Dec. 6, 1941: It was a Saturday. In Centerville, preparations for Christmas were well underway. People were dragging home Christmas trees from Perry Produce across from the Post Office. Window displays were bursting with greens, reds, silvers, golds and patriotic red, white and blue. The Courthouse at night was a fairyland of light, and huge candles stood at each side of the building. At exactly 9:30 a.m., Santa drove into the Courthouse Square, brilliantly dressed in a fiery red suit and riding on an Eskimo sled pulled by a team of barking Northland huskies. Three to four thousand children and their parents cheered loudly. In less than 24 hours, the mood would be forever altered.
Dec. 7, 1941: The attack on Pearl Harbor came in two waves: the first at 7:49 a.m. local time, the second an hour later at 8:50 a.m. In Centerville, five time zones to the east, it was midday. Morning services were over. People were making their way to the Continental Hotel Coffee Shop for the first day of the Christmas menu: Three courses with a choice of five meats, all for 55 cents. Those moving along 13th Street, checked the movie showing that night: It was “International Squadron” starring the former WHO broadcaster now Hollywood star, Ronald Reagan. Twenty-one-year-old Helen Carlson was visiting her friend Mary Montgomery in an apartment behind the high school. In the school’s auditorium 12-year old Betty Morris (Bear) was attending an ecumenical meeting. On West Maple, 26-year old Bob Beck and Bill Sharpe were hanging a light fixture. Further east, newlyweds John and Virginia Koestner were filling their car at the Skelly station and chatting with the owner, Thayn Bryant. In Mystic, the Seddon family had just finished their Sunday dinner. Half a mile to the west, 22-year old “Reese” Hudson and his wife Norma, were walking from Mystic to Brazil. Out at Soap Creek, in a 1928 Model A roadster, 18-year old Joe Wilson was delivering Sunday newspapers. Diagonally across the county east of Seymour on Shoal Creek, Maurice Stamps and his brother Boyd were listening to a radio broadcast of a football game between the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears. Their lives, and those of everyone they knew, were about to change.