News-Dispatch pages come full circle back to Shamokin

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Cousins Angela Ewing and Kathy Goss have been involved in the unenviable task of cleaning out Ewing father's house in Ridley Park. Francis J. "Frank" Rebilas died in 2006 at age 91.

We appreciate their respect for history in alerting us to an interesting find: Page after page from editions of the Shamokin News-Dispatch from 1941 and '42. The News-Dispatch and the Mount Carmel Item merged in 1968 to create The News-Item.

They are individual pages, not connected to a facing page. They are in excellent condition, yellowed by their 70-plus years but otherwise intact and easy to read.

We needed to look no further than the page on top of the 4-inch high stack (which also includes pages from the Philadelphia Inquirer) to be drawn to the politics of that era. It was, ironically, just two days off of today's date, March 31, 1942 - and less than four months after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

That day's Page 4, the editorial page (some things never change), included a political cartoon showing bombs raining down on a city where a tattered Nazi flag is waving amid smoke and destruction. At the top left corner of the page, above the lead editorial, an American flag flies under the words "Remember Pearl Harbor" and beside the words "We pledge allegiance to the Flag and the Republican for which it stands." It reminds me of the months following 9/11 when The News-Item and many other newspapers added an American flag to our front pages in a show of patriotism. (We should bring that back.)

The editorial itself was scolding folks for their "Dirty - and unpatriotic" stories, as the headline read. It repeated what it said was one of the few "printable" jokes heard downtown:

"What kind of underwear does Uncle Sam wear? Ask the Japs. They caught him with his pants down."

"These cheapies seem to have sprung from the gutter all of a sudden and all at the same time," the editorial proclaims.

A front page from Tuesday, April 14, 1942, is filled with news related to the war. Headlines include "Community prepares to launch war bond, stamp drive," "Hitler stooge is named vice-premier in French cabinet," "Allied planes score hit on Japanese ship," "Drive planned to secure war industry here," "Coal tonnage increased to meet demands" and others.

A native of Shamokin, Frank Rebilas moved to Chester in the early 1940s, his daughter said. She believes his last job here was at the News-Dispatch, but she's not certain what he did. He had also worked locally for a Polish newspaper, starting at age 14 to help support his family. He was one of 12 siblings.

When he moved to Chester, Mr. Rebilas worked as a linotype operator for the former Chester Times and also worked for the Sun Ship Building and Drydock Company, according to his obituary, which appeared in The News-Item. It did not mention any employment while in Shamokin.

Also found in his basement was old printing equipment and lead type.

We note, too, that Goss' father, Stanley "Pete" Rebilas, one of Frank's brothers, once managed the Polish Cadettes in Shamokin. Goss now lives in Elysburg, moving back to her hometown area about five years ago.

Again, we appreciate this look back at our own history, and value the notion that we're bringing Mr. Rebilas' association with our heritage full circle with these pages back in our possession.

(Andy Heintzelman, editor of The News-Item, writes "The Week In News" for the Saturday edition.)

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