Home Sweet Home Front: Dayton During World War II
Scrap Drives

Scrap Drives


            War drives to conserve goods and salvage scrap materials were not only good for the war effort, they gave citizens a way to feel that they were contributing as well.  The Office of Civilian Defense, created in May 1941, organized salvage drives for rubber, tin, paper and aluminum.  The drives intensified when the United States entered the war.



            In the fall of 1942, an intense publicity campaign to acquaint Dayton residents with the importance of collecting tin cans for the war effort was staged.  “Many an unsuspecting Dayton housewife helps Hitler every day.” claimed the Journal Herald.  “One look at the city dump shows why.  For there, resting in peace, are thousands of rusty cans from which the vital tin can never be reclaimed for the war effort.”

            It was pointed out that there were some pretty important reasons why the plea to salvage tin cans should be heeded.  Two tin cans contained enough tin for a syrette, which was used for administrating sedatives on the battlefield to help prevent shock.  They also were used on airplane instrument panels, aircraft bearings and for solder used in electrical equipment on a plane.  And since tin was the only metal that wasn’t harmed by salt water, it was used to ship food overseas.

            On Oct. 19, 1942 the War Production Board in Washington DC ordered that it was mandatory to collect discarded tin cans in any city with a population of 25,000 or more.  The WPB order called for the segregation of tin cans from ordinary trash, something that Dayton had already been doing for more than a month.  The day after the order, Judge Robert Martin, chairman of the Dayton-Montgomery County Salvage committee, announced that Dayton had already collected over 52,000 pounds of tin towards the war effort since the campaign had begun in the city on September 8.

            Nearly every day the local newspapers ran a story on the large amount of tin cans being collected at the various schools.  Soon it became a challenge to collect the largest amount of tin cans.  It wasn’t unheard of for a school to collect 4 to 5 thousand pounds of tin cans a month.  Brown School was highlighted in January 1943, for bringing in over 10,000 pounds of tin, with Fairview elementary coming in a close second with 9200 pounds.   

The first concentrated effort to collect tin yielded approximately 172,000 pounds, or about six railroad carloads, of tin.  As the war raged on tin continued to be collected, usually at the rate of close to 100,000 pounds a month.



            The War Production Board urged citizens to save the fat that came from cooking so that it could be used for making explosives.  Housewives were reminded that glycerin, made from waste fats and greases, was one of the most critical materials needed for the war effort. Three pounds of fat could provide enough glycerin to make a pound of gunpowder.  Nearly 350 pounds of fat was needed to fire one shell from a 12-inch Naval gun.

            Until Pearl Harbor approximately 60 percent of the glycerin used in the United States had been obtained from fats and oils imported from the Pacific areas, most of which were under the control of the Japanese during the war.

            In June 1943, local Boy and Girl Scouts and Camp Fire Girls began a campaign to collect grease and fat from their neighborhoods.  Hundreds of tin cans were cleaned and steamed by the Wolf Creek Soap Co. for distribution among members of each group.  Each can was identified with a sticker bearing the householder’s name and address as well as a phone number to call for the can to be collected when it was full.  According to the plan, each child leaving the can would collect it when it was full and take it to a local butcher, who would pay them four cents a pound for it.  Proceeds from the grease sale were given to the troop treasury for the benefit of the troop. 

            A quota was set for Montgomery County to collect 45,000 pounds of grease and waste fat a month.  Collection was hard at first, with the county coming up short approximately 16.000 pounds in July 1943, alone.  Soon, however, Daytonians began to do their part.  While the quota was rarely reached, many times it was still good enough for Montgomery County to be ranked either first or second highest in collections in the state of Ohio several times. 



            In 1942, the War Emergency Board of the Fur Industry organized the Fur Vest Project to manufacture and distribute fur-lined vests to Allied Merchant Seamen whose job it was to convoy vital supplies to the various fighting fronts.  Management of the fur industry contributed all the necessary materials and machines to convert the old furs into much needed vests. 

            To help in this effort, a “fur ball” was held at the Biltmore Hotel in Dayton on September 28, 1942.  Admission to the ball was by means of the donation of a piece of fur.  Over 2000 pieces of fur was donated by about 500 dancers.  Service men were admitted to the ball for free. 

            Through the nation-wide drive, enough material was gathered to make nearly 50,000 vests.  Letters were later received from all over the world thanking those who were kind enough to donate their time and their furs. 

            “The Fur Vests which you so kindly sent us were received in good order,” wrote R. E. Hudgins, “and on behalf of the Navy Armed Guard, Merchant Crew, and Officers of this vessel wish to express our gratitude and thanks for a splendid gift.  They were our warmest friends on our recent trip to Russia.”



            Women were asked to turn in their hosiery to help with the war effort.  Silk stockings were used to make powder bags in naval and artillery guns, while nylon hose was used to manufacture parachutes and tow ropes for gliders.

            On February 18, 1943 an intensive effort to gather up old silk and nylon hosiery in the Dayton area resulted in the collection of nearly 225,000 pairs of hose.  In one instance a woman who had been making rugs from old stockings brought in her partly finished rugs, while another woman donated 118 pairs of stockings she had collected over a period of ten years intending to make rugs.  By the end of September 1943, about 46 million pairs of hosiery, or over 2 million pounds, had been collected nationally.  This was an amazing feat, due to the fact that no silk or nylon hosiery had been manufactured for quite some time.



            An intense drive for paper was begun in Dayton in the fall of 1943.  Although several drives had been conducted before, it actually hadn’t yet been needed and couldn’t be used in the quantities collected.  But by September 1943, it was determined that 70,000,000 tons of waste paper would be required for the war effort over the next year.  Increased demand by the armed forces and the decrease in virgin pulpwood was responsible for the shortage.  The WPB estimated that 30 thousand tons of paperboard was needed each month for packing shells alone.  A carload of blue print paper was needed to draw the plans for each new battleship.  Over one million paper milk bottles were used daily in army camps. 

            The largest problem was that with the shortage of gasoline, it was economically impossible for even charitable organizations to go door to door and collect the paper.  Waste paper could not be collected in boxes because it offered no protection against the weather, which sometimes soaked the contents and made it useless.  To help out, the Dayton Daily News began to collect newspapers from their customers and promised that it would be taken to a salvage station.  The Boy Scouts of Montgomery County also jumped in to help, collecting over 178 tons in July 1944.




     In May 1942, rubber in quantities large and small made its way to Dayton filling stations in answer to President Roosevelt’s call for rubber to help out in the war effort.  Rubber became scarce when supplies from the Dutch East Indies were no longer available due to Japan controlling that area. The first day alone, Ora McAfee’s Service Station on South Broadway hauled approximately 10 tons rubber, largely old tires, to the Standard Oil bulk station.

            Using the motto, “Save Rubber to help Slap the Jap”, school children of Dayton and Montgomery county were urged to begin bringing in rubber to their schools.  For people without children, a large bin for the deposit of used rubber articles was placed outside the courthouse.  Dayton Mayor Frank M. Krebs got into the act by donating his old garden hose.  Four-year-old Richard Allison claimed “I’m helping Uncle Sam” as he helped Ralph Ramby load up 1000 pounds of old fan belts onto the rubber pile in front of the courthouse.

            Within two days over 75,000 pounds had been collected, with nearly ten thousand pounds of that coming from shoe repair shops in the form of old rubber heels and soles. 

            Judge Robert U. Martin, chairman of the salvage committee of the Dayton defense council, urged citizens to turn in their trunk mats.  “These rubber trunk mats weigh three to four pounds apiece” he claimed.  “People can easily do without them.  If they are donated by automobile owners throughout the country the total of the contribution to the drive will amount to thousands of tons of rubber.”

            Funds to buy scrap rubber at one cent a pound from persons unwilling to donate were furnished by the Petroleum Industry War Council, Washington, who had endorsed the campaign. Gasoline stations used all types of scales, in some cases even bringing along bathroom scales from home to weigh the rubber contributions.

            The Boy Scouts, as usual, got into the act.  Boy Scouts of Troop 49 discovered a “rubber mine” at the Gradsky gravel pit on Princeton drive.  The rubber, which consisted of trimmings from the molding operations from the Inland factory, had been dumped there years ago.  They began removing a large pile of scrap owned by Ben Gradsky on Burnett Avenue.  The 10,000 pounds of scrap was sold and the proceeds divided between Gradsky and the Scouts.  The Scouts also assisted in removing rubber heels from shoes donated to Goodwill Industries.

            A goal of 1,200,000 pounds of rubber by July 1942 was set.  Judge Martin declared that Dayton would reach its goal, if everyone got into the act.

            “We want all housewives to get all heels out of their homes- husbands excepted.” he pleaded with only five days to go in the campaign. 

            In an effort to do everything possible to help in the war effort, Mrs. Harry E. Meyers, of 28 Willowwood Drive, was reported to have trained her dog to dig up and bring home nothing but scrap rubber, all of which she was adding to the collection.

            Her dog had a lot of help in the end.  Through a last minute arrangement, the Dayton Rubber Manufacturing company donated one and a half million pounds of scrap rubber that had accumulated at their dump.  A by-product of its own rubber manufacturer, the material had not been thought good enough by rubber reclaimers to recycle, but was found to be more than good enough for the war effort.  The arrangement boosted the rubber collected in the county to 3,740,281 pounds at the end of the rubber drive.



            Scrap metal drives were held in an effort to recover metal to build military equipment for the war effort. The items scrapped were varied and unusual. The metal scrap drive reached into the archives of the Dayton Municipal Court in October 1942.  Roy Ebert, court clerk, came up with a collection of devious devices of all sorts to consign to the heap.  The items were articles offered as evidence in criminal court cases over the years and included slot machines, hammers, knives, keys, razors, daggers and a varying assortment of revolvers. 

             Patricia Waymire, six-year-old daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Webster V. Waymire, donated a Civil war muzzle-loading shotgun to the scrap drive at Ruskin school.  The Huffman family, who had helped pioneer the city of Dayton, had originally owned the shotgun.  The gun later became the property of the Waymire’s in 1914.


            The old Court House at Third and Main had 15 foot iron doors which were on the Main Street side, and two sets of steel doors facing the county jail.  Hints were made that they should come down.  Fortunately, they survived.

            Other items from Dayton’s past were not so fortunate.  In 1942, President Roosevelt ordered state and federal departments to scrap all monuments, cannons and other ornamental metal that was not absolutely indispensable.  On September 28, 1942, the National Military Home in Dayton announced that twenty-two tons of cannon and field pieces were going to be scrapped.   These relics of past wars, some of them dating back to the Civil War, included a two and a half-ton cannon.

            The Earnshaw Camp of the Sons of the Union Veterans, voted on whether their eight cannons should join the growing stack of scrap for the war effort.  Members voted unanimously not to remove the cannons from where they sat on Patterson Boulevard, the old Court House and various cemeteries, “until the country is invaded” as one spokesman for the organization said.  Although pressured, the organization considered the cannons memorials and therefore too sacred to turn into scrap.

            Not so lucky was a large German cannon, belonging to the Battery D of the 134th field artillery of the 37th division, who presented the cannon to the scrap drive on October 18, 1942.  The 7,800-pound German cannon, captured in the First World War, left the spot where it had stood at the east end of the Ridge Avenue bridge near Triangle Park. 

             By October 20, 1942 the face of Dayton had changed by the removal of 100 ornamental iron fences around the city.  Even the bronze lion at the former Steele high school was considered for the smelter. The Oak Knoll Memorial association approved the donation of the cannon at the Oak Knoll Community Country club about the same time, as was the cannon in Riverside park, donated to the drive by Dayton Post 5 of the American Legion.

            Even theaters got into the act.  On February 26, 1943 Dayton movie theaters such as the Elite, Alhambra, McCook, Far Hills, Dale and The Salem held a matinee.  Instead of money, admission was either a half-pound of copper or five pounds of any other metal.  The matinees were held in compliance with a request from the War Activities Committee in Washington to motion picture houses throughout the country.

            Scrap refrigerator cabinets containing metal sufficient “for a medium-sized battleship or 10 tanks” was seized by Federal agents in March 1942 from a farm on Pinnacle Road in West Carrollton.  It was estimated that over 10,000 tons of scrap metal was seized.  The seizure was made after the owners refused to sell it to scrap dealers. 

            The scrap metal had been placed in a deep ravine in order to prevent corrosion of the farm’s soil. 

            “We’ll just have to let the farm wash away now,” one of the owners of the farm stated, “for it is too far from Dayton to get anything else, like cement chunks, thrown into that ravine.  I don’t know why the big shots in Washington didn’t think of this five years ago instead of selling our scrap metal to the Japs to kill those poor Chinese.”


Sidebar text:


West Third Auto Parts encouraged Daytonians to “Sell us your car and BUY BONDS”.  By the end of the war, scrap drives were supplying much of the steel and half of the tin needed for American weapons production.  Just as important was the fact that the various scrap drives joined together the citizens of Dayton in a morale-boosting cause.


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