It’s 1941, weeks after Pearl Harbor, yet Christmas went on in Richmond

The courthouse at Christmastime in the 1940s.

The courthouse at Christmastime in the 1940s.

By Linda Emley

Ithink by now everyone knows I live in the past most of the time. I love the good-ol’ days and the way things were before modern tech knowledge changed our world.

There is one modern convenience I can’t live without and it’s the Internet. When I sit down to research a story, I usually have several details to find to wrap my stories together. I also use many different people for the rest of the story.

In 2014, I lost three of my top five research people, my dad, Milford Wyss and Johnny Crouch. I would have used my dad for this picture to see what year these cars are to help me date the picture. I still have my mother and Steve Hitchcock as my two remaining history people. My mother is 85 and has always lived in Richmond, so she is a valuable local history source. Steve, better known as “Hitch,” is my own version of everything history. I call him “Google Hitch.”

Another one of my favorite sources of local history is old newspapers. Since I wanted to use this picture, I went and pulled the 1941 Richmond Missourian off the shelf to see what was going on in Richmond as Christmas rolled around in 1941. As usual, the pages were covered with lots of wonderful stories.

And we can’t forget the newspaper ads. Dec. 11, 1941: “Rhythm And Frolic Headquarters Featuring ELMER-RADD and his Cotton Club Orchestra. American Legion Hall. Richmond, Mo. Saturday, Dec. 13, 9 p.m. ‘til ???”

I flipped a few pages ahead to the Dec. 15 paper to see if there was any news about the American Legion dance. I didn’t find any mention, but I did find that Elmer Radd had another gig. “DANCE Friday, Dec. 15 at M. & H. Cafe, Camden, Mo., where the crowd goes every Friday night. Music by ELMER RADD and his Orchestra. Newly Decorated. Plenty of Seats.”

So now I have a couple of new items on my list of things to find. Who was Elmer Radd and where was the M & H Cafe? I did a quick search of the “World Wide Web” and found the following blog by a person who goes by the name of “Thy Greek Goddess.” It said, “Elmer Radd’s Cotton Club Orchestra. Elmer Radd raised our Uncle Buster, but I don’t know who was in the group yet.  I think there might have been some cousins playing in the group, but let me get the links here and figure when I get back in touch with Lexington.”

After going to the Web site “Find a Grave,” I may have found Elmer Radd. An Elmer L. Radd is buried in the Forest Grove Cemetery in Lafayette County. He was born April 3, 1909 and died Dec. 6, 1976. I now have a good start to a story about Elmer Radd and his Cotton Club Band.

One of my favorite things to do with old newspapers is to see what was playing at the Farris Theatre. The Dec. 15 edition had it on the front page of the paper. “At the Farris Theater. Tonight, last showing – ‘The Bride Came C.O.D.’ with James Cagney and the March of Time newsreel. Tuesday, Dec. 16 – ‘High Sierra’ with Humphrey Bogart. Serial Newsreel. Wednesday, Thursday Dec. 17-18 – ‘Married Bachelor,’ with Robert Young. ‘Stranger Than Fiction.’ Travelogue. Cartoon. Friday, Saturday, Dec. 19-20 – ‘Six Gun Gold’ with Tim Holt also ‘Great Swindle’ with Jack Holt. Wonders of the Sea, Serial. Cartoons.”

Since my mind is always wondering about the rest of the story, I had to check to see if the Farris was open Christmas day. The Richmond Missourian of Dec. 22 answered this question for me: “Wednesday, Thursday Dec. 24-25 – ‘Shadow of the Thin Man’ with William Powell. Newsreel. Cartoon.”

I was surprised to see the Farris was open Christmas. This made me laugh because my boys and I have a Christmas tradition of sometimes going to see a movie Christmas afternoon. But this does change from year to year depending on what teams are playing football on TV.

Going back to the Dec. 15 newspaper, I found a Christmas story: “Many Registered for the Chief’s Tree. Pete VanMeter, Richmond fire chief, told the Missourian today that over 200 children have been registered for gifts from the fire chief’s Christmas tree. He and other members of the Richmond Fire Department are working many hours repairing and painting used toys that are being donated to make many children happy at Christmas. They will appreciate all toys that are donated.”

A follow-up article Dec. 22 gave a few more details: “Fire Chief’s Xmas Tree at City Hall is Tuesday night. Plans are complete for the annual fire chief’s Christmas tree at the City Hall at 7:30 o’clock Tuesday evening, when many needy children who have been registered will be made happy through gifts of toys and candy, which has been made possible through the efforts of Fire Chief Pete VanMeter and his assistants, and the cooperation of local citizens. The firemen have been working several months, repairing and painting discarded toys that have been donated for the purpose.”

On Dec. 29, we got the final details. “Total of 218 Given XMAS Toys, Candy. At total of 218 children attended the Fire Chief’s Christmas Tree in the evening of Dec. 23, and received presents of toys and candy. This was one of the largest number ever to attend. Peter VanMeter, Richmond fire chief, expressed his appreciation to all whose contributions made the event possible, and especially to the merchants of Richmond who were especially generous in their support.”

This was a very nice gesture for those 218 children, but I wonder if there was a Santa handing out the gifts and if they were wondering why they got presents on the 23rd instead of the 25th.

Since I randomly picked up the 1941 Richmond Missourian, I hadn’t thought about what else was going on at the same time. But that changed when I looked at the Dec. 22 issue: “Two Sons of Charles Skiles Are Reported Missing in Action. Mr. and Mrs. Charles Skiles of northwest of Richmond received a telegram from the Navy Department yesterday that their sons, Eugene Skiles and Charles Skiles, Jr., who were serving on the battleship Arizona, are missing after the attack at Pearl Harbor. Both young men, who had enlisted for service in the Navy, had been attached to the Pacific Fleet for some time.

“It was reported in Richmond this afternoon that Gerald Skiles, a son of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Skiles, a sailor on the U.S.S. Oklahoma at Pearl Harbor, was reported as missing.”

Gerald Skiles was Eugene and Charles’ cousin.

Yes, country was feeling the pain of World War II. Page eight of the Dec. 22 Missourian had an ad from the Emley Grocery store that warmed my heart. “Peace on Earth … in troubled times the old Christmas greetings have a very special significance. To all of you we wish a Happy Christmas and peace for prosperity in 1942. EMLEY’S Grocery – Fast Delivery.”

H.L. and Hazel Emley knew firsthand about the trying times of World War II because their son, Paul Casper Emley, was a soldier serving his country. Our dear “Uncle Paul” ended up being a “lifer” in the U.S. Army. When he was laid to rest in 1990, my Emley boys and I went to Arlington Cemetery and paid our final respects. We will never forget the pride we felt that day at Arlington. “Paul C. Emley, Col., US Army, World War II, Korea, June 22, 1921 to Feb 15, 1990.” RIP Uncle Paul.

The war was raging, but life in Ray County was still going on. The Dec. 25, 1941 Richmond Missourian proves this. I found this in the Christmas Day edition: “Two amateur boxers fought in the Golden Gloves bouts on Monday evening at the Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City who were coached by Joe Sandals of Richmond. They were Harry Dale of Richmond in the lightweight class, who dropped a decision to Taylor of the A.A.W. Athletic club over a three-round route … and Phillip Moreland, 198 pounds, of Lexington, who was (also) coached by Sandals, defeated Charles Vandiver, 200 pounds, of the Gateway Athletic club of Kansas City. Moreland will fight again on Monday, Dec. 29 at Kansas City.”

Harry Allen Dale later went off to serve during World War II. I’m still checking to see what Phillip Moreland had coming up in his future.

So my final question of the day is, did they really print the newspaper on Christmas? And the answer is, “THIS ISSUE PRINTED ON ONE DAY EARLIER. As Thursday of this week is Christmas Day, this issue of the Missourian is being printed one earlier on Wednesday evening. Members of the Missourian staff extend cordial holiday greetings to their readers.”


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