1940-1950: Community joins war effort
By JEANNIE WILEY WOLF
The country went to war again during the decade of the 1940s.
Americans were still struggling through a severe economic depression when the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor led the United States into World War II in December 1941.
The necessity of building up the nation’s defenses helped bring about the end of the Depression. However, it also made economic and civic advancement difficult.
In Findlay, progress was put on hold while the community concentrated on the war effort.
Members of the Ohio National Guard including the local unit were training at Camp Shelby in Mississippi when Pearl Harbor and the Philippines were attacked. Guardsmen were assigned to the Pacific Theater where they served with distinction.
As part of the nation’s defense program, Congress instituted a new system of selective service which made the military compulsory for young men. Locally, two draft boards were set up, one for Findlay and one for Hancock County. A total of 14,059 men registered by the time the boards were discharged in 1947.
For the first time in the country’s history, women were able to serve in the military. A number of local women enlisted.
In total, more than 5,000 Findlay and Hancock County men and women served in the war.
On the home front, a group was organized to handle war bond sales, as well as solicitations for the Red Cross and USO (United Service Organization).
Rationing also was implemented due to the scarcity of supplies in some areas. A war rationing board was set up with headquarters in the basement of the courthouse. Gasoline, meat and shoes were among the restricted items.
The Hancock County Fair was canceled in 1942 because of the war. Realizing that conservation of labor, time, tires and gasoline was necessary and that winning the war was our first duty, the fair board took this necessary action, said agricultural agent Forest G. Hall. However, a junior fair was held the following year.
Findlay joined with the rest of the country in celebrating the end of the war in 1945. As soon as the announcement was made, Main Street was mobbed with people laughing, yelling and weeping. Confetti peppered the street and brightly colored streamers dangled from windows. Church bells rang out the good news.
A full page in the Aug. 16 edition of the Republican-Courier newspaper was devoted to a single sentence about the occasion: “For the victory over our last remaining enemy, for the valor of the armed forces which have brought the war to a successful conclusion, for the peace which has now finally come to the world, we give grateful thanks.”
For two days, all business was suspended in the city while the community prayed and celebrated. A memorial was later placed in Maple Grove Cemetery to honor the dead of both world wars.
The following year, the local post of the Veterans of World War II, nicknamed the AMVETS, was formed. It officially became Robert R. Kelley Post 21 in memory of Hancock County’s first war casualty.
With the war over, Findlay prepared to move forward.
The population reached 20,228, and the city experienced a housing shortage. Construction of new homes began on an extensive basis.
The first industry to come to town after the war was National Automotive Fibers of Detroit. The company built a plant just north of the State Highway Patrol barracks and began production of interior trim for the automobile industry. Gov. Thomas J. Herbert attended the dedication.
Ohio Oil’s general offices were enlarged during the decade to handle the company’s expanding interests. O.D. Donnell retired as president in 1948. He was succeeded by his son, J.C. Donnell II, the third generation of the Donnell family to head the firm.
The company also leased the Findlay Airport from the city in 1946.
Central Rubber and Steel Co. purchased the old Bluffton Manufacturing Co. in 1943. During the war, production of washing machines and stokers was discontinued while the company manufactured parts for the armed forces. Afterward, the firm concentrated its efforts on domestic wringer-type washing machines.
The Buckeye Traction Ditcher Co. became part of Gar Wood Industries in 1945.
Other smaller industries located in Findlay during the post- war years, including Central Oil Asphalt, Clark Cramer Vault Co., Findlay Engraving, Findlay Pattern Works, Findlay Provision Co., Hancock Diesel, the Hancock Machine Co., House of Guest, Hubbard Press, R.L. Kuss & Co. and Ohio Conveyor and Supply.
Miller’s Luncheonette opened on North Main Street.
In 1946, the Junior Chamber of Commerce was organized for young men ages 21-35. The group developed a number of community programs, including mosquito and fly control and a midget football league.
Findlay’s growing population put a strain on the city’s schools. Voters approved building Whittier, McKinley, Jefferson and Northview elementary schools to replace four older structures. The modern one-floor design was a drastic departure from traditional school architecture of the day.
Meanwhile, Winebrenner Theological Seminary was established as a branch of Findlay College. Classes were held in Old Main.
The Findlay Country Club sustained major damage in an Easter Sunday fire in 1943. The blaze broke out just as the noon dinner was being served. A new clubhouse was later built.
Several other fires also occurred during the decade, including a blaze in 1946 at the National Refinery which killed three men. The following year, fire caused damage to four stores, 13 offices, a lodge hall, restaurant and billard parlor in the 300 block of South Main Street.
WFIN radio went on the air in 1941. A permit for an FM station was granted in 1947. The following year, evening broadcasts began for the first time.
The Tri-Ridge Girl Scout Council also was organized, to include Hancock, Putnam, Wood and part of Henry counties.
On a political note, Findlay’s Jackson E. Betts was elected speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives in 1945.