The Blitz continued through the 56th week of World War II. Sept. 15-21, 1940, was days nine through 15 of 57 consecutive days of London being bombed by Nazi Germany.
On Sept. 17, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill announced to the House of Commons that 2,000 civilians had been killed with another 8,000 wounded in The Blitz so far.
“The prime minister spoke during the third daylight air raid alarm. Sirens were audible in the chamber, but Churchill continued without interruption,” read The Register-Mail.
The news grew more intense as the week wore on.
“British R.A.F. fighters clashed with 300 German warplanes in a terrific battle over the Thames estuary today,” read the paper on the 18th.
“Flying at 15,000 feet in three waves, the German bombers and fighters thundered across the Dover coast, plunged through a barrage of anti-aircraft fire and headed for London to rain fresh chaos on the smoke-hazed capital.”
The press called it “a night of Hell.”
Mr. and Mrs. Charles Miller of Galesburg received some news not from the local papers, but from a letter. The Millers, who lost their son Herbert Lass in the Great War in 1918, heard from a nephew who was serving in the British Army with the Seaforth Highlanders.
“The whole country has been put into a state of defense and in private,” wrote the nephew, “many people would welcome an attempt at an invasion, because everyone is united with one idea and convinced that when he does try, if ever, he will get such a ’sock in the ear’ he will be glad to give up the idea.”
The United States took a major step during the week as the Selective Training and Service Act, the first peacetime military draft in U.S. history, took effect. Some 400,000 men were to be called into military service. The day for registration was set for Oct. 16 and all men ages 21 to 35 were required to register.
But Galesburg faced a more immediate war during the week as the first polio death of the season took place.
Monday morning, Harry E. Nixon, 29, West Losey Street, died of polio at Cottage Hospital, despite being placed in an iron lung days before. Born in Missouri, Nixon had lived in Galesburg for 10 years and was manager of the Dimond Services Store at the corner of Simmons and Prairie streets.
The same day, Ann Pitman, 9, East Main Street, was announced as the eighth local case of the disease. As the week advanced, it was announced that a Boy Scout camporee to take place at Lake Storey was canceled due to the polio risk. But thankfully, several of the young patients were released from the hospital during the week as they recovered.
The Galesburg City Council met during the week, and one paragraph of the article of routine business stands out.
“A motion, made by Alderman Dave Lindberg, that the city attorney investigate the expenditure of more than $500 on improvements at the colored beach, was carried by nine votes to four, with Dr. W.H. Maley voting present. Two solons, Dave Lindberg and Gordon Davis, engaged in vocabular controversy over the building.”
No further details were reported.
Ground was broken during the week on a new home for the American Legion Ralph M. Noble Post No. 285 in the 500 block of East North Street. The land, which had once been the home of prominent pioneer lumberman Hiram Mars, had been donated the previous year by Mr. and Mrs. F.M. Kinzel. It was reported that arrangements for the laying of a cornerstone were being made, likely for Armistice Day.
The location would be home to the Legion for decades.
Knox College announced during the week that 55 young men and women from Galesburg were entering the school as freshmen.
In local industry, Butler’s work force reached 900 men as the factory was working to complete a federal government contract to provide 10,000 steel grain bins by Sept. 30.
A link to the past died during the week. John Lewis Bell, a contractor for many years, died at his daughter’s home on Lombard Street. He was in his 90s, but his exact age was not known, as he was born a slave in Mobile, Alabama. Soon after he was born, his family ended up in Hannibal, Missouri. When he was about 18 years old he, along with his mother, brother and sister, escaped and came to Galesburg. For decades, he lived on Monroe Street, where he and his wife raised their family of five children.
A frightening moment happened at the Knox County Courthouse during the week.
“A colored girl named Louise Welcome, 15, brought into county court this morning to face a delinquency charge on a petition filed by her brother, Horace Welcome,” read The Register-Mail, “swallowed the contents of a vial containing poison in the form of potassium permanganate, which she had concealed in her purse, and fell to the floor just after she had entered the circuit courtroom where Judge Stuart was presiding at the time.”
“The judge ordered the girl rushed to St. Mary’s Hospital, where Dr. Forrester Maley treated her with a stomach pump. Later the doctor stated that she was apparently in no immediate danger, but that some time might be required to determine the exact nature of the condition resulting from the poison.”
Finally, on Friday night, the Galesburg Silver Streaks dominated their second game of the football season by defeating Galva 38-0. Rush Berry dominated early, scoring two touchdowns in the first quarter and leading Coach Ross Anderson to put his second-string players in. Wilfred “Diz” DeSpain scored the game’s third touchdown. Third-string players came in after that, and the second half of the game was reported to be a boring affair with all players on the team getting a chance to play.
Talbot Fisher is weekend reporter for The Register-Mail. His weekly column looks at life in Galesburg and around the world 80 years ago as World War II approached. Contact him at email@example.com; follow him on twitter at @TalbotFisher16.