Thursday, April 2, 2009

Mystery Solved: Southside Club’s Service Flag Photo

Here are eight young men holding up the Southside Social and Athletic Club’s World War II service flag. The photograph is dated March 30th, 1945, six months before the end of the war. Service flags were first used by individual families in World War I. During World War II, organizations, and even entire towns, had their own service flags. They all followed the same format, with a blue star for every member of the organization in active service and a gold star for every member who died in service. In 1942, the club held a “Social” to raise the money necessary to purchase a service flag for their 41 members already in service. Ordinarily, it hung in front of the club entrance, but it was also carried by the Southsiders in the Memorial Day parades. When a new Southsider joined up, Wally the tailor (aka Wally Kuzenchak) who had a shop on Spring Street, would come and get the flag and stitch on another blue star. Unfortunately, the flag had space for only 91 stars, and after that Wally had to just update the number. This flag is still in the possession of the Southside Club.

The boys are standing on what used to be called Railroad Avenue. Only a few months after this photograph was taken, it was renamed Southside Avenue in honor of the Southsiders in service. The young men are probably standing in front of the club building, though the photographer has angled the shot so that the building is outside of the frame, on the left. We are looking south – in the background you can see the old footbridge that used to cross the railroad tracks at the bottom of Washington Avenue and led to the office building of Anaconda Wire & Cable Company on the waterfront.

The photographer was Hanford C. Todd Jr., or Harry as he was called in the club. Harry Todd had served in World War I, and during World War II he wrote and printed a newsletter called “News At Home” for Southsiders in the service to keep them in touch with Hastings and with each other. You can read more about this in the back issues of the “Hastings Historian”, in the Winter 1995 and the Winter 2007 issues. (Harry’s father, Hanford “Doc” Todd, had been the local pharmacist in Hastings, and also a keen photographer. His photographs were featured in the Spring 2005 “Historian” on how the village looked in 1915.)

We posted this photograph on Flickr about two weeks ago with the idea that we would use it as a mystery photo since we didn’t know the names of any of the young men. Almost immediately, Paul Duddy left a comment saying that he would get to work on the identifications. But as fast as Paul is, Bryan Healy is faster. He took the photograph down to the Senior Canteen at the Community Center where Eleanor McGinigle, Anne Schnibbe, Eddie Shuluk and Helen Rakotz had no trouble in putting names to the faces. The young men are, left to right: Stanley Yochonarish, Ernie Grascia, Pete Kucap (hand on flag pole), Mike Seman (kneeling), Tony Grascia (flapping tie), and Benny Sciepura. Stanley, Peter, and Benny's names appear on the printed Hastings Honor Roll for World War II in the society’s collection. Bryan also pointed out that March 30th of 1945 was Good Friday, which explains why everyone is dressed up. Thanks for all your help, Bryan!

Southside Social and Athletic Club with their service flag marching down Warburton Avenue in the 1946 Memorial Day parade.

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1 comment:

  1. Max Waage Class of '50June 24, 2009 at 3:37 PM

    Re. the South Side photo. The young boy second from right looks like Ernie Garcia, the boy squatting on the left looks like Mike Seaman and the front right looks like Tony Garcia.