Selected Chaff: The Wartime Columns of Al McIntosh, 1941-1945

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9780760333037: Selected Chaff: The Wartime Columns of Al McIntosh, 1941-1945

The citizens of Rock County, Minnesota, experienced at least their fair share of suffering and tragedy during World War II. At times, the Rock County Star-Heralds front page brimmed with headlines and stories of area boys missing or killed overseas, their smiling photos providing evidence of better times before their lives were cut short by war.

Al McIntosh shines during these moments of deepest despair, when it seemed there would be no end to the sacrifice of young lives. You can sense it in his voice, stubbornly determined and unabashedly patriotic; that of a man possessed. A gadfly in the best sense of the term, he challenged, cajoled, and spurred the locals to do their part, to buy war bonds, to salvage, save, and ration, to give voluntarily, and to stay personally engaged in the war effort. Like any great community leader, he raised their spirit by his own tireless example. Al McIntosh was an eyewitness to the ebbs and flows of one county during the most terrible yet necessary war our world has yet seen.
The process of selecting the best of these columns came with a heavy burden of honoring the memory of both a man and a community that sacrificed so much during the war. A conscientious effort was made to include both the best and the most representative columns, compiled chronologically to show the growth of Al McIntosh as a writer and as a journalist. Selected Chaff recalls a nation and a community that, when called upon to do so, joined together at home and abroad to fight the "necessary war." Selected Chaff is a rich collection of McIntosh's columns from the war period, including all of those read by actor Tom Hanks in the Burns documentary.

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Book Description:

Rock County, Minnesota, was just one of thousands of communities across the nation seeing World War II from a great distance and feeling it firsthand.  Day after day the Rock County Star-Herald featured harrowing headlines about the action and the poignant smiling faces of local boys missing or killed overseas.  Through the best and worst of those days Al McIntosh, the paper’s editor, published columns that his readers and neighbors came to depend on for comfort, direction, information, and insight.  Collected here, these columns comprise an intimate chronicle of the second world war on the home front.

From the Back Cover:

Selected Chaff

1941–1945

 

 

“Al McIntosh might be the single greatest archival discovery that we ever made. . . . He turned down big city jobs, wanting to own and run his own paper, and he had this task of explaining the unexplainable to his fellow neighbors. He did so magnificently and wrote as beautifully as any editor I’ve ever come across.”

—Ken Burns

The War, a fourteen-hour documentary series by filmmaker Ken Burns, explores the effects of World War II on Americans and a handful of American cities, one of which is Luverne, Minnesota. The Rock County Star, as the Luverne paper was named then, featured its editor and publisher in a front-page weekly column, “More or Less Personal Chaff.” Al McIntosh provided readers with a constant narrative during the course of World War II. Selected Chaff is a rich collection of McIntosh’s columns from the war period, including all of those read by actor Tom Hanks in the Burns documentary. 

Burns told the Rock County Star-Herald, “Al McIntosh is in every episode. He is the one-man Greek chorus. Not only does he help explain the unexplainable to the folks of Luverne, Minnesota, he explains it to us.”

 

From “More or Less Personal Chaff,” July 20, 1944:

 

Somehow the gossip “grape vine” had heard that there was a telegram coming thru after 6 p.m. last Friday for Mr. and Mrs. Ray Lester of Magnolia. Ray Lester heard about it and his heart was heavy.

He started walking down the street—on the way he met “Scotty” Dewar, the depot agent.

“Which one is it?” asked Lester—because there were four boys to worry about in that family. After being told he went sorrowfully home to break the news to his wife.

It must be a hard job handling those death messages. Dewar had known Kermit since babyhood—it was more than he could do to carry that message to the home—he took and left it in the Lester box at the post office. And the family understood why.

And it was a gracious gesture that was made at the dance in Magnolia last night. When the crowd heard the news—the dance was halted immediately out of respect to the memory of the fighting marine.

 

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