Latrobe Historical Society marks 70th anniversary of end of World War II
During World War II in Latrobe, residents lined up for parades to wish recruits well on their way to the train station, used their ration stamps to buy meat and canned goods, and became airplane spotters scanning the skies above what is now the Quatrini-Raftery building.
“World War II was an all-out effort,” said Mary Lou Townsend, president of the Latrobe Historical Society.
To commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, the historical society is hosting a presentation 7 p.m. Thursday in Latrobe Elementary School, 1501 Ligonier St. Admission is free and open to the public.
Historical society members will be joined by about 10 Greater Latrobe Senior High School students in Bill Snyder's Advanced Placement American history classes. The 10th- to 12th-graders researched a resident of the Latrobe area, using the 1946 yearbook-style booklet “Their Mission Accomplished,” and in some cases talked with their families about the war for the project.
“A lot of them got really excited because they learned things they didn't know before,” Snyder said.
During the month-long research project, Snyder had the booklet featuring local soldiers reprinted, and attendees can order copies Thursday.
In conjunction with the presentation, the historical society is displaying items that represent the city's contribution to World War II at the Greater Latrobe-Laurel Valley Chamber of Commerce's Neighborhood Visitor and Information Center, 3960 Route 30 in Unity.
The items are the first to be displayed in a case designated for artifacts from Latrobe's past since the center opened in February.
“We end up being Latrobe's attic,” Townsend said. “We're excited to be showing off some of the things we do have, because it is an amazing collection.”
Martin said when the group opened the new center, they wanted to be able to show off the history and heritage of the area.
“It's a natural partnership,” he said. “We're thrilled to have them here and thrilled to promote anything they have going on.”
In the case is a Purple Heart and World War II service medal, a 1947 Latrobe High School yearbook open to one of five photo spreads showcasing veterans, dog tags that belonged to Army Air Corpsman Jack Keltz and an armband worn by a member of the Aircraft Warning Service in Latrobe.
“There were people who sat every night on the top of the Mellon Bank building and waited with their binoculars, watching,” Townsend said. “They were trained to spot certain kinds of aircraft and even the high school woodworking shops made model airplanes that were used in the training for these airplane spotters.”
A blue-star service banner denoted a family member, often a son, serving overseas. Townsend said the Maher family, who lived in the first ward of Latrobe, sent five sons to serve during the war.
A small pin, the “E” award, was given to companies working with the military that met quotas for production demands, and employees at the Acme Tool and Die Co. in Latrobe was among the first to receive the designation with a ceremony in August 1942, Townsend said.
“It was really a source of pride for the companies,” she said.
Scrap drives collected rubber, metal, even bacon grease to be put toward the war effort, an attitude that would be difficult to replicate today, Townsend said.
“There was probably never a period in our history when patriotism was as high as it was during World War II,” she said.
Stacey Federoff is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6660 or firstname.lastname@example.org.