Journal-News, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 1994
Champion Hamilton mill sorting line: female sentinels against bad paper
"You stand, and turn it sheet by sheet," recalled Nancy Gover in describing the work of the sorting line, once a corps of female sentinels against bad paper at Champion's Hamilton mill. "When I first started." she said, "there were sorting lines on both sides of the street. There were 200 or more girls on each side."
Rose Spindeler and Bertie Tabler shared the sorting duties when Peter G. Thomson opened the Hamilton mill in April 1894. By 1925, Champion boasted "200 competent girls inspect, count and sort two million sheets of coated paper daily."
For some women, the sorting line was an entry which led to other Champion responsibilities. Blondie Caldwell, for example, began her more than 42-year career on the sorting line in 1934 before transferring to the personnel department and later industrial relations.
When she retired in May 1977, Caldwell was described as "one of the most well known and certainly best liked Hamilton mill personalities." She became the mill photographer, known as "One Shot Caldwell," said an employee publication, "because she always got a good picture with only one click of the lens."
Now technology has replaced manual sorting. It isn't the same operation fondly recalled by Nancy Gover, who started at 41 cents an hour in September 1941, retired in April 1986, and returned for a five-month stint in 1988.
Sorters hit a bell (or counter) as they turned the paper, recalled Gover in an interview. "Your good paper went to your left, and your defects went to your right. We had two finger rubbers that you used to pick the paper up with." After every 500 sheets, "you put your name and number on a marker, a paper slip," she said. "That name slip was taken out when the paper got to the trimmers, and if they found a defect, you were responsible for it."
Gover said the marker also was part of a bonus system, which enabled some sorters to make between $100 and $200 every two weeks in extra money.
The biggest changes over her 47 years were the requirements of "safety shoes, ear plugs and safety glasses," Gover said. "When we didn't have to wear safety shoes, we'd wear high heels to work and have flats in our lockers. When we had to start wearing safety shoes, that was awful." She also recalled having music in the sorting room before ear plugs were required.
"Before air conditioning, you would get static in your paper and it would be hard to turn," she explained. "You'd also get air wrinkles, so the air conditioning helped alot."
Starting in 1913, hydraulic sorting tables improved working condition for the women charged with assuring that Champion shipped quality paper.
During the mill's first 18 years, sorters stood at standard 32x44-inch tables which handled a paper stack only about eight inches high. As the market demanded wider paper, larger tables were required. Increased volume also necessitated higher stacks as stock came from the cutters.
Jack Reedy, whose 35-year Champion career started in 1907 as a machinist, crafted the solution. But he wasn't satisfied with his first invention in about 1912, which was an iron table raised or lowered with a hand crank.
Early in 1913, Reedy experimented with a hydraulic sorting table which moved up or down by water pressure. Installation of the improved tables had to wait, thanks to the March 1913 flood and fire which wrecked the mill. Reedy -- also responsible for numerous other papermill inventions -- spent weeks cleaning, repairing and rebuilding machinery.
By the end of 1913, sorting was made faster and easier by Reedy's hydraulic tables.
"The operator does not have to stoop, reach up, lift, or apply herself in any way except to turn each sheet gently from one stack to the other, watching carefully for defects," said a company ad. "As the paper is sorted, one table rises by hydraulic power while the other table lowers -- maintaining a working level at all times." The ad said each table handled a 5,000-pound stack of paper, and an accompanying photo showed a stack about three feet high.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Dec. 14, 1994
Battle of Bulge ended local war optimism
By Jim Blount
"Americans Push Deeper into Reich," proclaimed the bold headline across page one of the Journal-News Dec. 1, 1944, fueling American optimism at the start of the nation's fourth war-time Christmas season. U. S. military success in the Philippines matched Allied progress in Europe during the first half of the month as World War II appeared to be drawing to a close.
Events at Miami University in Oxford seemed to confirm the war's end. Fisher Hall -- after two and a half years as the USS Fisher Hall -- was ready to revert to a men's dormitory for the new semester starting in 1945.
"All naval activity in the building has come to a close. The last of the men radio trainees completed their occupancy last weekend," said a Dec. 1 story. "Chains which formerly guarded the entrances to the Fisher Hall driveway and to The Pines, another building still in use as navy headquarters, have been removed, and guards are no longer stationed at the entrances."
The Oxford report said "The Pines will continue to be used as offices, at least until the Waves complete their training here. There are 238 women trainees here, and all will be gone by mid February."
By December 1944, the U. S. Navy had trained about 10,000 men and women on the Miami campus. As of Dec. 1, only 389 men and 238 women remained. Miami civilian enrollment numbered 1,962 then with only 297 men, including 30 returned veterans.
The Journal-News criticized American complacency in an editorial published Dec. 7, 1944, the third anniversary of Japan's air attack on Pearl Harbor. Recently, "it has been taken for granted that the war would be won and therefore it was no longer necessary to exert any unusual effort," warned the Journal-News. "This is the gravest danger that now confronts America. It is a state of mind that can prolong the war."
Victory seemed in sight, the editorial said, "but this can be done, and many lives can be spared only if the American people maintain the determination to win that characterized their anger three years ago."
There were constant reminders of war-imposed restrictions. About 11,000 families in the region were waiting for telephone service, the Cincinnati & Suburban Bell Telephone Co. reported. About 7,000 were "in areas where there is a shortage, not only of telephone instruments, but of switchboards and other central office equipment as well," the company explained.
Families that had harvested carrots, beets, potatoes, cabbage and apples from Victory Gardens were urged to preserve them during the winter. The government suggested "burying boxes of vegetables, or merely covering them in pits," or storing them "in a 24-inch drain tile sunk into the earth and closed with an insulated cover which may be opened at will."
A $2.3 million contract was awarded to one of Hamilton's many war plants in mid month. The Columbia Machinery and Engineering Corp. was to modify and improve several hundred army anti-aircraft guns. The one-year project would require 250 to 300 additional workers.
The 120 milimeter guns were called the largest then in use -- 30 tons and 12 feet high. They were capable of firing shells from downtown Hamilton to the center of Cincinnati.
Since February 1942, Columbia's plant on High Street between North Fourth and North Fifth streets had produced 90-milimeter guns, cranes and power shovels for military use.
Home front complacency turned to concern again the week before Christmas.
Newspaper readers learned Dec. 19 that Allied headquarters in Europe had "imposed security silence" on a "powerful German counter offensive" which had "probed into Belgium and Luxembourg on a 60-mile front."
Later, it would become known as the Battle of the Bulge. A Dec. 27 report said the offensive, Germany's last, was expected to add from three to six months to the war in Europe.
"First, Allied generals thought the European war would be won last fall," said an Associated Press report. "Now they talk of next fall or winter."
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Dec. 21, 1994
War permeated almost every aspect of home front during Christmas '44 season
By Jim Blount
World War II permeated almost every aspect of civilian life in December 1944, the fourth and last Christmas season under the shadow of the deadly conflict.
Downtown Hamilton stores extended their hours the week preceding Christmas. They were open noon to 9:30 p.m. Monday, 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. To 6 p.m. Saturday, Dec, 23.
But customers -- subject to gas and tire rationing on their personal cars -- were urged to consider war needs as they planned their shopping trips. Bus company ads during the month appealed "to the patriotism and thoughtfulness of Christmas shoppers."
"Get your Christmas shopping done before 4 p.m.," the ads suggested. "Free the buses for the war workers returning to their homes by shopping earlier in the day. You’ll get better service in the stores, you’ll relieve the traffic strain on the transportation equipment, and you’ll be giving the war workers the consideration due them."
Despite war restrictions, Santa's helpers found plenty of toys in local stores. At Leo's Store, 315 High Street, Kismet, a game, was advertised at 97 cents; a gun and holster set at the same price; an assortment of push and pull toys for tots at 79 cents; a 14-piece child's dish set for $1.19; and a four-room doll house, measuring 20x16 and 7.5 inches high, at $1.59. At Sears, parents paid 89 cents for a checker board or a football game, and 79 cents for a magic slate.
Adult gift ideas included women's dresses $8.75, men's brand-name long-sleeve shirts $1.69, rayon Wembley ties $1, and zipper, button or pullover sweaters $3.95 at Wilmurs at the northeast corner of Second and High streets.
Men's suits and topcoats ranged from $35 to $55 at Keiser Clothing Co. on High Street in the Second National Bank Building. Hyde Park suits sold for $25 to $39.75 at Burg's at Main and North B streets.
For holiday gatherings, the Elite bakery at 212 High Street had two-layer cakes at 49 cents, pies 40 cents, a dozen cookies 18 cents, coffee cakes 12 cents, and rye bread 10 cents.
Entertainment opportunities included music and dancing at local bars and clubs. For those who could find transportation, Castle Farms, north of Cincinnati, offered name entertainers with dining and dancing.
Lawrence Welk "and his champagne music" were featured Saturday, Dec. 2, with a $1 cover charge and a 75-cent minimum, or $1.75 per person. A week later, Lionel Hampton, billed as the "world's greatest vibra harp and drum star," and his orchestra were at Castle Farms.
Thursday, Dec. 7, the third anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor Day, three downtown theaters -- the Paramount, Palace and Rialto -- offered free movies to everyone buying a War Bond of any amount at the theaters.
The movie lineup that month highlighted war themes. "You Can't Ration Love," starring Betty Rhodes and Johnnie Johnston, told "how the girls at Adams College, a coed institution, solved the manpower shortage." Adult admission to that Paramount show cost 40 cents in daytime and 55 cents in evenings.
At the Linden Theater on Pleasant Avenue, prices were 30 cents for adults and 14 cents for children to see such fare as "Hostages," featuring Luise Rainer, William Bendix and Paul Lukas. It was described as "a story of love, devotion and courage among those battling Hitler inside his own lines" telling "the dramatic story of the active underground in Europe."
Children in Hamilton and elsewhere were busy doing their part for the war effort, as evidenced by announcements during the month.
Principal Caroline Hammerle reported 4,350 pounds of waste paper collected by pupils at Madison Elementary School in a week, led by Michael Schiering, a first grader, with 181 pounds.
Money for three field ambulances, two jeeps and a bomb trailer was contributed by pupils at Adams Elementary School. Principal Irene Frazer said war stamp and bond sales had reached $9,230. Leaders were Gail Burns, Bessie Baker, Lucy Beckett, Emily Beckett, Donald Fletcher and Bessie George, who received citations signed by Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Dec. 28, 1994
Unwanted surprises followed Christmas 1944
By Jim Blount
Mother Nature and Uncle Sam delivered belated Christmas surprises in December 1944 amid anxiety for stalled Allied military operations in Europe and the Pacific.
Butler Countians faced ice-covered roadways as they returned to jobs Tuesday, Dec. 26, after an extended Christmas weekend. Rain and fog on Christmas Eve and rain on Christmas turned to a mix of rain, sleet and some light snow as the temperature dropped. The wet surfaces froze overnight. The quick, unexpected turn in weather -- which worsened the next day -- produced numerous traffic accidents.
But weather wasn’t the only topic of conversation.
At 12:01 a.m., Tuesday, Dec. 26, the government imposed "widespread changes in food rationing regulations," the Journal-News reported. They had been announced Christmas day as the Office of Price Administration (OPA) reacted to "declining meat supplies and low stocks of butter, canned fruits and vegetables."
For example, butter increased from 20 ration points to 24 while a few items decreased. Dated stamps for some specific items, including sugar, were canceled.
The newspaper said "persons having points scheduled for cancellation raided" Hamilton stores, with canned vegetables their prime targets.
"Only small stocks of sugar were on hand, and these were snapped up quickly" as local food dealers "spent much time explaining the new regulations and listening to grumbling by customers."
Improvements included the ration points for canned apples dropping from 30 to 20 and peaches from 80 to 60.
Canned corn jumped from zero to 20 points, hamburger from zero to 4 points per pound, and a quart of home-processed tomato catsup or chili sauce from nothing to 60.
Four days later, the Associated Press reported a "tightening of shoe rationing is imminent." The prevailing policy of two pairs a shoes a year couldn’t be continued into 1945 because of increased military needs for leather.
Earlier in the month, OPA had announced the supply of tires for heavy trucks and buses could be lessened because of the need for jeep tires. Holders of A cars for personal vehicles would have to wait until spring, OPA said.
Also, the Hamilton War Price Rationing Board reported penalties for three area motorists who had violated war-time speed limits. Fifteen-day suspension of gas ration books were ordered for a man doing 45 mph in Middletown, a man clocked at 50 mph in Cincinnati and a woman driving 65 on a state highway.
In contrast were the hundreds of Butler Countian who contributed time, talent and blood to the war effort. When a Red Cross mobile unit made its 11th stop at the Anthony Wayne Hotel, the Hamilton quota was exceeded as 1,100 persons gave a pint of blood each during the week.
Mrs. L. J. Smith, blood donor director, said two persons, Harry Junkins and Russel Katz, gave for the 11th time.
Donors for the 10th time were George B. Emerson, Martin J. Wys, Mrs. Margaret Burkhardt, the Rev. John Ford, Mrs. Helen Steinle, Don W. Fitton, Cyrus Fitton, Dr. Fred Baumgartner and Mrs. Florence Bain of Oxford.
Leaders of the Oxford USO asked for cookie donations for the Christmas party for about 240 women trainees in the U. S. Navy radio school on the Miami campus. A total of 50 dozen cookies were needed.
In Hamilton, the Victory Canteen at the northwest corner of Court and Front streets hosted a Christmas turkey dinner Sunday, Dec. 24, for men and women in uniform and those already discharged. About 60 boys and girls from the Butler County Children’s Home were guests. Gene Osborn Post 2, Disabled War Veterans of World War II -- sponsor of the event -- appealed for public contributions of food and gifts for the party.
Donations also were accepted for a holiday event at another service canteen at 68 Wood Street (now Pershing Avenue). The Dec. 28 Christmas dinner, chaired by Mrs. David Owens, was, according to the Journal-News, for "colored men and women in service."
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