May 7, 2002
The Memorial Day holiday is just around the corner, which means now is a good time to discuss why we even have such an observance. Readers of this column will remember that for the past several years I have pointed out that, technically, there is no such thing as a “national holiday” in the U.S. because each state has jurisdiction over its holidays. The President and the U.S. Congress can legally designate holidays only for the District of Columbia and federal employees. In practice, however, most states observe the federal legal public holidays. Memorial Day is one of those. It now falls on the last Monday of May, but it formerly was on May 30. The holiday is also known as Decoration Day. It is a time especially to decorate the graves of those who served in the military, although many families believe it is a time to honor all those who have been called home.
The primary focus in Perry and elsewhere is traditionally on the men and women who served this country in the military. Those are the ones we normally think of at the mention of Memorial Day. Other friends and family members also are honored, but for the most part we are saluting those who were called to the colors in times of national stress. What brings all this to mind is a small booklet published in August 1943 and bearing the title of a “Directory of Noble Countians Serving the Colors.” Ed Feken still has his copy of that directory, and he brought it to light the other day as he noticed the calendar page showed that Memorial Day is upon us.
The 7 ˝” x 11” booklet was published by this newspaper while World War II was raging in the Pacific Ocean Area, in Europe and North Africa. At the time, neither the Allies (primarily the U.S. and Great Britain) nor the Axis (Germany and Italy) were assured of victory in the bloody global engagement. The Soviet Union, as usual, was an enigma and no one was sure where that country stood. Hundreds of young men from Noble county were among those who answered this country’s call and traded their civilian garb for uniforms of the Army, Navy, Marines and other military branches. The Journal made an effort to include all of them in the directory. The flyleaf of the booklet also noted that those who had died in service were included. Extra copies of the directory were available only from the advertisers who made it possible to compile and publish the book.
Ed Feken was one of those named. At the time he was Technical Sergeant Edward J. Feken, 394th Infantry regiment, 89th division, based at Colorado Springs, Colorado. Ed now lives at 1704 Meadow Lane and most of us knew him well as manager of the Safeway Store before he retired.
The Journal was careful not to unduly commercialize the directory. The newspaper also recognized that omission of names was a possibility and invited readers to let the paper know of any errors. Additional copies of the directory were available only from the advertisers who supported the publication. It’s interesting, from the perspective of 2002, to look back and see the names of merchants who joined in the undertaking. Like many of the servicemen named, quite a few of those businesses no longer exist. Here are some who fit in that category: Ben Beckham Refrigerator, Appliance, Repair Service; Ringler’s Leather Goods, Donahue and Mugler Insurance; Eby’s Cleaners, Brownie Drug Co., Donaldson & Yahn Lumber Dealers, M & W Food Store, Jim Wilson Grocery and Market, Perry Greenhouse, Art Cleaners, Galaway’s Grocery and Market, Long-Bell Lumber Co., Gordon and Treadway Sinclair Service, Davis Funeral Home, Johnson’s Food Market, A.C. Lamb Optometrist and Jeweler, Pearl Schiewe’s Chic Shoppe, Kraemer’s Shoe Store, O.K. Filling Station, and the Perry Whole Milk Plant (Home of Dairy Gold Products). Some of those who are still with us: Kumback Lunch, Charlie’s Machine Works (now the Ditch Witch company), and the Exchange Bank. Sad to note, many service personnel listed in the directory also have passed away since this directory was printed in August 1943. Thanks to Ed Feken for sharing this memory with us.