Monday, June 22, 2015

Rodgers Smith: A look at Church Hill and WAC in the 40's

Unlike other interviewees, Mr. Smith's story focused mainly on his home town of Church Hill, about seven miles south of Chestertown.  Church Hill and surrounding towns were very isolated at the time.  There was no Bay Bridge, and it was a difficult trip to get to Annapolis, and incredibly arduous to get to Baltimore.  Because of this the community was tight knit, and became even closer during the war.  Mr. Smith like many agreed that things were simpler back then.  There were a couple of grocer stores in town and a movie theater and a drug store.  Other than that there were not any business's in town.  This is not to say that Church Hill was a dead town in any way.  There were plenty of tourists coming through either to see the town, or stopping by on the way to another destination.

The war changed the town considerably.  Mr.  Smith's strongest memory of the war was his realization one morning that all the men in town were gone.  He claimed it felt like it was overnight.  His teachers and principals were replaced by women or older teachers who were retired.  Young boy's including himself replaced spots in the fire department, and were deployed sometimes during school to put out a fire.  Sacrifices had to be made, and if it meant missing school to save a burning home 7 miles away it had to be done.  

Mr. Smith was too young for the war to be drafted, so he went to Washington College after high school.  He insisted that he live on campus, despite the fact that he only lived 7 miles away.  His wish was granted and he ended up living in West during his college career.  The dorms were organized differently during the 40's, with bathrooms and showers only on the 1st floor.  Mr. Smith recalled hearing his friends on the top floor complaining about the inconvenience.  Today we complain about having to share showers.  At least now we don't have to run up and down 4 flights of stairs just to take a poop.

The GI bill meant that most men on campus were at least in there mid 20's.  Mr. Smith was often outclassed on the dating front compared to the mature seasoned veterans.  He did claim that the advice and leadership of the veterans was crucial in his journey to maturity, as it was for many of the other young men at the school.  Although he did grow up fast at college, he still loved it, and remains in the loop on current college events and athletics

The most impressive thing about Mr. Smith was his patriotism.  He stated his pride for his country when the boy's came back to Church Hill at the end of the war.  He misses the cohesive American community fostered during WWII.  During his interview he became sentimental while talking about the boy's who did not make it back home.  The more I conduct these interview's the more I can see how clearly that generation valued the American way.  Mr. Rodgers Smith was no exception.


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