The Marion High School Class of '40 was a flock of innocent lambs, brought up during the Great Depression. Our parents and teachers taught us, to be good scouts, honest Abes and Christian soldiers. We learned that living took courage, heart and brains. Washington, really, cut down the tree and God had yet to die. We were nourished on beans, potatoes and corn bread, reared on Mother Goose, Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn, The Brothers Grimm, Alice in Wonderland and The Bible.
Saturday afternoons were spent at the moving picture show, when we could come up with ten cents for admission. In those days the good guys wore white hats and everyone knew who the bad guys were. Our hopes and aspirations were shaped by modem day figures:
Jean Harlow, Betty Davis, Joan Crawford, Gary cooper, Dizzy Dean, Max Baer and Albert Sweitzer. We, swung to the music of Sammy Kaye, Tommy Dorsey and Guy Lombardo, learned the "Jitterbug", fed the nicelodeons and drank cherry cokes at Ormes Drug Store. Nearing adulthood we curious teenagers sampled adult vices. We cruised the back roads, learned to smoke and sneaked a drink on occasion.
The boys played football and basketball, winning with humility and losing with grace. Mysteries of circles and triangles were solved. Words of Shakespeare, Tennyson, Byron and Dickenson were memorized. Our school, proudly, offered courses in home economics, typing, shorthand, bookkeeping, Latin and agriculture. We knew nothing of isms. Socialism, Marxism, Darwinism, cubism, unionism and radicalism were not topics of general conversation. We knew of Dante's inferno, but nothing of the ovens of Dachau. Books from the required book list, were the only books most of us had time to read, we just couldn't fit more reading in our schedule.
Mischievous pranks were played on teachers. Painting spots on the Agriculture teacher, Mr. Winfrey's cow with purple paint, having a "Boston Tea Party" in the restroom with tea from Louise Swann's Home-Ec. room and putting a farm wagon on the roof of the front porch of the high school building were annual happenings.
Our small jives were protected, isolated and insulated. They were filled with, church functions, pep rallies, choral practice, homework, school programs and daily chores. Most of us had never seen an Asian, or an American Indian for that matter. "Old Man Koltinsky", the junk dealer, had the only foreign accent in town. Marion's only Jewish family went to The First Presbyterian Church. The one Catholic family in Marion, had to go to the Catholic church in, the next town, Princeton.
Herbert Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt were the only presidents we had ever known. We thought gangsters such as, Al Capone and Pretty Boy Floyd, must look like James Cagney or Edward G. Robinson. Bonnie and Clyde, the James brothers and the Ford Gang were almost mythical characters. The Hindenburg disaster and the Lindberg kidnapping were faraway happenings, viewed on shakey newsreels at the Kentucky Theater. Violence happened elsewhere or was hidden away. Death came from mining or farm accidents, reckless driving, disease or old age.
Life Magazine pictured debutantes and beauty queens. Hollywood produced "Oomph Girls" "It Girls" and "Sex Goddesses". It also produced Nick and Nora Charles, Fred and Ginger, Tracy and Hepburn and they slept in twin beds, none of them slept together.
There was unrest in the world during our senior year. One morning during assembly, Mildred Summerville, our beloved principal encouraged the boys to complete their education before enlisting in the military service. She severely criticized the United States for selling scrap iron to Japan. The next year on December seventh 1941, the date that will never be forgotten, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, shattering our fragile world. The war had come, its winds scattered our classmates across the globe and our lives were changed forever. Although we are strewn for miles from Marion, love and the common fabric of our upbringing has held the class of 1940 together.
Mildred Y. Wilson