The Great Depression was still hanging on as the 40’s dawned, but it would soon be replaced by an unprecedented boom as WWII would demand manufacturing like had never been seen before.
The decade began with the closing of the gates of the Grand River dam. That act would have profound consequences. It would form Grand Lake, which would bring prosperity to small towns close to it. It would also make Miami extremely prone to flooding. Miami’s first pool house sat within a hundred feet of the river, it took a fifty-year flood to get the river that high. Nowadays, a three-inch rain causes the former poolhouse location to go underwater. The next year, a cruiser sailed into Riverview Park from Grove for the first time.
In 1941, the Spartan School of Aeronautics opened. Based in Tulsa, Spartan opened the Miami facility with the idea of training British pilots. Read the detailed story here. Once the war began that year, the facility was soon used to train American pilots as well.
Also that year, the city threw a semi-centennial parade, 30,000 showed up to see it. The town was a busy place. Between 10 AM and 10 PM on one typical day, 12,233 cars passed through the Main and Central intersection. The city’s first residential expansion was planned for the NW part of town, and the webmaster’s childhood home would be built there a few years later. And the city’s first 38 parking meters would be installed that year, as well. On December 8, 75 young men showed up at the post office to enlist in the armed forces.
In 1942, the city bought a new fire truck. It replaced this 1917 model, driven by J. R. Walker.
Needless to say, WWII had a profound effect on Miami. In 1942, sugar rationing books were issued to Miami families. In July of that year, Miami took part in a statewide mock air raid. And Miami joined the rest of the nation that year in inaugurating “War Time,” which became better known as daylight savings time.
A couple of other other noteworthy events from 1942: on September 18th, Bing Crosby enjoyed a round of golf at Rockdale Country Club. And some time that year, Economy Grocery, at 119 N Main, introduced push-around shopping carts. Rumor has it they were a success.
In 1943, the School of Mining received a new name: Northeast Oklahoma Agricultural and Mechanical College. Also, that year B.F. Goodrich announced that it would be building a huge tire manufacturing facility here. There’s no doubt that the Goodrich plant shaped Miami’s economic future more than any single business. And when it left, it also shaped Miami’s environmental future, but not as much as the mines north of town.
In May, 1943, Miami had its first severe post-Grand Lake flood. Over 16 inches of rain fell and the Neosho engulfed the SE part of town once again. The river crested at a record 28 feet. The Frisco bridge was nearly taken out by debris from a boat dock from 5th street, NEO employees assisted Frisco hands in dismantling it and saving the bridge. 150 families were evacuated from 36 square blocks that became submerged. A half-mile of Route 66 was under water west of the river. Eight years later, residents would see a flood that would dwarf this one.
Throughout all of the war years, manufacturing plants in town were stressed to capacity. Mothers were encouraged to work to pick up the slack, and in 1944, a nursery was set up at NEO so that they could go to work. The concept of daycare was pretty much invented by WWII. And the mining industry, slumping since the Depression, was given a solid boost by the war, as the demand for lead for bullets went off the charts. There was much demand for zinc, as well.
In 1945, the first tire rolled off of the Goodrich assembly line. Later that year, they were running at 100% capacity with a workforce that was 1/3 female. Workers voted to affiliate with the United Rubber Workers, and strikes would not be uncommon in the future. Strikes would sadly cause much division among the town’s population.
When the war ended, Miami had a parade which dwarfed the 1941 celebration. Time to get back to work. The sounds of hammers and buzz saws were heard all over town as the postwar economy went on a boom that would last 25 years. The Spartan School closed its huge facility in 1945, and the barracks were transformed into housing for NEO, which was seeing its own numbers swell by former GI’s cashing in their education grants.
In 1946, Miami got professional baseball. It was actually the second time for them, read the full story here. But the Miami Blues, and their renamed descendants, would provide Miami residents with sports entertainment for six consecutive years, playing out at the fairgrounds.
1947 saw the dedication of the Rotary Park wading pool, where a beautiful young lady named Cassie Gaines would work one summer as a lifeguard nearly twenty years later.
1948 saw Miami’s first radio station hit the airwaves: KGLC. They are still at it 70 years later. NEO approved a contract to build a 1250 seat stadium, and this author remembers spending a few crisp fall nights there. Additionally, on August 20, Millner-Berkey went up in flames, nearly taking the Mabon building with it. More details are here. That year also saw the VFW post opening at 5th and NW A.
1949 saw the opening of Miami’s first drive-in theater. Click here for details. A new fire station went in on Goodrich Boulevard. The Church of Christ had the city’s first air-conditioned auditorium. Local artist Bronson Edwards had a major exhibit. And Miami’s telephones went from switchboard to dialing.