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In 1945, war overshadowed Easter, but not power of faith

By Linda Emley

This postcard was mailed from Richmond on April 13,1906 to Miss Minnie Mehl in Lexington. (Submitted photo)

In 1945, Easter Sunday was on the first day of April. I got out the Richmond Missourian newspaper and looked up what was happening in Richmond for Easter. I didn’t find many Easter stories and then I remembered that we were in the middle of World War II so it was understandable that the headlines were not talking about Easter celebrations.
I did find a few interesting Easter stories. The Dockery 4-H Club was having an Easter Party. “The Dockery Willing Workers 4-H club met March 16 with 12 members and one visitor present. Games were played and the group sang. Plans for an Easter party were made, to be on April 1 at 7:30.”
I was surprised to see their party was being held on Easter Sunday night. In our modern world, we tend to have parties on days other than the actual holiday. We reserve Sunday for church services and family dinners.
The Farris Theater was even open for business on Easter Sunday in 1945. “At the Movies – Sunday, Monday April 1 (and) 2 – Matinee Sunday afternoon at 2:30 – ‘Janie’ with Joyce Reynolds. The Unruly Hare cartoon. Newsreel.”
The only special Easter Church Service I found was in Henrietta. “Will Present Easter Cantata at Henrietta Methodist Church. The Easter Cantata entitled ‘The Thorn-Crowned King’ by Fred B. Holton will be given at the Henrietta Methodist Church next Sunday at 8 p.m. A mixed choir composed of young people and adults will sing under the direction of Miss Hazel Babylon, music instructor in the Henrietta school. The King’s Daughters Sunday School class is sponsoring the cantata. The public is cordially invited.”
A few days after Easter, the Missourian did have a few personal notes on what some Ray Countians did on Easter Sunday. “Attended Easter Service at Rayville. Several from here attended the Easter Service at the Rayville Primitive Baptist Church. Among them were Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Schooler, Charles Brown, Mr. and Mrs. Edgar James, Mr. and Mrs. Joe Crowley, Miss Joan Ottman, Mrs. Ada M. Neville, Elder and Mrs. Botts and Mr. and Mrs. Russell Brown of Sedalia were also present. Services are held at the Rayville church every first Sunday and the public is invited to attend.”
This article is special to me because Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Schooler – William Alfred and Nellie Jane Campbell Schooler –were my great-grandparents. William Alfred Schooler died the same year I was born in 1956. He died in January and I was born in November so I didn’t get to know him but I’ve enjoyed many stories about him from my family.
I did know my great-grandmother, Nellie Jane, because she was a part of my life for 15 years. She was born in 1877 and lived ‘till 1971. I have often thought about all the changes she saw in her life. She was born a few years after the Civil War and lived to see men walk on the moon.
When she was born, few people had their pictures taken and then she watched men on the moon from our TV set. I remember her making the comment that she really did not believe there were men on the moon. Like many other Americans, she wondered if it was just a movie and not real NASA space footage.
I have some old letters that my Granny Schooler received from Mr. and Mrs. Botts after they moved away from Ray County. When I first read them, I was confused why they referred to themselves as Brother and Sister Botts. After I read more about the Primitive Baptist Church, I realized this is how they addressed each other.
Primitive Baptist were also known as Missionary Baptist and Old School Baptist. They were different from other Baptist sects. They were very simple and did not believe in wearing lots of jewelry and sometimes used straight pins instead of fancy buttons on their clothing. This made their dresses look simple instead of fancy. Primitive Baptist church services were usually ‘A cappella’ which means they sang hymns without using musical instruments. They did not believe in having any piano playing in their church service.
On the religion page of the newspaper, I found a story about an actor who was using his popularity to help fight World War II. “In a recent broadcast, Comedian Eddie Cantor took time out to say some things which many people felt – but can’t say so well as he did. You know victory is just a prayer away. The physical implements of war are speeding to our men in ever-increasing strength. But let us send them, too, the spiritual implements. Our faith, our love, our prayers. Let us go to our churches … now, today, tomorrow. You to yours, I to mine … God is always there … and peace may come one day sooner if you will work for it and pray for it at your church, synagogue and at home. The church lives for you. In lands of tyranny, when all the institutions of civilization – science, art and government – succumbed to the will of the oppressor, it was religion that alone stood our and resisted evil. So let us fill the churches with our prayers for a just and lasting peace … Let our pleas be heard around the world so that within the churches of the conquered countries they will hear and know that a greater day is coming for all people … everywhere. That through prayer we will be united … with peace on earth … and good will toward men of good will.”
Eddie Cantor had a way with words and one of his play on words is still with us today. Eddie invited the phrase ‘March of Dimes”. At a fundraiser in 1938, Cantor jokingly asked America to send dimes to help President Roosevelt’s fight against polio. Roosevelt was a victim of polio and sponsored many projects in his effort to help rid the world of it. The White House was flooded with 2,680,000 dimes and the term “March of Dimes” was born. Cantor was comparing the fund drive to the newsreels of 1938 that were called “March of Times.”
Eddie Cantor appeared in many movies and was given a honorary Academy Award in 1964. We is also credited with being the first person to be censored on T.V. On May 25, 1944 he was a guest on a TV show and was scheduled to sing “We’re Havin’ a Baby, My Baby and Me.”
NBC tried to get Eddie to cut the song because they considered it too risqué. Cantor refused to change his show so NBC cut the sound and blurred part of his performance.
The March of Dimes Foundation is a million-dollar program and is one of the most successful non-profit organizations in America. After they won the battle against polio, they changed their focus and now help fight birth defects.
As we spend time with our family and loved ones this Easter weekend, please remember the words of Eddie Cantor from 1945: “Through prayer we will be united … with peace on earth … and good will toward men of good will.”

You can send Linda holiday wishes at rayc...@aol.com or see her in person at Ray County Museum.

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