“To us who knew you, you are not just Alumni in the Service; you are Fred, and Dave, and Frank, and John – boys we knew and had in our classes, boys to whom in this queer time in the world’s history, we are forever indebted.” – Excerpt from a December 1, 1943 letter from Mr. MacMahon to “the old Hawken boys in the Armed Services of their country”

U.S. History: 1940s

World War II dominated in the first half of the decade, bringing yet another decade of change.  War production created jobs and marked the end of the Depression, and the shortage of men to fill those jobs brought the first major entry of women and blacks into the workforce. The war creating many shortages, including food; food rationing went into effect in 1943. The return of men from the war in 1945 resulted in fewer women in the workplace and, of course, the baby boom.

Earlier in the decade, movies like Casa Blanca, Citizen Kane, Dumbo, and Bambi became a popular vehicle for boosting morale and spreading propaganda, as did the rebirth of musical theater with productions of Oklahoma, Carousel, and Annie Get Your Gun. Radio programming also provided entertainment in the form of quiz shows, soap operas, mystery stories, sports, and children’s hours. Later in the decade, radio popularity waned as television became more accessible and widespread. Some popular shows that switched over from radio to television include Red Skelton, Truth or Consequences, and Abbott and Costello.

During the war and post-war period that many disillusioned European artists fled to the U.S., leading to the abstract expressionism movement. European musicians introduced classical dissonance; many American born artists remained more traditional. Big Bands remained popular but gradually gave way to the increasingly popular rhythm and blues of Charlie Parker, Dizzie Gillespie, and Ella Fitzgerald.

World Events:
  • Bombing of Pearl Harbor
  • Atomic bombs dropped on Hirsoshima and Nagasaki
  • VE Day and VJ Day
  • Post-war formation of the UN and NATO
  • Cold War begins
  • Arab-Israeli War heightens in 1948
Famous People:
  • Dr. Spock
  • Walt Disney
  • Rita Hayworth, Betty Grable
  • Cary Grant, Humphrey Bogart
  • Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby
  • Football: Penalty flags became official (1948); and strategy became much more sophisticated with use of different players for offense and defense.
  • Basketball Association of America merged with the National Basketball League to from the NBA in 1949
  • Boxing was very popular because of the gambling . Joe Louis, Sugar Ray Robinson.
  • Women’s Professional Golf Association was formed in 1946.
  • Baseball: Effect of war on sports: Lack of men, rubber, and wood. By 1943, half of all professional baseball players had enlisted, so teams resorted to bringing back older veterans to sustain the sport, which helped to boost the morale of the troops. Jackie Robinson became the first black professional baseball player. Minimum salary for a baseball player: $5500 a year.
  • Sealy Mattress: $38
  • Philco Refrigerator: $239
  • Nylon Hose: $.20
  • Ford Super Deluxe Sedan Coupe: $1395
  • Jet engines, radar and nuclear fission advances
  • Colossus, the world’s first totally electronic and digital computer
  • First supersonic faster than sound flight (breaks the sound barrier)
  • Kidney dialysis
  • Microwave oven
  • Mobile phone
  • Velcro
  • Aluminum foil, Tupperware, frozen dinners
http://kclibrary.lonestar.edu; http://www.thepeoplehistory.com

Hawken in the 1940s

World War II brought losses to many, including Hawken School. Twelve of the more than 200 enlisted Hawken “old boys” who, in MacMahon’s words, were “doing their part to help straighten out the cruel mess in which this old world finds itself” never made it back to Cleveland. They were remembered at a special memorial service held on campus on October 27, 1946.
Hawken was impacted by the war in practical ways as well. A Christmas letter to Hawken alumni serving in the war dated December 1, 1944 read: “Maintaining a teaching and service staff in times like these has been a headmaster’s headache. The shortage of manpower, withdrawals for various reasons, and the demands of the selective service have wrought havoc in the teaching and service staff the past three years.”  But under the able leadership of Carl Holmes, new teachers were recruited, and the staff became “reasonably complete.” Even so, teachers were asked to step up to fill in some gaps; Mort Smeed, for example, added bus driver and art teacher to his resume.

The school made a special effort to keep in touch with the “old Hawken boys” who had enlisted in the war effort. In the Christmas letter from 1943 referenced above, “Mr. Mac” wrote to them of the impact of the war on the School, mentioning the “many little things that have affected our way of life at Hawken, as elsewhere, - things connected with certain necessary restrictions in the matter of gas, rubber, food, and so forth.”  But he assured them that they “would be pleased and not a little surprised at how little the School has changed” in all the important ways.  He commented that, more than a quarter of later, five of the Ansel Road contingent “still haunt Hawken’s hallways – Stephens, Smeed, Luehrs, MacMahon, and John Ciarlillo.” Ciarlillo, a beloved fixture who oversaw maintenance at Hawken for decades, was known for singing Italian opera in Hawken’s hallways and bending nails with his teeth.

Wartime shortages left some of the school’s facilities in disrepair, and the need for a new primary school was becoming more and more apparent. As the post-war era began and shortages became a thing of the past, this need was answered when Board Chair Liv Ireland announced an anonymous gift of $50,000 for a new primary building, to be completed in 1947. Around the same time, Holmes got approval from the Board for a plan to double the size of Hawken gradually by adding a second first grade section each year for eight years. To capitalize on the post-war boom, Carl Holmes added funding for advertising to boost enrollment and grow the school, reasoning that “there may be some people out there who are making new money from war work and could send their children to private school if they knew about them and understood that they aren’t country-clubbish.”

Because the school’s leadership was well aware that enrollment is directly tied to a school’s ability to recruit and retain the best teachers, faculty retirement became another major area of focus during the 1940s. In December of 1940, alumni seeded $1592 for faculty retirement, and the trustees put $2535 toward a participatory faculty pension fund, which was later consolidated with the alumni pension fund.

The 1940s also marked the start of organized alumni giving, thanks to James (Jim) Ireland, who was appointed treasurer after expressing concern over the relatively meager $6500 that had been raised through alumni gifts. As treasurer, Jim instituted the “Thousand Dollar Giving Plan,” and alumni giving showed significant growth as a result.

One of the most significant fiscal achievements of the 1940s was the merger of the Endowment Association with the Board of Trustees – something Frances Bolton proposed as a means of  ensuring that ”the trustees who are running the school also are responsible for its futures financing.” To support this effort, she offered to carry the school’s deficit at up to 20K per year for 5 years while the school raised enough money to carry the remainder of the deficit. If the school followed through with that plan, she promised a final gift of $200,000 at the end of the 5 year period – once again living up to her nickname as Hawken’s “fairy godmother.”

Toward the decade’s end, Charles Stephens stepped up as interim headmaster in 1948 when Carl Holmes took a sabbatical year to study other schools around the country, the same year that marked the opening of the new primary building, which was occupied by 26 out of the 186 boys enrolled that year.

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