Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
The American Red Cross has certainly been thrust into prominence in the past several weeks as a major provider of aid to those who are injured, homeless, and affected by the recent tragic events in our country. Albion has historically been very supportive of the Red Cross, and during times of war local women’s clubs would assist the Red Cross in their work here. This was especially true during World War I as hundreds of our area men went off to war “Over There” as the song goes. During the 1960s editor Rae Corliss would occasionally publish an historical World War I-era Albion Red Cross photograph in the Journal of Albion weekly newspaper showing the ladies in their uniforms preparing bandages or packages to be sent to soldiers overseas or for aid designated for someplace. These photographs can easily be seen in old issues of the Journal.
The Red Cross was also active in Albion during World War II. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Albion branch of the Red Cross sprang into action to do its part in the war effort. They raised $3,421 in an emergency war drive in January, 1942. In a 1943 drive, the amount raised was $6,814, and in 1944, $9,500. The 1944 Albion City Directory lists the following officials of the local branch: Mrs. Helen Smith as chairman (as it was titled in those days), Ralph C. Graves as vice-chairman, Dr. Alice Campbell as secretary, and Mrs. Eleanor Sindecuse as treasurer. Contribution booths were set up at the Commercial & Savings Bank, and at the J. C. Penney Company.
There were numerous activities sponsored by the Red Cross for the entire community. In January, 1942, 140 persons participated in Red Cross first aid classes. In the months to come local citizens would roll bandages at evening sessions. The Junior Red Cross was headed by Mrs. Frances Hagerman, who would work with local school children. The children would be involved in knitting, paper and scrap drives, and other activities.
One interesting group was the “Red Cross Canteen Corps,” made up of local women who were trained for service in three phases of emergency duty: stationary, mobile, and outdoor. They were trained to cook meals to large groups of people in various settings should an emergency arise or catastrophe occur in which the citizens of Albion could not feed themselves. This group would also feed any large civilian defense groups that were being trained locally. The local Canteen Corps was headed by Mrs. Lucretia Gardner. At least a dozen Albion women participated in this program. Training was held in the Albion Community Center on E. Erie St., formerly the Women’s Christian Temperance Union center (which burned in 1944).
This week From the Archives we feature a photograph of Albion’s World War II Red Cross volunteers on a parade float in downtown Albion. This undated photograph is taken looking at the east side of S. Superior St. In the background on the far left is the Merrit Shoe Co. at 225 S. Superior; next is J. C. Penney’s at 301, and on the far right McClellan’s Dime Store at 305 S. Superior St.
Here we see the ladies in their various uniforms demonstrating their work. As can be learned from this photograph, the Red Cross is involved in a variety of vital services in addition to blood drives. The signs on the side of the float list various activities the group participated in, and state: “Junior Red Cross,” “Nurses Aide,” “Surgical Dressing,” “Canteen Corps,” and “Civilian Arts and Skills.” The Junior members are sitting on the edge at the far left holding American flags. How many of our readers were involved with the Red Cross during World War II?
Albion’s World War II Red Cross Volunteers
All text copyright, 2020 © all rights reserved Frank Passic