By Ed Harris
Local author and historian Liz Kopec has chronicled Southington during the war years in her new book for Arcadia Publishing. “Southington, “The War Years,” available Dec. 3.
This is Kopec’s second book for the “Images of America” series. Several years ago she compiled hundreds of old photos, with historical captions, depicting the history of Southington.
The Images of America series is a staple of many bookstores and it chronicles the history of towns, including numerous communities in Connecticut.
“I wondered what Southington was like during the war years,” Kopec said, detailing the thought process behind her second book. “I was fascinated by the Greatest Generation.”
Kopec, an attorney in town, is well grounded in local history. She is a past president of the Southington Historical Society and is a historian at Oak Hill Cemetery.
The new book contains over 200 photographs showing life in Southington around and during the two world wars.
Industry in town grew in size and profit with the onset of World War I. Local residents banded together to help in the war effort by joining the Red Cross and Home Guard and selling Liberty Bonds.
Industrial growth in town continued until the stock market crash in 1929. Though few factories closed, many reduced their workforce and employee hours.
Employees were rehired and new jobs were created in the month following the attack on Pearl Harbor. Southington’s 17 factories began working to produce wartime goods.
Kopec’s book is broken down into five sections, including The Wilsonian Era, Firesides, Between the Wars, The Home Front, Lost (chronicling the men killed in action from town) and Aftermath.
The photos in the book come from many sources, including Kopec’s own collection, the Southington Historical Society, the National Archives, the Barnes Museum and contributions from a variety of private citizens in town. Kopec said it took about five months to put together the photos and captions.
Kopec said that while researching the book, there were a few instances of historical data that stood out. She said one of these instances was the influenza outbreak in 1918-19 that killed 55 young people in town.
“It was an incredible figure,” Kopec said. “It was a deadly disease.”
Another poignant section of the book chronicles the 33 lives lost during the wars. Kopec said the chapter was rough to put together.
“It was a horrendous chapter,” Kopec said. “It was very sad. But it is nice to be able to tell the stories.”
Kopec noted that many of the servicemen that gave their lives for the country were part of the Army Air Corp. She attributed this to the youths of the time being fascinated with flying.
One of the most striking photos in this section is the photo of a B-24 Liberator engrossed in flames after being hit by flak. Paul H. Flynn Jr., of Southington, who found himself trapped in the tail gunner’s seat without a parachute, died in the wreckage, a few days before his nineteenth birthday.
The photo was taken by a crewmember of another B-24 Liberator flying in the same formation.
Kopec has two appearances coming up to promote the book. On Wednesday, Dec. 5, she will showcase a Powerpoint presentation of the photos at the Southington Library. On Friday, Dec. 7, Kopec will talk about the book at the Barnes Museum.
The book is available for purchase on Dec. 3. It is available at area bookstores and online retailers or through Arcadia Publishing at arcadiapublishing.com.
“Arcadia Publishing is dedicated to preserving the stories of our varied American communities,” said Chanler Jeffers, Sales and Marketing Specialist, North and MidAtlantic, for Arcadia Publishing. “Our local authors bring a sense of not only sincerity, but community, to books designed to share knowledge between generations. We are honored to be such an important part of preserving our American history, one town at a time.”