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Hall was active on home front after Pearl Harbor
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What was the atmosphere in Hall County in the months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941?

The community — as others across the nation — jumped right into action. Patriotism rose to an all-time level.

Ninth District Congressman B. Frank Whelchel inspired area citizens even more with his statement supporting President Roosevelt and Congress in calling the country to arms and its defense. Co. A, First Battalion, Georgia State Military Police was the first to answer the call, being summoned to active duty to relieve regular military in such assignments as guarding the Atlanta Municipal Airport. Lt. Col. W.P. Whelchel and Capt. H.C. Hosch led a contingent of 15 Hall Countians to Atlanta to keep their eyes peeled for potential sabotage.

L.R. Sams, already active in the American Red Cross, became chairman of its Disaster Preparedness and Relief Committee. Leslie Quinlan chaired the Red Cross, and E.D. Kenyon and Hayne Palmour issued a call for more volunteers. Registration for Civil Defense volunteers was disappointing, however, falling short of the 1,000 quota.

Chicopee Manufacturing Corp. was the first local industry to meet its goal in raising money for the War Relief Fund chaired by A.C. Wheeler. Behind mill executive Harry Purvis, Chicopee raised $900 in an hour and a half toward the community’s $10,000 goal. Local Pacolet mills followed suit.

Leon Gaines chaired a tire rationing committee, which opened an office in the courthouse.

Local draft officials announced all men ages 20-45 should register for potential military service at their nearest school, and 1,838 signed up. The Lions Club heard a talk by B.B. Fuchs, an eyewitness to the attack on Pearl Harbor. Brenau College’s president and Mrs. H.J. Pearce would teach a defense course. A mass meeting at the courthouse explained local civil defense efforts and how citizens could help.

Grading began on two 4,200-foot runways for the Gainesville airport, later to be used as an auxiliary naval air training station. Grading also began on a $344,000 project to build an armory next to City Park. The war, however, stalled its construction, but the eventual building still stands as Gainesville’s Civic Center.

Local newspapers weekly reported on military personnel missing in action, those killed or declared safe after various battles. They also ran photos of groups of draftees and those already in training or at war.

Despite all this activity, the Gainesville News in an editorial called for calm: “Let’s live as normally as possible.”

Life was far from normal in Tommye Hamilton Wright’s novel, “You Are Cordially Invited to War.” It is a story of a woman who coped with extraordinary family challenges in addition to the inconveniences brought on by World War II on the homefront in a small, very segregated Southern town. Kay Ann Franklin is struggling to care for a child with polio, another with chicken pox, a baby and her mother, who is terminally ill and living with the family. All the while she is trying to keep food rationing coupons straight, stretching limited gasoline for trips, making blackout curtains and providing the children with a semblance of normalcy during special occasions such as Christmas.

Enter “Say,” an underprivileged, handicapped, abused, but nevertheless gifted “colored” teen-ager who comes to the rescue of the family, doing housework, cleaning, cooking, caring for the sick and otherwise bringing a sizable shot of sunshine into an otherwise often gloomy household trying to cope with burdens exacerbated by wartime challenges on the homefront.

Yet Say has her own set of serious challenges that Kay Ann and a few friends mobilize to help her overcome and realize her potential in the face of inherent prejudices in that era.

 

Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times. He can be reached at 2183 Pinetree Circle NE, Gainesville, Ga. 30501. His column appears Sundays and at gainesvilletimes.com/johnny.