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Sunday, October 31, 1999

THE 1940S

By ROSEMARY SMITH | News-Journal Staff Writer

With the dawn of the 1940s, Europe was involved in war and nervous Americans, captivated by the grim war news, re-elected Franklin Roosevelt president Nov. 5, 1940.

By the latter part of 1940, the drumbeats of war began echoing around the counties when in October the nation´s first peacetime conscriptions began. All Volusia and Flagler county men 21 to 35 were required to register for the draft. The war interest heightened with the decision by the Navy to build five airports in Volusia County in DeLand, Spruce Creek, New Smyrna Beach, near the Tomoka River and Daytona Beach. Defense spending would pump millions into the local economy over the war years.

Highlights of local life in the 1940s included:

A high point of Bethune-Cookman College´s 35th anniversary on Feb. 18, 1940, was the daylong visit on campus by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.

The Daytona Beach Islanders, a St. Louis Cardinal farm club, won their first Florida State League baseball pennant in August 1940, aided in their victory by pitcher-outfielder Stan Musial.

In the November election, attorney Francis Whitehair lost his bid for the governorship to Spessard Holland of Bartow.

In the early 1940s, developer Merrill Ellinor and his brother Byron, built 660 cottages and apartments on A1A, along with a shopping center. They called it Ellinor Village and it was touted as the largest resort community in Florida.

The final census count of 1940 listed five small Volusia towns as having lost population in the 10 years since the last census: Port Orange, 662, down 2.4 percent; Lake Helen, 587, down 31 percent; Pierson, 541, down 13 percent; Orange City, 489, down 14 percent; and Seville, 515, down 12 percent from 1930. Volusia´s total population was 53,710 and Flagler´s was 3,088.

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941, by the Japanese, there was great fear nationwide. Daytona Beach Mayor Ucal Cunningham ordered extra firemen and watchmen to be placed over the city water and sewer plants. Local firms around the county with defense contracts immediately posted guards to prevent sabotage.

The price of war was tallied in many small ways. By 1942, tire rationing and tire rules dominated the economic news. Volusia and Flagler both had tire quotas each month for cars, motorcycles and trucks. Tire thieves were common, cars could be stripped in seconds if left unattended.

In February 1942, the Navy and the Office of Civil Defense ordered all bright lights visible at sea along the beach to be turned off so the coastline would not make a good night target for an enemy submarine. The lights weren´t turned on again for nearly four years. Cars were banned from the beach at night.

The Women´s Army Auxiliary Corps training center opened in Daytona Beach in 1942 and naval air stations opened in DeLand and Daytona Beach. About 17,000 young women received their basic training in Daytona Beach in the first year. They were housed in most of the town´s hotels and a tent city on Bethune Point the first year.

The decline of the Ring political power began on the Volusia County Commission when voters elected three reform commissioners in 1942 and began ousting Ring appointees in county government.

Port Orange residents got the first water system in their nearly 100-year history on April 6, 1942, when the water was turned on to almost 200 customers who had paid a $5 deposit and $1.50 a month for 2,000 gallons.

Marineland announced in May 1942 it would close May 31 for the war´s duration because of the government restrictions on travel.

The Civil Air Patrol was organized to help guard the Florida coast. One of the five CAP stations was in Flagler Beach.

In 1943, rationing was a way of life with necessities such as sugar, shoes, canned vegetables and fruits, and meat on the ration list. Gasoline was also in short supply and only could be bought with ration coupons.

Tourism suffered since very few Americans could afford to use precious gas to travel.

Local businesses were desperate for employees and manpower was at a premium for any kind of work in 1943. Fire Chief B. B. Hart complained that nearly half of the Daytona Beach Fire Department had been drafted and a third of the 29 men on duty were eligible to be drafted.

After the sprawling WAC cantonment was closed in 1943, it was reopened in 1944 as a convalescent hospital to house injured men coming home from the war. It was renamed the Welch Convalescent Hospital. On Aug. 6, 1944, 22 soldiers arrived for treatment and rehabilitation. Thousands more would arrive before war´s end.

New Smyrna Beach taxpayers paid the city $47,000 or 69 percent of their 1944 taxes, in November, a record.

The DeLand Naval Air Station, which had trained bomber pilots since 1942, would switch to fighter-bomber pilot training in 1944.

When World War II ended in Europe in May 1945, there was one long blast of the firehouse siren in Daytona Beach.

The blackout restrictions were lifted.

People waited for a victory in Japan.

Coronado Beach voted to join the city of New Smyrna Beach in May 1945, adding 758 citizens to the city.

A crowd of 3,000 was on hand March 17, 1946, at City Island Ballpark for a spring exhibition game between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Montreal Royals. It was the debut of the Royals´ second baseman Jackie Robinson, the first black man to play in major league baseball.

The Volusia County Cattlemen´s Association was organized in DeLand in 1946.

Stock car racing resumed after a five-year hiatus April 14, 1946, with a 160-mile race.

City Band of Daytona began in 1947.

Little theater groups were founded in Daytona Beach and New Smyrna Beach. The Shoestring Players of DeLand were created in 1949.

The naval air stations and Welch Convalescent Hospital closed by 1947.

1940: Congress passes Selective Service Act

1942: Actress Carol Lombard dies in plane crash

1943: 35 dead in Detroit race riots

1944: U.S. ends meat rationing

1945: Bomber crashes into Empire State Building

Special Project: THE FLORIDA QUEST
Laptop Lauren and the Trackers are the main characters in the Florida Quest, a 4-week, multi-media project involving thousands of students in Volusia and Flagler counties. In this quest they discover Homefront and Heritage!

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