Christmas in WWII-era Murray brought residents together
Dec 10, 2019 01:38PM
● By Shaun Delliskave
Murrayites identified as (standing, left to right): Mrs. Lyman, Mrs. Leetham, and Violet Tracy buy war bonds from (seated) Mrs. Payne and Mrs. Merrimase. (Photo courtesy Murray Museum)
By Shaun Delliskave | [email protected]
Christmas in Murray has its traditions and charm that stirs nostalgia in many: everything from decorations along State Street and the lighting of the city hall Christmas tree to visiting Santa at Fashion Place Mall. Christmastime in Murray during World War II was unique in how it brought the community together as it never had before.
At the beginning of December 1941, most storefronts along State Street had just decorated for the holiday, and the light posts had received their holiday trim. Of course, Dec. 7, the day that would live in infamy, cast uncertainty on the nation’s, let alone Murray’s, Christmas holiday.
The Murray Eagle wrote, “While the experts said that Japan might last two months at best, we learn that the Land of the Rising Sun is equipped for a year’s determined effort against both America and Britain. What most of us have been afraid to think of as reality has finally arrived. We cannot remain a comfortable spectator to the drama.”
There was great concern that December that Japan would strike again, even by sabotage. Several explosions rattled Murray just days after the attack on Pearl Harbor, but the commotion was the result of steam and gases at Murray’s smelters. Still, two weeks after the attack, 770 Murrayites signed up for the armed forces, with some spending Christmas at basic training.
One year later, Murrayites were doing their part for the war effort. As every resource was directed toward helping America and its allies, ordinary citizens were asked to do their part and ration everything from gasoline and tires to food (especially meat). Percy Richardson, chairwoman of the city’s “Share the Meat” campaign, encouraged Murrayites to consider consuming the less-sought-after kidneys, liver, brains, tongue and sweetbread (no, it is not sweet nor is it bread) for their Christmas dinners.
Stores throughout Murray offered patrons the opportunity to have their groceries delivered in order to cut down on unnecessary use of gasoline and vehicle wear-and-tear. Mountain States Telephone and Telegraph company pleaded with callers to keep their long-distance holiday calls at a minimum to keep the lines clear for necessary war-related calls.
Murray Air Raid Wardens were called to attention at the Christmas of 1942, as many failed to show up for the training. Murray City abstained from decorating the lampposts this year, too. “We are seriously short of manpower and are going to do without street decorations this year,” Mayor Curtis Shaw said. On the positive side, St. Vincent DePaul Catholic Church and several Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints congregations partnered to put on a Victory Ball at Murray High School to raise funds for the USO.
By Christmas of 1943, the experts had been proven wrong about a quick war, and the grim realities were settling in. After several years of not knowing, Charles Bradfield’s family finally received word that the former Murrayite was alive in a Manila, Philippines, prison camp. On a happier note, Brent Erickson was able to return home for the holidays that year. Erickson survived being on the minelayer USS Oglala when it was sunk at Pearl Harbor.
War bond drives were in full force, and Murrayites were recognized for their generosity in December 1944—they exceeded their quota by 49%. Murray businesses, like JC Penney, not only pitched their holiday sales in the newspaper but dedicated advertising space to encourage shoppers to buy a war bond as well.
Finally, the war was over in 1945, and Murray had changed along with the rest of the world. Murray City, still low on human resources, had the assistance of the Lions Club to decorate the city’s streets for the first time in three years. As presents to all returning servicemembers, the town presented certificates of honor.
The Murray Eagle took note of the changes that happened over the past Christmas seasons in an editorial on their front page. “In our little journeys here and there around town, it appears that this Christmas will be more filled with the old-time spirit of the time than a good many years. Goods are more plentiful, and there is more money to spend. But far more important than these is the fact that most of the boys who were on foreign soil last year are home again. From all of us to all of you: a very merry Christmas.”