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Jan 14

Postal Service grows, airport woes – World War II week by week

San Luis Obispo County grew in astounding ways during World War II. One metric previously written about here were the huge demands placed on schools as new families moved in. Another indicator of impact could be found at the Post Office. Postal receipts for San Luis Obispo reached an all time high in 1941, almost double the previous year. Total revenue, including postage and box rents stood at $162,960.30 up from $82,315.79.

January 13, Telegram-Tribune talks about the explosive growth in postal revenue due to the influx of soldiers in the county.

First class mail handled ballooned nearly 150 per cent with incoming mail doubling and outgoing mail tripling. Staffing almost doubled from twenty-seven to fifty. The growth was so phenomenal that it ran off the edge of a chart that postmaster Wm. C. O’Donnell had kept since 1933.
Paso Robles experienced an even larger percentage gain with receipts exploding from $40,000 to $147,374.38. December quarter of 1941 outpaced the entire previous year with $61,305.45 in total revenue. The growth would allow Paso Robles to be designated a first-class post office allowing it to hire more employees and increase the postmaster’s salary from $2,800 to $3,700 a year.

Traffic deaths also doubled year to year, from 24 in 1940 to 46 in 1941.

Another big story at the time was the Civil Aeronautics Authority had approved the county for a $302,185 upgrade to the airport. All the county had to do was buy the land. The federal government wanted to establish links in a chain of west coast airports and with the now urgent need for civil defense the pressure was on.
However even the recent sinking of a tanker off the coast by a Japanese submarine did not rattle the purse strings of the county board of supervisors. They claimed they had no money to buy the 115 acre airport that was currently leased from private individuals. The state had allocated $35,000 in December 1940 for a national guard airport but when the guard was transferred to federal jurisdiction in March 1941 the plan was dropped.
The county still had options to purchase the land but they wanted the city of San Luis Obispo to shoulder much of the cost. Even in the 1940s the county was wary of giving a plum to the city, even if the airport would grow to benefit many county residents. The city was already spending $40,000 on a new sewer plant and making other improvements to accommodate the influx of new residents. Perhaps they could come up with a significant share of the cost seemed to be the stance of the county.
In a show of extreme fiscal conservatism the San Luis Obispo city council ordered that the traditional bronze plaque be removed from the specs for the sewer plant saving $100. Perhaps this was a message to the county or perhaps the city fathers did not want their names to be seen amid the sights and smells of the sewer plant.

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