'll try it on Wakefield Patch because of the various references made to the town.
For much of the past year, I've run this series of articles looking back at life in Lynnfield in 1942 with help from the archives of the Lynnfield Village Press newspaper. The series began around Thanksgiving of last year, which means that there will probably be a Halloween edition, then we'll find some greener historical pastures to work with.
This will also be the first time this series appears on Wakefield Patch, in part because the Lynnfield Village Press routinely carried ads and some other things from that town as well.
In 1942, Labor Day weekend was a muted affair because rationing of gasoline, tires and other basic supplies was in full swing and the war was affecting almost all aspects of daily life.
"Labor Day 1942 finds us all workers. Workers and fighters in a war against tyranny, against despots who would make us all slaves," stated the page 1 editorial of the Lynnfield Village Press on Sept. 3, 1942. "There is too much lobbying and prating of classes and groups when what we really need is not a consciousness of clans but an awareness of unity."
A page 1 story from that Labor Day edition reported that the American Legion was collecting old records - which would then be sold for scrap so new records could be purchased and sent to the soldiers. Not sure who would have been the most popular artists of 1942.
An ad on one page read "Salvage Sam says: One old flat iron will furnish enough metal to make six hand grenades." (Note: I was only able to get four. Just kidding.)
Albert Bangs, Dwight Ayers and Donald Russell were three Lynnfield men who had just gone to Fort Devens as part of a draft quota. Milton Bradbury of Homestead Road was stationed in New Zealand, and Paul Schlenker of Lynnfield was a 2nd Lieutenant in the Anti-Aircraft Corps. Dana Pratt, son of Mr. and Mrs. Chester Pratt of Essex Street, was in the Marine Corp manning a gun battery on an unnamed Pacific island.
Elsewhere, Dr. Franklin Green of Vokes Terrace was stationed in Panama, while Albert Tuttle had just been promoted to 1st Lieutenant in the Navy.
Also, LD McDonald of Bridgewater, Nova Scotia, was named the new pastor of the Centre Congregational Church. As noted in a previous edition of this column, his predecessor at the church, Rev. Ward Fellows, left to answer the calling to become an Army chaplain.
Topsfield Fair Was On, So Were Scrap Drives
That fall of 1942, there was talk of cancelling the Topsfield Fair. However, it was held from Sept. 9-13. Organizers apparently determined that most attendees came from within 15 miles, so it didn't undermine gas and tire rationing efforts. The fair that year was also seen as a good way to highlight the "Food For Freedom" program, i.e., planting gardens at home.
Another news item from around Labor Day 1942 noted that a group of local women had just canned 800 jars of vegetables that would be used by students during the coming school year. The Lynnfield PTA chipped in with a grease and rag drive of all things - and it netted 826 pounds of rags and 360 pounds of grease. It must have been fun sorting that pile out. Separately, the town had a community-wide scrap metal drive on September 2, 1942.
Speaking of canning, a place called Walker's Plantation on Walnut Street advertised "Can while you can. You'll need it next winter."
"Care for your car. It's your patriotic duty," stated a separate ad from Ken Rose Motors in Wakefield.
In the spirit of rationing, New England Telephone and Telegraph Co. advised readers to say "I'll tell you about it when I see you," to wrap up phone conversations and keep the lines free for military use.
An ad from RMLD invited locals to come in to get their flourescent lights checked for free, perhaps to lower electricity waste or something. A graphic with the ad shows an "Only In The '40s" type device holding and monitoring the flourescent bulb. I'm almost surprised they didn't throw in a Tesla coil. I think some of those flourescent bulb testing devices went on to become lab props in bad '50s sci-fi movies.
In Non-War News...
On Sunday, September 6, 1942, Our Lady of the Assumption Parish celebrated its 20th anniversary with a dinner at the Suntaug Inn.
Twenty-eight members of the Friendly Wheel (?) enjoyed "an outdoor frankfurt-hamburg roast" at the home of Mrs. Ross on Philips Road. So apparently by 1942, the terms "hot dog" and "hamburger" had not quite come into popular use. I'm reminded of the scene from a long-ago "Simpsons" episode where Mr. Burns slaps a bag of doughnuts away from Homer Simpson at breakfast, shouting "Doughnuts!?! I told you I don't like ethnic food!" Of course, one can also note that in 1942, there could have also been some wartime enthusiasm for anything called a "hamburg and frankfurt" roast, but I'm probably overthinking it.
A full-page ad in the paper showed an interestiing strategy for the era, but one that any small town journalist knows well - it was a bunch of ads highlighting businesses in neighboring Wakefield, under the banner "These Wakefield merchants are ready to serve the residents of Lynnfield with a diversified stock of quality merchandise." In other words: "The advertising revenue depends heavily on exploring surrounding towns with a larger commercial base than Lynnfield's."
The Bus Service Flops
The front page of the Village Press on August 27, 1942, highlighted the fact that very, very early in its lifespan, the town's bus service was in great distress:
"The residents who attended (town meeting) and approved and supported this proposed service to such an extent that one was led to believe that it would be hard to find seats in the busses no matter when, where or at what time they ran. Instead, Joseph Smith, local defense transportation coordinator, stated in a previous column, 'if the busses were not used by the people, there would be no busses for people to use." The editorial admonished town residents that "you can't have your cake and eat it too," and noted that "It is no secret a business cannot be run on the red side of the ledger." The name of the ill-fated bus enterprise appears to have been "The Lynnfield Community, Inc."
In a side story on Page 1, the Lynnfield Selectmen were considering ways to better integrate the air ride sirens into the town's existing fire alarm apparatus.
The Man About Town
I always love to include a couple of the wacky one-liners from the weekly "Man About Town" column that some unnamed individual penned every week.
"The rationing board recently found an application stating the year of a car as 1982. Boy! Are we behind times!" said one such nugget.
Another read: "How about Tommie Lynch and Louis Southworth becoming plane spotters? These boys were found at 2:30 a.m. looking up to the great beyond - their excuse - partial eclipse of the Moon."
Playing At The Wakefield Theatre:
In early September, 1942, the following movies could be seen at various times at the Wakefield Theatre:
"The Gold Rush" with Charlie Chaplin
"The Westerner" with Gary Cooper
"The Secret Agent of Japan" with Preston Foster
"Rings On Her Fingers" with Henry Fonda and Gene Tierney
"The Corsican Brothers" with Douglas Fairbanks Jr.
"Blondie's Blessed Event" with Penny Singleton
"The Big Shot" with Humphrey Bogart
The Wakefield Theatre also had a pull-out advertising section at this point in the Village Press - and man oh man does it help illustrate how much language can change in a relatively short period of time. "Gay picture with the tenderness of true love is 'They All Kissed The Bride'" blares the main headline on the pull-out section, showing a photo of a young Joan Crawford seated and looking up at a rather oily and leering-looking Melvyn Douglas.