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This Week in History: World War II soldiers began coming home

75 years ago, 1945

As World War II was coming to an end, Army soldiers were being discharged with a point system based on their service record. Youngstown’s first point-discharged soldier was a Cpl. Pressley Averhart. Averhart, 25, and a former Rayen School student, had served in the Army for six years, three of them overseas. He was one of 2,500 men discharged after earning more than 85 points. Points were awarded for length of service, time overseas and combat awards.

Averhart’s mother, Mrs. Freeman Jones, learned of her son’s release from a Vindicator reporter. The family had talked to Pressley, but was not sure that he would be discharged. He believed he had around 112 points — 56 points for length of service, 36 points for overseas duty and 20 points for four Silver Star decorations. They couldn’t believe the news when it was confirmed he was coming home. Averhart served with a truck group in the quartermaster corps in Africa, Sicily, Italy, and Germany.

60 years ago, 1960

Moviegoers were treated to one of the greatest wonders in the history of film, as the epic classic “Ben-Hur” was set to open at the State Theatre in downtown Youngstown. Vindicator reporter Fred Childress was one of a lucky few who watched the film at a special preview. “After all these years of watching movies, it’s amazing how that famous chariot race set my heart to pounding, and how nerve-wracking I found the great naval battle between the Roman galleys and the pirate fleet,” he wrote.

A cast of more than 1,000 actors appeared in the film, which garnered 11 Academy Awards. The film opened in Camera 65, a new Technicolor process that resulted in startling depth and clarity with stereophonic sound. Even though Childress could recognize some of the filming tricks that created the film’s grand scope, he still was enthralled by the results. “It’s that chariot race between Ben-Hur, the Prince of Judea and Messala, the Roman tribune, that gives the picture its trademark. The race undoubtedly will go down as the first use of the motion picture camera in Hollywood history to record an action sequence. The race represents some 40 minutes of the most hair-raising excitement movie audiences have ever witnessed.”

50 years ago, 1970

As we humbly honor our nurses, doctors, medical staff and volunteers today, they were doing the same 50 years ago during National Hospital Week. The Youngstown Vindicator featured a two-page spread with several images of local hospital volunteers who occupied an important role in the medical system. Both St. Elizabeth and Youngstown Hospital Association employed full-time volunteer services directors to manage the dedicated corps of volunteers.

These volunteers ranged in age from teenagers to retired people looking to help in all aspects of hospital duty. Frank McLennan was one of eight male “Candy Stripers” who worked with the YHA, helping in the blood bank at the South Side Hospital. Barbara Derkach, another teenage “Candy Striper” worked in the Inhalation Therapy department at Northside Hospital, escorting patients, such as George H. Patterson to their sessions. Junior Guild members at St. Elizabeth created stuffed animals for young patients, such as 4-year-old Minch Fong, who chose a cute fish from the basket. Other volunteers assisted with delivering meals, counting pills, organizing and staffing hospital gift shops, working with central supply to furnish linens, packs and sterile equipment, and even showing new parents their children in the maternity ward. “They are on the job day and night, weekends and holidays, all through the year. Without them many services would be impossible,” the newspaper stated.

40 years ago, 1980

“To one whose only useful recollection — not the teacher’s fault– of high school geometry is that a straight line is the shortest distance between two points, a project of Ursuline High School’s 10th-grade geometry class is humbling.” Doug Radcliffe, a geometry teacher at Ursuline, created a plan to bring practical applications of his students’ work into the classroom. The students’ goal? Design and build a bridge. The catch? They could only use toothpicks and Elmer’s glue.

Each student started with a blueprint of their bridge displaying measurements and estimates of how many toothpicks they would use along with how much weight the bridge would hold. The bridges had to span 12 inches, without support posts, and the toothpicks had to be the round version, not the flat ones. Students couldn’t glue more than two toothpicks together for thickness and the bridge floor had to be at least three inches wide with ramps at both ends.

These incredibly specific guidelines resulted in some wonderful designs and a few beautifully artistic bridges. Awards were given for the most attractive bridge, the most like its blueprints, and the most unusual design. The final award, given to the bridge that held the most weight, went to Bill Narduzzi. His incredibly strong bridge weighed around 12 ounces and contained about 1,200 toothpicks. A weight of 139 pounds finally broke his bridge.

• Compiled from the archives of the Youngstown Vindicator by Traci Manning, MVHS curator of education.

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