In the summer of 1942, Slaton was war ready.
“The scrap is on,” Odie Hood, a member of the Slaton Scrap Drive committee said in an issue of The Slatonite in 1942. “I, for one, am full of hot blood and ready to fight.”
He wasn’t alone in his sentiments.
Royce Pember said in that same article, “It is hardly right to wake the folks in Lubbock up from a long sleep, but it is going to be a battle to the finish and I say we’ve got the advantage if we all do our part.”
W.H. Rogers, a member of the Texas Salvage Committee said that each town may use any method considered the best by committee members to collect the old metals and rubber.
“The local committee is making arrangements to tag every man, woman and child who donates any item of metal or rubber,” an article in The Slatonite read. “Those who do not bring metal or rubber will be asked to buy a defense stamp, those who refuse to do either, will be forced to hang their heads in shame.”
The Slaton Chamber of Commerce also did its part in aiding the war effort.
On July 28, 1942, at the Chamber of Commerce meeting, a series of projects were introduced that would stimulate the city’s progress as well as aid in wartime efforts.
“A motion was introduced and passed to keep a supply of post cards at the canteen at the Santa Fe Station,” an article in The Slatonite read. “The post cards are to be given to the troops passing through Slaton.”
Another addition to the bustling railroad town that brought in thousands of troops during the height of the war years, was the approval of the USO reading room at the depot.
“Briggs Robertson reports that he has been notified by the U.S.O. that an authorization of $100 per month has been allowed for the operation of a lounge at the Santa Fe Depot,” an article in The Slatonite stated. The room was to be furnished, “for men who are routed through Slaton.”
Fitted by local contributions, and operated by the women of Slaton, men and women from various parts of the country on their way to aid in the war efforts, found comfort and various forms of entertainment while waiting in Slaton. “The reading room will offer a limited amount of entertainment for the service men, such as magazines and radio programs.” The town also developed extensive advertisement efforts for the troops to remember that they were welcomed to return to Slaton at the end of their tours.
As various troops passed through Slaton, marching toward the town square for the various entertainment offerings and free treats at the Slaton Bakery, many passed the variety of shops, confectionaries, clothing stores and movie theaters that moved the bustling little city well into the 1940’s; a time many Slatonites consider the city’s heyday.
However, not all who arrived to Slaton were as optimistic, as the troops that came to town.
On Halloween of 1943, an eleven-year-old girl by the name of Dana Ross Smallwood sat in the bed of a pickup truck riding backwards for many hours across the bumpy Texas terrain, enveloped by the kicked-up dust, until they reached their destination, Slaton.
“Some of us rode backwards in the truck all the way from Canton, Texas located in Van Zandt County,” Dana wrote in Slaton’s Story. “I was sick when we arrived so my first impression of this town wasn’t very good.”
After years of struggle in east Texas, Dana’s father, Fagan, decided to move the family to a more prosperous region of the state. “My father went to work for Ray C. Ayers and Son,” Smallwood wrote. The business later became known as Supreme Feed Mills.
Fagan worked diligently during the year of 1943 and by 1945, the family bought their first home at 435 South 6th Street. “After living in the country for eleven years,” Smallwood wrote, “Slaton was quite a difference for us. Going to the show was a favorite pastime. It only cost 9 cents to enter the show and a bag of popcorn was only 5 cents,” she wrote.
Of course, the movie theater wasn’t the only form of entertainment, and Smallwood wrote that some of her favorite days were when variety shows would come to town. “We always looked forward to when the Harley Sadler Tent Show would come to Slaton,” she wrote. “The tent show was usually located in a vacant lot.”
In the summer of 1943, however, as the students’ of the Slaton schools were on summer break, tragedy struck the vibrant town when the principal of East Ward School, today houses the Stephen F. Austin Elementary, Mr. K.S. McKinnon, un-expectedly died. Earl Brasfield was elected to fill the position that was already a very challenging job.
“Because of World War II,” it is written in Slaton’s Story, “the Kavanaugh administration was a trying one.” The Kavanaugh administration refers to the superintendent of the schools during a time when Slaton had five different principals, including the late K.S. McKinnon. The other principals left for various career advancements.
“From 1942-45, the teacher shortage was very critical,” Slaton’s Story reported of the trying war years for the school system. “This situation was met by the hiring of local people who had been former teachers, and by permitting teachers living in Lubbock to commute.”
Slaton’s Story also reported that various school activities were postponed and suspended during the 1940’s. “Football and band were discontinued in 1942. Football was reinstated in 1945 and band began again in 1947-48,” it is written. “Emphasis was placed on more patriotic activities, such as scrap metal drives, than on the regular routine of school life.”
One such activity many students participated in was that battle between Slaton and Lubbock to collect the most salvage possible in 1942. “Arrangements are being made to build storage near City Hall where all salvage will be donated to a war time charity organization,” an article in a 1942 issue of The Slatonite read.
“This is just the beginning of a far reaching salvage campaign,” The Slatonite article stated. “People all over the nation will be asked again to bring in everything possible to make guns, ships and planes for the armed forces. The challenge being issued by the Slaton Committee is the opening gun to start this section of the country of on a Salvage Collecting program that will amaze the world.”