On April 15th, 1944. Dick Mudge’s P 47 fighter plane was shot down behind enemy lines. He was captured and sent to a German prison camp. As a POW, Dick was able to send letters to his mother, Mrs. Louise Gregory Mudge. He wrote of his longing for home on St. Louis Street and how he missed the simple things in life like playing ball in the yard with his brothers and enjoying the company of friends and neighbors. Dick and his brother John returned from the war in 1945 to his home which now stands at 745 St. Louis Street. They continued supporting our country as accomplished civil servants.
This letter and other wartime stories were shared with neighbors who attended the 3rd HSSA Evening of Discovery. The event was held on November 21st at the Madison County Historical Society Museum and Archives (MCHS). The evening specifically focused on WWII. “We all had to hold back our tears,” said Karen Malench (one of the attendees) as guest speakers, local historian Joan Evers and neighbor, Steve Mudge shared with the group their personal memories and private collections of wartime memorabilia.
Steve Mudge, son of the late John Mudge and nephew of the late Dick Mudge Jr., brought in his family’s personal scrapbook filled with memories, letters and newspaper articles that featured his father and uncle. Additionally, Steve shared with us the uniforms that his father wore as a private in the Army Signal Corps. It was especially moving that Steve brought along his son, Taylor (19) who was about the age of most of our soldiers during WWII.
The most emotional part of the evening was when Joan Evers vividly recalled detailed events that took place in Edwardsville on the night of December 7, 1944. Joan was a young girl who worked in her father’s print shop (Foehrkalb Printing) on Hillsboro. She remembered her father being woken up with the news that the U.S. was under attack in Pearl Harbor. “Life was never the same after that day,” Joan said with tears flowing from her eyes. “From that moment, daddy’s printing press rarely stopped running.” Mr. Foehrkalb and his staff worked tirelessly releasing notices, flyers, buttons and posters... virtually any printed material that helped the town in support of the troops. They even helped the residents to prepare for possible invasions. “It was a time of great fear and sacrifice,” said Joan as she recalled the gold stars hanging in the neighbors’ windows marking the homes of soldiers who were killed in battle. She remembered the standing-room-only in the Wildey Theatre as the town gathered to see newsreels of events enfolding overseas.
As dark as that time was, Joan generously pointed out the subtle blessings she experienced. Specifically she cited the overwhelming patriotism of the town. She recalled walking down St. Louis Street and seeing the victory gardens, witnessing neighbors helping neighbors and watching the ornamental iron fences being torn down for artillery. But perhaps Joan’s most precious memory was hearing the music coming from many of the homes on our street. She described how she could hear pianos being played from the front parlors and how the singing would pour out into the street. Families stood, side-by-side, singing music that both encouraged and healed them. Joan kindly shared her collection of vintage music books with those attending the event.
The MCHS also made available their own archival material on WWII, which include photographs, ration booklets, lists of the enlisted men and relevant articles pertaining to the War.
All who attended the Evening of Discovery left with a great sense of pride for both the sacrifices of our WWII veterans and the people of this town who pulled together during a very challenging period in our country’s history.
Stay tuned for another HSSA Evening of Discovery coming this fall.