Reflections on Veterans Day 2012, are intruded with memories of Dec. 7, 1941.
The days before, preparations for Christmas were well underway. People were dragging home Christmas trees from Perry Produce across from the post office. City merchants wanting this to be “the greatest Christmas,” had got in their orders early. Around the square, window displays were bursting with greens and reds, silvers, golds and patriotic red, whites and blues. The courthouse at night was a fairyland of light, and huge candles stood on each side of the building. There were rapid sales of $2 Arrow and Enro shirts at Bob Elgin’s, Lentheric cosmetics and toiletries at Steven’s Walgreens Drug Store, a special $1 sale at the City Book Store of Lloyd C. Douglas’ best-selling “Magnificent Obsession” and house slippers priced between 39 cents and $2.49 at Brody’s on the northwest corner. Gambles on the south side and Spurgeon’s on the west opened special toyland sections, open nights beginning at 7:30 p.m. with free packages of Cracker Jacks for children accompanied by adults.
On Saturday morning, the sixth of December, at exactly 9:30, Santa Claus drove into the courthouse square, brilliantly dressed in a fiery red suit and riding on an Eskimo sled pulled by a team of barking Northland huskies. Three- to four-thousand children and their parents cheered loudly. There were free rides on the Eskimo sled, free movie shows at the Ritz and the Majestic and 3,800 sacks of free candy.
Across town at the high school, members of Centerville’s Federated Women’s Club were preparing the auditorium for a Tolerance Rally to be held at 3 p.m. the following day. A team from the Des Moines Round Table, consisting of a Jewish rabbi, a Catholic priest and a Protestant minister, were to discuss national unity, moderated by Alfred Severson, professor of sociology at Drake University.
At that moment, thousands of miles to the west, unknown and unseen, maintaining radio silence and taking a northerly course to avoid detection, the Japanese fleet of two battleships, two heavy cruisers, 11 destroyers and six big aircraft carriers carrying 423 air planes were on route from the Kuril Islands for their rendezvous with infamy. n
(Enfys McMurry’s book “Centerville: A Mid-American Saga” will be on sale later this month.)Information submitted by Lisa Eddy, curator, Appanoose County Historical Society, 100 West Maple, Centerville, 856-8040, www.appanoosehistory.com.