With Our Boys in Service theme for BWAHS meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 8
By LENNY C. LEPOLA
News Assistant Managing Editor
With Our Boys in Service in World War II is the theme for the January Big Walnut Area Historical Society meeting. Following the installation of 2013 officers and a brief business meeting, Myers Inn Museum Curator Polly Horn will present the program at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, January 8, in the meeting room of the Myers Inn Museum at 45 South Columbus Street in Sunbury.
Crippled from childhood, Bill Whitney had to sit with the town ladies and knit socks for soldiers during The Great War. This experience humbled him and left him with a great reverence for the men who fought for our country. Twenty years later when his daughter Polly was learning to knit, Bill would shout across the room, “Knit One, Purl Two”, which was the pattern he used to knit the top of socks for the soldiers.
Years went by, Pearl Harbor was bombed, Bill and Marian Whitney owned The Sunbury News, and once again boys and men from the community were enlisting and being drafted to serve their country. Bill made the decision to give every serviceman from the community a free subscription to the newspaper while they were in the service. In turn he asked the soldiers to write back and tell about their experiences. Bill collected these letters and turned them into a column “With Our Boys in Service” which ran weekly in the newspaper.
Before long the community stretched over much of Delaware County. Women as well as men joined the armed forces. All were eligible for a subscription if the parents sent Bill a military address. Letters went through censorship so they often looked like Swiss cheese when Bill got them; but both military personnel and the folks at home looked forward to keeping up with the war through the eyes of their native sons and daughters.
Early in the war, Bill made an error and demoted a soldier instead of promoting him so he instructed Marian to be sure this did not happen again. She religiously clipped each column and pasted them into a loose-leaf scrapbook which she kept indexed by soldiers’ names. Bill only needed to look in the book to see the last entry for a soldier to know his rank and whereabouts.
At the end of the war the scrapbook was left on the shelf and forgotten. In 1971, when Marian was selling the newspaper to John Whitney and Jack Brehm, Polly was helping her clean out the files and saw the scrapbook tossed in the trash. Marian said it was just a scrapbook of memories no one would be interested in again.
Polly took the scrapbook and kept it at Community Library until she was approaching retirement, and decided it was time to do something about this part of our community history. With the help of library staff each page was scanned, printed and put into a notebook for the library shelf. Polly went on to make a PowerPoint presentation featuring many of the men and women featured in the scrapbook.
Polly Horn was born and raised in Sunbury, spending much of her childhood in The Sunbury News office and Community Library. Following graduation from Lake Forest College, she spent three years as a social worker in the Cleveland slums then married and moved to Delaware. then eventually back to Sunbury with her husband Jack Brehm and children David, Stephanie and Bradd.
Once again Polly found herself working at The Sunbury News and Community Library. Following the death of her husband in 1982 she became a full time employee in the library. In 2005 she retired as Library Director and dedicated herself to the renovation of the former Hopkins House and the formation of the Myers Inn Museum, where she is now the curator. Polly and her husband Bob live in Sunbury.
On January 8 everyone is invited to revisit World War II though the eyes of 917 local servicemen and women. Marian’s Scrapbook is available online at the Big Walnut Area Historical Society website at < BigWalnutHistory.og under the Local History button >.
If there is inclement weather be certain to check the website above to be sure the program has not been cancelled.
The Myers Inn Museum, located at the southwest corner of historic Sunbury Square, is open from 12 noon to 3 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays.