Seventy years ago this country was well over a year involved in World War II. Men and women were leaving their families, friends, jobs and schools to fight for their country.
Back on the home front both locally and in communities across the land, neighborhoods, churches, schools and businesses had begun to erect memorials to those serving in the war.
On Flag Day in 1942 at the recently named General Douglas MacArthur Square located at High and Ashland streets, a flagpole was dedicated and a flag with 55 stars was raised in honor of the 55 men and women from the “Skunk Hollow” neighborhood. Skunk Hollow was the name fondly attached to George Meinerth’s nearby store and was called that for years by the youth of the area.
On Oct. 11, 1942, two more memorials were dedicated. In the morning at the Baptist church on Green Street, an honor roll was placed in the vestibule with the names of 24 members who had left. Later that day, a flagpole and plaque in Cushing Park were dedicated honoring residents of Ward 5 serving the country. Pauline Ayers, a leader in making this event happen, was given honor of raising the flag that day. That pole and the plaque are now located a short distance away at the Pauline Ayers Park on Congress Street. Her proud son, Ralph, has always made flags available to be flown there.
One month later, on Armistice Day, another flagpole and granite marker were dedicated. This one was located on Greenleaf Street honoring the 60 men and women from the Back Bay area then in the armed forces. Shortly after, an honor roll was placed at the site and before the war ended it contained 88 names. In the accompanying photo Mrs. Michael Murphy is shown about to raise the flag. Residents of Cherry Street, Mr. and Mrs. Murphy had four sons serving the country. I lived on Greenleaf Street at the time and can remember the day very well. In 2003 a rededication was held there and a new granite marker was placed in front of the original flagpole.
During a severe snowstorm on Dec. 13, 1942, city officials and neighbors in the Break O’ Day area gathered on Merrimac Street to dedicate a flagpole and raise a service flag with 33 stars honoring those already serving from that area. An honor roll with the names was soon added and additional names added as time went on. William Webber, father of five servicemen at the time, raised the flag that day. A new honor roll was placed and dedicated in May of 2011.
On July 1, 1943, a flagpole was placed on Marlboro Street at Pearson’s Greenhouses, honoring the 165 men and women serving from Ward 1.
The city dedicated an honor roll on Brown Square containing the names of 1,118 local men and women on Sept. 12, 1943. More names were added over the next two years. Because of its deteriorating condition, it was removed in May of 1979 and the names were placed in the “Corridor of Honor” inside City Hall.
The Jewish community honored its members with a plaque containing the names of those serving and this plaque still remains inside the synagogue on Washington Street.
The Immaculate Conception Church placed an honor roll of its parishioners outside its front door. It was there for many years after the war. I am told that Towle Silver Company had one also and possibly many other factories did the same.
Salisbury and Newbury also honored their sons and daughters. Newbury placed a flagpole and service flag on the Upper Green on Jan. 24, 1943, and added an honor roll in November of 1944 containing 101 names.
On Dec. 12, 1944, Salisbury raised a flag with 145 service stars in the park in Salisbury Square and later placed an honor roll.
Joe Callahan is a former fire chief of Salisbury who is interested in historical accounts of the area.