• 59°

Rowan did its part for WWII, sending scrap, protecting the Yadkin River

By Deirdre Parker Smith

deirdre.smith@salisburypost.com

We knew war was coming, said Evin Burleson, curator at Rowan Museum.

Burleson detailed how Rowan and North Carolina fared during World War II as part of the Victory 45 lecture series sponsored by Rowan Museum and Rowan Public Library to commemorate the 75th anniversary of World War II.

Once the U.S. realized it was a matter of time before we became involved n the war, they raised a 5% “victory tax.” And all sorts of goods were subject to an excise tax.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt asked for year-round Daylight Saving Time and citizens faced shortages of fuel, sugar, oil and even shoes.

Burleson said the war effort pulled us right out of the Depression, staring in 1938. Farmers were getting more money for their crops, wages were increasing and manufacturing was on a roll.

The first men drafted from Rowan County were sent to Fort Bragg on Dec. 9, 1940. All nine men had actually volunteered. In Rowan, 9,024 men registered for the draft by Sept. 30, 1940.

War bonds went on sale in May 1, 1941, with Salisbury Post carriers selling them on their routes.

Meanwhile, airplane spotlights were installed on top of what is now the Plaza in downtown Salisbury. Machine gun posts were embedded near the Yadkin River Bridge.

In other parts of the state, the U.S. Army began training maneuvers. They had to lear to se tanks and artillery.

Burleson said one of his favorite stories he discovered was that Elizabeth Hurley, for whom Hurley Park is named, grabbed an ax when she heard about the Pearl Harbor attacks and chopped down the Japanese cherry trees she had just planted.

Newspaper gave advice about what to do during an air raid. The Salisbury Post wrote an article that said just because someone has an accent does not them them a spy.

Burleson said that conscientious objectors, including Quakers andJehovah’s Witnesses were often give war-related jobs stateside. “A lot of Quakers ended up building the Blue Ridge Parkway through the Civilian Public Service.”

More than 360,000 North Carolinas served during the way, including 3,000 from Rowan County. North Carolina led the nation in draft rejections, though, Burleson said, due to poor health, illiteracy and being over- or underweight.

About 2%-3% of N.C. service members died in the war or afterwards; Rowan lost 249 people.

North Carolina suffered from the same German U-Boat attacks that plagued the East Coast, but four of them were destroyed off the coast, the most of any state. Cape Hatteras was nicknamed Torpedo Junction.

Rowan felt the war shortages, with only 3 gallons of gas allowed weekly. Speed limits of 35 mph were enforced, and travel decreased by 25%. More people rode bicycles, as pleasure driving was banned in 1943.

Schools, including Boyden High School gave up their typewriters for the war effort. Not only did the military need them, they were made of metal, which could be melted down for munitions.

Folks in Rowan, and across the U.S., were limited to three pairs of shoes per year. The Salisbury Post had advertisements from Belk-Harry and Oestreicher’s for half-soles to keep the shoes in tact.

Many of those ads had patriotic themes and artwork.

Celebrities traveled all over the country selling war bonds. The Trapp Family of “Sound of Music” fame came here in 1942, before the movie made them famous. Eleanor Roosevelt came to Livingstone College for a conference in 1942.

Burleson said Salisbury canceled its elections and Catawba College was nearly empty, canceling its football season. Many colleges became training sites for the military.

One of the better know incidents of the war was the crash of a B-25 bomber in  Badin Lake, where it remained for decades.

Polio began to spread to North Carolina in 1944, moving east from Hickory.

But people here did their best to help. Burleson said 90% of Boyden High School students bought war bonds in 1942. Then, in 1944, Salisbury had a tremendously successful campaign, raising $4,251,737 in war bonds.

To help with the war effort, Burleson said Salisbury was the first city in the state to scrap its trolley rain lines. Also scrapped were a German World War I cannon, a 1904 steam pump fire truck, an old toll bridge on the Yadkin, a Civil War era safe, and more.

By December 1942, Rowan had the highest scrap per capita of any county in what was then the 9th congressional district — 148.3 pounds per person.

Among other items scrapped were a hammer used on a World War I Navy ship, brass knuckles used for protection while working on the railroad and an artificial leg, all coming from Mr. H.N. Parrish, whose husband had died.

Businesses like Alcoa, which produced aluminum, and Cannon Mills, which made cotton, as well as Hanes Hosiery, which shifted its production to shirts and underwear, hired more women and focused on what was needed for the war.

Roosevelt died in April 1945; his funeral train passed through Salisbury. We missed out on a veteran’s hospital, at least until the 1950s, but textiles continued to rule for almost 40 years. Literacy improved, as did work experience, and Rowan recovered.

Comments

Education

RSS budgeting for tens of millions in federal COVID-19 relief funding

East Spencer

‘Back in full swing’ for the spring: East Spencer community gathers for food, fun and fellowship at Spring Fest

Local

Rowan native Lingle among those honored with NC Military Veterans Hall of Fame induction

Business

Former pro baseball player, Tar Heel standout Russ Adams finds new career with Trident Insured

Education

Profoundly gifted: Salisbury boy finishing high school, associates degree at 12

Local

Cheerwine Festival will stick to Main Street, stay away from new park in September

Lifestyle

Celebrating Rowan County’s early cabinetmakers

Education

Service Above Self announces youth challenge winners

Business

Economic Development Commission creates search tool for people seeking Rowan County jobs

Columns

Amy-Lynn Albertson: Arts and Ag Farm Tour set for June 5

High School

High school baseball: Mustangs top Falcons on strength of hurlers

Business

Biz Roundup: Application process now open for Rowan Chamber’s 29th Leadership Rowan class

Sports

Keith Mitchell leads McIlroy, Woodland by 2 at Quail Hollow

Nation/World

States scale back vaccine orders as interest in shots wanes

Nation/World

Major US pipeline halts operations after ransomware attack

News

NC budget dance slowed as GOP leaders differ on bottom line

News

Judge limits footage that family can see of deputy shooting

Coronavirus

People receiving first dose of COVID-19 vaccine grows by less than 1%

Education

Rowan-Salisbury Schools brings Skills Rowan competition back to its roots

Business

Weak jobs report spurs questions about big fed spending

News

Judge limits footage that family can see of deputy shooting in Elizabeth City

Sports

Woodland, two others share lead; Mickelson plays much worse but will still be around for weekend at Quail Hollow

Business

Former NHL player to open mobster themed bar in Raleigh

Nation/World

California population declines for first time