Each year on Dec. 7, we are reminded of our participation in WWII and subsequent wars.
As Paul Carmichael said, “We should never forget the hard times we have been through as a country. It is good to remember the sacrifices our service men and women have made for our country.”
Most people first found out about the attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor as they gathered around their radios on Dec. 7, 1941, to hear President Roosevelt declare war on Japan. Some Americans felt that the United States’ entrance in to WWII was inevitable when In 1939 the Germans invaded Poland.
Patriotism was high as the country responded to the war effort.
In Ellicottville, as in towns and cities all over the country, young men left high school and jobs to sign up for military service. The tradition of the high school band marching ahead of inductees to the railroad train was kept up with only the few band members left. Not only did band members dwindle but also sports teams were down to a few players.
There were plenty of jobs, because a good percentage of the men had volunteered and gone off to war. Women took positions in all aspects of manufacturing and industry. They helped build airplanes, warships and weapons of war. “Rosy The Riveter” became the symbol of the new role women were taking.
In Ellicottville, the basket factory began making ammo boxes instead of baskets. It was a wartime industry that earned deferment from the draft.
Kulp Manufacturing, known as The Novelty Works, put aside making handles for ladies’ handbags and other nonessential wooden products to make gunstocks.
Burrell Cutlery made service knives.
The Borden’s Condensary made a dried milk powder called KLIM (milk spelled backwards), which was canned and sent overseas.
Citizens were constantly reminded to take their share of responsibility toward the war effort by buying war bonds.
“Savings stamps were sold at school on Fridays during the war,” said Helen Hintz Feldman.
Mounds of tin and metal piled up in front of the school (1887 Building) to be recycled into material for building ships.
Edna Mae Chapman Kenyon recalls being in sixth grade when the war started.
“I wrote letters to the servicemen and the Red Cross brought sheets for us to tear into strips and roll up for bandages,” she recalled.
A Ground Observer Corps Aircraft Warning System was set up. Frances Annis Morton (then in sixth grade) remembers participating in the “watch” taking two-hour shifts at the top of Fish Hill to watch for enemy aircraft.
Blackout trials were common. The signal to black out here in Ellicottville was a series of short blasts lasting two minutes by the whistles of the Fitzpatrick & Weller and Murphy & Son mills, and the Borden Plant. Each blast lasted five seconds with two-second intervals between blasts. One long whistle blast from each plant lasting two minutes signaled all clear.
German sailors were bused in from the POW camp in Dunkirk to work in the Borden’s Condensary.
“Although under armed guard, they didn’t need to be guarded, they weren’t going anywhere,” said Les Fox.
British sailors lived in people’s homes and worked at the Borden’s plant while their ships were in dry dock.
Ration tickets were allotted for gasoline, clothing and foodstuffs.
Jeanette Potter Halliday said, “My family raised our own meat, so mother often traded her meat ration stamps with ‘richer people’ for their sugar stamps, because she canned a lot of fruit.”
While we made our sacrifices on the home front, the ultimate sacrifice took place on the frontline.
War II Veteran Rudy LaBelle, when thanked for his service said, “Don’t thank me. Thank those who didn’t come back.”
Rudy died recently taking his place in the long roster of those we remember for their sacrifice.
May we always be remembered.