Home Front – Hard to keep the good times rollin’

 

[ This post was originally a guest post I wrote for Judy Guion @ Greatest Generation Lessons.  Being as times are rough these days, I thought a bit of comparison with what our parents and grandparents went through was in order. ]

Columnist Marquis Childs said after Pearl Harbor: “Nothing will ever be the same.”  Thirty-five years later he added: “It never has and never will be.”

We need to remember that in 1941 as much as 40% of U.S. families lived below the poverty level, approximately 8 million worked for less than minimum wage and another 8 million were unemployed.  The median income was about $2,000 per year.  The government, in virtually fighting two separate wars, entered into civilian lives by raising taxes, rationing, controlling prices and allotting jobs.

Once the war began, truck convoys became commonplace and train depots burst into arenas of activity.  The movement was not entirely servicemen as women began to migrate into towns and communities near the military bases and jobs when they entered the workforce.  Judy Guion’s Aunt Jean did just that by going to Florida to be near her husband Dick.  Minorities headed for higher paying positions in defense plants and shipyards.

The greatest annoyance to civilians was the fact that new automobiles were no longer being produced.  The public’s status symbol and route to financial and social activities had been curtailed and this caused boot-leg markets to spring up selling tires and taking their chances with the law.  The La Salle Motor Company in Indiana was the first firm to be cited by the government.  The Office of Price Administration would regulate everything from soup and shoes to nuts and bolts and was responsible for all domestic rationing.  J. Edgar Hoover issued warnings about car thefts; alerting owners to be wary of where they parked their cars, especially during evening hours.  In Southwest Harbor, Maine, reports of gasoline siphoning were a constant problem.

The use of taxicabs grew throughout the world in the early part of the 20th century.  In the 1940’s, the taximeter was developed and the new two-way radio was a great improvement over the old callboxes.  DeSotos, Packards and the GM “General” were the common vehicles utilized for this purpose.

Streetcars were heavily used in the 1930’s, but companies began to fail as gasoline buses (”trackless trolleys”) took their place.  The most prominent name was the Greyhound.  In 1936, they introduced their “Super Coach” for family travel and it was so well received that within four years, they opened a chain of restaurants called “Post House.”  When war began, they became a major carrier of the troops heading to the east and west coasts.  Since nearly 40% of their workforce was eventually drafted, women were offered training as bus drivers.  Local buses where often late and overcrowded, having standing room only.  A person was often unable to keep a reliable daily schedule due to the situation.

Delta Airlines’ ad, 1940’s

Air travel was certainly difficult with a war in progress and the airlines did not have the systems they have now.  Case in point:  the Hoover Airport (where the Pentagon building is now), had a major highway running smack through it.  When a plane took off or landed, the red traffic light was switched on to halt car and truck movement.

Train transport

Trains were the dominate mode of transportation since the transcontinental was completed in 1869 and up until just before the war era when cars and trucks became predominate.  The massive movement around the country pressed heavily on the antiquated railroad network.  Most of the system had been built in the decades following the Civil War.  The Office of Defense Transportation urged people to only travel on “slack days” and take one-day vacations.  The Director stated, “Needless passenger movement is getting to the point where it is embarrassing the war effort.”  One rail line that came out of Saint Louis, called the “Jeffersonian,” had only reserved seating, but people continued to line up in the aisles.

1944 Arnold Schwinn ad, Chicago, IL

In congested areas, such as N.Y.C., vendors began to spring up to rent out bicycles.  In fact, the summer of 1942, when the gas pumps went dry, drivers followed a gas truck to its delivery point, (as many as 350 would line up) so the bicycle business erupted.  When walking became more important, leather for shoes became scarce and shoe rationing went into effect February 1943.  In the U.S., three pairs per year was the quota and in England it was only one.  By 1944, the U.S. civilian ration was dropped to two pair.

Greyhound 1940’s ad

The old saying, “Let the good times roll” proved difficult and often the stories seem to be from another world rather than another decade.  Do any of our readers have stories they remember or were told?  How would any of you deal with this lifestyle?

CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE.

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Home Front Humor –

Chattanooga Times, the overburdened railroads

“When you boys finish with your Civil Air Patrolling stuff, I’ll have some iced tea ready for you.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Paul A. Avolese – USA; US Air Force, Vietnam, Major, radar/navigator, 4133 Bombardment Wing, KIA (South China Sea)

Neil Bohner – Des Moines, IA; US Army, WWII & Korea

Bernard Brown – Rutland, VT; US Army, Korea, 187th RCT

Kevin Dobson – NYC, NY; US Army, Military Police  /  Actor

Fred Ferry – Clarksville, TN; US Army, Co. A/544 Artillery/11th Airborne Division, (Ret. 23 y.)

Rosanna H. Gravely (102) – Camden, NJ & CO; US Navy WAVES, WWII, PTO, Yeoman 1st Class

Joseph W. Hoffman – USA; US Navy, WWII, Navy musician 1st Class, USS Oklahoma, KIA (Pearl Harbor)

John P. Langan – Columbus, NE; USMC, WWII, PTO, Pfc., Co. C/1/6/2nd Marine Division, KIA (Tarawa)

Neal ‘Lil Pa’ Stevenson – Houma, LA; US Army, WWII, ETO

Patricia Warner – Lincoln, MA; OSS, WWII, undercover agent

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on October 1, 2020, in Home Front, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 143 Comments.

  1. This post sets the record straight. My mum’s older sisters were old enough to sometimes go dancing with American GIs. They were given chocolate and stockings and thought all Americans were rich! Hoover Airport sounds like fun! Can you imagine that happening now? Were there food shortages in the USA during the war? Did you really all eat spam all the time?

    Liked by 1 person

    • If all this happened now, the ‘Entitled Generation’ would really start up massive protests. Yes there was food shortages, gasoline, etc. today’s kids just couldn’t understand. Spam was a cheap meat that could be sent overseas or used in the home, so it was used often by some families, but not all the time.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. In moeilijke tijden verliezen mensen de moed en is iedere tegenslag de druppel die de emmer doet overlopen. Kijk maan na deze tijd met corona besmettingen. Alles wat zeker was verdwijnt. Mensen worden moedeloos en asociaal en revolteren. .Goede en slechte tijden wisselen elkaar altijd af. Maar we mogen nooit opgeven

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for following my site, and for your like of my post, “Views Of Life;” you are very kind.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for the great history. I will forever not understand how we could beat the Japs with one hand, the Krauts with the other hand (in 4 years), then spend 20 years in Afghanistan and lose!

    Liked by 1 person

    • We developed a ‘politically correct’ way to fight. So, we have not won a war since WWII. If you want to win a war, you have to go in to win – NOT go in afraid to make a faux pas.

      Liked by 1 person

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