Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Poignant birthday gift from the Class of 1943-44

I opened up a copy of the Lloyd C. Douglas novel "White Banners"1 and discovered that a colorful fold-out birthday card had been pasted to the first page decades ago.

Written in ink on the inside front cover is:
From Class of 1943-44
Peggy Jean Gross
Josephine Gladfelter
William Leicht
Marian L. Ziegler
Margaret L. Keech
Donaline A. Bowers
Larry N. Bare
William P. Goodyear
Lavernia P. Buckner
Phyllis J. Lingg
Lu An Oliphant
Rodney E. Beck
Joseph C. Stephens
Written on the bottom of the card is "From Six Grade."

There is no other identifying information provided. "White Banners" was originally published in 1936. But this hardcover cover has a note on the title page indicating that it was produced "under wartime conditions, in full compliance with government regulations for the conservation of paper and other essential materials."

That note fits in with this book being given as a birthday gift from the Class of 1943-44. Furthermore, I'm fairly sure that this would be the sixth-grade "Class of 1943-44." In other words, these are students who would have -- give or take a year -- been born in 1932, been 12 years old in 1944, and graduated from high school at age 18 in 1950.

And, most likely, this book was given as a gift to a York County, Pennsylvania, schoolteacher.

Based on some online searching, here is some further information on some of these sixth-graders who gave their teacher a book for his or her birthday:
  • Josephine Gladfelter, according to these geneaology records, might be the daughter of William E. Gladfelter Sr. (1907-1965) of York County and Helen E. Weaver (1909-1988) of York County, who were married in 1925 in York, Pa.
  • I found an obituary from less than three weeks ago for Larry N. Bare, and the details seem to fit the time frame and location. An excerpt from his obituary: "Mr. Larry N. Bare 'The Dook of Blackberry Springs', age 78, of 712 Blackberry Spring Lane, Vilas, died Friday morning, May 13, 2011, at his home. Mr. Bare was born January 24, 1933 in York County, Pennsylvania, a son of the late Ralph H. and Mary Sterner Bare. He was a retired microbiologist for St. Joseph Hospital in Lancaster, Pennsylvania."
  • Sadly, it appears that William P. Goodyear didn't live nearly as full of a life as Bare. Multiple websites2 confirm that Pfc. Goodyear was killed in action on August 13, 1950, during the Korean War.
  • Rodney E. Beck might have also been a war casualty. According to this 2009 post on Jim McClure's "York Town Square" blog, the name of Rodney E. Beck of Manchester was to be listed on York County's Vietnam Veterans Monument.
That still leaves plenty of students' stories to be told. Plus, will we ever be able to figure out what teacher received this book as a birthday gift? If you have any leads, please share them in the comments section below.

1. "White Banners" was adapted as a 1938 film starring Claude Rains and Jackie Cooper.
2. References for Goodyear's death: GIsearch.com; a comprehensive list of Pennsylvania Korean War casualties hosted by Red Dragon Canoe Club; and this page on the Korean War Project site.


  1. Wow its really nice gift. I love this post.

  2. What a sweet card. Good work on your part chasing down some leads on these six graders from yesteryear.

    So jarring to think that some of the young 6th graders whould grow up to serve in yet another war just a few years later.

    I bet the teacher/recipient would have been proud to know that he/she had a future microbiologist in the mix :)

  3. I'm having a near psychedelic experience reading all of these! Incredible isn't it? I can log onto the internet in 2013 and look at a picture of a card that was pasted into a book seventy years ago by a group of people who no longer exist. Little did they know that a seemingly mundane, nondescript and unimportant moment in time would cast a reflection through the mesh of time to me here and now....