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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Happening in the old Civic Hall - Beverly Mathis Robinson

Hi Pete:  

I am reaching back to my earliest memories for this question. Sometime in the early 40's during WW2 some-probably radio-personality came to New Gretna for a "show" (I presume). It was held in a large building- Oh I wish I had a map of New Gretna- not on the main highway but on one perpendicular to it. If you turned off the highway, it would be on the left and my impression is a grey color. Coming from the north, the street or highway would have been just before the main part of town. 

I think the presentation was aimed mostly at women as it was done during the day when the menfolk would have been at work. It seems like it was something special because the place was full and it lasted several hours and my impression is one of entertainment or was it to sell war bonds.  

Does anyone remember this occasion, who the personality was and the focus of his presentation? I was there and I could not have been more than three or four years old. The memory keeps coming back and I keep asking the above questions. Surely, someone has the answers. Thanks

Beverly Mathis (Robinson)



I believe the building you are referring to is the old Civic Hall which is now the New Gretna Fire Department building on North Maple Avenue. It was built in the mid 1920's by the Ladies Auxilary from the New Gretna Presbyterian Church who saw a need for a recreation building for the community. The windows for the new hall came from the church, as they were no longer needed as new stained glass replacement windows were installed in the church.

Carol Gray (Frank & Kathleen's daughter) with her grandmother Willets in front of the old Civic Hall on North Maple Avenue. The hall is now the New Gretna Volunteer Fire Company fire house. (Photo courtesy of Franklin Willets Gray.)
Throughout the years the building was used for a variety of purposes including a sewing factory in the 1940's, a skating rink, and presently a fire house, but I'm not sure of the dates involved with those uses. The use of the building as a sewing factory around World War II would tie in with your story as you say the audiance was mostly women. The sewing factory workers would have been women.

The Fire House, formerly the old Civic Hall, in 1977 taken from the school parking lot. (Photo courtesy of Franklin Willets Gray.)

The Fire House in 2004. (Photo by Pete Stemmer.)

Unfortunately, I can't help you with any information on the event you describe. Maybe someone reading this can shed some light on your story or the varied uses of the building over the years.

Pete S

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