Beverly High School at War. Beverly High School Yearbook, 1945.
The war effort in both World War One and World War Two created a sense of togetherness due to the social and patriotic involvement of not only those overseas but in America as well. There was much asked of those on the homefront who were too young or too old to serve overseas. One group in particular did their “bit” in both major World Wars: American high schoolers, who were not yet considered adults but no longer adolescents either. These young men and women provided hours upon hours of service to their nation at both times of need.
The wars changed everyday school life. After-school voluntary associations were formed that proved aid for the boys overseas and a sense of achievement for those students that were involved in the war effort. There was also financial support for the war that the students raised on their own. These students were extraordinary; they supported the war effort but they also had to deal with great hardships such as rationing and dealing with the absence of friends that had gone to war. At that time, parental consent allowed boys as young as sixteen to enlist. Students on the home front also faced the reality of death. At an age were one thinks that they are invincible, they had to deal with the realization that their best friend’s or boyfriend’s mother might have to hang the gold star in place of the blue on her front window, meaning her son made the ultimate sacrifice. No wonder these students provided so much aid to the war effort. Their contributions to the war effort would bring the boys back home.
In 1917 the First World War broke out. It was America’s first major enrollment in worldwide matters. Although America entered the war at a later date then her Allies it entered it full on. America wanted to put a stop to the Kaiser that had sunk one of her ships. It was their war now.
Thirty miles from Boston, Beverly Massachusetts was a growing manufacturing town with a history that evolved from agriculture and the sea. Everything changed after the opening of the United Shoe Machinery Corporation, which doubled the population, bringing mainly European immigrants. By the time of the First World War the families of immigrants were considered first generation Americans. Many Beverly boys served on the front while others did their bit at home. With some of their boys gone to war, Beverly High School sprung into action.
|This was in the October Edition of The Aegis, Beverly High School’s literary magazine from October 1917.|
The students of Beverly High formed several voluntary associations to help with the war effort. One of these was the Junior Red Cross. Once a week after school, students would gather in a location to do their bit. In the Junior Red Cross most of the students became accustomed with the art of knitting. Knitting was not just for the female students. The students of Beverly High School Junior Red Cross produced over 620 sweaters, over 260 mufflers, and 18 afghans for military hospitals. Besides knitting, the students of Beverly High School formed a sewing club to provide even more aid. The club sewed hundreds of hospital nightshirts for those in hospitals, and they also sewed hundreds of khaki handkerchiefs. They made numerous pairs of socks. Beverly High School students also made what were known as “comfort bags”, filled with remembrances of home.
The students participated in another campaign urged by the Government; they grew Victory Gardens. These gardens provided the home front with fresh vegetables so the canned goods could go overseas. Beverly at the time of the First World War was still in some areas an agrarian landscape. Some of Beverly High School male students were released from school to work and help out on the farm. They were commended for their service. Students sold Red Cross Seals for financial support for the troops.
In physical education classes male students learned and practiced military calisthenics. The boy’s baseball team received military training by practicing a military drill where they used their bats as rifles. Coach J.G. Macdonald was a retired military man and thought the idea would provide the boys with good training. The boys were very enthusiastic and took it on with great gusto .
Students wrote about their feelings about the war in Beverly High School’s literary magazine The Aegis. They wrote poems and articles . They faced the war and seized the opportunity to provide aid to those at the front, but they by far were not the only high school students that provided this.
The city of Fall River, another urbanized Boston suburb, also did their bit for the war effort. Like Beverly, Fall River had a Junior Red Cross where students knitted, making socks, mufflers, and sweaters. They also sewed. Boys in woodshop made wooden canes for the wounded soldiers. They made checkerboards and dominoes for the soldiers recreation times. Students raised over $16,000 selling war savings stamps and thrift stamps. The students of Fall River formed a Victory Chorus that sang patriotic songs to raise morale in Fall River.
In Milwaukee, Wisconsin the public school were working for the war effort too. According to the school committee report of the city for the years of 1917 to 1918, students worked at an extraordinary pace. The population of Milwaukee was mostly part-German who wanted to prove that they were in fact American and bore no allegiance to the motherland. As in Beverly and Fall River, students formed a Junior Red Cross. They made surgical dressings and wrote letters to the boys on the Front. They also formed the Betsy Ross club which maintained flags and flagpoles for the City of Milwaukee. They supported the war with bonds and strict rationing.
The average American high school student could not escape the war. During the War the government distributed textbooks that taught about the war effort and the American way. One such book was The War and America, War Citizenship Lessons by Roscoe Ashley (MacMillan, 1918). Appendices contained information on, for example, how to use worn materials and how the Selective Service worked.
The end of the First World War brought a switch from how to help win the war to the “heroics” of the “Great War” and how America “won” the war. Schoolwork once again became everyday schoolwork. The students of Beverly High School took part in voluntary associations such as Debate Club and Photo Craft Club. The Students of the roaring Twenties and Depression Era Thirties went back to the high school routine. But that too was about to change.
|“Buy War Bonds” The Aegis, Beverly High School, October 1942.|
The attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 brought America once again into action, and the war effort on the homefront in the Second World War was even greater then the First. Yet again BHS students were ready to do their part. Every morning in homeroom students could buy war bonds. This sale of the bonds were advertised in The Aegis or in Victory notes, (dubbed “V notes”) . The literary magazine also gave students the chance to voice their thoughts and opinions on the war. There was a cartoon strip feature in each edition featuring “The adventures of Captain Curtis” , a US Navy pilot and his many flying missions . Students drew pictures about the war and wrote poems.
Students formed what was known as the Victory Corps . Boys that wanted to join the Army enrolled in the Land Service Club of the Victory Corps were they learned about how the history and functions of the Army. Young men interested in the Navy could join the Sea Service , While boys who wanted to fly in the Army Air Corps joined the Air Service Club. There was also a Salvage Club where which gathered metal or other scrap that was useful to the war. Girls in the Hospital Surgical Dressings Club helped make dressings for wounded soldiers.
These victory notes urged students to buy bonds. The Aegis, Beverly High School, November 1943.