On the Home Front: The Waverly Community House & World War II

“These are probably the most serious days that any citizen of this country has lived through since the Civil War. We feel that for the duration, our biggest task is the fullest cooperation with the Defense Effort– and to this end, we dedicate the use of every facility of the Waverly Community House and its staff.” (Community House Board of Trustees, 1943)

In the early 1940’s, the United States approached a time of significant political and social change with its involvement in the Second World War; after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, daily life throughout the nation was considerably transformed. As the country’s landscape dramatically altered, and as men and women left the tight knit community to serve in the United States Armed Forces, the Waverly Community House remained a symbolic structure of resilience for both those on the home front, and those serving the US. It was during this pivotal time in history that the Comm adapted to meet the needs of the community by adopting various new programs, events, and activities aimed at taking on America’s new landscape and providing various critical services to both the local region, and the country as a whole.


The Waverly Community House WWII Newsletter

Perhaps one of the most notable contributions made by the Waverly Community House during World War II was the Home Town Newsletter. As men and women began to enlist in the Armed Forces, they became stationed in different areas throughout both the US and abroad; it wasn’t long before those away from home began to miss their friends and families in their close knit community. In 1942, Waverly Community House Executive Director Robert Dixon, along with various staff members, created a monthly newsletter to alleviate some of the detachment felt by those away from friends and family. Dixon and staff worked hard to compile a list of names and addresses of those serving in the Armed Forces and soon began distributing the monthly newsletters to as many men and women as possible. It quickly became treasured among all who received it and was produced throughout the duration of the entire war.

The structure of the newsletter was revolved around keeping those “out of the loop” on community related events and relationships informed on all transpiring within Waverly and the surrounding areas. It was also designed to keep those at home up to date on those away from home; thus ensuring that no one ever felt entirely disconnected from one another. The “Bits from Home” section was devoted to all of the aforementioned events including but not limited to: engagement and wedding news, Comm related news, the weather at home, birth announcements, and other small town stories. Comparatively, the “Dots and Dashes from Servicemen’s Flashes” section aimed at providing those at home brief updates on those currently serving the country, often in their own words. Concluding each newsletter was a list of the addresses of those scattered around the world so that recipients could keep in contact with friends and family. Through these newsletters, community members near and far could still feel the companionship of their beloved friends and family members even during a time of conflict and instability. These publications also served as a boost to the morale of those who were stationed away and their fellow soldiers unfamiliar with Waverly became amazed at the closeness of the community.

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Quotes from the WCH Home Town Newsletters:

“This newsletter is the first of a series that your hometown hopes to issue from time to time. Its purpose is simple: to make you feel that you are the same vital part of the community that you always have been, to strengthen the ties with your friends in the service by keeping you informed of their location and activities, and to assure you that we at home firmly believe in the cause for which you are making sacrifices and undergoing hardships. We are determined to do all in our power to bring the War to a speedy and victorious end.” (Newsletter No. 1, 1942)

“Your prefect description in last month’s newsletter of Waverly in the springtime did make me homesick, yes. But, at the same time (and I hope this doesn’t sound as though I am blowing the patriotic horn), I felt that this was a description of the kind of home for which we are willing to fight.” (Richard Stoeckel, “Dots and Dashes,” July 1943)

“People didn’t seem to understand what I was talking about when I spoke of the Community House, and the picture in the latest newsletter was the solution to my problem. My fellow nurses here fell for the names of the boys and they are wondering if you will ever put their pictures in your letters.” (Barbara White, “Dots and Dashes,” Jan. 1944)

“My buddies had never heard of Waverly, PA before but right now, thanks to such things as the newsletter and the Christmas package, they know what and where Waverly is, and many wish they lived there.” (John Hull, “Dots and Dashes,” Jan. 1944)


gsIn addition to the treasured newsletter, the Waverly Community House remained devoted to serving the local region and country in various ways during the duration of the War; programs and activities were structured towards engaging the community to stay actively involved in efforts revolved around WWII. One example of such an activity was the salvaging of metal and paper for the war effort; notices titled “Salvage News” were distributed throughout the neighborhood encouraging residents to save and donate items such as: newspapers, magazines, license plates, metal cans and more. The local Boy Scouts would then assemble in the Comm Lobby and collect such items. Defense meetings were also held at the Comm and focused on the possibility of an invasion on United States territory. The Community House truck’s dinner bell served as an impending signal for the possibility of such an attack and staff member Joe Dixon often drove around completing test drills; this was designed to adequately prepare those at home for a possible invasion. The local Girl Scouts also became involved on the home front by knitting afghans, sweaters, and socks for soldiers under the direction of Comm staff. The Comm even had a bulletin board designated for defense activity postings to keep those informed and up to date on the latest events and programs. These were simply a few of the ways that the Waverly Community House stood as a symbol of resilience and companionship during a time of conflict and uncertainty.

As we all know, World War II ended in 1945; slowly but surely, life in Waverly went back to normal as those in the community uttered a sigh of relief for the end of the conflict. Daily operations at the Community House also returned to normalcy and the 25th Anniversary that had since gone past during the duration of the War stood as a reminder of the organization’s dedication to community members near and far. The Comm remains symbolic of that dedication and civic responsibility many years later as the nation is confronted with different concerns affecting the mindset of its citizens. As the Waverly Community House approaches its centennial anniversary, it is indicative of its everlasting mission to serve the community of all ages, throughout all stages of daily life.


Final Home Town Newsletter, 1945

“In bringing another newsletter to its close, we would like to extend to each one of you our sincere appreciation and congratulations on a job well done in the good old American way. We are mindful of the fact that many of you did not get into combat, which, of course, does not diminish in any way your contribution as we have learned that it takes the “teamwork of every bloomin’ soul,” to do the job that has been accomplished so successfully. May your future days in the service be very limited in number so that you can return soon to the life of peace that you have earned the hard way. All of us are waiting patiently to see you and to say, “Hiyah Fellow.” (Waverly Community House)

 

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