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Victor-Victrola.jpgWar can certainly be a time of danger, but there are other times when soldiers are in camp stateside or behind the lines when they can relax.

Camp Meade near Laurel was named for Maj. Gen. George Meade. It became an active army installation in 1917. During World War I, more than 400,000 soldiers would pass through the camp to be trained for the war. It was the training site for three infantry divisions, three training battalions, and one depot brigade.

During the course of the war, 704 Garrett Countians would serve in the military and most of them were sent to Camp Meade for training. The Garrett County boys in Camp Meade in October 1917 were part of a company of 250 men from Garrett and Allegany counties and Baltimore City. The traveling agent with the B&O Railroad who had charge of the Garrett County recruits when they were taken to Camp Meade, said of them, “The boys from Garrett county were the finest bunch I have so far taken to any camp.”

Once at camp, their training went well. “We arrived safely in camp, and most everyone is well and getting along fine with our drills, considering the time we have been here,” six of the recruits – Henry Byrn Hamill, Earl W. Alexander, Harry M. Setzer, Paul R. Liston, Robert R. Glotfelty, John W. Livengood – wrote in a letter to The Republican.

They were healthy and happy. The Republican described them as “the finest specimens of young manhood in the country.”

They were bored, though.

The six recruits, who were representing all of the Garrett County recruits, asked if a subscription fund could be started to buy them a Victrola “as the time when off duty would pass much faster if we had a Victrola to cheer up the boys from ‘Old Garrett,’ and serve to keep them from getting blue,” the letter read.

Although today, Victrola has become a generic term for old phonographs, back then a Victrola was a brand of phonographs with an internal horn that was manufactured by the Victor Talking Machine Company. They are not the older versions of phonographs that Victor used in its logo. This version had an external horn, and a dog sat in front of the horn to hear his master’s voice.

True Victrolas were first marketed in 1906 and quickly gained popularity. That popularity helped bring down the price to roughly $100 ($1,870 today) depending on where it was purchased.

The Republican staff jumped into action starting the subscription fund not only for a Victrola but also records that could be played on it. Not waiting for the next issue, staff began notifying people in town about the request.

Within an hour after the subscription efforts began, $46.50 in donations had come into the news room from 41 donors. E. H. Sincell pledged the most ($5) and some people pledged as little as 25 cents.

One minister gladly donated a dollar to the fund, telling the editor, “Never do you start anything for the boys again unless I am in on the ground floor. If this is insufficient for the purpose or if you want to raise another fund for anything else to come to me.”

The citizens of Friendsville took up a collection and raised $11 from 11 donors. The Girls Club of Gormania raised another $5 and mailed it to the newspaper office.

After a week, $83 had been raised from 74 donors. Within two weeks the $100 goal had been surpassed, and the boys from Garrett County had an enjoyable way to pass the time by the end of October.

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wwii-propaganda-posters-500-65When Pearl Harbor was bombed on December 7, 1941, it was not only a date that has lived in infamy, it was a wake-up call for all Americans. World War II became not just an effort undertaken by soldiers but everyone in the country.

Everyone—soldier and civilian alike—had a role to play in the war effort. Children collected scrap materials, women planted victory gardens, and men served as air raid wardens. Sometimes it was hard to know if their hard work did any good as they watched map boards anxiously to track troop movements and battles and checked whether someone they knew was listed as wounded, captured or killed. Of the nearly 4,000 Adams County residents who served in the war, 118 gave their lives and many more were wounded.

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As soldiers were shipped overseas, families left behind worried over whether they would ever see their loved ones again. That worry translated into a need to do something to help in the war effort. Seeking to direct this energy, the federal government and some private companies produced posters encouraging people to buy war bonds, plant victory gardens, be careful about what they said and more.

“They showed people that things done at home were helping over there,” says Benjamin Neely, executive director of the Adams County Historical Society.

The Adams County Historical Society has a collection of more than two dozen of these posters that show the messages that county residents were being bombarded with. They are a mix of paintings and photographs emblazoned with short messages. One image that sticks with Neely is that of a sailor’s hand sticking above the water. The message of the image is that the sailor is drowning.  The poster warns, “Someone talked.”

The WWII propaganda posters were carefully planned by the U.S. Government, which tried to identify the most-effective way to not only communicate a message to Americans but to influence their behavior.

we-can-do-it“One government-commissioned study concluded that the best posters were those that made a direct, emotional appeal and presented realistic pictures in photographic detail. The study found that symbolic or humorous posters attracted less attention, made a less favorable impression, and did not inspire enthusiasm. Nevertheless, many symbolic and humorous posters were judged to be outstanding in national poster competitions during the war,” according to the National Archives web site.

The posters were created by some of the leading illustrators and photographers of the day, including Norman Rockwell.

“They encouraged the country to pull together and sacrifice,” Neely says. “I would think that they were really effective because they still survive today.”

The messages encouraged Americans to recycle materials and conserve their usage of materials needed in the war effort. They promote buying war bonds to help fund the war. They warn people to be careful of what they say because it might reach the wrong ears.

“These posters really raised awareness about different things,” says Erik Dorr, curator of the Gettysburg Museum of History. “They were the government’s way of communicating with the masses.”

The posters appeared at a time when Americans needed some direction. They were angry that the U.S. had been attacked. They wanted to help, although many of them were not eligible for military service. These posters served as a constant reminder of what they were fighting for. It helped them believe that the changes they were experiencing were worth it.

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“World War II was a unique time in the history of the country where we were really, really united in one cause,” says Dorr.

Things like gasoline, rubber, kitchen fats, and meat were rationed. Families had to register in order to receive ration books. The coupons in the book allowed the families to be able to purchase different items during certain periods of time and in specified quantities. So strict was rationing that the Gettysburg Times noted that newborn babies needed to be registered at the ration board so that the family would receive additional coupons in order to be able to get needed food items for the child.

Robert Bloom noted is his book, A History of Adams County, Pennsylvania 1700-1990, that Fairfield doctor Ira Henderson dealt with the restrictions rationing caused to driving by using a bicycle to get to his patients’ homes.

Draft boards were set up in New Oxford and Gettysburg to evaluate males for eligibility into the military. As more males went into the military, it created labor shortages at area businesses. Because of this women were encouraged through the propaganda posters to join the workforce. “Poster and film images glorified and glamorized the roles of working women and suggested that a woman`s femininity need not be sacrificed. Whether fulfilling their duty in the home, factory, office, or military, women were portrayed as attractive confident, and resolved to do their part to win the war,” the National Archives web site notes.

The posters encouraged the men and women stateside to become a part of the Civilian Defense Corps. They could serve as air raid warden, nurse’s aides, fire watchers and more. More than 4,000 Adams County residents participated in these war time roles.

Gettysburg even had a POW camp for German prisoners during the war. The prisoners were used to offset some of the labor shortages, but they also needed to be guarded. Dorr’s grandfather, Fred Pfeffer, was Gettysburg’s mayor during the war. Not only did he serve as an air raid warden, he deputized a group of men, including a hunter with a bloodhound, to track down any prisoners who escaped from the camp.

When the war was finally won in 1945 and the country celebrated its victory, they were celebrating not only the return of their loved ones but the fact that their sacrifices at home had paid off.

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