Sirens, prayer

D-Day was a landmark for Rockdale in the 1944 night

This newspaper is dated “June 6.” If that date doesn’t mean something to you it should. It’s one of those dates that should never be forgotten.

It was, of course, D-Day in 1944, the start of the long-waited second front in the Allied invasion of Europe. It wasn’t the end of World War II. But it was the beginning of the end. And the world sensed it.

One of the places it was sensed was Rockdale, Texas. Our little town, like thousands of others was war-weary but determined. It had been awaiting this day with a tension which probably couldn’t be duplicated today.

The invasion began at dawn on the beaches of Normandy. It was the middle of the night in Rockdale. A well-known Rockdale businessman was determined his town would know as close as possible to the exact time.

Max Ferrari ran Maxie’s Sweet Shop downtown. He had a son overseas in 1944. Longtime Rockdale residents remember him sitting on a stool at the counter, hunched over by a radio, listening to the war news.

When the Allies hit Omaha, Utah, Juno, Gold and Sword beaches Max Ferrari was determined to know. And he did.

Max heard reports out of Germany that something was going o n. He w aited f or t he o fficial w ord f rom t he U. S . that D-Day had at long last arrived. When it came, Max and night watchman C. H. Landis went to City Hall and leaned on the siren.

Lights, and radios, snapped on all over Rockdale. Ten minutes later, Max and Landis rang it again. “We didn’t want anyone to miss it,” Max said. Hardly anyone went back to bed.

It wasn’t a time for celebration, though. W. H. Cooke, publisher of The Reporter noted that the next morning, people stood around in groups talking about the history making events happening half a world away.

“There was no boisterous celebrating, only quiet calm and prayer as Rockdale heard the first news,” Cooke wrote, adding that the reported progress was received “solemnly, prayerfully, hopefully.”

There would be many bad days and sad days still to come before the dove of peace flew again. But something fundamental had changed. Even in the middle of the night in a little town in Texas.—MB.

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