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Forethought: Patience and time

Editorial | July 1, 2015 | By:

We’ve now gone back 70 years in our voyage to the very first Review published in 1915. The issues published during 1945 were something of a surprise to me, in that so much “normal” business activity was subsumed by World War II. My father served on the U.S.S. Maddox in the Pacific; a good friend’s mother was part of the French Resistance; my slight, bespectacled junior high school chemistry teacher was with the U.S. Seventh Army in Germany and participated in the liberation of the concentration camp at Dachau; he gave a presentation every year to the 8th-grade class and quickly reduced almost 200 frisky teenagers to a shocked silence. And yet, somehow, I’d assumed that the mainland U.S. mostly just suffered some shortages of materials and labor that disappeared quickly after V-J Day.

Each issue of the 1945 National Canvas Goods Manufacturers Review discussed a mixture of recurring member and industry topics, many of which we’re researching for the special retrospective in our November anniversary issue: employment and workforce issues (the soldiers’ return to U.S. jobs, of course, caused great upheavals as women, the elderly and teenagers were let go and veterans had to be retrained); government and trade issues; industry growth and change (“we won the war; now we have to win the peace”); and technological change in materials and methods.

But—each 1945 issue mostly discussed these topics in terms of what the Quartermaster Corps was developing. Because the canvas industry was critical to the war effort, the War Production Board kept business going; yet I am still amazed that so many companies in our industry even made it through those years. The November 1945 Review announced: “Long tails, ‘French’ cuffs and pleated bosoms were authorized for men’s shirts today, September 12, by the War Production Board.” Business organizations were advised that foreign air travel was once again available, and that the ban on conventions would end on Oct. 1. Seemingly everything was affected, directly or indirectly; and compliance was required, not just requested. I can’t recall any time since that individual and collective initiative were all directed toward a single goal (usually willingly)—and in a country that was attacked only once.

It worked, and led to an unparalleled post-war boom in production and population. But as editor Jas. E. McGregor asked in December 1945: Is war the only common cause that can unite us?

Businesses that survived both the Great Depression and World War II can probably continue to thrive today, even with the increasing pace of technological change and market fragmentation. If you have a story to tell about those years, please send me a Letter to the Editor; we need to know how you did it … and how you’re going to keep doing it.

See you in Anaheim!

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