Life in Jefferson County during World War II

home front

It was a dark time as war spread throughout the world. Sons and even daughters from all walks of life answered the call and left SETX to unselfishly put their lives in danger for a united cause. Some would return a few years later while others made the ultimate sacrifice. On the home front, many did their part in conserving, rationing, and doing whatever else it took to aid the war effort.

During the war there was always a more legitimate threat here compared to inland areas. In the 1940s, Southeast Texas was known for its refineries and shipbuilding. Two major concerns plagued the minds of residents often: U-boats and sabotage. German submarines were a reality along the Gulf coast and sank many ships, costing numerous lives. Fortunately sabotage was only a concern and not a reality in the daily lives of the workers at the area’s refineries.

Doing my research of this time, I noticed mention of victory gardens sprouting up around the country, and the same could be said here although most people in our area already had gardens and fruit trees, which they had tended to since the days of the Depression.

For most residents, life was as normal as it could be under the circumstances. Unfortunately, air raid drills and an absence of lights at night were the norm. In addition, if you lived near the railroad tracks, especially where the tank cars were stored, you were guaranteed that on moonless nights, tank cars would be maneuvered, loaded with fuel and moved north. Obviously, the movement could not be detected from the air in the pitch blackness. Luckily our area, as with the entire mainland, never experienced an aerial attack.

Residents’ news sources were limited during the war. Of course, the daily paper was the main source of information for most, but many people also had radios, which they gathered around each evening to hear the news of the day. News reels at the theater were another popular news resource, but to some of the common folk, a trip to the movies was rare.

After sitting down with a few people and listening to their accounts of this time, I can’t help but feel a sense of admiration. Yes, these were troubled times, but they forged ahead and rose to each and every challenge. To have lived through the Depression and a world war is a immense feat. The people of this time were, and are, our greatest generation.