Changes from the Sky to the Ground

Below is a photo from the National Archives of the United States, part of a collection of World War Two-era photos depicting various aspects of life in San Diego during the war:

Pacific Parachute Company office, April 1942 - Copy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a time that profoundly changed San Diego City and County. The city’s population grew almost 200 percent just between 1940 and 1943.

This photo is an example of one particular change during that era. The original caption reads, “Office of the Pacific Parachute Company, 1942.”

Several other photos of that particular company identify the man in the photo as Howard “Skippy” Smith, “Manager.”

When the company opened its doors at 627 Eighth Avenue in downtown San Diego in March 1942, it was proclaimed as the first defense plant in the city, and arguably the first in the nation, to be managed by an African-American.

Smith had been a skydiving star in Hollywood airshows before becoming an inspector in the parachute industry. His time in Hollywood also got him the support of Eddie Anderson, famous then as the sidekick “Rochester” to comedian Jack Benny on the stage and the radio.

Anderson invested in the plant and was there as a celebrity guest at the opening, along with delegations representing the mayor’s office, the governor’s office, union officials and contingents of male and female paratroopers and ground troops.

The white and black soldiers present that day were in racially segregated units, as was the rule in those days. But the company’s workforce was integrated, as demonstrated by another photo of the main workroom:

Workroom, Pacific Parachute Co

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get Updates Automatically-Become A Follower of the San Diego History Seeker

You can get weekly updates of San Diego History Seeker automatically in your email by clicking on the “Follow” button in the lower right corner of the blog page. You’ll then get an email asking you to confirm. Once you confirm you’ll be an active follower

Advertisements

WPA: The Work They Did Shapes Our World Today

A headline in the San Diego Union on Sunday, September 20, 1936 proclaimed:

“$400,000 Zoo Improvement Program Near Completion,”

The program, including construction of an aviary, a reptile house and an amphitheater for educational and community programs, extensive landscaping, and new sewer and drainage systems, “will be completed this fall, Mrs. Belle Benchley, curator, announced yesterday,” the article stated.

Curator Benchley pointed out the “The entire program was a WPA project.”

The reptile house and some other WPA-built facilities at the zoo continue to serve their animal occupants and zoo visitors today. They are worth visiting in and of themselves, of course, and also worth remembering as part of the enormous contribution to the nation’s public facilities and infrastructure made by the WPA, the CCC and other New Deal programs instituted during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Some other examples of San Diego structures that began as part of WPA projects are the Old Globe Theater in Balboa Park and the Open Air Theater on the SDSU campus. Not to mention schools, sewage treatment plants, murals and soil reclamation projects all over the county. This heritage is being rediscovered and preserved through the Living New Deal Project, which tracks past and still existent public works projects built during that era across the United States.

I heartily recommend a visit to the project’s website: https://livingnewdeal.org/ .

Reminder:Schedule Change

Due to mounting work demands, I’ve gone to an every-other-week schedule. So look for the next new post on February 15. Feel free, in the meantime, to enjoy past posts or check out my books, offered for sale under the “Books” tab.

Get Updates Automatically-Become A Follower of the San Diego History Seeker

You can get weekly updates of San Diego History Seeker automatically in your email by clicking on the “Follow” button in the lower right corner of the blog page. You’ll then get an email asking you to confirm. Once you confirm you’ll be an active follower