More letters from home during WW II
This is the second installment of a feature we began last week:
By Bobby Bryant, Editor
In the summer of 1942, as World War II was consuming Europe and the Pacific, a Darlington man named Woods Dargan worried about the troops from Darlington County. Dargan was a veteran of World War I, and he knew what the young men from the Pee Dee were going through. He wanted to “relieve their boredom and alleviate (their) fear,” boredom and fear being the two devils that plagued him most in his war. He started bouncing around ideas with his wife. What if they wrote little letters, or newsletters, to servicemen abroad, “giving them the gossip and keeping them informed as to the happenings in the town”? Dargan wrote two letters to servicemen he knew and titled them CONFIDENTIAL NEWS LETTER. The soldiers’ response was so encouraging that he decided to start a full-scale newsletter, The Chronicle, in August 1942. More and more people added more and more names to The Chronicle’s mailing list (stamps were about 1 cent then). To help Dargan with the rising costs of copying and mailing, people and groups in the Darlington area began “sponsoring” issues of the newsletter. The Darlington Kiwanis Club was the first sponsor. The Chamber of Commerce was next. “Young girl stenographers” helped with the typing. Others addressed envelopes. So was born The Chronicle, a 10-page, mimeographed, single-spaced, tightly packed newsletter that was published from 1942 to 1945 and mailed to countless troops from the Pee Dee area serving overseas. Many soldiers considered it a letter from home; some wrote letters back to The Chronicle. In honor of the 75th anniversary of the end of the war, and the 75th anniversary of the end of The Chronicle, the News & Press is reprinting a number of issues of the newsletter. Like Woods Dargan, how many issues we reprint and how often may depend on readers’ response. Where did we get these yellowed newsletters, held together with rusty staples? From me. My aunt Mildred Odom Clifton of Darlington, from what I understand, worked for The Chronicle at some points during the war. After Dargan died in 1943, more residents joined in to help get the publication out, and it appears my aunt was involved with The Chronicle in some way – a writer, an editor, a typist? – at least during 1945. She was mailed a copy of many 1945 issues and kept them in the original envelopes. After Mildred’s death, my family helped clean out her house on Washington Street. We found a stack of Chronicle issues, still in the envelopes, held together with rubber bands. I grabbed them and kept them. Why? I know history when I see it.