Christening ‘Miss Minute Man’

It was 1942. Many of us kids at Garfield Elementary were preoccupied with the war that had started for the U.S. right after Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. I was in first grade.

We had fire drills, air raid drills and demonstrations on extinguishing incendiary bombs. We were told to keep a bucket of sand in the attic.

Any time we had a chance to do some artwork, the boys usually used Crayola crayons to draw pictures of warplanes, especially P-40’s with their scary shark mouths.

On the playground with arms out to the sides — like wings — and a mouthful of water, we became Spitfire fighter planes and would chase each other around in order to give a squirt at our opponent. If we were caught doing this, we would be “taken in” to Principal Alderman’s office for whatever punishment she had in mind.

At home, Dad was eligible for the draft, but because of his occupation as the manager of a bus company, he was deferred by the Selective Service and classified IIB in support of war industry. Somebody had to provide transportation for the workers at the steel mills and other industries.

One early, rainy, hazy morning during summer vacation, Dad roused me from sleep and told me to get dressed because we were going to Pennsylvania — he didn’t tell me why. Everybody else in the household was asleep.

After a Dad-made breakfast, we hopped into his 1934 Ford coupe and headed toward Beaver Falls. The windows were all fogged up that very humid morning in spite of the rubber-bladed defroster fan that was mounted on the steering column.

We stopped beside a huge wheat field. Dad got out and picked a few stalks and showed me the wonderful grain that they held.

In Beaver Falls, we parked at a big factory building. We were greeted by some men and ushered in to what turned out to be a bus manufacturing facility. There was an assembly line for making the buses, and we were told the partially assembled bus in front of us was going to our bus company, and it would be the last “Beaver” for civilian use. The other buses on the line were for the U.S. government.

Dad was notified some time later that our “Beaver” was ready and to come and get it. The ride back to Warren in that plain white bus was uneventful, except when we stopped for gas. The attendant could get only about a gallon into it. We continued on our way until it dawned on someone that the attendant had tried to put the gas into the radiator filler.

When we arrived at the bus garage in Warren, some of the garage employees swarmed over it with sandpaper and masking tape. It was Dad’s idea that this would be our Victory Bus. It was to be painted red, white and blue. On each of the white sides would be a blue Minute Man designed by a graphic artist and friend of the family, Bob Wellington. A huge blue-winged V for Victory was to be painted on the front between the headlights. When it was finished, it was a sight it to behold!

After the bus was ready, a big ceremony was put together for it at Courthouse Square. The Warren G. Harding marching band was there and our neighbor, Don Dawson, secured a military jeep and offered rides for the purchase of a $25 War Bond. Mayor Robert H. Roberts gave a short speech, and some Warren councilmen appeared. An iron bar was placed on a rope and was hung out of the driver’s window, and a pretty young lady broke a bottle of champagne on that iron bar. I know it was christened something, but I doubt if it was Miss Minute Man.

The year 1942 ended with the beginning of all sorts of rationing, including gasoline, and we were just getting used to the fact that there would be more wartime shortages coming.

Mumford, of Warren, can be reached at columns@tribtoday.com.

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