Lusco finds girl's World War II scrapbook

Friday, January 23, 2015

By Ivory Riner

Staff Writer

While going through her late husband's belongings recently, Sharrin Lusco came across a scrapbook containing 75-year-old newspaper clippings.

Evelyn Wilkes is the name of the 12th grader who made the scrapbook containing newspaper pictures and articles, which was found hidden in boxes of the late Bob Smartt's possessions.

Wilkes was a student at Isaac Litton High School in Nashville where she, from the looks of her scrapbook, seemed to be involved in school activities.

A label on the outside of the scrapbook says "Girls Hobby Fair." Lusco thinks the fair was somewhat like today's 4-H competitions where students from each grade submit projects to be judged.

When opening the book, Volume II is written on the first page in pen. Throughout, it has newspaper clippings glued chronologically dating from Dec. 6, 1940 to Feb. 27, 1941.

Wilkes' love for history shows by the material found in her scrapbook. Near the beginning it features a page with pictures from the lightning war in Coventry, England on November 14, 1940. Below the pictures is written, "These pictures show shattered buildings, devastated streets, and smoking ruins of Coventry, England, after Hitler's bombers had wrought havoc on this English city."

That day in 1940 is now known as Coventry Blitz when the city was bombed by the German Air Force. This was one of the most devastating air attacks in World War II.

In addition to clippings relating to the war, which was going badly for the Allies at this period, Wilkes chose to include clippings featuring the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. There is also a picture of a beautiful blond, with the headline, "Hitler's Former London Hostess, Nazi Student Ordered from U.S. Princess Stefanie Said 'Probably in Pay' Of Germany." According to Wikipedia, she was Stephanie Julianne von Hohenlohe (1891-1972), an Austrian princess by marriage. A Hungarian national, after her divorce from the prince she relocated to London, where she is suspected of having acted as a spy for Germany during the 1930s. She developed close connections among the Nazi hierarchy, including Adolf Hitler. The British, French and Americans all suspected her of being a spy for the German government. During the 1930s, she was awarded the Gold Medal of the Nazi Party for her services. Fleeing from Britain to San Francisco in 1939 after war was declared, she was put under surveillance by the US government. After the attack on Pearl Harbor she was arrested by the FBI and interned in the United States as an enemy alien. She provided information to the Office of Strategic Services which was used in a 1943 report on the personality of Adolf Hitler. In May 1945 she was released on parole and returned to Germany, where she cultivated influential connections in post-war German society.

At the end of the scrapbook are newspaper cartoons. One of them depicts Adolf Hitler sitting on a globe of the world holding a gun. The cartoon's caption is labeled, "What 'Peace Now' Would Mean."

"I was so surprised at what good condition the newspaper clippings were in," said Lusco, "I enjoy history, but not as much as my late husband did. He enjoyed antique history and I enjoy art history more than anything else."

Lusco finds history about World War II very interesting since her grandfather fought in the war in Germany. From 1984 - 1989 she lived in Germany, so thinks that is another reason she was so amazed when she found the scrapbook.

She thinks her late husband purchased the scrapbook from a yard sale.

"He was really into war history, especially since his father served in WWII," said Lusco.

According to Wilkes' obituary posted on the Isaac Litton School website, she worked at Avco (now Triumph Aerostructures - Vought Aircraft Division) as a young woman in a male-dominated industry. She later became the first female buyer in the aerospace industry. She was known as "Miss Nashville" by visiting colleagues from around the county because she went out of her way to show off the city she loved.

Although the Isaac Litton School is no longer standing, the gymnasium was restored after alumni raised several million dollars to renovate it. The "Lions Den" (coming from the name of the school's sports teams) is the name of the room containing memorabilia from the school.

After researching Wilkes and thinking about what to do with the scrapbook, Lusco decided to donate it to the Isaac Litton Alumni Association.

"It's amazing how much memorabilia survived over the years that was saved by the alumni," said Larry Collier, Student Assignment Services with Isaac Litton High School.

The Alumni Association was able to recover all 40 of the yearbooks from the years it was in session, except for the very first yearbook.