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  However, all of the buildings to the left of the church are gone and have been replaced by parking lots.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.

First Congregational Church, Southington, Connecticut (1)

The First Congregational Church of Southington, seen from the town green in May 1942. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, FSA-OWI Collection.

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The church in 2015:

The caption of the first photo reads, “Southington, Connecticut. The First Congregational church, oldest of the town’s eleven churches looks substantially the same as when it was erected in 1830.”  In the 73 years since the first photo was taken, the church still hasn’t changed much, and its design is very similar to several other historic churches in Connecticut.  Its Greek Revival style architecture was popular for early 19th century New England churches, and this building was one of six in the state that were built between 1817 and 1830, using essentially the same design. Located in Old Lyme, Milford, Cheshire, Litchfield, and Guilford, all of these are still standing, although the one in Old Lyme is a replica of the original, which burned in 1907.

One noticeable difference between the two photos here is that the church is now partially hidden by a large oak tree.  However, the tree is actually visible in the first photo; it was planted in 1935 as the Tercentenary Tree, marking the 300th anniversary of the founding of Connecticut.  It is probably only about 8-10 feet tall in the first photo, and can be seen just to the right of the corner of the church.  It is still standing after 80 years, and it still has a plaque next to it, indicating that it was planted by the Hannah Woodruff Chapter of the D.A.R.

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.

Center Street, Southington, Connecticut

Looking toward Center Street from the town green in Southington in May 1942. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, FSA-OWI Collection.

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Center Street in 2015:

Many of the buildings in the first photo are similar to the ones today, but most of them are gone.  The only one left seems to be the one on the far left, which once housed the First National Stores (Finast) grocery store.  In the 1942 photo, it is advertised as “Self Service” on the sign, differentiating it from other grocery stores where the customer would be served by a clerk behind the counter.  Finast, by contrast, was much like a modern grocery store where customers would walk through the store with a shopping cart, picking what they want and then paying at the checkout counter.  A few 1942 photos of the interior of the store can be seen here on the Library of Congress website.

On the other side of Court Street there was another grocery store, The Fulton Markets.  The building was on the left of the 1942, and it has since been replaced with a modern one-story commercial building.  This store evidently had slightly higher prices than Finast; signs in the windows indicate that their smoked shoulders were 33 cents per pound, as opposed to 31 cents at Finast.  Likewise, “milk fed fowl” was also 33 cents at Fulton and 31 cents at Finast, although the sign in the window at Fulton indicates that they are “fancy fowl,” so perhaps the fact that the meat is “fancy” justifies the extra two cents.  Other meats that were available at Fulton included “fresh ground chopped steak” for 25 cents, lamb patties for 37 cents, and “fresh made pure pork sausages” for 35 cents per pound.  They also had “Kooling Soda” available, 4 for 29 cents.

Although World War II had begun less than six months earlier, Americans were already starting to see it affect their grocery shopping.  Just a few weeks before the first photo was taken, sugar became the first grocery product to be rationed; each individual was limited to half a pound per week.  This seems like it would be a lot of sugar, but apparently it was only half of the average consumption prior to the rationing.  Before the end of the year, coffee would also be rationed, limiting each person to one pound every five weeks.  By the end of 1943, rationing would be extended to many other grocery store items, including meat, cheese, butter, cooking oil, processed foods, and dried fruit.

Other businesses visible in the 1942 photo include Capitol Shoe Repairing, Federated Stores, Levy’s (a children’s clothing store), and W.T. Grant (a discount department store).  Today, not only are all of the buildings gone, but most of the businesses themselves no longer exist.  One possible exception, though, might be Federated Stores; Macy’s was originally founded in 1929 as Federated Department Stores, but I’m not sure if this is the same company as the one seen in the first photo.  As for Finast, the grocery store company once had locations throughout the northeast, but it would later go through several mergers, eventually becoming part of Stop & Shop.

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.