THE MAYOR'S REPORT: D-Day and 'The Greatest Generation'

Ben Thomas Jr., Greencastle mayor

I author this report on Sunday afternoon, June 6. You guessed it … did some porch sittin’ today and then it got hot! That golden iced tea that we just brewed is so good. So, you might as well admit that summer is here even though we must wait until June 20 for the solstice at 11:32 p.m. I’ll probably be sleeping. Two very important medical minutes. Be sure to keep hydrated. Water is best. I prefer that golden iced tea. Be sure to screen yourself from the sun.

Greencastle Mayor Ben Thomas Jr.

I so enjoy reading about history. What is history? Life years ago! Take June 6, 1944 (77 years ago). It was a Tuesday. Operation Overlord was in full theater under Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower. You know that famous black and white picture of Gen. Eisenhower speaking to airborne rangers June 5? I understand they were discussing fishing techniques. Quite a leader who purchased he and wife Mamie’s first home in Cumberland Township, Adams County.  

So what was happening in Greencastle that Tuesday? You probably had family serving in the armed forces or working at one of the defense facilities within a 20-mile radius of Greencastle. Buses and carpools would take folks to work as gasoline and commodities were rationed.

Remember Keller’s Men’s Shop in the first block of East Baltimore Street in the 1970s and 1980s? Clarence Keller and siblings grew up on a farm in Antrim, attended the California one-room school, and then moved on to Greencastle High School along South Washington Street. Now Clarence and classmates would leave the California School (skip school) and go swimming at Martin’s Mill Covered Bridge. You never skipped school did you? Where was the California School and how did it get its name? The California School was along Grant Shook Road right across from Shanks Church Road. No one knows why it was named “California” School. I figure since it was in the western part of Antrim Township’s School District, so it was named for the State of California.

In their honor: Selfless service honored on Memorial Day in Greencastle

Banners along the streets: Who are Greencastle-Antrim's Hometown Heroes?

Clarence Keller purchased the store that was formerly Snider’s Men’s Shop. That was one of my famous warming or cooling locations when I would be on foot patrol in the 1980s. Tina’s Great-Uncle Clarence was on Omaha Beach June 6. Clarence was in the 29th Division (Co. B; 1st Battalion; 116th Infantry), the first wave in a Higgins boat on D-Day. Sgt. Keller would later be wounded along with his brother, Ralph. They both would convalesce at a Paris hospital then get back into the war effort. Clarence didn’t talk about it. A good read is “The Bedford Boys” of Bedford, Virginia. That small town of 3,000 residents lost 22 of their sons while serving in the 29th Division. Our freedom certainly isn’t free.

It was an honor to have Clarence, wife Jesse and other WWII veterans and their spouses in my home during Old Home Week about 17 years ago. Then-Congressman Bill Shuster was here and thanked each and every one of them for serving our nation as "The Greatest Generation."

As news would have echoed in the community via local radio and ultimately newspapers on June 7, 1944, families thought of their loved ones serving around the world. News consistently entered Greencastle-Antrim of those who were wounded, missing in action or who paid the ultimate sacrifice. Those names are inscribed in the G-A Veterans Memorial Wall. Churches opened their doors so citizens could enter for prayer and quiet reflection.

I remember years ago sitting down with Reed Burke as I intently listened to his Army service in Europe, and the challenges and struggles that he and his fellow African-American soldiers met. Thank you, soldier, for your service. His Hometown Hero banner is on West Baltimore Street. 

This line of hitching posts remains in downtown Greencastle from the days when people rode their horses to town. Find out where it is this Friday in the Mayor's Report on WRGG.

So what would Greencastle have been like 120 years ago? Where did you park your horse if you rode into town to shop as Greencastle was and is the economic hub in G-A? Check out the accompanying photo. There is a line of 16 hitching posts that remain in downtown Greencastle. Where is this located? You’ll have to listen to the Mayor’s Report this Friday on WRGG after 7:30 A.M. to get the answer.

Anyway ... enjoy the summer! Stay hydrated and watch that intense sunshine. We are certainly blessed.