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Saturday, March 11, 2017

Dark Days of 1942

BA DEFENSE CLASSES: Bradford Academy students were offered courses in welding, lathe operation and pre-flight aeronautics in order to prepare to participate in the war efforts.  Additionally, the students were involved in war stamp sales, salvage collection, first  aid courses and the building of model airplanes to be use for plane identification.  Photo was taken by Philip Hastings, Class of 1942.  Hastings went on to become one of the nation's foremost railroad photographers. (Bradford Historical Society)
This ad first appeared in the United Opinion on July 24, 1942.  It is an example of how businesses from cigarette companies to tire manufacturers tied the war effort to their company sales.  An accompanying ad called for "slapping" the Japanese.

THROW YOUR SCRAP INTO THE FIGHT. By October 1942, the scrap metal salvage campaign was in full swing.  The United Opinion featured a large front-page ad for a "Junk Rally for Bradford & Vicinity." This part of the ad illustrated how junk could be made into military materials, with tires becoming gas masks and shoves made into grenades.  
Journal Opinion, March 8, 2017

All the war news seems to be bad for the Allies. It is so bad one dares hardly think what the next batch of news may bring forth.”  The United Opinion, Feb. 20, 1942

The year following the Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor was a year of uncertainty for America as the nation “paid the price for lack of preparedness.” It was also a year of patriotic dedication and sacrifice. This column describes the local impact of the evolving war 75 years ago.


 It includes information taken from The United Opinion, local town histories and research by Orford historian Art Pease as well as on-line sources and interviews with elders who lived locally during the period.


In a radio fireside chat, President Franklin Roosevelt said “There is one front and one battle where everyone in the United States, every man, woman and child, is in action, and will be privileged to remain in action throughout this war.  That front is right here at home, in our daily lives and in our daily tasks.”


In anticipation of involvement in an ever-spreading conflict in Europe and Asia, the United States took action in 1940 to mobilize. Construction of military hardware, ships and combat gear was expanded and the first peace-time draft was instituted. 


These actions had an impact on locals residents. Hundreds of men volunteered or were drafted for military service. Many more took defense jobs to help meet the President’s goal of “out-producing and overwhelming the enemy.” 


The newspaper’s front page listed draft and induction status for local men. Town correspondents submitted columns full of the news of military assignments, furloughs, promotions and citations. Added to these were newsy reports of men and women home for a break from war plants such as Pratt & Whitney in Connecticut.


This departure of men from the area created a shortage of workers for mills, mines and farms locally. As in earlier wars, area women took up the additional burden of work. 


At one point in 1942, several towns listed the number of men in uniform as follows: Ryegate 34, Fairlee 25, Orford 43 and Piermont 15. These numbers increase significantly by war’s end with Bradford having 209 in service and Ryegate and Newbury about 120 and 175 respectively. Each town also had women in service.     


Occasionally, the paper would print excerpts from letters sent to families by service personnel. Unable to reveal their stationing or give details of actual combat, writers would hint at living conditions, give thanks for gifts and ask for prayers and support for their efforts. Some of those letters include ones from Fairlee’s Layton Blake and Lois Ackerman, Bradford’s Allen Hutchinson and Orford’s Francis Bean.


The paper listed the mailing addresses of local service personnel and families and friends sent letters and items such as knitted items, toiletries and even maple sugar. Layton Blake mentioned that he had received a package and 51 letters all at once, with the package having been sent six months earlier.  


An article described a postcard sent to a St. Johnsbury family from their son Michael Economou taken prisoner by the Japanese after the fall of Wake Island in Dec. 1941. He told them he was being held in the Shanghai War Prisoners Camp and assured them that he was “well and healthy.”  He was later removed to a camp in Japan and held for a total of 1361 days before being liberated. Charles Pierce of Orford was not so fortunate. He was  reported missing in action after the fall of Bataan in 1942 and died of malaria in a prisoner camp in 1943. We now know that Japanese camps were hellholes with prisoners far from being well and healthy.    


As American industries began to turn out massive numbers of tanks, planes and other weapons of war, substantial amounts of metal were required. Knowing that “junk makes fighting weapons,” scrap drives were held throughout the nation. 


It was reported that locally “attics, cellars, garages and barns have yielded unexpected treasures.”  Scrap piles were located near the library in Orford and the railroad station in Fairlee and in school yards in Topsham. Everything from old cars, farm equipment and household appliances to a cannon and a century-old iron coffin joined the pile. In October, it was reported that Orange County residents had collected 160 lbs of scrap per person, with Bradford among the leaders with 214 lbs.


In the fear that village lights along the Connecticut River might guide invading planes toward possible targets, trial blackouts were held locally. Woodsville held one in December 1941.

In early April 1942 Bradford held its first blackout. There were warning blasts from the whistles at the several mills along with the continuous ringing of a church bell. In August, both New Hampshire and Vermont held state-wide drills, with area towns participating. In November, Bradford had its first day-time mock raid with three planes buzzing the village creating simulated casualties and damage.


While few really expected an actual attack, they were determined to be prepared for “whatever may come.” That preparation also helped to create a sense of participation by the civilian population. The paper encouraged volunteers to be trained and ready in the case of emergency.  One front page article read “American is calling! Take your place in the local defense effort.”


Additional articles gave details for dimming headlights, creating blackout curtains for homes and businesses and foregoing traditional outdoor holiday lights. They encouraged resident to know the rules, take simple precautions for the safety of family and property, and, above all, in the case of an actual attack, “Don’t lose your head. Panic hurts more people than bombs.”


Hundreds of local residents manned local observation posts watching for enemy aircraft, trained as civil defense and Red Cross workers and participated in the local unit of the State Guard. Under the command of Major Irwin Worthley of East Corinth, this military unit included area men who were exempt from regular military service.  


Mass media became an important component of the war effort. Radio news broadcasts and newsreels that accompanied film showings gave the public some of the details of the war effort. The Office of War Information carefully censored the details of battles and war strategies to keep the information from the enemy. 


During 1942, most of the military action involving American forces was in the Pacific. News of the fall of the Philippines and the continued retreat of Allied Forces in the Pacific was widely covered. The United Opinion joined other magazines and newspapers with regular columns reporting news of the war.


Sometimes there was a delay of several weeks before specific details of battles were made available to the public, perhaps more so when defeats were experienced. The editor talked about the problems of “scant information about our Pacific fleet” but went on to say that secrecy was essential.  In late 1942, news of actions in Europe and North Africa was included, especially as Allied forces began to have victories over German troops.      


Bradford’s Colonial Theatre, Woodsville’ Orpheum and the Fairlee Theatre showed motion pictures during 1942, with the Colonial Theatre increasing to two nights per week to provide  additional local entertainment.  For the relatively small price of admission, viewers could escape the realities of the war through screwball comedies and trips of fantasy and adventure. Films took on the added tasks of raising morale and patriotism and informing the public about the reasons for the conflict.


Three of the most popular movies of 1942 had a war message. “Mrs. Miniver,” the story of an English family dealing with war-time struggles, joined “Yankee Doodle Dandy” and “Holiday Inn” to present strong messages of patriotism. 


As with the films and articles, popular songs helped Americans express the many emotions of war: willingness to sacrifice, the pangs of separation, the urge to participate, the sense of peril, hatred for the enemy, the desire for revenge and hope for victory. The only emotion missing was an anti-war sentiment.


 Three songs that topped the charts in 1942 were “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition,” “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree (With Anyone Else But Me)” and “White Christmas.” These songs could be heard on radio stations and records or played from sheet music.   


In 1942, availability of consumer products were impacted by the needs of the military and our allies as well reduced availability of supplies from abroad.  These resulting scarcities led to civilian rationing by the War Productions Board. Nonessential items such as automobiles, refrigerators and other products requiring large amounts of metal were banned. There were shortages of rubber products, oil, sugar, butter, meat and coffee. 


Each individual was given a ration book with stamps to use when purchasing rationed items.  Even when a family had the necessary coupons, the commodities were not always available. My mom recalled going early and standing in line at a Fairlee market hoping to get a cut of meat for supper and coming away with none. 


Gasoline rationing had a major impact on families, with pleasure cars allowed only three gallons of gasoline a week. A 35-mile per hour speed limit was implemented nation-wide.  Since “stay-at-home” was encouraged, some events were cancelled or downsized. This also had a negative impact on the tourist industry in both states.


Walking or biking became more popular and train travel became a necessity. By August, Vermont had decreased the number of cars by 14,000. Recapping of tires was encouraged.


For the homemaker, the paper offered recipes to conserve or preserve food and tips on the planting of Victory gardens. As there was a shortage of fabric, “patriotic chic” offered patterns for shorter skirts. For all, the effort was “use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”       


To meet the increased costs of military operations and other government services, the War Finance Committee was created. The sale of war bonds tapped into personal savings and financed over 50 percent of the increased cost of operating the federal government. Local businesses, schools and organizations joined in the efforts to sell victory stamps and bonds and local towns often exceeded their assigned quotas for both bonds and Red Cross drives.  


The Victory Tax of 1942 raised income tax rates. It also authorized payroll withholding of taxes

for the first time. Both of these had the added benefit of fighting inflation by taking money out of circulation in a time when consumer items were in short supply.  


Added to the above are other items covered by the local paper. Those include daylight savings or war time, oleomargarine, opening of the Elizabeth Copper Mine in S. Strafford, business advertisements that mentioned war conditions, shortage of candy for Valentine’s Day,  parties for departing servicemen and rumors of spy rings and saboteurs.     


Changes in the conflict had a major impact on the emotions of the public toward the war and their own individual parts in it. The following excerpts from The United Opinion reflect those evolving emotions.  Right after Pearl Harbor the editor wrote “It may be a big war, it will be a difficult war, but we believe we have what it takes to win”


In Jan.1942 the editor warned against “too deep gloom” and went on to prophesied: “In the end Japan can’t win, but there is going to be a lot of china broken before we get this bad boy of the Rising Sun properly spanked”


As news of the first air attacks on the Japanese homeland were revealed in May, there was concern that the public was “being too optimistic.” At the same time, the editor wrote “We know we’re not to have an easy victory but there seem to be a definite feeling that things are getting better.”


Later that year the “apprehensive” fear of something less than total victory still prevailed for many. There was hope that the “dark days of the summer” would “stiffen the determination to win.” But at same time, articles began to appear about hopes for a lasting post-war peace and the threats of possible economic downturns.


As the year drew to a close, war news still “shoved other stories out of the headline.”  It was reported that “the number of American dead, wounded, missing, interned and captured” in the first year of the war had reached 58,307. One of those dead was 1st Lt Raymond S. Wood of Woodsville who died on Dec. 30 in the battle for Guadalcanal.  His remains were missing until early 2008.


The newspaper printed British Prime Minister Churchill’s prediction that 1943 would be a “stern and terrible year” and that the war was by “no means approaching its end.”  In fact, it would take almost three more years before the Allies achieved unconditional surrender from Germany and Japan.  Those were three years of struggle on all fronts, military and home. But from the dark days of ‘42, the gloom was lifted and there was, increasingly, a victorious light at the end of the tunnel. 



Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Watching The Time

RARE BRADFORD CLOCK. This banjo-style clock was crafted by Bradford clockmaker Jefferson A. Hardy in the 1850s. It was recently sold at an estate auction in Geneseo, New York. (Courtesy Cottone Auctions)

This steeple clock in Woodsville's Opera House was installed with funds raised by the Woodsville Women's Club after 1924. It is the only area steeple clock not found in a church.  Photos of some of the 14 Church steeple clocks follow the article. 

Haverhill Corner Brick Church Stephen Hasham clock installed 1844.

WATCH REPAIRER AT WORK.  Fred Doe repaired watch at the Doe Brothers store on Bradford's Main Street in the 1939 photo.  Doe was the owner of the store from 1885 until it closed in 1968. The photo was taken by Lee Russell working for the Farm Security Administration (Library of Congress)   
“In the present generation we have become so accustomed to the use of accurate time and the ready means of obtaining it, that we hardly realize how dependent we are upon it,” wrote William Francis Allen in an article entitled “The Reformation in Time”  for the December 1884 edition of Popular Science Monthly.

This column examines the development of watches and clock as reflected in local history. It includes both personal time pieces and town clocks. The Vermont Historical Society’s collection devoted to the history of clockmakers, local town histories, historic publications and online sources provided background.  

This is a timely topic leading up to New Year’s Eve. As midnight approaches that night, more local residents look at their watches and clocks simultaneously than at any other time of the year. 

Simultaneous coordination was also a major event in the fall of 1883. The proliferation of railroads and telegraph created a demand for precision in determining time. To avoid accidents and missed trains, there needed to be uniformity in time.

 “Llocal time” had been widely used  with each community relying on something like a town clock to set the exact time for activities locally. On Nov. 18, 1883, millions of clocks across the nation were altered to conform to the new system of standardized time developed by the major railroad companies.  Locally, that might have occurred on Oct. 7 when the Central Vermont Railroad adopted the system of standard time.  

Town or tower clocks were introduced into the local area when one was installed in the Norwich Congregational Church in 1816. Over the next 120 years, at least 14 tower clocks were installed in local church steeples. High above the community, these clocks rang out the hour and residents set watches and domestic clocks for uniform local time. Their installation was a source of civic pride for the communities.  In some cases the tax on personal timepieces encouraged the installation of a town clock.

There are at least four clockmakers represented by tower clocks still in place. Stephen Hasham of Charlestown, New Hampshire placed one of his clocks in the Haverhill Corner Brick Church in 1844. Benjamin Morrill of Boscawen installed a clock in the Orford Congregational Church in the 1850s. Of the seven known Morrill clocks this is the only one still in its original location. 

Seth Thomas of Connecticut began working on clocks in 1807. The firm he later created continued to manufacture clocks of all types until the 1980s. There are at least seven Seth Thomas tower clocks in the region. They are located in the following churches: Thetford Hill Congregational (1895), North Thetford Congregational (1895), Thetford Center United Methodist (circa 1904), Groton United Methodist (1912), Post Mills Congregational (1915), Wells River Congregational (1932), South Ryegate United Presbyterian (1936).

 Edward Howard of Massachusetts began manufacturing  clocks in 1842.  As with Thomas, his clocks are of several types. The four local Howard tower clocks are located at Bradford Congregational (1875, replaced with an electronic one in 2015-6), Lyme Congregational (1921), Fairlee Federated (1926) and Newbury Congregational (date unknown).  There two other churches with tower clocks by unknown manufacturers: Warren Methodist and Ryegate Corner Presbyterian.

There is only one tower clock in a building other than a church. In 1924 the Woodsville Women’s Club raised the funds to install a clock in the  Woodsville Opera House built in 1890.

While each clock fulfilled its function as the community’s “common arbiter of time,” each has aspects of its history that are similar to and different from the others. Most seem to be the first town clock in the community.  However several references are made to a Bradford town clock located south of the Waits River bridge on what is now Route 5 prior to the construction of the new Congregational Church in 1875.  

Several clocks were given by donors “for the benefit of the citizens” of the community whereas others were included in the original building costs or purchased with funds raised by taxes or group fund drives

Other variations include the number of clock dials and the material from which they are made.  While most are wooden, several of them are translucent allowing for interior lighting. While earlier clocks often had only an hour hand, all now include minute hands.   

The clocks have stopped from time to time and some are not working presently. Most have had significant repairs over the years. The most frequent repairs are having the internal works electrified, the hands replaced and the clock dial(s) restored. Major work was usually undertaken by accomplished craftsmen.

The question of the use of public funds for the maintenance of clocks located in churches was address by the Vermont Supreme Court in 1890. It determined that since a so-called town clock represented “an object of common convenience and necessity,” public funds could be used for repairs. 

There have been individuals who often spent decades as the “appointed” keeper of the clock. This included winding it and keeping the mechanism in general working order. The timekeeper would have to climbing narrow stairs or ladders to the winding mechanism about once a week.  It also meant removing an occasional bird, bat or squirrel that might have caused the clock to malfunction. 

Before personal watches, domestic clocks and tower clocks became common, there were those who relied on the sun and stars to determine time.  The Newbury history mentions that “most of the houses had their ‘noon marks’ to indicate that hour.” Apparently, “in the absence of clocks, people were often skillful in telling the hour of the night by the position of the heavenly bodies.”    

By the time  local communities were settled  in the second half of the 18th century  some residents had watches and clocks. Some were imported whereas others were manufactured by craftsmen in southern New England.  Early records indicate that those that needed repair often had to be shipped to places such as Newburyport, Massachusetts. By 1830, timepieces were more common and the Ryegate census included a report of one gold and 12 silver watches and 37 brass clocks.  

Soon there were watch and clockmakers in the local area. Between 1770 and 1920 there were over 50 local clock and watch makers, repairers and jewelers specializing in the sale of watches and clocks.  Over time, the number of makers diminished in favor of the latter two groups. 

Industrialization affected the industry.  After the 1820s the increase in cast brass brought an end to wooden clock movements. The introduction of standardized watch parts in 1857 made watches more reliable.

After World War I, wrist watches became popular, replacing men’s pocket watches and women’s pendant watches.  Cheaper watches and clocks reduced the number of those who repaired clocks and watches.  The names Elgin and Waltham were more likely to appear on watches than any local name. 

As space does not allow for all of the information that was gathered about 50 plus watch and clock craftsmen and merchants, I will highlight a few of the most significant local individuals. 

John Osgood of Haverhill was a clockmaker from 1793 to 1840. “His shop had two rooms, the front one a salesroom and the rear one a workshop where was a forge for melting the brass for the clocks…” Each Osgood clock was numbered and a current dealer indicates that he has seen clocks registered in excess of 370.

 Osgood clock were tall-cased or grandfather type standing over 8 feet with eight-day brass works. They featured painted dials and moon phases and calendar apertures.  The cases for Osgood’s clocks were often crafted by his uncles Michael Carleton of Haverhill and Dudley Carleton of Newbury.  

The only other style clock Osgood made was a gallery clock presented to the First Congregational Church of Haverhill in 1838. A photo of one of Osgood tall-case clocks has been posted on my blog at larrycoffin.blogspot.com as part of my article on furniture makers.

The Hardy family of Bradford included several generations of craftsmen who worked with clocks and watches. Oliver Hardy came to Bradford in 1802. A man of many talents he was a tanner, currier, blacksmith and shoemaker. Silas McKeen’s history indicates,  “As there was no one to clean and repair clocks and watches, locals brought them to him.”

Oliver’s son, Jefferson A. Hardy opened “the first scientific clock, watch and jewelry establishment in Bradford” in 1829 a business he continued until several years before his death in 1874.

The younger Hardy cleared and repaired over 33,000 watches. Through advertisement in Bradford’s National Opinion he offered his services to deal with the “real wants of fine watches.” He also made watches and clocks “of different styles and prices.”

 He made and donated a gallery clock to the Congregational Society of Bradford, one that required winding only 12 times a year. Two of Jefferson’s sons, Oliver and William followed their father in the business, the former in Alabama and the latter, who also farmed, in Fairlee.     

Recently I received a call from a person who had purchased a rare J. A. Hardy banjo style clock at an estate sale.  It has a 53” mahogany case with an unusual eight-day skeletonized weight, brass movement and second bit hand.

There may have actually been another early clock and watch maker in Bradford. Beginning in 1805, Isaac Walker operated a business. His later advertisement read:  “Ladies and gentlemen who will favor him with their custom may depend upon having their work done with neatness and dispatch.” His name is connected with the “air clock,” an instrument equipped with bellows from which escaping air regulated the driving weights. 

William K. Wallace was born in Newbury in 1833.  From 1855 to 1872, except for a nine-month enlistment in the Union Army, Wallace operated a watch making and jewelry business on Main Street in Newbury. 

He later moved to Haverhill and opened his business in the Weeks Block on Woodsville’s Central Street, remaining there until 1889. He was also known for raising horses.  His obituary in 1909 called him “one of the best known horsemen of the north country.” 

Peter M. Paul operated a watch shop in Groton beginning around 1856.  He was described as a “fine watchmaker” and equally adept as a cabinetmaker. It was not uncommon for watch makers to have other occupations. For example, J.W. Buzzell, watchmaker in Thetford Center from 1872 to 1880 was also listed as a dentist and pastor.

Major A. Stevens manufactured watches on Main Street in West Fairlee from 1872 until at least 1898.  His nephew Charles Stevens was in the jewelry business there until 1912.

Members of the Doe Family were jewelers and watch repairers in both Bradford and Woodsville.

The Doe Brothers store in Bradford opened in 1885 offering watches along with clothing and other merchandise. Fred Dow was described as a “practical watchmaker,” advertising  in 1897 that the store offered “nice watches at right prices!” In 1955, his son Franklin “Lin” Doe took over operation of the store and continued to do so until it closed in 1968.

The Woodsville store open around 1898 on Central Street. The jeweler’s sign that hung outside the store was a large gilt watch set at 18 past 8 to mark the time President Lincoln was shot. The store relocated several times within the business district before selling to C. Tabor Gates in 1913.     

One of the employees of Doe’s Woodsville store was Samuel F. McAllister Sr. A native of Ryegate, McAllister trained to be a watch maker at the Walham Horological Institute.  He came to Woodsville in 1901 and worked for both Doe Brothers and Gates. He bought the business in 1923 and operated it in the Opera Block. 

In 1953 his grandson David took over the business and moved it to the present location on Central Street  in 1963.  His son Scott has operated the store since 1986 and told me that they still repair some types of watches, but not clocks.

Elwin Chase of East Topsham bought, sold and repaired old clocks in his home from the early 1950s until he moved to Connecticut in 1974.  David Chipman of Shelburne said that Chase “was very skilled.” Chipman  said that he purchased at least five clocks from Chase and still has an American Regulator school clock in his office.   

There are still those who repair steeple and personal clocks.  Norman Boyden of the Green Mt Clock Company in Williston had done so for over four decades. In a recent conversation Boyden said: “It is a thrill to put my hands on a clock that is over 100 years old and make it run again.” That is something that those who rely on modern clocks cannot appreciate.

Whether you are fortunate enough to own a clock that has been in your family for generations or use a modern timepiece, on New Year’s Eve you will join others watching the time displayed as it helps us embrace the move from the old to the new. 

Fairlee Federated Church Edward Howard clock added 1926
Wells River Congregational Church Seth Thomas clock added 1932
South Ryegate Presbyterian Church Seth Thomas clock added 1936 

Groton Methodist Seth Thomas Clock added 1912