When Madeira went to War, a homespun newsletter followed WWII troops around the world

By Regina Villiers. Originally published November 11, 1992 in The Suburban Life, added November 13, 2014.


A memorial board was erected on the grounds of Madeira High School during World War II to honor Madeira men and women in service.

A memorial board was erected on the grounds of Madeira High School during World War II to honor Madeira men and women in service.

Oscar Meyer and his horse, Deutsches, in 1976. During World War II Meyer wrote and mailed out over 10,000 copies of a newsletter to Madeira service men and women all over the world.

Oscar Meyer and his horse, Deutsches, in 1976. During World War II Meyer wrote and mailed out over 10,000 copies of a newsletter to Madeira service men and women all over the world.


At the height of action in World War II, Oscar Meyer and his wife, Charlotte, attended a football game at Madeira High School, which was located in the building now occupied by Sellman School.

The big topic of conversation that day was the war and who was serving where.  Meyer had a nephew, Bob Meyer, in the war and everyone kept asking him about Bob.

People buzzed with news of their own relatives and friends as they hovered around a large, wooden board, which had been erected on the high school campus in honor of Madeira service men and women.  The board had all their names painted on it.

Meyer went home thinking about this, whishing he could tell all the boys and girls from Madeira how they were remembered- and about the ball game and all the little things happening in their hometown.

So, he sat down and wrote them a letter.  He told them about the ballgames and about the best cheer of the cheerleaders.  He told them about a Kiwanis Club dinner at the high school.  He told them all the news he knew about their pals-who was where, and who was home on leave.  He even gave them a hometown weather report.

Then he went back to the high school and copied 100 names from the big memorial board and mailed copies of his letter to those 100 servicemen.

At the end of the letter he wrote, “If you would be interested in receiving this in the future, please fill out the enclosed card and drop it in the mail.”

And so the big publishing event in Madeira’s World War II history was born-a serviceman’s newsletter, “Sawdust and Shavings,” named as a reference to Meyer’s business, the George Meyer Lumber Company.

The newsletter’s popularity grew quickly and the original list of 100 recipients grew to 250.  Meyer sent the letter out every two weeks free of charge, and the men wrote back.  Meyer became a pen pal to all of them.

On Jan. 15, 1945, he wrote them a description of how he wrote the newsletter.  He would closet himself on Sunday nights and sometimes on a weekday night also with all of their most recent letters.  He would read them again and cull all the news from them, as well as jotting down all the hometown news he could dredge up.

Of the effort he wrote, “I’ve really picked up a steady job for myself.”

After he wrote the newsletter, it would be typed by someone in his office, usually Judy Morrow.  Then it would be mimeographed and addressed by an addressograph.  He estimated that over 1,000 new addressograph subscribers were continually changing their addresses.

After one year, he had sent out over 6,600 copies, 3,300 by airmail overseas.

Although he called the newsletter “Sawdust and Shavings,” he soon settled on the subtitle “Home Town News for Boys and Girls Making War News.”

Meyer wrote about everything.  No topic was too large or too small.

In almost every issue he’d tell them what was happening in sports.  He’d cover all levels.  May 5, 1945, he wrote, “Bucky Walters won a 13-inning, 1-0 game for the Reds the other day with a homer in the 13th by Frank McCormick.  It was the longest 1-0 game in national league history.”

He always kept them up to date on what was happening in Madeira sports, at the high school and even in knothole baseball.

Aug. 14 1945, he listed the casualties in a homefront softball game.  “Cheddie Thornton and Bob Wick, a head-on collision.  Bob Lease, spiked.  Jane Lease, stoved joints in middle fingers, in splints.”

On June 10, 1945, the knothole kids got their minute of fame.  “Charlotte’s knothole team,” he wrote, “was supposed to go to a Reds’ game.  Game was called, so I took them to Mariemont to see Gypsy Rose Lee in ‘Belle of the Yukon.’”

Meyer wrote all the trivialities and tidbits of daily living that the servicemen were missing by being away from their hometown.  “The fire department made a run to Fowler Avenue,” he wrote.  “Someone was rendering fat for salvage in an oven and it caught fire.”

Another time he told them, “Mr. Z.T. DeMar was out working in his garden this week.  He’s 95 years old now.  He taught my dad, my brother, me and my wife Charlotte.”

In almost every issue he would give them a police report.  Life in Madeira, apparently, was not without crime and misdemeanors.  His police reports were not the watered-down versions seen in newspapers today.  He named names, exact locations, charges, sentences and amount of fines given.

He didn’t spare the tragedies that happened at home either.  He told them about the death of a small boy, burned to death, and about the death of a woman after surgery.

On Dec. 19, 1944, he wrote, “Austin Carman, lifetime Madeira resident and direct descendant of D. Boone, died on the Loveland bus. Age 79.”

One time he wrote them, “The news is getting closer.  B&O engine jumped the track, plowed up gravel, and almost upset right by our office.  The whole town is outside right now.”

Meyer let the service personnel know they were missed, but he also let them know that life was gong on without them.  He told them about the fun of a carnival at Miami and Dawson, next to the drugstore – a carnival that had a merry-go-round and a ferris wheel and where you could get cotton candy.

He told them about the fall of a four-inch snow.  “The town blocked Laurel Avenue for coasters, and the kids burned it with their sleds.  Little Bobby Queenan (now a sports reporter for the Cincinnati Post), son of Bob and peg Queenan, was injured in a coasting accident.”

Meyer didn’t just give them news.  He also did his best to entertain them.  He told them jokes.  Every issue was peppered with jokes, most of them not suitable for today’s newspapers.

Others were corny, to use a phrase of the times.  For instance, “Eve’s dropping again,” said Adam as his wife fell out of a tree.

He also wrote them poetry.  “Soldiers who wish to be a hero/number practically zero.  Those who wish to be civilians/number way up in the millions.”

To read through all the issues of “Sawdust and Shavings” now is to read a history.  They give a graphic picture of life in a small town at a time when our country engaged in its biggest struggle for survival.

In reading, you often get the feeling that things never change.  Just the names of the cast and characters.  Madeira council members fought with the town and with each other.  Somehow, everything seems familiar.

And Meyer, as a parent, had problems that also seem familiar.  Once he wrote that it was hard for him to write and concentrate that night because his son was playing his music too loud.  “I can’t take a lot of this Kay Kyser stuff,” he said.

As you read through them now, you’ll also encounter little nuggets of national history that you probably never thought of before.

On Oct. 7, 1945, he wrote, “For the first time, it’s necessary to register if you want to vote.  Registering place: Dee’s Barber Shop.  Registrars: Mrs. William Doerr Jr. and Mrs. Louis Urton.”

On V-E Day he gave them a serious issue.  He paid tribute to all Madeirans killed in action, missing in action, wounded, prisoners of war, and ships sunk.

Finally, on Nov. 29, 1945, he wrote and mailed his last issue. By then, most of his newsletter recipients were at home in civilian dress.  Many others were in the United States and on their way home.

Only a few, like Russ DeMar in Germany, were still scattered around the world.

He listed all of their names and paid tribute to them all in his last issue.

“Fellows,” he wrote, “I have really enjoyed writing to you every two weeks and it has been a thrill when the mail comes every day to receive your letters from all over the world.”

The letters of Oscar Meyer remain as a definitive history of World War II and of the way it was in Madeira then.