Wednesday, October 21, 2009

James Melton aids the war effort

My father's expanding collection of antique cars posed a serious problem during the war when the scrap metal drive was at its height and gasoline rationing was in effect. Convinced that as antiques the cars would be of greater advantage to America as working models of the early days of the automotive industry, than if they were melted down to produce ammunition and ordnance, he succeeded in getting an exemption from the federal government.

The July 27, 1942, issue of Life magazine carried a three-page photo spread prematurely headlined “Melton's Antique Autos Will Go in a Connecticut Museum.” (The museum in Norwalk didn't actually open until 1949.) That issue of the magazine also carried less upbeat stories, covering Atlantic convoys, the Battle of Midway, and the possibility of a second front in Europe. Nearly all the ads relate to the war effort: General Electric—“First Win the War,” Studebaker Airplane Engines—“From the Highways of Peace to the Skyways of War,” even Camel Cigarettes—“When Bombers are Your Business, You Want Steady Nerves.”

There's also a two-page announcement from the War Production Board “An Emergency Statement to the People of the United States” concerning the desperate need for scrap metal. A few months later, in a publicity event to announce New York City’s reorganized scrap metal collection plan, there were some unusual sources of victory salvage. This included 600 pounds of steel “thunder balls” formerly used to create Wagnerian din (before the invention of an electrical thunder machine) from the Metropolitan Opera, half a ton of old musical instruments from Carnegie Hall’s basement, and a 1919 Packard limousine donated by James Melton. The photo above shows my father donating some old tires, but the car pictured is a Ford, not the Packard limo. I don't know the story behind that.

1 comment:

  1. Here's a link to an online copy of the July 27, 1942 life magazine in Google books: