Deridder’s 1st Methodist Church During WWII

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Almost immediately after WWII started the 1st United Methodist church, and their congregation got behind the war effort. The massive Camp Polk, now Ft Polk, was overflowing with thousands of troops. Just west of the city limits was the DeRidder Army Air Base with some 5,000 men and women.

The pastor, Willie Poole, wanted the church to be involved and they did in a big way. Many of these men came to worship at 1st Methodist. They represented every walk of life. College professors, lawyers, teachers, college students, and representatives of all kinds of industry. They were been trained for combat, and Polk was their last stop before being assigned overseas. This was a time when church members gave their time unselfishly to welcome the soldiers and assist in every possible way.
Deridder’s 1st Methodist Church During WWII
Many times Pastor Poole and his family had a soldier and his wife sleeping at their house. A number of times the Pooles "ran" their sons out of their bedroom so a soldier and his wife could stay until they found a room in town. Everyone who was a member of First Methodist Church had an extra room that had a soldier and his wife living with them. Every garage apartment, every house that had an extra space was turned into a place to rent. My mother said she would receive a xmas card from a wife who stayed in one of our bedrooms at 612 Bon Ami for many years.

This was a time when many young soldiers were being shipped overseas so their girlfriends would ride the Greyhound to DeRidder. Rev Poole would marry the couple in the parsonage and the couple would spend a few nights together until the soldier was shipped out.

Rev Poole would ask the congregation to take soldiers home for dinner on Sunday's. The church would also prepare meals at the church. "Moms' Graves gave many hours cooking and serving hot meals in the fellowship Hall for these Sunday visitors. That is Mrs Graves in the picture with her hands on the shoulders of two soldiers.

Mom Graves with the pastor's help began cooking Sunday noon meals for whomever might come. The kitchen at that time was in the present Education building. Word quickly spread among the soldiers. The "boys" were hungry for family relationships and being in a civilian church. Sometimes a soldier would join the choir. A Young Adult Sunday School Class was organized for soldiers, their wives, and a few young women in the church.

The young men from the church were away serving in the military, so members opened their homes and hearts to these other young men who were a long way from loved ones.

A lady who helped me with this post said, "We felt we were very involved in the war".

(Little over a year ago I did a number of posts of young military men from Beauregard who lost their lives in WWII. If you are interested, go to History of Beauregard Parish. Once on the right side you will see words ‘recent’. Click on 2014. Within 4 blocks of the famous Methodist Church, 4 young men from DeRidder gave their lives in WWII. We are, and always will be a very patriotic community.)