June 1944: Walker County works overtime on the home front

Posted 6/14/19

One week after Allied soldiers advanced on the beaches of France, an invasion of a different kind began in Walker County."Walker County's home front invasion got under way this week with a goal of …

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June 1944: Walker County works overtime on the home front

Posted

One week after Allied soldiers advanced on the beaches of France, an invasion of a different kind began in Walker County.

"Walker County's home front invasion got under way this week with a goal of selling $458,000 worth of series E War Bonds and $581,000 worth of other kinds of War Bonds in Fifth War Loan," the Mountain Eagle reported on June 15, 1944.

Walker County farmers had a $100,000 quota and quotas were assigned for the first time to every industry employing 25 or more people. Nashua Manufacturing Company in Cordova was asked to sell $15,000 in bonds, for example. DeBardeleben Coal and Coke Company had a goal of $7,600 for its Sipsey mine, $4,400 for its Hull mine, $7,000 for its Empire mine and $5,000 for its Coal Valley mine.

The unions headed up the bond drive in the mines and the mills.

A news item at the bottom of the front page gave farmers some incentive for buying bonds — Alabama Power had promised 350 miles of rural power lines as soon as possible after the end of the war.

"This will mean the need for thousands of refrigerators, washing machines, stoves and other electrical appliances to remove some of the drudgery of farm work. No finer goal could be sought than to buy bonds to help shorten the war and then with same bonds buy some of the conveniences of peacetime such as the electrical appliances," the Eagle reported.

The Eagle also reported on June 15 how an unnamed East Walker woman was doing her part for the war effort.

"On account of the manpower shortage, women are taking many positions formerly held by men only. A woman is manning Bush fire tower on Krenshaw Mountain in the eastern part of Walker County. Daily she sits alone on that lofty tower, where she can see Jasper, Carbon Hill and the greater part of Walker County, ready to notify the Division of Forestry here of any fire or smoke seen in the county," the Eagle reported.

Lon Richardson was also about to be put back to work after serving two years in the Navy and receiving an honorable discharge because of a bad knee (an old football injury) that surgery had not helped.

"Lon's friends want him to get back to his former position with the Department of Conservation as a game warden. On account of the manpower shortage, more game wardens are needed, and Lon made a good one," the Eagle reported.

Eagle readers also learned that the Boy Scouts were launching a scrap paper drive. The collection date was set for June 17. Residents were encouraged to tie their contributions in 12-inch bundles and to leave it on their front steps on that date, which was a Saturday.

The paper was to be sold at 35 cents per 100 pounds.

The Eagle staff seemed to be concerned that residents wouldn't support this latest drive because they had been stuck with a lot of scrap paper previously because the paper mills were switching from peacetime to wartime operations and couldn't handle it.

"However, that situation has changed now, and from 20 to 25 of the largest mills are closed down for lack of paper. Wood pulp supplies are exhausted. There is only one source of additional paper and that is scrap paper," the Eagle reported. 

Why the urgency?

"Practically every item shipped to our fighting forces requires paper. The soldiers' barracks are built of paper, of paper wall board, paper roofing, paper insulation. He shoots at paper target in training, eats from paper plates, drinks from paper cups. Blood plasma is shipped in paper cartons. Literally the soldier lives, trains, travels and fights with paper his indispensable ally and everything from his draft card to his honorable discharge requires paper," the article stated.

Paper was also necessary to keep the pressed rolling, of course, and the Eagle had its own role to play in the war effort.

In addition to front page news, the Eagle dedicated several inside pages to letters and updates on Walker County service members. Notices were published for free and were apparently quite popular among local soldiers who wanted to keep up with buddies who had been stationed elsewhere.

"I receive the Mountain Eagle each week and enjoy it very much. It is the best way I can get the home county news. I see names of a great number of home boys who are in service," wrote Cpl. Robert V. Burt, stationed in Alpine, Texas.

From New Guinea, Sgt. Howard L. Sherer wrote, "I have received four copies of the Mountain Eagle since I arrived in New Guinea and I was more than glad to receive those copies. It is a lot of company out here in a place like New Guinea or any other part of the world...Keep the Mountain Eagle rolling to all us boys out here in the Pacific."

Perhaps because of its coverage of Walker County people at home and abroad, the Eagle (still a weekly) was experiencing a growth in readership.

The Eagle published an Eagle's Nest section, described as a newspaper within a newspaper about subscribers, advertisers and staff. On June 15, it was reported that 4,980 copies of the June 1, 1944 issue had come off the press — the most in at least 15 years.

New subscriptions for mail delivery had also passed 1,000 for the first five months of the year, and newstand and counter sales hit a new high of over 500.

The names of all new and renewed subscribers were published in the Eagle's nest with service members getting special recognition.

Jennifer Cohron is the Daily Mountain Eagle's features editor.