Glens Falls in 1942 — Blackout at Glen and Warren

Post-Star reporter Howard Earl, during a World War II blackout in Glens Falls on the evening of Jan. 15, 1942, struck up a conversation at the corner of Glen and Warren streets with Desmond A. Smith, a Canadian Black Watch soldier visiting the city on furlough.

Smith compared the local blackout with much stricter blackouts he experienced in London.

“The crowd on the corner pressed in close to gather every word of the information he was passing out,” Earl later wrote on deadline for the next morning’s paper.

“Just then someone lighted a cigarette and Smith gasped for breath. He explained all a bomber needed to guide the loaded missiles of death was a single flash of light.”

A few minutes later the all-clear siren sounded and lights were turned back on in downtown.

“Smith stood in the center of the crowd, his Royal Highland Regiment uniform adding to the touch of war realism the blackout brought to Glens Falls.”

Earl invited Smith into a restaurant to continue talking.

“There was coffee in a restaurant and he told this story.”

Smith had been working in northern New York in the Civilian Conservation Corps until March 1940, when he went to St. John’s, the capital of Newfoundland and Labrador, to enlist in the Canadian Black Watch.

After eight months of training, Smith was sent to Liverpool, England, then London, then French Somaliland in Africa.

“I didn’t like it,” he said of Africa. “Sand and heat, yellow fever, and malaria.”

Smith was visiting New York City and Glens Falls, where his parents once lived, during his furlough, and would be returning to St. John’s for reassignment.

Earl worked for The Post-Star from Oct. 1941 to April 1942, just long enough to bolster his resume and fall in love.

The Broadalbin native had previously worked for several newspapers in the Mohawk Valley and was editor of a weekly newspaper in Saratoga Springs.

He moved on from Glens Falls to work in radio news at Chicago, eventually becoming news editor at WGN, the Mutual Broadcasting System radio station in the windy city.

Sophia Marie Sigmans, his sweetheart, had lived in Glens Falls for some years.

She studied art with noted local illustrator Douglas Crockwell and worked at First National Bank.

She was a charter member of the Glens Falls Operetta Club, now Glens Falls Community Theater, secretary of the Adirondack Riding Club, a member of the Women’s Volunteer Motor Pool, and past president of the Glens Falls Young Woman’s Republican Club.

Sigmans and Earl were married June 1, 1942 in Chicago.

During a visit back to Glens Falls later in June, her former co-workers at First National Bank held a bridal shower and luncheon in her honor at Glens Falls Country Club.

She received gifts of a waffle iron, a sandwich press, and a $50 check.

Mrs. Earl was reminded of Glens Falls when the March 1944 issue of Clubwoman Magazine, a publication of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs of Illinois, came out.

The cover illustration was a reproduction of a Red Cross poster that Crockwell designed.

Sources: The Post-Star Jan. 16, June 6, June 22, 1942; March 4, 1944; March 24, 1945

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Maury Thompson

Freelance history writer and documentary film producer from Ticonderoga, NY