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The Christmas/war season of 1942 continues

Lead Summary
Steve Roush-
Ladies and gentlemen, we’re still in 1942 on account of not taking gas rationing of the time into account … and the way-back machine is a bit thirsty. Don’t worry, folks, we’ll get some gas down the road, but at this point, we may have to walk or hitch a ride.

Speaking of rationing, in December of 1942, the local Rubber Director, William M. Jeffers, made an ardent plea to all motorists that, “You can save rubber and help win the war if you will do these things.”

Those five things are: Drive only when absolutely necessary; keep under 35 miles an hour; keep your tires properly inflated; have them inspected regularly; and share your car with others.

Many thanks, Mr. Rubber Director.

Speaking of driving, the front page reported that two people were killed in an accident when a train hit a car at a crossing near London, Ohio. The driver was Robert Bescher, 59, of London, and he and Mrs. Delphine Morcher, of South Vienna, were killed instantly. The local connection is that Mrs. Morcher was a first cousin of Mrs. Roger Heatherington, of Hillsboro, and that Mrs. Morcher had visited the Heatheringtons regularly.

What this former sports editor found interesting was this part: “Bescher was a famous ball player, playing for six years with the Cincinnati Reds and also with the New York Giants, St. Louis Cardinals and Cleveland.”

Bob Bescher was born in 1884, and the switch-hitting outfielder stole 81 bases in 1911 – a National League record that stood for more than 50 years. That season he had a whopping 716 at-bats, which was best in the NL, hit .275, walked 102 times and struck out 78 times, which was also the most in the league (for comparison, Reds third-baseman Eugenio Suarez struck out 67 times in just 198 at-bats in a COVID-19-shortened 2020). Bescher ended his
career in 1918 with a total of 1,171 hits, 749 runs scored, 28 home runs, 345 runs batted in, a .258 batting average and a .960 fielding percentage.

Bescher is buried in the Kirkwood Cemetery in London.

On the war front, the manager of the Colony Theatre in uptown Hillsboro issued a plea for more pictures of Highland County men in service to be placed on display, with more than 200 photos already on exhibition in the lobby of the theatre.

It was pointed out that “nearly 1,000 Highland County men are members of some branch of the armed service, and the 200 pictures that may now be seen at the Colony is only a small percentage of all local men serving their country.”

We spoke last time about war bonds and stamps. In December of 1942, the U.S. had launched a “Victory Loan Drive,” and the local newspaper published a passionate editorial urging residents to give generously and turn their pockets inside-out to help win the war.

“For the first time in this war the great mass of the American people are asked to make a real contribution toward winning the war. During the month of December, the people and financial institutions of the United States are requested to purchase nine billion dollars of government bonds. The quota of Highland County is $882,000,” the editorial began.

According to the CPI Inflation Calculator, $882,000 in 1942 is worth $13,367,200 today. Sounds like a ton of cash to me, but when you think about it another way, in 1942, U.S. citizens (coming off the Great Depression, mind you) were trying to raise $9 billion to help the nation win the war, and today, the government has allowed upward of $4 trillion in less than a year for temporary assistance in the fight against COVID-19. But we digress.

The editorial indicated the county’s financial institutions should take on a little less than one half of the Victory Loan Drive quota, leaving approximately $500,000 for the residents of the county to pony up.

The editorial was “confident” that the quota would be met, but before we explain why, let’s pause for now and we’ll continue next time.

Steve Roush is vice chairman of the Highland County Historical Society Board of Trustees, a vice president of an international media company and a columnist and contributing writer for The Highland County Press. He can be reached by email at

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