TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: Train Passengers - Images Frozen in Time

Re: Train Passengers - Images Frozen in Time
31 Mar 2006 20:52:42 -0800

> [TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: Sometimes it was voluntary, other times
> it was essentially forced (as in, move to town X if you want to
> continue your employment with us; don't bother if you wish to seek
> employment elsewhere.) During World War 2 my grandparents and my
> mother just assumed we would always live in Coffeyville. ...

WW II caused many people to move around in the U.S., but it was
generally from small towns to larger cities. In the socialogical
study "Plainview USA" (and others), a constant theme is rural folk
moving from farm villages to the big city. Servicemen and women war
workers got to see the country and wanted more than the small villages
had to offer. Today "Mayberry" is beloved nostaglia, but back then
people were glad to get out. Of course, cities back then were a lot
nicer and safer than today.

The experience of your family was repated all across the country.

In the cities, such as where I took these pictures, the situation was
different. People tended to return home. Children married and tended
to stay in the general area. Indeed, after the war they moved in with
their inlaws bcause there was no housing available.

"Plainview" had two studies, one in 1939, one in 1954. (I'll get the
exact book titles if anyone is interested, very good histories and i
recommend them.) Anyway, the 1939 study found a rather backward town,
still loaded with superstition about farm problems. In 1954 the young
had left the town leaving only the elders collecting social security.
They spent their time watching the new TV.

With our talk of the "good old days", 1939 Plainview had its share of
problems. It was common for the 17 y/o girls to get in trouble and
have to get married, most couples seemed to start out that way; people
just sort of ignored the 5 months for the first baby to come. There
was vandalism. People went to church because they felt forced to do
so, not because they really wanted to.

After the war the town got a new paved highway connecting it other
places (it was quite isolated before), and townspeople took advtg and
overcharged tourists passing through.

A lot of the people from such small towns had problems when the went
into bigger cities. Some girls were married but very young (16-18)
and not ready to assume serious wife responsibilities, esp away from
their mother. Long Distance calls were very expensive back then and
out of the question. People lived in squalid temporary war labor
camps (some later became squalid public housing projects). Children
were left unattended. Henry Kaiser, an industrialist known for rapid
shipbuilding, provided his workers with support services knowing it
would reduce turnover and absentism. Henry Ford, owner of the big
Willow Run aircraft plant, offered nothing. Willow Run has also been
well doucmented by social studies.

I lastly strong recommend the book "Back Home" by war cartoonist Bill
Mauldin. His other works is well known, but his book about the trials
of returning servicemen is very good too, and many issues he discusses
are the same as today.

(I have a wartime "telephone guide" for a war town produced by the
phone company, I'll have to dig it up and summarize its contents. I
really need to visit the AT&T Archives, presuming there still is such
a place, to look at their wartime records. AT&T ran display (large)
newspaper ads asking retired tele operators to return to work to help
with war traffic.)

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: You refer to the book as 'Plainview'
but I do not think that was the correct name. There were two studies,
about fifteen years apart, and the place they referenced was Muncie,
IN, a small town in Indiana and also the home of Ball State University.
(But they did not mention Ball State by name [it would have given away
too many clues] and only wrote in general, statistical terms for the
most part.) The two-part study was intended as a sociological effort
discussing the 'typical' American small town. The town was intended
to remain anonymous, and did so for about twenty years following the
second part of the study in 1954. PAT]

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