Over the course of World War II, Orange, Texas’s easternmost city, went from a sleepy southern town of 7,500 inhabitants to a bustling industrial city of 60,000. The bayou community on the Sabine became one of the nation’s preeminent shipbuilding centers. In They Called It the War Effort, Louis Fairchild details the explosive transformation of his native city in the words of the people who lived through it.
Some residents who lived in the town before the war speak of nostalgia for the time when Orange was a small, close-knit community and regret for the loss of social cohesiveness of former days, while others speak of the exciting new opportunities and interesting new people that came. Interviewees tell how newcomers from rural areas in Louisiana and East Texas tried to adjust to a new life in close living quarters and to new amenities–like indoor toilets.
People from all walks of life talk of the economic shift from the cash and job shortages of Depression era to a war era when these things were in abundance, but they also tell of how wartime rationing made items like Coca-Cola treasured luxuries. Fairchild deftly draws on a wide array of secondary sources in psychology and history to tie together and broaden the perspectives offered by World War II Orangeites.
The second edition of this justly praised book features more interviews with non-white residents of Orange, as Japanese Americans and especially African Americans speak not only of the challenges of wartime economic dislocations, but also of living in a southern town where Jim Crow still reigned.
Publication of this book was supported by a generous grant from the Nelda C. and H. J. Lutcher Stark Foundation