The Redbud City: Surge of patriotic fervor flames in the city

Clyde Wooldridge
Contributing writer
Barbara Bell poses for this photo in 1942 at the entrance to the new Redbud Park on north Broadway Street.

Shawnee saw nine of her sons off to the army on Friday, February 6, 1942. Perhaps it was the first time the town realized the country really was at war. Being “caught in the draft” was no longer considered funny. The fighting and the dying for whatever was American wasn’t just patriotic claptrap.

For the first time, men and women who didn’t know a single draftee, took time out from their personal affairs to wave goodbye and express their respect for the hundreds of other Shawnee boys already in service. The nine draftees were forewarned that they would get a sendoff for the first time since the draft law went into effect more than a year earlier. However, they couldn’t quite believe what happened.

When the Shawnee High School band struck up a march outside the City Café as they ate lunch, the boys almost jumped out of their chairs. “Why, there’s a band!” they said with wonder.

But when they came out and found the curb for three blocks between the café and the bus station lined with people, that was almost too much even for men who thought they had pretty good self-control. The new soldiers lined up behind an American Legion color guard and marched off with the band following.

Before they had walked more than a few steps, complete strangers from the sidelines reached out and wanted to carry their handbags. A wave of clapping broke out. At the bus station, 200 people were waiting to join the crowd already walking with the boys. The well-wishers overflowed the entire bus space south of the station.

The nine men lined up along the railing looked a little lonely in the big crowd. Breaths began to catch in the throng and unashamed tears appeared. A spontaneous line of hand-shakers formed and kept moving past the boys during the entire waiting period. Perhaps the best thing about the whole affair was the way it made Shawnee feel.

For the first time, folks in the town had done what everyone secretly felt should have been done for months. There was no way to call back the hundreds of draftees and volunteers who went off without a single goodbye.

CITY AIRPORT PLACED ON WAR FOOTING

Shawnee’s municipal airport, which was operating on an emergency basis since the Pearl Harbor attack on December 7, went on an even stricter wartime program at midnight Saturday, February 14, 1942, as a federally designated “landing area.”

Operations Manager Fred Reese said the local field was observing strict flying regulations since December 7, but the new rules were laid down uniformly throughout the nation by the Civil Aeronautics Authority.

“We have been in effect operating under this system, but at our own discretion,” Reese explained.

Registrar and clearance officers at the field kept close check on planes operating from the point, and armed guards were patrolling the grounds 24 hours a day. Every flight made from the field was listed on the airport register and on a clearance sheet. Each pilot taking off was given a copy of the clearance papers which he had checked at his destination.

Visitors were not permitted to roam at will or take photographs at the airport but were welcome as ever at the field. “They can visit the airport and look around, providing they are accompanied by an airport officer,” Reese said. “The guards had authority to destroy films of anyone seen making photographs at or near the field.”

REDBUD UNIT WINS NATIONAL AWARD FOR CIVIC ACHIEVEMENT

The achievement of the Redbud unit of the Shawnee Garden Clubs in making a beauty spot out of an old ravine was recognized in early March of 1942, by a national award from the Garden Club organization.

Club members were notified the organization was given the Kellogg medal for civic achievement, for its work in developing Redbud Park in the 900 block on north Broadway. The medal was a national award for distinguished works along civic lines by a club affiliated with the state and national Garden Club Council.

Presentation of the award was made to the Shawnee club at the national convention in Philadelphia. Mrs. W.T. Curry was civic chairman on the Redbud unit since its founding in 1939. She was also one of the most active workers in creating the park.

The building of the park and its present development were set forth in an album created by the local club and submitted in competition for the award. Development of the park was started in December of 1939, and was carried forward under the direction of three club presidents of the city Garden Club.

These stories appear in Volume Two of the six-volume history of the City of Shawnee. The first four volumes, through 1989, are now available for purchase at the Pottawatomie County Historical Society. They are now open, and you may visit them, or you may order them online at their website, or by calling (405) 275-8412. Each volume is $35, but a purchase of two or more volumes can be obtained at $30 each. We are offering a special deal. If you purchase any other volume, you may obtain Volume One (1830-1929) for just $20. Volume Five, (1990-2009) is now finished and is at the binder this week. Look for it near the end of this week or early next week. Volume Six, (2010-2021) is almost completed and should be on the market shortly after that.