Another Friday night square dance at the Glens Falls Grange hall on Nelson Street, next door to what is now Faith Tabernacle Baptist Church, became an opportunity for Rita Dewey to show off her do-si-do to much of the country.
“That’s where we always hung out on Friday nights,” said the 92-year-old Dewey, whose maiden name was Robillard.
She noticed a photographer come in to snap photos as she was dancing with one of the LaVack brothers. She doesn’t remember now which brother.
“He just showed up there,” she said in a recent interview, recalling the photographer. “He took pictures and he left.”
It wasn’t until March 23, when the April 4, 1944 issue of Look magazine hit the Glens Falls news stands, that the then high school student realized she and other dancers had been photographed for 10 million people the world over to see as part of the Hometown U.S.A. series.
No sooner was the magazine on sale in Glens Falls than calls started flooding into her family’s home to announce “Your daughter’s picture’s in the paper,” she said.
The issue was the first of six in the magazine’s “Hometown U.S.A.” series, which profiled Glens Falls during World War II.
There was a run on copies of the magazine that first day, The Post-Star reported on March 24, 1944.
Burns News Agency had supplied newsrooms in the Glens Falls area, including those in Warrensburg, Hudson Falls and Fort Edward, with 2,000 copies, four times the usual distribution.
By 11 a.m., all copies had been sold out, with some newsrooms selling out by 8 a.m.
Glens Falls Post. Co., publishers of The Post-Star, contacted the publisher of Look and redirected 500 copies to Glens Falls that the newspaper had bought for mailing to national advertisers.
When all was said and done, 5,100 copies of the April 4 issue were sold locally, The Post-Star reported on April 5.
The publication also caused a stir across the world in Australia, where Dewey’s brother, Robert “Whitey” Robillard, was serving in the U.S. Navy.
A Navy buddy brought a copy of the magazine to him and said, “Aren’t you from New York state?” Dewey said. “He showed it to my brother and my brother said, ‘That’s my sister!’”
Dewey had three brothers who served in World War II.
“My dad was in World War I and my son was in Vietnam. So, I guess we’ve got the wars covered,” she said.
There was a strong sense of patriotism in Glens Falls during World War II.
Dewey and others folded bandages for the Red Cross.
“My dad was in the American Legion. So, we had to be patriotic,” she said.