Thinking of Conshohocken while listening to a Country SongNovember 7, 2023
The Conshohocken Methodist Church located at West Sixth Avenue and Fayette Street is proudly celebrating their 175th Anniversary.November 29, 2023
Remembering When West Conshohocken
Unveiled their ROLL OF HONOR
By Jack Coll
Veterans Day, originally known as Armistice Day, is a Federal Holiday observed on November 11th to honor military veterans of the United States Armed Forces, and a number of other countries around the world, celebrate this day, particularly the other countries that were involved in the war, celebrate what was Initially known as Armistice Day, due to the fact that World War l ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day in the 11th month of 1918 when the armistice with Germany went into effect.
At the urging of major veterans organizations, Armistice Day was renamed Veterans Day in 1954.
During World War ll, communities throughout America publicly displayed what was known as “Honor Rolls” The World War ll Honor Rolls were a compilation of Public Acknowledgements honoring the citizens in their community, and workplace along with fire and policemen who were serving in the military. Many factories and work-places would erect these Large Honor Roll signs, with the names of the men and women in their community and proudly displaying the employees names who were serving in the military on these signs.
Larger area factories and mills would display larger signs due to the fact that many employees had left their jobs to enter into the military while smaller companies had smaller signs, with names of employees who left their job to join the service and had their job waiting for them upon return. Clubs and organization would also post signs with the members names on it as did fire companies, police stations, churches, and small businesses, anyone who had men and women in the service they wanted to honor them by putting their name on these honor roll signs.
The Polish Eagles Club once located at 309 East Elm Street in Conshohocken listed more than 200 members on their Honor Roll. Quaker Chemical had an Honor Roll sign outside their main offices with 55 employees names on it, Walker Brothers, 150 men and women, W. C. Hamilton Paper Company, more than 200 employees on their sign, The T K Club located on East Hector Street had 225 members on their Honor Roll.
Seventy-nine years ago, in October 1944, West Conshohocken announced that they planned the erection and dedication of the Honor Roll sign in tribute to those from West Conshohocken who were serving in the Armed Forces and to honor the hometown heroes who had made the supreme sacrifice.
The Honor Roll sign was being sponsored by the West Conshohocken Service Boys Auxiliary, Mrs. John Costello was the president of the auxiliary and presided at the meetings with Town Council and manufacturers in the borough like Merion Worsted Mill, who had a sign with more than one hundred employees names on it proudly mounted outside their factory.
The committee awarded the contract for the sign to William T. Nuttal of Washington Square. The specs for the sign called for it to be ten feet high, 24 feet long with 480 names to be inscribed and adding the increased number of names as the war had not yet ended.
The committee’s wishes were to place the sign, on the memorial plot at the West entrance to the Matsonford Bridge. The location was later changed to sit on the Moorehead property near the approach to the bridge at a location where it would be in full view from all the directions. The concern was that the memorial plot location would not be granted by the Pennsylvania Art Commission in time for the unveiling.
On Tuesday November 14, 1944 the Conshohocken Recorder Newspaper described the scene of the Honor Roll unveiling.
“On Sunday November 12, 1944, the weather was ideal, a perfect Indian Summer day with warm sun beaming down from a cloudless sky and setting at the historic Matsonford hallowed since days of the American Revolution, a crowd of more than 1000 persons assembled to enjoy an interesting program for the grand unveiling of the West Conshohocken Honor Roll.”
The event included a number of interesting speakers who all had short remarks like Frederick Smillie, District Attorney of Montgomery County stated, “With one person out of every six in the armed forces,” the prosecuting attorney said he is sure that is a record and when at the out break of the present war when our country was threatened with bombing, West Conshohocken was the first community in the country to organize a Civilian Relief group with a complete setup that was officially approved. He spoke sympathetically to the Gold Star Mothers who were present.
Brigadier General William A. March told the assemblage he was glad to be present for two reasons, first, he said because he was a neighbor, and second, because he was in command of Conshohocken’s own fighting unit, “Battery “C” in which there were many West Side boys, who enlisted at the outbreak of the war. He noted that the boys of Battey “C” were writing history in blood and were stationed in France. (The General was right, a number of the local boys in the Battery “C” Unit were killed in action)
West Conshohocken Burgess, (Mayor) Harry Mossman spoke briefly and complemented the members of the Service Boys Auxiliary, in particular for the tribute that was being paid those in the service with the Honor Roll display. He also noted that one out of every six residents were serving in the military in West Conshohocken and prayed for their safe return.
Daniel Cannon, representing the Conshohocken Post 1074, Veterans of Foreign Wars along with Mrs. Margaret Millhouse, President of the VFW Post Ladies Auxiliary, Howard Martin, Commander of the John F. DeHaven Post, American Legion, and Councilmen Walter Hadfield and Joseph Pollack, who all assisted materially in the making of a successful occasion, and had kind, brief words to share with the crowd.
The Honor Roll was unveiled by Gold Star Mothers. Each Gold Star Mother including Mrs. Bianco, Mrs. Leflar, Mrs. McCarron, Mrs. Zorkowski and Mrs. Zebraski. All the Gold Star Mothers were presented with a corsage.
It was a festive, but sad ceremony, but for a brief moment in the fall sunlight of 1944, all was right in West Conshohocken as dozens of parents with children fighting a war in a foreign land, could gather in peace, and acknowledge each-others pain and concerns. And for most, a happy ending.
World War ll ended on May 8, 1945 with the unconditional surrender of Germany. The war in the Pacific continued until August 15, 1945, when Japan surrendered to the allies. This day is celebrated as “Victory over Japan,” or “VJ Day.”
A few short years later Americans entered the Korean War that began on June 25, 1950, by July American Troops entered the war on South Korea’s behalf. No sooner had the Korean War ended a war broke out in Vietnam in 1954, a few short years later American soldiers would once again be involved. By the conclusion of the Viet Nam war in 1973, 3.1 million Americans had been stationed in Viet Nam.
And there were all the wars to follow, there are two things we can all count-on, one, America is likely to always be involved in someone’s war throughout our lifetime, Two, West Conshohocken residents have never backed down from a fight, or any war.
Thanks to all our veterans, we certainly appreciate your service.
The photograph showing the old monument once located in the intersection of Front Street and the Matsonford Bridge is the property of Coll’s Custom Framing. All other photographs are the courtesy of Karen Hastings
The original World War l Monument once located at the intersection of Front Street and the Matsonford Bridge. The shaft monument was demolished in 1950 to make way for the expressway ramps. The two houses in the background were also demolished to make way for the expressway ramps.
(Notice the big black block at the base of the shaft, that is the bronze plaque with all the names of West Conshohocken men who served during World War l, along with the names of men from the Gulph Mills community. That plaque currently hangs on the exterior wall of West Conshohocken’s Borough Hall).
The other photos are from November 12, 1944 at the grand unveiling of the West Conshohocken Honor Roll, including a photo of a parade leading up to the grand unveiling of the Honor Roll.
(Please feel free to comment and feel free to identify any in the photos that you might recognize.)
For more history stories on Conshohocken and West Conshohocken feel free to visit the Conshystuff.com web-site and hit articles by Jack Coll. Also, should you need services of any of our advertisers we can assure you they do quality work at a fair price.