Saint Thomas Cemetery, Southington, Connecticut (1)

The All Souls’ Day Catholic Mass at the Saint Thomas Cemetery in Southington, in May 1942. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, FSA-OWI Collection.

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The cemetery in 2015:

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Many of Charles Fenno Jacobs’s Southington photos were taken here in Saint Thomas Cemetery, probably with the intent of promoting goodwill toward Americans from European Catholics.  His original caption reads: “Southington, Connecticut. On All Soul’s Day the Catholic congregation is gathering in the Saint Thomas cemetery for an outdoor Mass which in 1942 was officiated by the Reverend Francis J. Mihalek.”  Today, as is the case with most then and now photos of cemeteries, not much has changed, except for the addition of a few more names on the headstone in the foreground.

Beecher Street School, Southington, Connecticut (3)

Another view of the students at Southington’s Beecher Street School, taken in May 1942. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, FSA-OWI Collection.

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The school in 2015:

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This is a rather depressing contrast, with a field full of schoolchildren in one photo, and an abandoned parking lot with cracked pavement and overgrown weeds in front of a vacant former school building in the second scene.  The first one was one of a number taken at the Beecher Street School by the Office of War Information during World War II, and the first photo is captioned: “Southington, Connecticut. At Beecher Street School, whose student body consists half of Americans of Italian descent and half of Americans of Polish descent. The Queen of May was Emily Shuvak, of Polish extraction; the King was Philip D’Agostino, of Italian descent.”

Assuming it is the same person, Philip D’Agostino was about 13 years old at the time.  He was a local baseball star who turned down a minor league contract for the Brooklyn Dodgers and later served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War.  Much later on, he served as Southington’s police chief from 1983 until 1991, and he died in 2008 at the age of 78.  The school building is still standing today; it was last used as the school department offices, and although now vacant it is planned to be redeveloped into apartment units.

Beecher Street School, Southington, Connecticut (2)

Another color photo of students at the Beecher Street School, in May 1942. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, FSA-OWI Collection.

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The scene in 2015:

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The caption of the original photo is “Children stage a patriotic demonstration, Southington, Conn.”  Like the one in the previous post, it was taken at the Beecher Street School, and was probably intended by the Office of War Information to show the patriotic zeal that even young American children display.  At the time, the Beecher Street School was an elementary school; it had been built in 1911, and it would later be converted into offices for the school department.  The students in the 1942 photo would be in their 80s today, and the school building itself now stands vacant, although it was purchased by a private company last year to redevelop into apartment units.

Beecher Street School, Southington, Connecticut (1)

Students in front of Beecher Street School in Southington, in May 1942. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, FSA-OWI Collection.

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The school in 2015:

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The first photo is one of several color photos taken by the Office of War Information of the people of Southington during World War II.  The original caption reads, “School children, half of Polish and half of Italian descent, at a festival in May 1942, Southington, Conn.”  As with the other photos in the collection, it was intended for a pamphlet, which would be distributed overseas in order to gain support for the American cause.  The mention of Italian and Polish students is probably deliberate, because at the time Italy was allied with Germany and Poland was under German occupation.

Built in 1911, the Beecher Street School was an elementary school for many years, and more recently it was used by the school department for their central offices.  As of 2015 it is vacant, and the overgrown weeds and cracked pavement paint a bleak picture, in stark contrast to the original photo.  However, last year the historic school was sold to a private company, who plans to convert it into housing units.

School Children in Southington, Connecticut

A group of children, made up of teenagers and younger children, on the town green in Southington in May 1942. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, FSA-OWI Collection.

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The scene in 2015:

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The caption of the first photo is “Southington school children staging a patriotic demonstration,” and it is probably related to the town’s Memorial Day observances.  It is part of a series of photos taken in Southington by the Office of War Information, to be published in a propaganda pamphlet overseas.  The intent of this photo was probably to show American sympathizers and other potential allies about the patriotism expressed even by young children, although the only overt display of patriotism in this particular scene is the American flag that the young girl on the tricycle is holding.

Today, the scene has not changed too much.  The two buildings in the background are still there: the town hall on the left, and a brick commercial building on the right.  The town hall opened less than six months before the first photo was taken, and it is still in use today, and the commercial building was probably built in the early 1900s.  The storefront once housed Southington’s post office, and in the 2015 photo it is apparently vacant and boarded up.  Both buildings can also be seen in this post, which was taken from a similar angle.

Drum Corps, Southington, Connecticut (3)

Another photo of members of a youth drum corps in Southington, sitting on a park bench on the town green in May 1942. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, FSA-OWI Collection.

The scene in 2015:

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During his visit to Southington for the Office of War Information, Charles Fenno Jacobs took a number of photos of the local youth drum corps at the Memorial Day parade, perhaps to show the patriotic zeal of American youngsters.  Similar photos can be seen here and here, and they give a glimpse into the life of Americans at the beginning of World War II.  The four girls in the 1942 photo were probably in high school at the time, perhaps with fathers, brothers, or even boyfriends who had either already enlisted or maybe were facing the possibility of enlisting into the military. The outcome of the war was obviously very uncertain at the time; it had been less than a month since Pearl Harbor and it was just over a week before the decisive Battle of Midway would be fought in the Pacific Ocean.

Today, the four girls would be close to 90 years old, and while the bench is gone, the rest of the scene is relatively unchanged.  To the left is the Southington Town Hall, which was dedicated on December 13, 1941, less than a week after Pearl Harbor and less than six months before the first photo was taken.  To the right is a brick commercial building that once housed the town’s Post Office.  Both buildings are still there, and the Town Hall is still in use over 70 years later.