On June 11, the 2010 Ypsilanti Crossroads Summer Festival featured a rousing opening set from roots and blue grass band Dragon Wagon.
Dragon Wagon was joined on...read more
Leroy Grindle was an Ypsilantian soldier who lost his life in WWII. He was a member of the Michigan Normal (EMU) class of ’41, and is memorialized with a black star on page 90 of the 1942 school yearbook, called the “Aurora.”
The names of 92 other EMU students and alumni who signed up for service are listed there as well, ranging from students from the class of ’34 to ’45. Several students forsook their education to enlist, and others were taken by the draft.
Some students who considered enlisting were talked out of it by professors. The yearbook’s “Portrait of a Freshman” page says, “Considering enlistment when war was declared, then deciding that advice of the profs to stay in school was wiser.”
Pearl Harbor struck in the fall semester, on December 7, 1941. The “December” events page for the Aurora says, “then the fateful December 7, and everyone remembers Pearl Harbor; even the profs have a hard time sticking to their lectures as America enters the war.”
Wartime rationing limited the activities of some school organizations.
The Aurora page for the “Men’s Debate” club says, “Draft boards and rubber shortages prevented the Michigan State Normal College Men’s Debate Squad from participating in any more than twenty-two debates during the 1941-42 season. The season prior to this one saw sixty-six debates.”
The women’s debate club, Wodeso, faced similar restrictions. “Debating activities were reduced by approximately fifty percent for Wodeso this year because of war-time conservation. No teams were encouraged to travel more than necessary to maintain their regular league relations.”
The school’s Geography department kept students apprised of political changes. “One of the most interesting departments of our college is the Geography department. The staff is on its toes to the sudden changes made in the world’s surface by the present crisis. It also presents the story of how, where, and why people live in the places they do.”
The college’s Home Economics department prepared students for wartime shortages. “This year, due to the emergency, each club member has had ample opportunity to participate in community and national service. These include the making and distributing of posters, formulating and experimenting with menus and market orders that are nutritionally balanced and economically efficient for family use, suggestions for care and conservation of clothing, and care and protection of the family in times of disturbed home life.”
The stress of the war made social activities even more welcome. The Aurora’s “Social Committee” page says, “In this year of world turmoil, an active and entertaining social program has been more necessary then before in order that the students might relax and forget the troubles of the world.”
The war hit closer to home when one’s roommate disappeared. The Aurora’s “Portrait of a Junior” page says, “Feeling sort of blue when your roommate gets married to that boy who came home on leave.”
President Roosevelt resurrected Daylight Savings Time, first observed in WWI, in February of 1942. The yearbook reflected the change on its “February” events page. “War time . . . all clocks moved ahead an hour . . . all eight o’clock classes reached by flashlight . . . lots of fun getting up in the middle of the night.”
Shifts in class enrollment were noted too. “Did you notice all those missing people. . . and all the new faces . . . wonder if they got caught in the draft . . . or got married. . . depends upon the way you like your punishment, they tell me . . .”
Some of those missing people never came home.
Memorial Day services in Ypsilanti each year honor the soldiers, some of them onetime hopeful Michigan Normal students, whose lives were sacrificed for their country.
Laura Bien is the author of "Stud Bunnies and the Underwear Club: Tales from the Ypsilanti Archives." She also writes the historical blog "Dusty Diary" and may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.