Ups and downs of life in 1946

It was 1946 in Warren, Ohio. I was 10 going on 11, and the post World War II era had just begun. The future seemed so very promising. All of the rationing, shortages, fears of air raids and blackouts, and concerns about friends and relatives serving in the military were over.

I could buy kids’ stuff at Kresge’s and Woolworth’s that were made of more substantial stuff than the wartime cardboard and wood, and solid model airplane kits at the hobby shop next to the Harris Warren were of balsa wood — no longer of pine and pressed paper.

Mom could take me to the men’s department at Griswold’s where I could buy a suit that actually had cuffs on the trousers, and I could get new shoes at Nobil’s Shoes instead of trying to get along with half-soled shoes that I had mostly outgrown. Meat on the table was no longer rationed, and wasn’t so tough that I didn’t wonder if those meat purchases were made at the shoe repair shop.

New cars were trickling off the assembly lines — although they looked just like the pre-war models. Fords showed up in the showrooms with wooden bumpers. Tires were available — even white sidewalls sometimes, and for the first time in a very long time drivers could say, “Fill ‘er up!” at the gas pumps.

Dad came home with a brand-new 1946 Chevy Fleetmaster coupe, which replaced his old company car that was just about shot. That ’46 Chevy had dealer-installed flipper hubcaps that disappeared in a week. Driving 50 miles-per-hour out state Route 82 was a real thrill after spending nearly four years putt-putting along at 35.

The Warren Transportation Co. had some new buses, and the Warren Telephone Co. was switching over to a dial system on our telephones, although I missed the sort of friendly “Number, please?” that the operators would ask. No longer could we just blurt out a four-digit number like 2531 with a letter after it and get our party. We had to precede that number with words like Express or Olympic in order to dial our party.

Then it happened. Both the transportation company and the telephone company went on strike — either for unionization or higher wages, and Warren, was practically paralyzed. You couldn’t get anywhere unless you had a car, and you no longer had the convenience of making important phone calls or chatting on the phone with friends. Our plight was caught on the national news, and Lowell Thomas, a famous news commentator of the time, noted on his news broadcast that Warren was a “Walkie-No-Talkie Town.”

That September, I became a sixth-grader at Garfield Elementary on Montclair Street, and my classmates and I were now the “big kids” who could lord it over the younger students. We were in for a rude awakening in another year when we would have to start at the bottom again at East Junior as lowly seventh-graders.

Since our family car had seen better days, and getting a new one very soon seemed just about impossible, our dream of driving the 450 miles to the east coast for a vacation were pretty much scotched. Instead, we rented a tiny little cottage at Geneva on the Lake with two bedrooms, a bathroom, a kitchen and a screened-in-porch. That was the best we could find. Our family of four and two other families took up residence there. People slept on the porch and in the kitchen, but we had a great time. We kids enjoyed the arcades, the swimming, the miniature golf and the speedboats rides. The older people loved to play bingo and play cards. Maybe next year we could get back to the east coast.

All in all, 1946 was a memorable year that seemed to have an unbounded future.

Mumford, of Warren, can be reached at columns@tribtoday.com

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