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WILSON, N.C. – Traveling back in time on May 1, Barton College honored the faculty, staff, and students of the 1940s with “Founders’ Day 2009: Celebrating the Era of World War II.”
A memorabilia tent on center campus greeted guests as they arrived, and newspaper clippings and yearbooks from the World War II period brought back memories of bygone days. Junior Deese, a World War II collector and parent of Barton senior Ben Deese, displayed his collection of German and American ordnance, including a flamethrower and a Willy jeep.
At noon, “Reveille,” played by Jim Bradshaw of the Barton College/Wilson Symphony Orchestra, called attendees to assemble in the large pavilion tent for lunch. Beginning the program, Billy Leegins and Vann Raper of American Legion Post 13 presented our national and state colors; and Barton College President Norval Kneten led the assembled in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Dr. Jeff Broadwater, professor and chair of the department of history and social studies, shared interesting facts about the wartime period: “It was a simpler, if not necessarily an easier, time. Cokes sold for $.05. You could rent a house for $35 a month; you could buy a house for less than $4,000. The average new car sold for a fraction of that.”
Broadwater recalled the launchings of M&M’s and McDonald’s and the death of actor Tom Mix against the backdrop of war and unrest on the other side of the world. This political turmoil led to the cancellation of the 1940 Olympic games and in America the beginning of a peacetime draft. Despite the protests of a campus pacifist movement, the draft sent many of the College’s males off to war.
In a conversation after the program, alumnus Dr. John Goff, Jr. (’47) described the College’s wartime campus as matriarchal: “There weren’t any guys here, so the women ran the show,” he said.
“There were about 300 girls and 25 boys,” recalled alumna Aileen Reel (’47) Parish.
In spite of the dark backdrop of war, Miriam “Mickey” Moore (’47) Dunn had pleasant memories of the time: “It was wonderful, except for the war. We didn’t have a lot of boys. We had a lot of girls, and we had a lot of fun. We didn’t think about having to do without. We rationed sugar, shoes – you name it.
“I can remember trying to go home on the weekends; and if there were service men in line, I had to stand back and wait for them to board first. Never thought a thing about it,” said Dunn.
Following Broadwater’s “fast facts,” senior Lizzie Stafford read an article from the May 15, 1943, issue of “The Collegiate,” describing wartime mail in the campus post office.
“Of the 231 letters going out that same day, around two-thirds of them were addressed to men in the Army, Navy, or Marines.”
Freshman Alex Minton sang “America the Beautiful”; then, senior David King shared draft and conscientious objector information from “Barton College: Our Century” by Dr. Jerry MacLean.
“Ironically,” King read, “Marvin Jackson, class of 1937, who initially requested conscientious objector status, changed his mind, enlisted, and became ACC’s first student, or former student, killed in the war.”
Next, junior Nathanael Shelton read an article written by Georgia Brewer (’36) Campion for the Atlantic Christian College column in the North Carolina Christian,” which told of then-senior Howard Blake’s (’43) efforts to enter the Naval Reserve.
“He spent the whole summer trying to get his weight up to the minimum required by the Naval Reserve of 132 pounds, but all he could get was 128. However, four pounds of bananas eaten on the morning of his physical examination got him by,” quipped the author.
A slideshow prepared by Keith Tew, Barton’s director of publications, followed the readings and presented images of the College from the war era, accompanied by swing music from the same period. The nostalgic tunes, to the delight of the rest of the audience, led alumna Etta Rae Tyndall (’47) Oliver and husband James to give an impromptu display of their dancing skills.
Barton College junior Jensen Davis’ reading from a Sept. 30, 1942, article in “The Collegiate,” spoke of students picking cotton to help local farmers harvest their crops. Senior Emily Jamieson shared the dedication of 1943′s “The Pine Knot,” written in honor of the boys who had gone to war.
“During the past several months, those of our boys who had not previously registered did so, and they will be in the various branches of the service – on the land, in the air, on the seas – doing their bit to preserve for our country all the principles of democracy about which they have learned at Atlantic Christian College.
“Our hearts are with the boys who have gone out from Atlantic Christian College. It is to them that we would dedicate this book,” read Jamieson.
Calling the event “a wonderful way to commemorate a time that so many of us will never forget,” Barton College President Norval Kneten closed the program and invited the Rev. Hollie Woodruff, chaplain of the College, to lead the singing of the alma mater.
More than 60 years after the horrors and victories of World War II, Barton College remembers those who fought, rationed, and sacrificed for the freedoms we enjoy today. Acknowledging a debt we can never fully repay, we humbly say, “Thank you.”
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