As 1941 drew to a close news reports tried to find optimistic signs in the face of a reality that was becoming increasingly grim. On December 29 United Press Staff Correspondent, Frank Weisblatt reported from U.S. Army field headquarters in Northern Luzon that “United States and Philippine forces, their tanks, guns and men in large measure offsetting the Japanese advantage of superior number, have reorganized on strong river lines on the northern and southern Luzon fronts.”
Reports were less optimistic from Malaya and Sumatra where Japanese troops were advancing against Dutch and British forces.
A Japanese radio transmission directed at Manila listeners was jamming into the frequency of 50,000 watt station KGEI. It would inject false reports of disastrous bombing of San Francisco. A Japanese two-man submarine sunk during the Pearl Harbor attack was put on display by the U.S. Navy.
In local news Sheriff Murray C. Hathway and San Luis Obispo police chief Bernard J. Epperly announced they were collecting cameras, guns, maps of military value and two way radios from Japanese, German and Italian aliens.
The wildest winter storm in a decade damaged or destroyed three boats at Port San Luis and downed lines kept crews from PG&E busy.
Two days later headlines in the last newspaper of 1941 deflated the misplaced optimism in the Philippines. Defenders were engaged in a last ditch battle for the capitol city of Manila. Readers would be left question how accurate information was at this point in the war. Allied forces had to look to the desert of North Africa or the frozen battle front in Russia to find any positive news. The New Year of 1942 would find America’s armed forces undermanned, under-equipped and under attack.
The newspaper published what must have been an example of sarcastic humor making the rounds. It was printed in the space next to the masthead:
So They Say
Our New Year’s resolution: “Let’s divide the Pacific ocean with the Jap fleet. We’ll take the top half and give them the bottom. Happy New Year.”
Strong words, the nation had yet to notch a legitimate victory.
In local news the county found itself in an unprecedented building boom. War time construction exploded as the federal government poured money into military base construction at Camp San Luis Obispo, Morro Bay and Camp Roberts. New permits in the city of San Luis Obispo had risen from a Great Depression low in 1934 of $20,318 up to $395,421 in 1940. For the previous five years the total had bounced around the quarter-million dollar mark but the first million dollar year was entered into the books in 1941. The total was $1,142,823 shattering the previous all time high in 1928 when $597,121 in permits had been issued. Largest permit of 1941 was granted to Lou Rosenberg, manager of Obispo Theaters, Inc. He planned to build a new movie palace called the Fremont on Monterey St. which was permitted for $100,000. Second largest permit was for the USO building on the former Court School grounds at the corner of Santa Rosa and Mill streets.