Since publisher James Phillips and I spent some time in a B-17 on Monday, I thought I'd revisit Walker County in the war years for this week's column.In 1942, Mountain Eagle readers were gearing up …
Since publisher James Phillips and I spent some time in a B-17 on Monday, I thought I'd revisit Walker County in the war years for this week's column.
In 1942, Mountain Eagle readers were gearing up for a big war bond rally to be held on Monday, Sept. 13. The Eagle announced Sept. 10 that actress Tallulah Bankhead would be attending "to help her home county head the nation during September in sale of War Bonds and Stamps."
Bankhead was to be the guest of honor at a "Salute to Our Heroes" luncheon sponsored by the American Legion of Walker County. Attendees were required to purchase a war bond of at least $500 in addition to paying 75 cents per plate for the luncheon.
Bankhead was also slated to appear at the evening rally, hosted at Jasper City Auditorium and open to anyone who purchased a war bond.
The rally was to be preceded by a parade through downtown. Merchants were encouraged to close at 4:30 p.m. so that employees could attend and to display flags and other decorations on their store fronts.
Men in each community serving as chairmen of the Walker County War Savings Staff were drumming up support for the rally and encouraging their neighbors to purchase as many war bonds as they could afford.
"You are reminded that our heroes on the fighting fronts are not hesitating to undertake dangerous missions; they do not ponder whether attaining a certain objective will mean shedding their life's blood, but are willing to GIVE their lives in order that we may LIVE ours. Surely, we on the home front should just as readily be willing to invest, not give, in bonds so that those boys may have a better chance to LIVE that life with us," the Eagle wrote at the conclusion of an article on the upcoming rally.
Bob Carr was serving as special chairman for the rally. Chairmen of the War Savings Staff included Oscar Yelverton, Jasper; Purvey Dodd, Nauvoo; James S. Brown, Carbon Hill; Professor Couch, Parrish; Huey Deason, Oakman; John Miller, Cordova; Joe Farrier, Dora; and Dr. Gwin, Sumiton.
The Eagle announced the following week that the county had purchased over $100,000 in bonds and residents were as determined as ever to lead the nation in bond sales.
The Legion had raised $60,300 of the total during the luncheon with Bankhead.
The actress had also offered to send an autographed picture to anyone who purchased a ticket for a Sept. 30 showing of "Wake Island" at the Jasper Theatre.
The film, released in August 1942, was directed by John Farrow and was nominated for several Academy Awards.
One of the lead parts went to a young MacDonald Carey, who made his film debut in an earlier 1942 release, "Star Spangled Rhythm."
After filming ended, Carey tried to enlist in the Marines but was turned down because of an eye problem. According to his New York Times obit from 1994, Carey went to a clinic and learned to do eye exercises that allowed him to pass the physical on his next attempt.
As a Marine radar specialist in the Pacific, he participated in the battles of Bougainville and Mindanao.
Soap fans will know Carey as the much-beloved Dr. Tom Horton on "Days of Our Lives."
Back in 1942, Jasper Theatre was divided in three sections for the showing of "Wake Island." The best seats were reseved for those who had bought bonds of $1,000 or $500. The next best seats went to those who had bought bonds of $250 or $100. All other seats were filled by those who bought bonds for $25 or $50.
R.B. Wilby, owner of Jasper Theatre and president of Alabama Theatres Inc., contributed $5,000 to the cause. Theatre manager Bill Steppe and all other theatre employees also purchased bonds in order to work the show.
I couldn't find an article in the Eagle that stated whether the county reached its goal of being the most patriotic in the nation as determined by war bond sales. If not, it certainly wasn't for lack of trying.
Jennifer Cohron is the Daily Mountain Eagle's features editor.