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:

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.

Drum Corps, Southington, Connecticut (2)

Members of a youth drum corps on the town green in Southington in May 1942. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, FSA-OWI Collection.


The scene in 2015:

Very similar to the angle in this post, the 1942 photo here shows members of a fife and drum corps at the 1942 Memorial Day parade. They are probably in high school, and they may be some of the same people seen in this post.  Today, the church is still there, as is the Town Hall to the right, although it isn’t visible in the 2015 photo.  However, all of the buildings to the left of the church are gone and have been replaced by parking lots.  As mentioned in the previous post, the tree in front of the church was standing in 1942; it had been planted in 1935 and can barely be seen beyond the bicycle in the lower center of the first photo.

Memorial Day Parade, Southington, Connecticut

A view of the spectators at the Memorial Day parade on Main Street in Southington in May 1942. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The scene in 2015:

The first photo was taken by Charles Fenno Jacobs for the Office of War Information as part of the agency’s efforts to document life in a “typical” American town.  Some of the photos were distributed overseas as part of a pamphlet to promote American ideas of freedom, democracy, and equality.  This particular scene emphasizes the patriotism found in America, with the original caption reading, “Southington, Connecticut. An American town and its way of life. The Memorial Day parade moving down the main street. The small number of spectators is accounted for by the fact that the town’s war factories did not close.”  Even the caption has some subtle wording; the “small number of spectators” reference is clearly intended to imply that this large gathering is small by American standards.

The photo shows the Memorial Day spectators watching the parade from the town green, with the Soldiers’ Monument in the distance to the left and the First Congregational Church on the right side of the photo.  The scene in the foreground is interesting; the group on the left appears to be posing for a photo, with the young man in the band uniform as the photographer.  In between them, the girl in the white dress looks like she is crying; perhaps she is upset that she was left out of the photo, or perhaps she was left out of the photo because she was crying about not wanting to be in it.

Today, the church is still there, but most of the other buildings along Main Street are gone.  The place where the crowds once stood on the green is now the site of the town’s monument for veterans of World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.  On the other side of the monument are the names of all the men and women from Southington who served in those wars; undoubtedly many of the people in the crowd had children, siblings, and/or spouses who were serving in the military in May 1942 and whose names now appear on the monument.

Drum Corps, Southington, Connecticut (1)

Members of a youth drum corps on the town green in Southington, in May 1942. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, FSA-OWI Collection.

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The same spot in 2015:

The first photo shows members of a local fife and drum corps on the town green, probably preparing for the town’s Memorial Day parade.  The girls in the photo are not identified, but they were probably students at Southington High School.  Today, the green is still a prominent fixture in the center of Southington, but aside from the First Congregational Church, most of the buildings along Main Street in the first photo are gone.  Some of the girls might still live in Southington; assuming they were in high school in 1942, they would be close to 90 today.

Soldiers’ Monument, Southington, Connecticut

The Soldiers’ Monument in Southington during Memorial Day observances in May 1942. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, FSA-OWI Collection.

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The monument in 2015:

No New England town common is complete without a Civil War monument, and here in Southington the monument is a prominent subject in this photo, taken by the Office of War Information during World War II.  Taken during the town’s 1942 Memorial Day observances, it shows an American Legion honor guard firing a salute in front of the monument.  What makes this monument a little different, though, is that while many include lengthy inscriptions, this one simply reads “The Defenders of Our Union 1861-1865.”

Today, the monument is still there, and nearby on the town common are several others in honor of men and women from Southington who served in World War I, World War II, Korea, and Vietnam.  The surroundings, however, have changed.  The 1942 photo shows the Grand Rapids Furniture store in the background, and to the left of it is a house.  Both buildings are now gone, replaced by a parking lot today.

American Legion, Southington, Connecticut

American Legion members and other spectators watch the 1942 Memorial Day parade in Southington from in front of the American Legion hall.  Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, FSA-OWI Collection.

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The scene in 2015:

As mentioned in previous posts, the Office of War Information thoroughly documented Southington in May 1942, in order to produce a pamphlet to distribute overseas that would show life in a “typical” American town.  Of the nearly 300 photos available online through the Library of Congress, many of them focus on the town’s Memorial Day observances along Main Street.  This was the first Memorial Day after the United States entered World War II, and most of the American Legion members pictured here were probably veterans of World War I.  They were the generation who had fought in World War I, lived through the Great Depression, and were now facing the reality of their sons having to fight World War II; undoubtedly this last thought was on the minds of many of them that day.

Today, the American Legion hall is still there, with new doors and windows but otherwise not much different from 1942.  Some of the members today might be the children of the men in the first photo who served in World War II, or perhaps grandchildren who served in Vietnam a generation later.  At least a few of the young children in the first photo might still live in Southington today; if so, they would be in their late 70s or early 80s by now.