IT’S V – E DAY! Great Falls Tribune

“DEATH CLAIMS ROOSEVELT,” proclaimed the Great Falls Leader on April 12, 1945, in two lines covering over half the paper above the fold. The following morning the Great Falls Tribune announced, “FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT DIES — TRUMAN BECOMES PRESIDENT.” President Franklin D. Roosevelt died of a cerebral hemorrhage at his second home in Warm Spring, Georgia. He was inaugurated March 4, 1933, two days before Elsie Worstell died, and lived to serve three months of a fourth term. Harry S. Truman was sworn in as the 32nd president just three hours after F.D.R. died. In less than a month, May 7, 1945, “Germany surrendered unconditionally to the western Allies and Russia at 2:41 a.m. French time today,” reported the Los Angeles Times, under the banner, “V-E DAY.” More conservative in its announcement, but not in the size of its headline, the evening Leader of May 7 simply said:



V – E Day Probably To Be Tomorrow

London, May 7, —(AP)—The war against Germany, the greatest in history, ended today with the unconditional surrender of the once mighty wehrmacht.

The surrender to the western Allies and Russia was made at General Eisenhower’s headquarters at Reims, France, but official announcement by the Big Three was held up, pending simultaneous action by Washington, Moscow and London. The best information available in London tonight was that the announcement might not be made until tomorrow afternoon.

It was for the morning paper, the Tribune, under the same ownership as the Leader, to carry the line, “IT’S V – E DAY!”

The summer between her junior and senior year, Ann Jean wanted to get a job other than baby-sitting. She had found baby-sitting very lucrative during the summers and school terms of her sophomore and junior years and she had done house cleaning and a lot of wall washing when the family moved into 315, but she desired steadier work. Wilda accompanied her on a visit to the Mountain States Telephone Company, located just a couple of blocks from their home. As they visited with the manager, he told them that he could hire Ann Jean as an “information operator,” instead of the janitorial work Ann Jean thought she was qualified for. This proved to be a very good job and one with shift work that enabled her to work 20 or more hours a week during the school year. It was also one of the most exciting jobs to have during the late summer of 1945.

On August 6 the United States dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. The second was dropped on Nagasaki three days later. High school students knew what atoms were, but what could they possibly mean by calling a bomb “atomic?” The Great Falls Tribune, in three inches across all eight columns above its headline, “DEATH DEALING BOMB HITS JAPAN,” ran an article summarizing the theory and history of atomic energy. Credit was given “Lize Meitner, a German Jewess, a mathematician, [who] made a clever guess,” and “Dr. Niels Bohr, Danish physicist, who ... learned of Dr. Meitner’s calculations ...[and] broadcast them.” “Inside two weeks [laboratories around the world] ... had made the test and proved the German woman right.”

On August 14, 1945, President Truman announced that the Japanese government accepted the surrender terms, and he named Gen. Douglas MacArthur as supreme commander. On the 15th The Great Falls Tribune put out two editions; each declared “PEACE!” in pictorial block letters in red ink. Below that in blue ink, “JAPANESE EMPIRE ACCEPTS UNCONDITIONAL SURRENDER” on two lines, nearly filled the paper above the fold. Splashed in red ink over the blue print on the full page below PEACE was a V with a smaller J in the V. It was a day unlike any other in American history and the papers let their readers know it.

The evening of one of those days, the 14th or the 15th, or both, the switchboard office at the telephone company was a hubbub. All long distance telephone calls had to go through an operator who had to find the necessary circuits across the country to complete the call. The Great Falls office may have had as many as fifteen to twenty switchboards, plus one for the information operator. All the switchboards were staffed that night, all active, and all “lit up like Christmas trees.” Calls were coming in and going out all across the country: family to family, sailor to girl friend, soldier to home. The excitement was infectious and permeated the office. Whether from the sound of all the operators talking at the same time into the speakers that hung around their necks, or the frequent poor transmission quality of the voice in the headphones, it was sometimes difficult to understand a request. A caller from across the country might be on line talking to his operator, who in turn was trying to talk to a local operator or “information operator.” One frustrated caller trying to get the operators to understand a word containing “q,” a letter that didn’t transmit well, finally yelled, “Q, Q as in cucumber.” Wherever you were that night, you knew that the collective voice of America was the most joyous you would ever hear.

On September 2, aboard the battleship Missouri, the surrender agreement was signed, by MacArthur for the Allies, Nimitz for the United States, and Foreign Minister Shigemitsu for Japan. September 2nd was declared V-J Day.

Earlier in the summer, July 28, another event occurred that was recalled years later when the suicide bombers of September 11, 2001, crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City. The Great Falls Leader covered that story:



Flames Roar Through 11

Floors of World’s Biggest

Structure in New York

Fog Shrouds Metropolis as Plane Crashes

Into 85th Level of Huge Building

New York, July 28 (AP) — A B-25 Billy Mitchell bomber, roaring across Manhattan from a northwesterly direction, crashed into the 79th floor of the 102-story Empire State building at 7:45 a.m. M.W.T. today and immediately burst into an inferno of flame....

Several stories near the level where the plane hit were engulfed in flame and horrified spectators far below ran and huddled for shelter in doorways as debris showered down over a wide area from the crash scene at 34th street and Fifth avenue.

That summer, Dick again went to New York City. While there he went to a nightclub and came home with an autographed picture of himself taken at his table with one or more of a quartet of girl singers that resembled the Andrews Sisters. He ordered coffee and was appalled at the price of fifty cents. This episode is the extent of Ann Jean’s memory of Richard’s account of his trip, although this may have been the trip when Dick went to Detroit and picked up the new De Soto. When he got home, he went to the courthouse and came back with a driver’s license for Wilda and one for Ann Jean. Even though Ann Jean cut a corner too close and may have gotten a scratch on the new car, Richard allowed her to drive the De Soto occasionally that summer, but she would not drive a car again until after she was married.

The war over, the servicemen returned home and the G.I. Bill went into effect. Across the country the former servicemen and women returned home and embarked upon the education that had been promised to them by the U.S. government. Ann Jean graduated from high school in June 1946 and applied to the University of Colorado in Boulder, hoping for acceptance, but believing that if she were not accepted, the Montana higher education system was obligated to accept any qualified student from a Montana high school. She had no idea of the impact the returning veterans had on the colleges. Applications soared and the colleges scrambled to make provisions for the record-breaking number of students that were accepted. The University of Colorado turned away 9,000 applicants. Opening her letter from the university, she got no further than the words, “We are pleased to inform you...” before breaking into tears of joy. Her separation from the telephone company is dated Sept. 13, 1946; reason given, “To enter school.” The cost of a university education was not cheap, and some of the following items, such as the Artist Series and the Coloradan, were not purchased in future quarters: Fall 1946 CU Tuition — $40.00, Tuition-Nonresident — $42.00, Biology fee — $1.00, Artist Series — $5.50, Coloradan, (year book) — $4.50, Little Theater — $2.50, Total $95.50. Other quarters were: Winter Quarter 1947 Tuition — $82.00, Spring Quarter Tuition — $82.00, Fall 1946 Room and Board Harding Hall Room 134 — $150. Winter Quarter Room and Board 1947 — $112.50. Those fees look pretty good today.

Richard Worstell sold the Big Sandy farm on November 9, 1946. Wilda wrote to Ann Jean:

Well, we sold the ranch today for $6,300 to Mr. Pullen of Big Sandy. Daddy put an ad in the Tribune last Sunday — Boy — people & letters — inquiring — but Daddy decided to sell it to Mr. Pullin. He sure wanted it —— Mr. Mahood of Big Sandy offered $5000 cash — Good thing we did not sell it — isn’t it?

C. F. Pullin sold the ranch to Brian D. O’Donnell who sold it to Mr. Christofferson for $10,000 in 1948. Keith Edwards purchased the land in the 1980s. Keith and his wife offer a description of the land as follows:

The land is extremely sandy. Christoffersons planted a lot of trees to try to hold the land. Many hours of labor was spent getting them started but they did poorly and were later pulled out.

The winter and spring of 63-64 was extremely dry and windy. The Worstell land blew badly, leaving arrowheads exposed. People came from far and near to gather them. There is a large display of arrowheads in the Big Sandy museum from the Worstell land, donated by Glenn and Anita Cook.

The resulting sandbanks held most of the spring run-off in 1981 and that year Edwards cut 100 bushels of oats to the acre.

Edwards farmed it in very narrow strips for several years and then put it into the Conservation Reserve Program in 1986 for $40 an acre for 10 years. The CRP was renewed in 1997 for another ten years at a somewhat lower bid.

The winter of 1946-47 was an especially severe one in Montana. It started early, as a post card to Ann Jean from Cameron, age 7, postmarked Nov. 23, 1946, attests:

Dear Ann Jean, We had a big snow. It was 25 degrees below zero. It was 9 inches deep. Bill is rooming with us. He gave me a telegram set. from your brother Cameron

Bill and his wife were roomers. Bill was a catcher for the newly formed semi-pro baseball team, the Great Falls Electrics. He loved to play army, as in hide and seek, with Cameron; they’d carry their wooden rifles and sneak around the corners of the house trying to catch the other unawares. Richard and Wilda kept in touch with them for many years.

The winter mentioned above caused coal shortages at the University of Colorado. The University closed on Thanksgiving and the students were sent home. They did not reopen the school until January. On the return trip to Boulder from Great Falls, the train went as far as Casper, Wyoming, before it was held up due to snow drifts in the cuts along the track. Bus and train passengers, including many returning college students, found themselves stranded. The train was the first to be detained and the last to leave. Ann Jean, who had started out by train, got in line to catch a bus the remainder of the way to Boulder. Many students were late for registration, including Ann Jean.

Other experiences in traveling across Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado included the time the gears on the bus froze in 20 or 30 degree below zero weather in the wee hours of one night in Worland, Wyoming. The bus driver got the bus in the garage, closed the doors, and left the engine running to keep the passengers warm. Not until one woman collapsed on the steps leading out of the bus did anyone realize the passengers were becoming asphyxiated. It was 12 hours later before the passengers were cleared to leave. A few had been taken to the hospital, several were treated with oxygen, and all had been interviewed for insurance reasons.

Having learned in the spring of 1947 that Grandfather Augustine was failing, the Worstells decided to have Ann Jean pay him a visit during spring vacation. Lois Augustine was helpful in arranging the trip by train via Iowa City to West Chester.

The house at 315 Second Avenue North was sold June 21, 1947 to the Shrine Club for $20,000 plus the value of the furniture. It was the first Shrine Club in the state to acquire its own home. The club planned to host the East-West football game in August, with an expected game attendance of 8,000 to 9,000 people.

The Worstells moved to 921 4th Avenue North, June 1947. Richard was investing his money in Great Falls real estate with low-income rental units. He had quit his job with Anaconda Copper Mining Company, focused on property management, and was selling real estate for the firm of Lee & Arts Realty Co., two men with whom he became good friends. Even so, Dick continued his interest in education. He took short-term assignments with the Great Falls High School, taught some summer classes in chemistry and physics, and did some substituting. He especially enjoyed his work at St. Mary’s. He admired the discipline in the school that made teaching stress-free. He got along especially well with the nuns who lived in the convent across the street from his home. Richard also sold World Book for Field Enterprises off and on for several years.

Al Augustine recovered from his earlier illness and did not die until February 2, 1948. A newspaper obituary read:

A. T. Augustine Taken Suddenly

Albert T. Augustine, 88 years old, a native and life-time resident of Washington county, died at his home in West Chester about 4:30 Thursday afternoon. He had not been well for some time but had been up and around the house.

His brother, Andy Augustine was talking to him yesterday when he suddenly complained of not feeling well and died in a few minutes.

Funeral services will be held in the Methodist church in West Chester Monday afternoon at two o’clock. Re. Vernon Pike will be in charge.

Mr. Augustine was born June 13, 1859 in Washington county, the son of Martin and Pauline Guise Augustine. He attended rural schools in Dutch Creek township where he spent his early life and farmed for a number of years. He was married in May, 1891 to Adda I. Baker and they moved to West Chester in 1901.

He was a prominent stock buyer until his health forced him to retire and was a member of the Methodist church.

Survivors include a son, Howard Augustine of Denver, Colo.: a daughter, Mrs. Richard Worstell of Great Falls, Mont.: two brothers, W. E. and Andy, both of Washington, and one sister, Mrs. Lee Craig of West Chester.

Jones funeral home is in charge of arrangements. Burial will be in Elm Grove cemetery.

The write-up of the funeral services included some additional information:

Mr. Augustine has been in failing health for several years but his mind has been remarkably alert and his interest has been sustained in the church, school activities and more or less in business, social and national affairs. He has been very tenderly cared for by Mr. and Mrs. Fred Fornash, who have enabled him to ride through the country when his health would permit to see the scenes made familiar by an entire life spent in this community. He had traveled widely and his mind was well stored with the rich treasures garnered from far and near.

... Mr. Augustine was not noticeable ill during the day Thursday and was visiting with his brother Andrew when he suddenly complained of not feeling well and died in a few minutes.

In June, Dick and Wilda drove back to West Chester to visit the Coffees, and the Fornashs, who remained special friends of Wilda’s until they died. The Worstells were probably driving their new Hudson Commadore Eight. It was Dick’s practice to go to Detroit to buy his new cars and visit relations on the return trip. Dick wrote Ann Jean from West Chester.

We are about through visiting here at West Chester and will probably visit in Des Moines, Ia. with Mother’s friends Monday. Then Tuesday we will probably visit in Kansas City with Aunt Jane. We go to Iowa City today to meet Lois and I imagine she will leave tomorrow. There isn’t much to interest Lois & Howard here any more. Yesterday we went down around Indianapolis [Iowa] and Rudland visiting relatives of Mother.

Yesterday I sent $150 to the bank at Great Falls in your accnt. That should be OK don’t you think? Enclosed is $5.00 for spending money. Can’t say for sure when we will see you but should be week-end sometime. Best regards and love from us all, Daddy.

A later card said they would visit Jane for two or three days and be at Howard’s and in Boulder on the 18th of June 1948. Lois wasn’t yet expected back from Iowa.

The fall election of 1948 was an upset of major proportions. Against all odds and the polls, President Truman defeated Gov. Dewey for the presidency of the United States. It was the “Tightest Contest in 32 Years,” said the Los Angeles Times. Too young to vote but favoring Truman, A.J. spent the wee hours of November 4th tallying the votes as reported on the radio. Dick, in Great Falls, was favoring Dewey. He had switched parties. In a future election, probably 1950, he dipped his toes in the political waters and became the GOP candidate for state legislature; his campaign — “No Increase in Taxes — No New Tax.”

A.J. attended summer school during 1947, ‘48, and ‘49. It was probably not a good decision as classes were hard to schedule and burn out was a problem. Dick wrote in an undated letter, probably during 1949 while she was taking a course titled Electricity and Magnetism:

Dear Ann Jean;-

Glad to hear from you and that you got the materials I sent you. If you will read most of that material in the next twelve months I feel sure you will know a great deal about atomic energy. It is a great world in which we live and will be much greater in the future.

... I sold my first house yesterday for the firm. Will make about $75.00 as commission. On some deals I make more than on others. There seems to be considerable interest in real estate. So hard to rent it forces many to buy in order to get a place to live.

I am thinking of having some siding put on three of those old houses I bought last December. I think I will use this asbestos siding as it will never need repainting and will make house warmer. Will buy the material and hire a carpenter by the day.

Mother thinks maybe you need a new summer dress but don’t want to ask for the money so am enclosing $10.00 to help out.

We both hope you will try hard on your physics course. It is better to keep on as you plan even though you might fail. There is always a chance of passing if you work hard on it. It is a course you will have to take [so] better to take it even though you fail and then repeat it.

... We hope you will not worry too much about your work. Take time out to have a good time. We all wish the best of everything for you, Love, Daddy.

A. J. took her father’s advice about not worrying too much; however, although she continued to attend class, she pretty much gave up on the physics. Her classes included an anatomy class, more mathematics, and some liberal arts. She contracted a cold that turned into bronchitis with a stubborn cough. She got the doctor who had been treating her for bronchitis to prescribe a cough syrup with codeine, which A.J. had learned from her grandfather was necessary to halt a cough. Then she accepted an invitation from Howard and Lois to attend a concert at Red Rocks amphitheater with them. It was a very healing experience, and the orchestra performed The 1812 Overture with cannon, a favorite rendition. A. J. graduated in August 1949 with a BA in distributed studies. She had liked all the sciences too much to make a decision on a major, so the degree was not very salable. Teaching was a logical choice, but it required a number of courses plus practice teaching to qualify for a certificate, and she wasn’t ready to make that choice.

While in Great Falls after graduation, Ann Jean answered an advertisement in the paper and accepted a job with a crew of magazine sales people. This is a unique experience for most people. The crew consisted of a leader and four or five sales people. They traveled, with their limited luggage, in a station wagon from town to town. They never stayed long in any one place, even if it was a sizable city. Many towns and cities enacted the “Green River Ordinances,” named after the town of Green River, Wyoming where it was first introduced. The law either prohibited door-to-door solicitations, or required a city permit. Often the practice of the crew leader was to drop off the salesmen in a prospective area, either residential, or more frequently in an area where outdoor workers could be approached, then go check in with the city or police offices. If the answer was no, the crew leader drove back to the area where the sales people were working, picked them up and drove on. Several sales might be made in the interim. The crew stayed in motels and practiced their spiels in the evening with their leader. Living expenses were charged against sales commissions, and Ann Jean never exceeded the living costs. However, A.J.’s sales did improve once she determined that she needed to return to school to get a teaching certificate. Then the story of working your way through college was true and enthusiastic. Her father wrote Ann Jean a letter, dated November 1, 1949, addressed to P.O. Box 1080, Terre Haute, Indiana, % Virgil Pounds (the crew chief) and offered her an option:

Dear daughter;-

... Perhaps Mother told you we bought a large mansion over on 3rd avenue north about five blocks from here, near the Columbus Hospital. It really has good income possibilities and we both are wondering if you wouldn’t rather come home help run the house instead of continuing at what you are doing. I will pay you 35.00 a week to clean a little and take care of the house. It wouldn’t be hard work at all. I plan on just having girls, mostly nurses employed at the hospitals, some would have a sleeping room only while others would have a room with kitchen privileges. We probably will reserve one bedroom for transients, people that come to visit patients in the hospital and want rooms so badly. We will have a comfortable living room for all to enjoy. It may be you’d save some money before you return to school in January. Also I will give you enough money to go back to school for winter and spring terms and then of course you could return here for the summer and run the house again for me, that is if you care to. Your mother isn’t at all well as you know and I know she would enjoy having you home. Don’t you think you would like to come home. If mother was well and strong I wouldn’t say anything about it but I feel that you won’t be able to make much money at what you are doing and if you could make better here and at the same time be with mother I think it would be more satisfactory all around. If you care to come, come at once as there would be no object in delaying. There will be considerable work getting the place cleaned up and furnished, curtains up etc....

Love from us all, Daddy

It was hardly a mansion, but it was a delightful old house with fireplaces in nearly every room and wainscoting in the living room. Built-in bookcases still contained some books, including the works of Edgar Allen Poe and O’Henry. Expectations for the house did not include restoration, just cleaning, and Ann Jean helped with that. The house was not ready for occupancy before it was time for A.J. to return to school. It was not in Dick’s possession long, for it was sold shortly after.