Lynnfield responds to the Pearl Harbor attack, Dec. 7, 1941

Dec 4, 2019 by

Published December 4, 2019

By HELEN BREEN

LYNNFIELD — Seventy-eight years ago this Saturday, Dec. 7, the United States entered World War II after the Japanese bombed the American Naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.

Following FDR’s famous “day that would live in infamy” speech, Americans prepared themselves for the task ahead. Leafing through the pages of the December 1941 issues of the long defunct Lynnfield Village Press newspaper gives us a sense of our town’s priorities in those dark days.

Concerns

In the Dec. 11 edition, just days after the attack, locals worried about the fate of Lynnfield soldiers George Marsta and Granville Hooper. They were “known to be in the combat zone and so far no news has been received of their condition.”

The following week, Town Moderator Joseph F. Smith and his wife Della were glad to report that they had received a telegram from their son Sumner (Teddy) in Manila “assuring them of his safety.” Later, Teddy Smith survived being a prisoner of war for four years in the Pacific Theater.

PRESIDENT FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT led the nation in its resolve to fight after the Pearl Harbor attack. (Salon.com)

Home front

A front page editorial in the Dec. 18 issue proclaimed, “The reason for the horrible failure at Pearl Harbor was because ‘They’ were not ‘Alert.’” Therefore, the Lynnfield ARP – an Air Raid Precaution team – was organized as “watchmen of the neighborhood in the time of greatest despair and excitement of an air raid.” Training for volunteers would be held on the following three Sunday afternoons.

At the same time, a Defense Committee was formed, meeting in the Chemical Hall (fire station) in South Lynnfield. Louis B. Tuck, auxiliary police chief, stressed the need for nighttime volunteers to keep watch. A telephone would be installed for the first time in the South School, built in 1871 at the corner of Summer and Salem Streets. The phone at the Center School on Main Street would be moved from the basement to the first floor. Arrangements were made “for dismissal at the first warning of an air raid” when “busses would be in readiness to take students home on short notice.”

“Restricted This Christmas” blared another announcement by the Telephone Company. “War has made it necessary to curtail the typical American tradition of exchanging Christmas greetings by telephone,” it explained. Specifically, Lynnfield residents were asked not to make calls on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day “to points south of New York, west of Chicago, or to the Maritime Provinces.”

Meanwhile…

Many aspects of life continued as usual in town according to ads and notices in the Village Press. Lyman Twiss sold Christmas trees at 356 Salem Street. S.S. Pierce “Quality Wines & Spirits” were available at the Turnpike Bottle Shoppe on 345 Broadway which offered “prompt delivery.” Boy Scout Troop 522 held their investiture ceremony for “tenderfoot scouts.” Also, those students having “perfect attendance” at Center School” were commended.

Hill and Welsh Furniture Company in Lynn suggested an elegant Gov. John Winthrop desk for $34.75 as a perfect Christmas gift for Dad. Strout and Wing Developers described their new housing – 5 and 6 room Colonial homes with “air conditioning and oil heat” on large lots at “Homestead Pines” off Main Street.

Christmas 1941

Yet, the front page editorial of the Thursday, Dec. 25 edition of the Village Press struck a somber note. After acknowledging the sufferings and deprivations of millions around the world in that war torn year, it concluded:

“We are not trying to spread a wet blanket; we merely attempt to emphasize, by contrast, how truly fortunate WE are this Christmas. We’re in that position because we Americans have loved freedom and have been willing to fight to get – and keep it. And there you have our thought for Christmas 1941 – remember we must still be willing to fight, work and sacrifice to be sure of enjoying Christmas in 1942 and 1943 as we can in 1941.”

To which, we in Lynnfield 78 years later say “Amen.”

 Send comments to helenbreen@comcast.net.

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