Chesterton Tribune

Christmas cards of World War II lead to story of former Chesterton resident

Back to Front Page
 

 

 
 

 

By ALEXANDRA NEWMAN

A display of Christmas Cards sent to US Servicemen during World War II, currently on exhibit at the Westchester Township Historical Museum, is a look back at a simpler time, and a glimpse of a former Chesterton resident.

The cards, purchased at an auction by Wendy Marciniak, a staff member of the Chesterton Tribune, are on loan until Feb. 1 at the museum located at 100 W. Indiana Ave. We were able to track down the person to whom the cards were sent and spoke with him.

In a recent telephone interview with Stephen Yanetovich, 90, who now resides in Clearwater, Fla., “Yanny” shared his story and reminisced about his youth in Chesterton, his time in the service, and his life in Florida and recollections of the cards.

“I think my mother (Anna) must have assembled the scrap book” he said.

The cards, all in red, white and blue have verses wishing Christmas greetings with a patriotic bent.

“Christmas Hello to Someone in the Service

To greet you in the American Way

and wishing you a Merry Christmas...

“Let’s keep the old flag flying

She’ll wave through storm and strife

and make our fondest Christmas Wish

The American Way of Life...

“May the Light of Freedom always shine from

the Christmas Candles of America..

“Merry Christmas!

Let us say it

With great courage,

and with pride

In a Nation where Freedom

Shall forever abide...

“Hello there and Merry Christmas,

And I want to tell you too

I’m mighty glad the service

Rates a real swell guy like you...”

“I forgot about the cards. What a wonderful thing,” he said.

“I think the cards were sent to me from my high school and family friends when I was in the service,” Yanetovich said.

The cards are an appropriate prelude to the story of his life.

Yanetovich served in the United States Army/Air Force Band and toured the country with the band giving concerts in an effort to sell war bonds. He played French Horn for five years in the Air Force Band and still is involved in several symphonies and a jazz band in the St. Petersburg/Clearwater, Florida area.

He began his musical career in Chesterton, having moved here when he was in second grade. Elmer Vedell was his first violin teacher. He took classes at the Lutheran Church across from his house.

“It was so easy for me,” said the prodigy.

He was so expert at playing the violin that when he was in sixth grade he attended elementary school in the morning and went to the high school in the afternoon so he could play violin with the high school.

“When I was in ninth grade, I was the teacher of the violin class.

“I also was the choir director for St. John’s Church,” he added.

When he graduated from Chesterton High School in 1935, he attended Indiana University, Bloomington.

“For two years I lived in the home of Coach Snider. I had a special door for entry to my room,” he recalled.

“ I played for weddings and in the cafeteria at the university,” he continued.

“My meals were free because I was one of seven players in the string ensemble that played in the cafeteria during meal-time,” he said.

The violin has always been his main interest he said. He played with several symphony orchestras, including the Indianapolis Symphony and the Gary Symphony in his early career. He has taught all musical instruments, but the violin has always been his favorite. One year he taught 25 students to make their own “fiddles” and then play them for local organizations.

When Yanetovich graduated from IU, he began his teaching career at Adams High School in South Bend.

“After two or three years, the Army grabbed me for WWII,” he said.

He was selected for the Army/Air Force Band and played in the musicians group beginning in early 1940s. During his tour, they were stationed at different localities throughout the country.

It was when he was stationed in St. Petersburg, Fla., he met Dorothy, who later became his wife.

“We were stationed across the street from the Methodist Church and she was secretary of the church. We sang in their choir and they had parties for soldiers on Wednesday nights. They were going to move us to Nevada, and Dorothy and I didn’t want to be separated, so we got married,” he said.

“The minister wanted us to get married on July 4, but Dorothy said she wanted to get married the next day, so we were married July 5, 1943,” he added.

When he got out of the service, he and his bride settled in Clearwater, where he was offered the band director position at the St. Petersburg High School. His band played every three years for the President of the United States in Washington D.C.

“Our 180 member band also was the band that played for the opening of the 1964 World Fair in New York,” he said.

He recalled the Chesterton High School band performing in the Festival of The States in St. Petersburg, a city that obviously appreciates music.

After retirement from teaching the high school band, he continues, even today to substitute teach. He also continues his participation in the Clearwater Community Band, Tampa Bay Symphony, an 80 piece orchestra; Suncoast Symphony, a 15 piece orchestra; and the church Jazz ensemble.

The Clearwater Community Band, a 75 piece band, rehearses in the St. Petersburg College auditorium and performs a monthly program. He is the associate director of the group.

He currently is in rehearsals for the Winter Wonderland Concert that the Jazz Ensemble will perform in the park.

Asked the secret of his longevity, he said, “I don’t drink, don’t smoke and am always active.”

———

Visit the Westchester Historical Museum from 1-5 p.m. Saturdays, located in the lower level of the Library Service Center at 100 W. Indiana Ave. The entrance is on Calumet Rd.

 

Posted 12/11/2002