Journal-News, Wednesday, Sept. 1, 1999
GM's Train of Tomorrow popular attraction in 1948
By Jim Blount
In December 1948, the auto industry still struggled to meet the pent-up demand from the Depression and World War II. The U. S. record for annual car production remained 1929, the year the market crashed. The auto boom of the 1950s and the birth of the interstate highway system were still years away when attention in Hamilton focused on railroad passenger travel in 1948.
Wednesday and Thursday, Dec. 8-9, 1948, long lines of curious people waited to inspect the General Motors Train of Tomorrow. During its tour, which had started May 28, 1947, the train, "a bright, intriguing, even radical idea lit up the traditionally conservative landscape of railroading," wrote Karl Zimmerman in Domeliners, Yesterday's Trains of Tomorrow (1998).
Before arriving in Hamilton, the train had traveled more than 33,000 miles and had been visited by more than four million people. Eventually, the TOT covered 65,000 miles, plus being a popular static exhibit at the Chicago Railroad Fair of 1948-49.
The Hamilton visit -- the 130th stop -- was sponsored by the local Fisher Body Division of General Motors and dealers of other GM products. The plant had opened the previous year.
Upon its arrival from Dayton Dec. 8, the 18-member crew and local workers prepared the TOT for inspection. The train was parked on tracks on the east side of Erie Highway. It was positioned near Heaton Street and Fair Avenue, close to the Butler County Fairgrounds, which provided parking for people inspecting the train.
Local contractors built temporary walkways and installed lighting for viewers who entered and exited the exhibit from the east side of the tracks. Hamilton police directed traffic.
The Journal-News described the TOT as an "ultra modern train" and "one of the finest examples of the advancement of science and engineering." The writer said "the train embodies the very latest in railroad passenger equipment and has been the pattern for a new type of service."
The concept originated in July 1944, during World War II, when civilian railroad travel was restricted. The featured domed cars -- distinguished by a raised portion with more glass than steel and a wider and higher range of sight than in conventional coaches -- were inspired by a GM executive's ride through the Rockies.
GM's Electro-Motive Division built the 71-foot 2,000-horsepower E7 diesel locomotive that pulled the train, but it was the four blue-green cars with silver trim that were unique.
The cars, all 85 feet in length, were named Star Dust, a 72-seat chair car; Dream Cloud, a 44-passenger sleeper; Sky View, a 52-seat dining car; and Moon Glow, a 68-seat combination observation-lounge car.
The car builder, Pullman-Standard, called them Astra-Liners. Later, Budd, another manufacturer, labeled them Vista-Domes. A similar design, introduced in July 1945 by the Burlington railroad, had been named Silver Dome.
Zimmerman said the idea "caught on -- to the point that dome cars came to loom large in the perception of the North American passenger railroading in its last great years, those immediately following World War II." Just 236 were build within about a decade by only 16 railroads, he wrote, but "these cars, designed to provide high visibility for passengers, also had high visibility. They were exciting, glamorous and innovative."
The train was so popular in Hamilton that people were still in line Thursday evening at the announced closing time. They watched as the door shut and preparations began for moving the TOT to its next stop in Elyria, Ohio.
Hamilton attendance was 6,003 people Wednesday and 10,552 Thursday, a total of 16,555. In 19 open hours, an average of 15 people per minute passed through the 411-foot train. Local GM officials said it was "the largest crowd recorded in any (GM) plant city."
After the tour, the TOT was acquired in April 1950 by the Union Pacific Railroad for its City of Seattle passenger service between Portland and Seattle. Only one car, Moon Glow, escaped the scrap torch in the 1960s. The observation-lounge car is part of a railroad museum at Union Station in Ogden, Utah.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Sept. 8, 1999
Latest baseball reports scarce as Reds' won titles in 1919
By Jim Blount
You can't miss the final weeks of the pennant race and post-season professional baseball action. Through newspapers, radio, television and the Internet, there's a wealth of instant information for fans at home, at work or on the road. But it wasn't always easy to obtain timely baseball reports.
During the 1919 World Series -- the first involving the Cincinnati Reds -- there weren't radio or TV broadcasts and no Internet sports services. Local fans had to rely on special game reports by local newspapers and theaters.
The series -- all afternoon games -- opened Wednesday, Oct. 1, in Cincinnati with the White Sox heavily favored. The lineup for the underdog Reds that day included infielders Jake Daubert, Morris Rath, Heinie Groh and Larry Kopf; outfielders Pat Duncan, Eddie Roush and Earle (Greasy) Neale; Ivy Wingo catching and Walter (Dutch) Reuther pitching. Manager Pat Moran's pitching staff also included Hod Eller, Harry (Slim) Sallee, Jimmy Ring, Dolf Luque and Ray Fisher.
The Grand Theater on the southeast corner of High and State streets advertised "a special wire direct from Redland Field, Cincinnati, and Comiskey Park, Chicago," to its stage "where the $10,000 Eppen's Electric Scoreboard will reproduce in exact detail as played."
The theater sold reserved seats for this service, which was complemented by "three big-time Keith's vaudeville acts immediately after the ball game."
A competitor, the Jewel Theater, countered with "a two-reel feature showing the actual playing of the Reds and White Sox." The theater -- on the southeast corner of S. Second and Court streets -- boasted the replay was the "first time in Hamilton" for the series feature.
For those who didn't want to pay for 1919 series reports, and those working during the games, Hamilton's daily newspapers filled the void.
As was its custom, the Evening Journal placed large scoreboards at highly-visible locations around the city. At each site, an attendant posted half inning reports and highlights relayed by telephone from the newspaper office.
Several factories offered the scoreboard service to their employees. Twenty Journal scoreboards were scattered through the large Hooven-Owen-Rentschler plant.
The rival Republican-News, as during previous World Series, invited fans to "News Park" to follow events on the "News Wonder Board." The electric device was erected above the entrance to the newspaper building at the northwest corner of N. Third and Market streets.
With the Reds in the series for the first time, the opening day turnout at "News Park" exceeded previous years. The crowds increased as the series progressed. Saturday, Oct. 4, viewers blocked much of Third Street and police accommodated the throng by roping off Market Street between Third Street and an alley behind the newspaper office.
George Hutchinson directed the Republican-News operation with assistance from Dick Connelly and Roger Brannon. They relied on accounts received from the Associated Press.
While the series was in progress, the Pittsburgh Pirates of the National League came to Hamilton for an exhibition game. They beat the Hamilton Cycle Club, 9-3, at Colonial Park Sunday, Oct. 5. Newspapers said a "big crowd" saw the local amateurs battle the professionals through three scoreless innings before the Pirates erupted for a 7-0 lead.
For those not interested in baseball, there were other special events during the series. John Philip Sousa and his band presented a concert in the Hamilton High School auditorium Thursday evening, Oct. 2. The 69th Butler County Fair opened Wednesday, Oct. 8.
Thursday, Oct. 9, 1919, the surprising Reds won the deciding game, 10-5, to take the championship. Heavily-favored Chicago lost five of eight games in what became the "Black Sox Scandal." The series acquired that label a year later when it was charged Chicago players had taken bribes to fix the outcome for the benefit of gamblers.
Eventually, eight White Sox were indicted for conspiring to defraud the public. None was convicted, but all were banished from baseball for life by the newly-named commissioner, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, a native of Millville.
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Journal-News, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 1999
1900-1909: Era of entertainment expansion
(This is the first in a 13-part series reviewing events of the 1900s in the Hamilton-Fairfield area. This installment covers 1900-1909, an era of entertainment expansion.)
By Jim Blount
The first 10 years of the 1900s brought gradual changes to the Hamilton area. A steady street paving program replaced the mud, dust, ruts and rocks on some main thoroughfares. Gas-powered cars and trucks were a local novelty, but their numbers increased between 1900 and 1909. Starting in the latter year, Republic cars were built in Hamilton.
Another transportation development occurred April 3, 1902. On that day, an electric mule was introduced on the Miami-Erie Canal (now Erie Highway) in an attempt to revive the failing 75-year-old waterway. The electric trolley was designed to replace the slower four-legged horses and mules in pulling canalboats.
One of the most notable changes involved entertainment.
A community fund-raising campaign financed the new Jefferson Theater on the west side of South Second Street between Court and Ludlow. The 1,600-seat playhouse -- opened March 31, 1903 -- was built to host traveling dramatic companies, musicals and vaudeville shows. Movies came later to the Jefferson, which three weeks after its inaugural was renamed Smith's Theater. It reverted to its original name in 1914.
The Grand Theater, at the southeast corner of High and State streets, opened Aug. 29, 1905, as a 400-seat vaudeville playhouse. Within three years, the popularity of vaudeville led to the building of the New Grand Theater at 201 South Third Street, opposite the west end of Maple Avenue. It debuted March 2, 1908, as an 800-seat vaudeville theater because the Grand on High Street, which continued to operate, was too small to meet local entertainment demands.
The Coliseum -- designed for indoor sports events as well as entertainment -- opened June 29, 1907. Skating, dancing and indoor baseball were among the varied attractions "in the largest hall in the city" on the east side of B Street at Park Avenue. More than 2,000 people attended the opening night indoor polo match.
Earlier in the decade, a Chicago theater disaster led to the Jan. 6, 1904, closing of the Globe Opera House at the southeast corner of High Street and Journal Square. Because the 1,200-seat theater was on the third floor, it was deemed unsafe for continued use after the Dec. 30, 1903, fire in the Iroquois Theater in Chicago.
From its opening in 1866, the Globe had hosted famous lecturers and civic meetings and was the city's leading playhouse for dramatic and musical productions. Later, the building housed the Robinson-Schwenn Store (1907-1964).
Music Hall, a Globe competitor, had been converted to Harrison Elementary School in 1899. It had opened in 1882 at 457 South Second Street, west of the intersection with Central Avenue, as the United German Society Hall. Later, as Music Hall, it was a venue for dramatic and musical events.
A major celebration of the period was May 28-29, 1903. That's when Butler County -- created in March 1803, the same month that Ohio became a state -- celebrated its centennial.
About 18 months later, community attention focused Dec. 1, 1904, on the lifting of Billy Yank to the top of the incomplete Soldiers, Sailors and Pioneers Monument. Placement of the Rudolph Thiem sculpture was done with proper ceremonies. The completed $71,266.73 monument was dedicated July 4, 1906.
On the negative side, several fires made headlines in the 1900-1909 era. They included a May 2, 1900, blaze that threatened to level Shandon; destruction of the Champion paper mill Dec. 22, 1901, and the Franklin paper mill April 28, 1902; a Miami University fire Jan. 16, 1908; and the Rockdale paper mill fire July 28, 1909.
In 1900 Hamilton's population was 23,914 people, up 6,349, or 36.1 percent, from 17,565 in 1890. By 1910, the city had 35,279 residents, an increase of 11,365, or 47.5 percent. There were 56,870 people in the entire county in 1900. The total grew to 70,271 by the 1910 census, a jump of 13,401 people (23.6 percent).
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 1999
1910-1919: Years of memorable tragedies
(This is the second in a 13-part series reviewing events of the 1900s in the Hamilton-Fairfield area. This installment -- years of memorable tragedies -- is one of two covering the 1910-1919 period.)
By Jim Blount
The period from 1910 to 1919 was the "Era of Tragedies" in the Hamilton area. The memorable period included a war, a flood, a blizzard, a deadly fire, the county's worst railroad accident, an epidemic and the start of Prohibition, the nation's great social experiment.
The first of a series of disasters came on a holiday. Twenty-four people died and about 35 were injured July 4, 1910, when passenger and freight trains collided on the Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton Railroad mainline about 500 yards north of the West Middletown station.
The southbound passenger train had been rerouted from New York Central tracks in eastern Butler County because of an accident on that line. Confused orders led to the crash involving a northbound CH&D freight.
It ranks as the deadliest accident of any kind in Butler County history.
Three Hamilton firemen died March 14, 1912, while battling a fire in the Butler County Courthouse. John Hunker, William Love and George Fritz were killed when the tower collapsed, burying them under tons of wreckage.
March 25, 1913, the Great Miami River submerged much of Hamilton. It rose almost 34 feet in less than two days, turning the city into a lake three miles wide. The surging water took more than 200 lives immediately and nearly another 100 within a few weeks.
All four bridges washed away and about 300 buildings were destroyed. Another 2,000 damaged houses and structures were razed after the water receded. Property damaged exceeded $10 million in 1913 values.
"Remember the promises we made in the attic," survivors vowed. They did. In 1914, leaders in nine counties along the river and its tributaries formed the Miami Conservancy District to alter the river and build a flood-prevention system. The MCD was financed by money raised in those counties. No federal funds went into the program that included retarding basins, dams, levees and channel improvements.
About 11 months later, seven inches of snow crippled the area as temperatures fell to below zero. The Feb. 13, 1914, blizzard stopped vehicle and railroad traffic and froze the Great Miami River. Ice jams threatened the temporary High-Main Street Bridge. The city's only bridge -- the others still hadn't been replaced after the flood -- was closed as the frigid weather disrupted vital transportation, communications and utility services.
Meanwhile, residents conserved their dwindling supply of coal during the 15-day crisis. Fortunately, no deaths were attributed to the winter siege.
April 6, 1917, the United States entered World War I with a declaration of war on Germany. More than 1,200 men from Butler County were drafted or volunteered before the conflict entered with an armistice Nov. 11, 1918.
At least 94 men didn't come home -- their lives taken in combat, during training or because of disease.
World War I was in its final weeks in October 1918 when the world-wide Spanish flu epidemic struck Butler County. In about three weeks, at least 216 people died in Hamilton and at least 100 in Middletown, plus uncounted victims in rural areas.
When the severity of the situation was realized Oct. 5, 1918, there were more than 1,000 people afflicted among Hamilton's 39,000 residents.
Mayor J. C. Smith ordered all schools and public buildings closed and banned "congregations of persons." For four Sundays, starting Oct. 14, church services were prohibited in a drastic attempt to stop the spread of the mysterious disease. Schools didn't reopen until Nov. 18.
The death toll overwhelmed local cemetery workers. Sheriff Frank Pepper assigned county jail inmates to dig graves for flu victims.
Six months later, Ohio-imposed prohibition began at 12:01 a.m. May 27, 1919, followed July 1, 1919, by federal restrictions. Within a few years, the area was saddled with its Little Chicago nickname because of disregard for state and federal laws that prohibited the manufacture, distribution, sale and possession of alcoholic beverages.
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Journal-News, Tuesday, Sept. 21, 1999
1910-1919: Years of Hamilton industrial boom
(This is the third in a 13-part series reviewing events of the 1900s in the Hamilton-Fairfield area. This installment -- years of industrial boom -- is the second of two covering the 1910-1919 period.)
By Jim Blount
"Known in the World's Markets" was Hamilton's boast at the start of the 1910-1919 years. It was a realistic claim, and reinforced by industrial expansion during the 10-year period that encompassed World War I.
"It is Hamilton's claim that no other community in America was so large or so widely-known a production in proportion to population," a city publication asserted. It reported 140 manufacturing plants producing more than 250 products. Railroads were handling 35,000 freight cars a month in the city.
Among the leading industries, the booklet said, were: The 27-acre Champion mill, "the largest in the world devoted to the manufacture of coated paper." Mosler and Herring-Hall, producing "more than 80 percent of all the safes that are used throughout the world." The Niles Tool Works, "not only the largest, but the best known machine tool plant in the world." The Hooven-Owens-Rentschler Company, "the largest exclusive Corliss Engine plant in the country, employing nearly 800 men."
Heading the city's 1910-1919 economic growth was the July 12, 1918, announcement that Henry Ford would build a tractor plant in Hamilton after the war. Within five months of the disclosure, construction had started on 100 new houses in Hamilton.
A new High-Main Street bridge was dedicated May 6, 1915. The 576-foot, $142,440.90 reinforced concrete structure replaced an iron truss span that washed away in the March 25, 1913, flood. The 1915 bridge -- later widened to four lanes -- remains in service more than 84 years later.
In September 1915, a new 45-room, $250,000 Hamilton High School opened with 680 students in grades 9 through 12. The building at the southeast corner of North Sixth and Dayton streets replaced the 22-year-old cramped Central High School at the northwest corner of South Second and Ludlow streets.
World War I brought several changes, shortages and sacrifices. The U. S. declared war on Germany April 6, 1917. Daylight saving time was introduced for the first time March 31, 1918, as a means of increasing war-time industrial and agricultural production.
During the war, a familiar corporate name vanished from the local and national railroad scene. The financially-troubled Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton Railroad -- whose local roots dated to September 1851 -- was acquired by the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad in July 1917. CH&D placards and logos were replaced almost immediately by B&O signage.
That same month paving began on the Butler County portion of the 5,100-mile Dixie Highway, a road network eventually running from the tip of Michigan to the southern shore of Florida. The local groundbreaking was July 10, 1917, in Fairfield Township, near the present intersection of Ohio 4 and Winton Road.
One of the festive events of the period was a visit to Hamilton by the Liberty Bell Nov. 22, 1915. Its brief stop came as the American symbol was being hauled by rail back to its Philadelphia home from the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco.
City government came under control of the Socialist Party in 1913. Voters that year elected a mayor and a majority of council from that political group, long active in Hamilton.
In 1914 -- for the first time since the Civil War in the 1860s -- some Hamiltonians were paying federal income taxes. Only about 200 of an estimated 35,500 residents were required to pay on their income. The majority didn't make enough money to quality.
The 1914 tax rate was one percent on personal income of $3,000 or more, or joint incomes of $4,000 or more. It was raised to 2 percent in 1916 and doubled again the next year as the nation prepared to enter World War I.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Sept. 22, 1999
1920-1929: Years of prosperity before the crash
(This is the fourth in a 13-part series reviewing events of the 1900s in the Hamilton-Fairfield area. This installment covers 1920-1929, years of prosperity.)
By Jim Blount
Local happenings related to Prohibition dominated day-to-day Hamilton headlines and conversations through the 1920s. By 1925, Hamilton and vicinity was known as Little Chicago. A minister claimed it was easier to buy a pint of illegal whisky than a quart of milk in the city. The dark period in local history -- including political corruption, gambling and prostitution -- descended with the May 1919 start of Prohibition, which continued until December 1933.
Nov. 2, 1926, Hamilton voters -- through the leadership of local women -- approved a city charter drawn to reduce partisanship and political patronage and bring professional management to city government. The reformed system was effective Jan. 1, 1928.
But Little Chicago events were only part of the story of the 1920s in Hamilton and environs. It was a time when radio became practical, affordable and popular, and "talking pictures" replaced silent movies. More and more county roads were paved, and cars were affordable for many residents.
Meetings held in March 1920 led to formation of what today is known as Butler County United Way. The first campaign raised $67,782.
City improvements were numerous -- Eastview, the first municipal swimming pool, opened Aug. 13, 1924, and Potter's, Hamilton's first municipal golf course, opened May 26, 1927. A 1927 campaign for money resulted in the completion Oct. 27 of the seven-story, 100-room Anthony Wayne Hotel. The $650,000 structure offered first-class lodging to thousands of businessmen who visited Hamilton annually.
Two years later, in 1929, a second hospital opened on Eaton Avenue. The 142-bed Fort Hamilton Hospital admitted its first patient May 1.
Earlier, a new $100,000 Hamilton Catholic High School was dedicated Nov. 11, 1923. The building at the southwest corner of North Sixth and Dayton streets replaced the Morey mansion on the same site, where the school had started in September 1909 with 61 male enrollees. In 1926, a Catholic school for girls on South Second Street, that had started with 16 pupils in 1887, changed its name to Notre Dame High School.
In 1929, the first Fairfield school -- housing 416 pupils in grades 1 to 12 -- replaced scattered one-room structures that had educated the township's young people.
In April 1920, a Ford Motor plant began production in Hamilton, at first making parts for Fordson tractors. Within months, it switched to making lock parts and wheels for Ford's popular Model T. The boom associated with the Ford opening had been responsible for building 509 new residences in the city over a three-year period, 1918-1920.
With the Ford plant came the Ford Airport on land north of the factory. It operated until Dec. 1, 1929. In March of that year, it was announced that 115 acres had been packaged southeast of the city for creation of the Hamilton Airport, recently renamed the Butler County Regional Airport.
Dec. 12, 1921, the first bus route between Hamilton and Cincinnati began service with a 45-cent charge for the 90-minute journey between the Butler County Courthouse and Fountain Square.
Another transportation era officially ended May 4, 1927, with passage of state legislation that permitted the filling of Ohio canals, including the 100-year-old Miami-Erie that passed through Hamilton and Middletown.
One of the most spectacular events in the 1920s was in the early hours of Jan. 4, 1928, when an explosion and fire destroyed the four-story Jefferson Theater at 123 South Second Street. At 4 degrees, firefighters were caked with ice as they kept the blaze from spreading.
After a relatively modest 12.5 percent (4,396) population increase between the 1910 and 1920, Hamilton experienced 31.5 percent growth (12,501) in the 1920s to 52,176 inhabitants in the 1930 census. Butler County totals increased from 70,271 in 1910, and 87,025 in 1920 to 114,084 by 1930, a 31.1 percent increase in 10 years.
By 1921, records indicated there were 11,467 automobiles in the county -- or one for about every 7.6 residents.
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Journal-News, Tuesday, Sept. 28, 1999
1930-1939: Years of widespread hardships
(This is the fifth in a 13-part series reviewing events of the 1900s in the Hamilton-Fairfield area. This installment covers 1930-1939, years of widespread hardships.)
By Jim Blount
The stage for the 1930s was set Oct. 24, 1929, "Black Thursday," when panic struck the stock market. By early 1930, the Great Depression was exacting its toll. A fourth of the nation's labor force was jobless, banks were failing, personal savings were vanishing and families were losing houses and farms. Many people who enjoyed relative affluence through the 1920s were cold and hungry during the 1930-1939 period.
A bright spot in the gloom of a worsening depression was the gala opening of the Paramount Theater March 6, 1931. The lavish 1,813-seat theater -- on the east side of South Second Street between High and Court streets -- was described as a "combination of the classic and modern period, with a dominant Italian Renaissance motif."
The most frightening event of the Depression came the day after the March 4, 1933, inauguration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He inherited a sick economy from Herbert Hoover, highlighted by the gradual collapse of the nation's banking system.
FDR ordered a four-day national banking holiday, effective March 6-9, 1933. Four Hamilton banks reopened March 14, nine others in Butler County the next day.
Except for the mandated recess, "to the everlasting credit of the banks of Hamilton," an account said later, "it can be said that not one of them closed its doors during the darkest days of the worst financial, industrial and business depression in all history."
With banks suffering, Hamilton's safe-making companies, Mosler and Herring-Hall-Marvin, also felt the economic sting. Idle Mosler workers welcomed a government order for massive vault doors. The doors were delivered in June 1936 to the new U. S. gold depository at Fort Knox, Ky..
Hard times hit every local business, including Hamilton's rival newspapers. Feb. 6, 1934, the Daily News and the Evening Journal merged as the Journal-News.
The 1930s Depression also seemed to irritate Mother Nature.
A tornado cut through part of Hamilton's West Side the evening of March 21, 1932, injuring 10 people and damaging or destroying 142 houses and businesses, plus 42 garages and other structures. It was the first tornado to hit the city since Nov. 13, 1879.
The Dust Bowl was in the Great Plains, but an offshoot, a Black Blizzard, visited Hamilton the afternoon of May 10, 1934. Dry, dusty, dark clouds swept over the city, pushed by winds of 50 miles an hour. The gritty fallout coated the area, then in the midst of 17 days without rain.
The Black Blizzard was just the start of the misery. Fourteen days with temperatures in the 100s, a prolonged drought and at least 16 heat-related deaths in nine days made 1934 one of Hamilton's worst summers.
The summer of 1936 wasn't much better. It included 13 days of 100 or higher readings, with at least six deaths blamed on the heat. Roads buckled, grass fires were frequent and the Great Miami River was at its lowest level since record-keeping started 20 years earlier.
An interurban accident June 30, 1932, killed nine people. Two trains collided on the Cincinnati & Lake Erie north of Trenton in the county's deadliest traction crash..
Four years later, another accident claimed nine lives. Butler County's worst car-train crash was July 26, 1936, when a westbound car was struck by a northbound Pennsylvania Railroad passenger train at the Bobenmeyer Road crossing in Fairfield Township.
Inter-city bus travel prospered during the late 1920s, leading to the Nov. 21, 1931, dedication of Hamilton's stylish $25,000 Union Bus Terminal at 40 High Street.
Hamilton's last streetcar completed its route July 23, 1933, yielding the next day to buses. Electric streetcars had replaced horse-drawn predecessors Dec. 30, 1890. In 1935, the number of registered cars in the city was estimated at 10,000.
After a series of drastic cutbacks, the interurban era ended in Butler County Saturday, May 13, 1939. That evening an electrically-powered passenger car started its final run through Hamilton and Middletown to Dayton. The first trip had arrived in Hamilton July 25, 1897.
Unemployment helped drop Hamilton population from 52,176 in 1930 to 50,176 in 1940, a decrease of 1,584 inhabitants. The Butler County total increased slightly -- from 114,084
in 1930 to 120,249 in 1940, a 5.4 percent hike (6,165).
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Sept. 29, 1999
1940-1945: Years of intense determination
(This is the sixth in a 13-part series reviewing events of the 1900s in the Hamilton-Fairfield area. This installment covers 1940-1945, years of determination.)
By Jim Blount
Dominating every aspect of life in Hamilton and Butler County from 1940 through 1945 was World War II, the area's most hectic, but proudest era.
More than 16,000 Butler County men -- including 8,161 drafted from Hamilton -- entered the armed services. Starting in 1943, physically-fit 18-year-old male seniors were inducted before their high school class graduated. A few hundred older men who tried to volunteer were, instead, "frozen" in local jobs considered vital to the war effort.
Hamilton's varied industries were engaged in defense work in the late 1930s, well before the Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor pulled the U. S. into the global war.
By 1940, the jobless days of the Great Depression were a bad memory. The Census Bureau said that year 11,800 Hamiltonians, 23.3 percent of the city's population, were employed in local industries.
In 1942, women and teenagers joined the labor force that exceeded more than 15,000 in Hamilton factories by the middle of the war. About a third of those employed in local shops were women. The majority of workers collected overtime pay as most shops operated around the clock seven days a week.
The list of Hamilton war products was a long one -- ranging from components from dozens of small machine shops, foundries and pattern works to paper for maps from Champion, engines for ships from General Machinery and work related to the development of the atomic bomb at Mosler, Herring-Hall and Armco Steel.
Many workers turned out mysterious items -- knowing only that their output would become part of a necessary war product. Military secrecy required that they be kept in the dark about exact details of their contributions.
People moving into the city to fill jobs found housing scarce. Some gladly settled for garages converted to houses. All residents endured countless shortages, restrictions and rationing that covered everything from food and clothing to travel and liquor.
When they weren't working, more than 3,300 volunteers were recruited for civilian defense roles in Hamilton as the city prepared for the worst. To supplement or replace rationed and scarce foods, many city residents planted Victory Gardens and raised Victory Flocks in garages turned into chicken coops.
Volunteers also manned the Victory Canteen that operated 24 hours a day as "a home for servicemen and women while they are in the community."
Children were enlisted as Hamiltonians of all ages learned that "Salvage Will Win the War." The Salvage for Victory campaign -- promoted in local schools -- collected paper, rags, iron, steel, tin, rubber and other materials. Sacrifices included a 16-foot gun World War I from the lawn of the Butler County Courthouse and iron fences that had surrounded some of Hamilton's older houses.
Young people contributed in other ways, including Boy Scouts trained as messengers during air raid drills, and Girl Scouts who learned first aid and folded bandages for wounded and ill servicemen. Youngsters also supported the war effort by buying War Stamps and War Bonds, and some teenagers participated by donating blood. During summers, junior high and high school students were transported from the city to work on Butler County farms.
The work force was stretched in 1943 with construction of the Big Inch Pipeline that passed just north of Hamilton as it connected eastern cities with Texas oil fields. Its operation was described as equivalent to 70 sea-going tankers passing through the county each day. Construction workers continued in demand as another pipeline (the parallel Little Inch) and a Voice of America complex were built in the county.
Life magazine devoted nine pages of its Nov. 8, 1943, edition to Hamilton. Alfred Eisenstaedt's 29 photos depicted home-front life in the 300 block of Progress Avenue. "They think rationing isn't as bad as it could be, but is still a nuisance," Life said of its residents. "They don't see how they can buy more war bonds with all the taxes piling up. They worry quietly about their boys in service."
The names of more than 480 Butler Countians who died during World War II are on the Butler County Veterans Memorial (honoring 20th century war deaths) unveiled this year at Veterans Park (formerly Hillcrest).
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