Second World War: Armed Services Gossip

During the Second World War, White Pigeon residents would meet at the soda fountain and exchange the latest info on friends in the Armed Services.

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Our small, quiet village of White Pigeon, Michigan, was a hub of activity in the daytime during the Second World War. My grandmother Reed, a widowed lady, owned and operated Reed's Book Store downtown on U.S. 112, the main route between Detroit and Chicago. A soda fountain in the rear of the brick structure attracted residents to create conversation each morning and share their latest news about men and women away in the armed services. 

When word reached our close-knit townspeople that young Frank Cerny was missing in action, everyone was saddened. I was a scared teenager thinking about my two brothers and brother-in-law serving overseas in the armed services. What if this happened to our family?

I shuddered to think of the possibility. My oldest brother, Robert Reed, and Frank were in the 1940 graduating class from the local high school. Soon after finishing school they were inducted into the service with many other young men from our county. The evening the men boarded the bus in front of the courthouse at Centreville, families bid them goodbye. I stood with my family waving as the bus slowly pulled away from the curb, tears streaming down my face.

Then my other brother Richard graduated in 1941, and we stood at the farewell ceremony again, feeling fear as the bus departed for the second time in one year. It was almost more than

Grandma could bear to see another grandson go to war.

Prayer vigils were held for the men and women serving in the armed forces. It brought the community together to hold rallies and parades to keep spirits high and urge letter writing to keep in touch. A steady stream of customers entered the store every day for the daily newspapers from points in Michigan and Indiana. People took time to sit at the soda fountain, scan the paper and share news that concentrated on their individual relatives.

On Saturday evenings families came to town from the rural areas. It was comforting to have letters read by mothers, grand-mothers, sisters and brothers telling about life away in distant lands, some amusing, some sad.

Phyllis M. Peters
Three Rivers, Michigan

Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.