New Hope in the Post-World War II Period
By Al Rocca
Story by Al Rocca
Photos courtesy of the Shasta Historical Society
It was finally over. The most destructive military conflict in the history of the world. As 1946 began, millions of military personnel prepared to return to the civilian life in America. Like most small towns across the country, residents of Anderson hoped for a quick return to normalcy. They had endured food and gas rationing from the beginning of the war. Then as the war dragged on, the government added more items, such as chocolate and paper products, to the growing list of rationed goods. Of course, some residents received the worst news of all—a telegram from the War Department announcing that a family member was “Missing in Action.” All of this they endured. And now, the war was over. What did the future hold?
The biggest concern centered on the housing shortage. Local lumber supplies went directly to the war effort, not to community housing. By January of 1946, residents learned that a system of “housing priorities” held some hope. The priorities focused on building small, yet comfortable homes in the low to medium price range of $5,000 to $10,000. First in line, and rightly so, would be returning veterans. Only one house appeared for sale in the town of Anderson for January. The newspaper ad read, “FOR SALE—5 room home; city water; electricity – $2,500.”
Already, lumber businessman Ralph L. Smith recognized the need for expanding the local development of wood products and so planned on buying the Deschutes Lumber Co. in Anderson. Eventually Smith built a modern sawmill, remanufacturing plant and a box plant, employing hundreds of workers.
With few consumer goods available during the war, Anderson residents looked forward to buying that long-wished-for washing machine or automobile. One piece of good news did arrive on the very first day of January—the Anderson Valley News printed the government’s announcement ending tire rationing. The newspaper also happily declared that local used car “price ceilings” would drop at least 4 percent, making automobiles more affordable. A typical used Ford sold for around $500.
The opportunities for personal automobile travel dramatically increased when the state highway division announced in January that seven miles of improved highway would be built south of Cottonwood (the Highway 99 extension), linking Anderson to Red Bluff and points south.
All during the war, the government promoted “Victory Gardens,” encouraging homeowners to grow their own food. Now with the war over, local residents desired a greater selection of foods. Locally, Jack’s Cash Market began to advertise a much wider diversity of products. Anderson residents could now purchase Riviera ravioli in a one-pound jar. The price was 15 cents. Even S&W hot sauce, only rarely available during the war, now came in packs of three cans. The price was 20 cents.
The Anderson Valley Theatre increased the variety of movies and number of showtimes to meet growing interest in entertainment. To be sure, war-related moves such as “This Man’s Navy” still played during the month, but now exotic movies such as “Kismet” with Ronald Colman and Marlene Dietrich appeared.
Returning veterans struggled to secure jobs, and job seekers posted their availability. One such ad read: “RETURNED WAR VETERAN – wants work in electrical wiring, all types; plumbing, septic tank construction and installation; all work guaranteed.”
Slowly, as the late 1940s continued, Anderson, like the rest of Northern California, successfully transitioned to a peacetime economy. Ahead lay the “boom years” of the 1950s—exploding population and unbelievable economic growth.