Bob Mitchell: Day of infamy, 76 years later

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

December 7, 1941, long remembered as “the day of infamy” proclaimed by then president Franklin D. Roosevelt, as he asked the Congress of that time to declare war on Japan after the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, will have been 76 years ago tomorrow.

It was the day after the attack that the United States did officially enter World War II.

Cassville’s appearance in those days, as might be expected, were considerably different than today. Several young people of the era, some teenagers and others about to enter that stage of their lives, were at the Music Store, a gathering place on the southeast corner of the square. Most were waiting for the Sunday afternoon matinee at the Ozark Theater, midway in the south side of the square. All of a sudden, a radio blasted the news of the bombings as everyone stood stunned and hoping what they were hearing wasn’t true.

Some of us were carrying small metal toys of one kind or another in our pockets, which were immediately identified as made in Japan. In an obvious move of retaliation, these were placed on the floor and individually stomped into complete destruction.

What was different?

Barry County was completely rural in those days. Roads of this area, outside of major routes, were not paved, and actually there wasn’t much need to pave them since fewer automobiles were around to travel on them. That was unfortunate, since gasoline was pennies a gallon and for the most part a driver’s tank was filled by an attendant, who would first fill the pump by a large handle on the side.

If you wanted to buy a new tube of toothpaste, even a few weeks after the USA entered the war, the buyer must first produce an empty tube to be recycled for the metal, a contribution to the war effort.

People learned quickly how to take better care of their automobiles, since only military vehicles would be coming off assembly lines. Saturday nights were still active around the square in Cassville. That was about all folks had to do in those days, get together and visit, with some businesses staying open until midnight to accommodate the public.

An attraction on the square in those days might be either the peanut popcorn machines my father-in-law Kenneth Brown built himself and operated in front of his jewelry store each and every Saturday night.

Some of the young men back then didn’t finish their senior year in high school, choosing instead to join the military service of their choice thus avoiding the draft.

Cassville only had one water tower in these days! Groceries were actually delivered to homes, but, not by auto that required gasoline rationing stamps, instead by a horse-drawn wagon.

The Cassville Wildcats were six years away from resuming football, which was in 1946.

Wastewater disposal was through a makeshift plant built by Works Progress Administration (WPA), which was located between the football practice field and Flat Creek.

Untold parts of story

During the war years, there were some actions going on in Cassville with which few people were proud. Rationing of all essential goods meant that most people had to do without many things with which they had enjoyed after years of the Great Depression in the 1930s.

That didn’t hold true for some of those in position to take advantage of the rationing systems. That included those making decisions about who received scarce goods and those who sold them. There were actually fortunes made in Cassville by peddling influence and rationed goods.

Ration authorities at one time actually acquired warrants to enter one home where they seized a large amount of sugar, which was high upon the list of items difficult to acquire.

Bicycles were an alternate mode of transportation, but their tires were in the same classification as those for vehicles. Tires for autos, mostly recaps, didn’t fare well on graveled roads of those years. Some were known to travel only a few short miles before coming apart.

Families disrupted

Some people of today’s generations have no idea of the hardships encountered during the WWII years. Families in the area were not spared the disruption and sorrow connected with members serving, wounded or killed during the fighting in the Pacific or in Europe.

Today, these people are simply remembered with an American Flag placed on their gravesite throughout the county.

Fishing in December

For those stout ones who enjoy being out in cold weather, good fishing days listed in the Almanac include Dec. 13, 14, 21, 22, and 29. Weather wise, predications are for colder weather for most of the period and then for stormy weather and unsettled conditions to sweep into the area from the southwest.

17 more shopping days

If you missed the Black Friday events, you might be in luck. The remaining 17 shopping days might be the best of all.

Bob Mitchell is the former editor and publisher of the Cassville Democrat. He is a 2017 inductee to both the Missouri Press Association Hall of Fame and Missouri Southern State University’s Regional Media Hall of Fame.