“Hopewell News” – from the WWII Homefront

We’ve just added the full set of bound issues of Dean Ashton’s Hopewell News – 1943 – 1946, a World War II news-sheet with the modest ambition to “inform service members of home-town doings.” This provides a wonderful view into daily life in Hopewell (and in the service), in over 50 issues published from January 1943 to January 1946.

Ashton presented bound copies of the full set of issues to the then Hopewell Library-Museum. All 294 pages have now been scanned and are available to read and search, along with an introduction and summary table of contents of the issues.

= Read Hopewell News -1943 -1946 (PDF) =

The issues had topic sections including Church Doings, Happenings Around Town, For Those In Service, plus poems and jokes. The town news included local headlines, news briefs, and short updates on Hopewell people and businesses. The service news included updates from people home on furlough, letters from around the world, and news of injuries and deaths.

The newsletter was originally sent to members of the Calvary Baptist Church, but grew into a distribution of 500 copies, to more than 200 Hopewell people in the armed forces. The collection also includes four additional “letters” that Ashton wrote from February to May 1946 for people still in the service.

You can get lost in Ashton’s reports of town life, just skimming, or searching for specific people, local businesses, and events (both important and personal):

  • Automatic pin-setters were installed at Weart’s bowling alleys.
  • Albert Rathousky used his precious ration points to buy some steak, but left the bag in his bicycle carrier, only to find that “the meat was in the possession of a very grateful dog.”
  • When the gas mains failed in January 1944, the “the ‘victims’ of the gas shortage arranged to cook on the electric or coal stoves of their neighbors. More than one housewife was seen carrying hot dishes of food or baked potatoes from one home to another.”
  • When fifth grader Richard Wyckoff found a $20 bill in a Trenton store, he turned it in to see if there was a claimant. A few days later, his mother mentioned it to Mrs. Lindsay while they were riding to Trenton on the bus, and it turned out that her sister had lost the money. She “saw to it that [Dick] received a reward.”

After the war, Ashton extended this work into a book, Be It Ever So Humble, The Story of Hopewell, New Jersey, and its Servicemen During World War II, published in 1947. He described hometown life and experiences in the armed forces, using extracts from the Hopewell News plus personal interviews of service members returned from the war.

Ashton was trained for this role: A graduate of the Columbia University School of Journalism, he was a courthouse reporter for the Trenton Times for twelve years, and later retired from the State Department of Labor.

Later in his life, Ashton researched and wrote Hopewell Academy (Forerunner of Brown University) and the Lives of Outstanding Graduates. This covers the genesis of the Hopewell Academy in the Hopewell Baptist Church in 1747, the work of Isaac Eaton in forming the school, the legacy and graduates of the school, and James Manning’s development of Brown University. Unfortunately, Ashton died early at age 60, but his unpublished manuscript was preserved, and finally was made publicly available on this site (see earlier post).

(The Hopewell Public Library has copies of Be It Ever So Humble, and used copies also can be found online.)

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