A Southern Cross Christmas, 75 years ago
The war-time Christmas edition of The Southern Cross in 1944 was a 12-page affair. GÜNTHER SIMMERMACHER steps into a time-capsule from 75 years ago.
In 1944, the concerns of the Church were still with the Second World War, but the outlook was more positive than it had been the previous Christmas.
Victory over Nazi Germany would come within half a year.
At a time of paper restrictions, the Christmas edition, dated December 13, 1944 (and issue number 1262) came in at 12 pages, four more than the usual volume. The cover price was 3 pence.
There are four photos and two line illustrations in the issue: two on the cover, of Bethlehem and the altar of the “Catholic church of the Nativity” there (commonly known as St Catherine’s), one of US forces in procession in liberated France, and one of Capt Robert Collingwood, who received a decoration for war heroism.
The leading news
The focus on the front-page is on Pope Pius XII, under whose auspices 193000 meals are being distributed every day to the hungry in Rome. Those hungry people doubtless include some of the 53000 refugees in Rome taken in by the Papal Refugee Commission.
The Church is also running soup kitchens for refugees in other parts of Italy.
In other news
- Among the many local snippets is the news that Mr CG Sassin of Kimberley has been elected a member of the Demobilisation Committee for the Northern Cape.
- Oudtshoorn’s Polish orphans have given a performance of folk dance in Yeoville, Johannesburg, with the city’s Bishop O’Leary in attendance.
- Some 16000 parishes in the US have collected more than half a million kilograms of clothing for the liberated people of Europe.
- Official pilgrimages to Lourdes have resumed for the first time since the German occupation, even though two bombs have exploded at the site.
- An unsigned feature reports on the insights of Abbé Breuil, “probably the greatest living authority on…prehistoric times”. The French Jesuit priest recently visited Cape Town, his third trip to South Africa after 1929 and 1942.
- Another unsigned feature looks at the reports by Hallett Abend, who for 16 years was the New York Times’ Far East correspondent, on the missionary work done in China.
- Fr G Reeves, a wing-commander in the Royal Air Force, reflects on a conversation about love and romance.
Long-serving women’s columnist Mary Singleton tells a Christmas story, while Fr Gavan Duffy SJ in part 292 of his “Theology for the Layman” reflects on the Creed.
The Paulist Fathers in Johannesburg answer a series of questions from readers. Among other things, they explain why it is possible to have Mass said in honour of saints.
In her “Children’s Corner”, Aunt Celia welcomes a new “Cornerite” in six-year-old Elaine Thompson, who shall be known as “Moonbeam”.
Fr Bernard Huss CMM in his “Native Affairs” column explains the urgent need for more African nurses.
The “Topic of the Week” addresses various current issues. Among them is an objection to the call for stricter pass laws to control the influx of Africans into the cities. The Southern Cross suggests that “the real solution lies in the provision of just wages, proper family housing and religious education”.
The “Roll of Honour” marks the death in war service of Lt Joseph Terence Rowan, telegraphist Leslie Bernard de Reuck, and Lt Gordon McKenzie (MIA).
In a two-part leader, editor Fr Owen McCann reflects on the Immaculate Conception, and on Christmas gifts, saying that the practice of giving presents can be criticised “because people have forgotten why the gifts are made”.
In one of only two letters, “Shareholder” asks about selling shares in the Catholic Newspaper & Publishing Co, which publishes The Southern Cross. The editor explains how that is done, and points out that for the past three years, dividends have been 7,5%. Happy days!
There is no supplement; the Christmas articles are mixed with all the other material. But there are plenty of seasonal offerings.
“Sacerdos” writes in detail about the two-hour Christmas Mass at an unidentified mission station.
Fr J Kendal SJ suggests in a forthright reflection that an antidote to the desperate seasonal merriment that is meant to mask the drudgery of daily life is to have a good Christmas liturgy.
“Christmas in America” is the subject of Fr J Bradley CSP, who suggests that after church services on Christmas morning, families rush “home through the snow”.
Army chaplain Fr P Poole CF writes about Christmas 1941 when the Fifth Brigade South African (made up of South African, Irish and Scottish soldiers) “had fallen back on Mersa Matruth after their tragic rout at Sidi Rezegh”.
There are a couple of poems and a short story by Edith Mary Power titled “Men of Goodwill”.
In 1944, Catholic businesses supported the Catholic press—and non-Catholics, too.
There were big names, like Standard and Barclay Banks, Permanent and United building societies, Monis champagne and liqueurs, Woolworth’s, Oxo, Moir’s jelly powder, Lion and Castle beers, and Lux soap (with actress Priscilla Lane, fresh from playing Cary Grant’s fiancée in the classic comedy Arsenic and Old Lace).
Cleghorns department store in Cape Town occupies the earpieces on the front-page, where fellow advertisers C to C cigarettes used to be placed.
For your dry-cleaning use Nannucci’s in Cape Town (still in existence, but not advertising); for your engineering needs try Woolf in Bloemfontein; and for a new suit Croft, Magill & Watson gents’ outfitters in Kimberley.
Catholics are advised to make their brandy, gin and altar-wines Santy’s, buy their Catholic devotionals from the Catholic Repository in Johannesburg’s Kerk Street, get their Catholic Directory for 1945 from The Salesian Press, and send their children to any of the many Catholic boarding schools (many of them now long gone).
The Apostleship of the Sea asks Catholics to donate rosaries, old issues of The Southern Cross and other items for distribution among seafarers in South African ports.
Other products advertised include Flit insecticide, Neuritis nerve pills, Aspro tablets for relief in hot weather—and Peek Frean’s Victory wartime biscuits, with the promise that the really good quality biscuits will return in peacetime…