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70 years later: Locals remember where they were on Dec. 7Posted Wednesday, December 7, 2011, at 9:39 AM
Tomorrow (Dec. 7), the United States is observing one of two anniversaries that can be recognized by only referring to a month and a number -- Dec. 7. The other date is 9-11.
During the past few years, not much has been talked or written about the "day of infamy," the day the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. After all, it happened 70 years ago, and many people aren't old enough to remember that Sunday in 1941 that was the beginning of World War II.
For others who do remember that day, it is etched on their minds like engraved stone much like memories younger people have of 9-11.
A few years ago, I talked to several people who could tell me exactly where they were on that cold, Sunday in 1941.
One of the people I interviewed was Bob Ferry who, sadly like many World War II veterans, passed away last year. He had an interesting and vivid account of that afternoon.
"I was 17 years old and in high school," noted Ferry. "On that Sunday afternoon, three buddies and I -- Tom Wall, Vail Wolfe, and Bob Fitzpatrick -- were bowling at the bowling alley that used to be located uptown where Regions Bank is now. Being young, we didn't let the news concern us too much. We kept on bowling."
All four boys soon went into military service. Ferry was a flight engineer for Air Transport Command. Vail Wolfe was killed while making his 22nd flight as a waist gunner on a B-17.
Ferry also remembered another classmate, George Scecina, who was killed while making a parachute drop into Holland.
Bob's wife, Ernie, remembered the day, as well.
"Oh my, how could I forget that day?" noted Ernie. "My girlfriend, Millie, and I went to a movie that Sunday evening at the Cine Theater. When her parents picked us up, they told us that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor."
Ferry said when she got home the family sat around the radio and listened to the news.
"My little brother, Jimmy, was scared and said, 'Daddy will have to go to war.' "
Don Dennis, another young man who lived in Linton in 1941, said he remembered that Sunday very well.
"I was at my sister's restaurant across the street from the old Roosevelt Hotel," recalled Dennis, "when my brother came in and told us about the attack and asked if we had the radio on."
Dennis added that he graduated on May 18, 1943 and five days later was inducted into the Navy and served throughout the war on the U.S.S. Catalpa, a net tender.
Lizzie Laughlin, from rural Linton, remembered it was a slow Sunday afternoon at the Snack and Soda -- adjacent to the Cine Theater -- where she worked.
"There were only two of us there when we heard the news," Lizzie said. "The other person was Bruce Peltier who was in the military but home on leave. He (Peltier) looked up from playing the pin ball machine and said, 'I will be over there and probably won't come back.' "
Before he was sent overseas, Peltier was killed when his plane crashed during a training mission.
Margaret Moehlman and her sisters were attending Epworth League at the Methodist Church that Sunday evening.
"When we heard about the bombing of Pearl Harbor, we didn't know what to think," noted Moehlman. "We were in awe. It was a weird feeling. The town was haunting as if everyone was stunned."
During her high school years, Moehlman said girls in her class would go to the bus station, which was where Danner's antique store is now located, and wave at the boys as they left for induction.
"The principal and school superintendent were real good about us leaving school to see the boys off," Moehlman said. "After the bus left, we would walk back to school."
Moehlman added that there were 18 empty seats with American flags on them when she graduated high school in 1944. That was the number of boys that had already been called or had enlisted in military service.
"Jack Woodward was in our class and stationed at Great Lakes Naval Station. He was given permission to come back for the graduation," Moehlman went on to say. "Because his name began with "W," he was at the end of the procession. That made my mother so mad. She thought he should have led the class in his naval uniform."
On that fateful day, Nigel Lehman was just a young child but says he remembers because, while listening to the radio, his mother was crying and wringing her hands saying, "Oh, my boys! My boys!"
That same evening, Nigel's brother, Arnold Lehman of Bloomfield, was also at the Cine Theater. When he left the theater he noticed the street around the old Elks building was filled with people talking about the attack. Like most of the young men at the time, he knew he would be "going to war."
Dec. 7 began as a fun day for Mary (Sargeant) Powell.
"My aunt and I were in the middle of the living room floor," she said. "She was teaching me (to dance) the Charleston. We were looking for music on the radio when an announcer interrupted saying that Pearl Harbor had been attacked. When my father came home, he sat us down and told us the war would be serious and that Japan was a powerful nation and wouldn't easily give up."
Hopefully, there will never be another horrendous event that can be recognized by a month and a number.
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