WWII scrap drive involves Sumter's youth in war effort

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In the 1940s, Sumter's youth became active participants in the war effort by collecting scrap iron, paper, rubber and other materials to help replenish our nation's resources.

In October of 1942 it was reported in The Sumter Daily Item that the children of Sumter were pitching in to collect scrap in a statewide drive sponsored by the South Carolina Press Association: "Piles of scrap metal and rubber were growing hourly at every school. A holiday was declared at the schools in the city of Sumter, and the children started scouring the city for metal and rubber shortly after nine o'clock."

Shaw Field made a valuable contribution to the efforts of the children by providing them with several army trucks to haul the material collected to the various pick-up points. The children got into the act by using many vehicles to move the materials including wheelbarrows, bicycles, wagons, carts, automobiles, trucks and even a wagon pulled by a billy goat, who had been pressed into duty by the "enthusiastic young people." Those involved in the collection were provided with "gummed stickers" to be placed on the homes where scrap was secured. This would prevent the same house from being visited more than once.

"Although Sumter established an enviable record in the collection of scrap, it was thought that there existed a great deal of metal and rubber salvage remaining in the homes of the city. There was a desperate need for scrap metal, and those who gave were, in a small way, doing as much to help prosecute the war, as our soldiers on the firing line."

Approximately 479,042 school children comprised the salvage corps in South Carolina, coupled with an estimated, 29,500,000 students across the nation, providing an important source of labor necessary to win the war. The South Carolina Press Association "added business to patriotism by offering the pupils rewards in the form of war bonds, U.S. flags and certificates for their salvage collections. The Association's prize for the student reporting the most salvage was an expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C."

During the period, June 15-July 10, "which was set aside as national rubber salvage drive," 200,000 pounds of scrap rubber were collected in Sumter. "Of the 194,667 pounds reported, 114,667 were turned in by petroleum dealers. Commercial dealers added the other 80,000 to Sumter's total." With the recent collection, Sumter went over the President's prescribed quota of 5 pounds per person in a community, according to city salvage chairman Warren T. King. ... He also noted that "Sumter County's population gave more than 5.2 pounds' average for each individual."

The salvage and rationing efforts continued for the duration of World War II and involved several Sumter service organizations. A photograph taken by The Sumter Item's Mood Dollard shows workers from Rotary, Kiwanis and Lions clubs of Sumter loading trucks from Shaw with 10 tons of waste paper. The photo was taken in front of the courthouse on the corner of Main and Law Range, which was used frequently as a collection site for many kinds of salvage. Note that Item carriers provided additional labor as they assisted loading the trucks for Sumter's business leaders.

The information and photos used in preparing this article were taken from Sumter Item archives.

Reach Sumter Item Archivist Sammy Way at waysammy@yahoo.com or (803) 774-1294.