The summer of 1940 in Fairview was almost dream-like. A sense prevailed that the economy was getting better following a decade of Depression, but abroad, news was ominous of a country that was running amuck.
For now, in this moment, Fairview, Erie County, and the United States in general, was holding its breath – waiting, waiting.
The war in Europe had begun the September before when France and England, both allies of Poland, would not accept Germany’s invasion of Poland without a fight. U.S. President Roosevelt realized this aggression could affect America. He began to take steps to prepare for what might be the inevitable.
Here in Fairview Claire Getz on Avonia Road reflected the feelings of her acquaintances when she said that they had a “safe feeling.” Surely the U.S. would not get involved in the war in Europe. Many folks around the township still regretted our entry into World War I, and some had family members who fought in it. Three of our fine young men died in battle: Elmer Goetz, Lawrence Roland and Russell Silverthorn.
By this year some of our fine young men were still working for the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in distant camps. They would be home for the holidays later in the year. The president had declared this was the year of “Travel in America,” but fingers of the Depression still touched Americans, and few had money to travel. Members of Fairview’s senior class visited Washington, D.C., however, keeping up a long tradition.
Others who could travel might have included a visit to Flushing Meadows in Queens, New York, where the second year of the World’s Fair had opened on May 11. The theme was “World of Tomorrow” and those who went were astounded at the new gadgets, electronics, and whatnots that were on display. The opening year (1939) President Roosevelt had given a live presentation on something called television. Since receivers were not being produced just then it’s hard to tell how many saw the program. Radio was still the big, big entertainment in the homes across America. Among the favorites was the Charlie McCarthy Show. It is hard to imagine in this 21st Century how a ventriloquist performing on the radio could captivate an audience.
On June 5 Germany invaded France. Paris fell on June 14.
That summer live entertainment was not overlooked in the township. A group from New York City called “the Phoenix Players” opened for a ten-week season at the Lake Erie Summer Theater, a.k.a., the Barn Theater (sponsored by George and Helen Taylor who owned the White Swan Dairy on West Lake Road). Noel Coward plays were always well received. This was the group’s second season and they would return one more summer before gas shortages due to the demands of World War II shut down both the theater and the dairy farm. “Blessings on our friends the Taylors for grand memories,” wrote one of the thespians in the White Swan Farm Guest Book at the end of that season.
As usual, the Fairview Community Band was well booked for the summer. There was the Firemen’s Picnic, a carnival, an ice cream social and events at Albion, Lake City, Erie and Girard. Other groups held dances at Willowbrook on Ruhl Road.
Not long after school opened that fall the new national Selective Training and Service Act was signed that required men between 21 – 35 to sign up for military training. Registration began a month later and about two weeks after that the first number was pulled – 158. It was the first peacetime draft in the nation’s history.
It was hard to keep that “safe feeling” when our government was making so many moves to prepare for war. Germany began an air attack on Great Britain, the last holdout. It developed into an air blitz on London and Roosevelt began work on the idea of a “lend-lease” program to help our British friends, that is, lending our military equipment and expecting to get it back after the war…. Like a neighbor with a house fire borrowing our water hose, then returning it after the fire was out.
Our Fairview businesses remained open to serve the community: Cobb’s store in the Avonia area; Hauck’s General Store, Weislogel’s and the Red & White (both grocery stores); the Fairview Garage; the Fairview Hardware; the Barber Shop; Howard’s Tavern and the Fairview Diner, both on Main Street; Gladys Leopold’s Beauty Salon; The Fairview Hotel; the General Store at Sterrettania, the Herbol Insurance office; and so many more.
There was a presidential election that year. It was hard to imagine life without Franklin Delano Roosevelt, he had been such a presence in the previous eight years, and he seemed to be extremely well informed about foreign affairs. There was talk of electing him for a third term, but the Republicans had a few good possible candidates, too. On election day the feeling was that it was better to go with someone we knew.
By the end of the year we had been alerted that our country was the “arsenal of democracy” to the world in a Fireside Chat by our newly re-elected president.
Fairview folks would have a good Christmas that year, the best in many years, and the best in many years to come.
Note: the featured photo is from the 1940 World’s Fair. The women are staffers, ready for work. Note the statues in the background; they are part of the exhibit at the Fair.