The Coshocton Home Front during WWII

Maxine Carnahan, long-time Coshocton resident, worked for Firestone during the war. She worked on the line, always second shift, as they produced auxiliary tanks, B-24s, B-29s and P-38s. These tanks were made to hold gas and oil, and when they were empty, they were disposed of. . .so Firestone made a lot of them. Maxine worked on the rubber liners for the plaster of Paris molds and remembers the finished tanks required several coats of nylon paint. Later, she moved on to a job as an inspector, and eventually, she was chosen to start new operations in Cambridge and Zanesville. She lived in a hotel for the five or six weeks that it took to start up each new facility -- exciting work for a girl of twenty.

 

World War II affected industrial production in communities throughout the country, and Coshocton was no exception. As enlisted men vacated their jobs, those unable to join the Armed Forces filled them. To fill in the gaps, women proudly stepped into positions previously thought of as “men-only” jobs, effecting changes not only in their own lives but also in subsequent generations of women.

Industries were called upon to provide products needed by the military for the war effort. A list of essential goods and materials was devised. Those companies manufacturing products that were considered non-essential were asked to meet the needs of the government by retooling to produce goods that best suited the factory’s equipment and site. In addition to Firestone, area manufacturers, that retooled included Alfray Products, American Artworks, Buckeye Fabric Finishers, Clow & Sons, Edmont, Moore Enameling of West Lafayette, Novelty Advertising Company, and Shaw-Barton Company. Coshocton, of course, was affected by rationing, unavailability of many products and the overall belt-tightening demanded of citizens everywhere because of the war, but it can also be concluded that employment was at an all-time high during these angst-filled years. This changed abruptly with the end of the war and is illustrated in a 1945 article.

War’s End Makes 1000 Jobless in Coshocton County…

(reproduced from The Coshocton Tribune, Aug. 19, 1945)

The full impact of the war’s end re-conversion will hit Coshocton county industry this week, with around 1000 people out of jobs at least temporarily. The most severely affected industry in the county is the local Firestone plant, which has abruptly ceased production of bulletproof rubber gasoline tanks for warplanes after cancellation of its government contracts.

At its employment peak, late in 1943, the Firestone plant employed about 1200 people but only a little more than half that number have been employed in recent weeks. With only a skeleton crew working this week to conduct an inventory, it was indicated that about 500 Firestone employees will be released, at least for the time being.”

All was not bleak on the local employment scene. Many found reason to be hopeful.

“Such firms as The Pope-Gosser China Co. and the specialty advertising plants believe their operations will be enhanced by the end of the war as controls over material and labor are removed.

Some local industrial leaders pointed out that it was neither to be expected nor desired that Coshocton county industries ever would return to the production rate of peak war days. “Many women, many young boys and girls took jobs in war plants as a matter of patriotism,” one industrialist commented. “Many men worked too hard and too long. I don’t think we’d want that condition in normal times.”

The Firestone plant closed its doors right after the war when so many gas tanks were no longer needed. Maxine has heard that folks took the tanks that were left, and possibly the “seconds”, to the farms to use as watering troughs for their animals—a 20th century version of swords being hammered into plowshares?

Johnson Humrickhouse Museum
300 N. Whitewoman Street
Coshocton, OH 43812
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