Arrested amusement: National curfew touches Warren County in early 1945

Photo from the Warren Times Mirror A nation-wide midnight curfew implemented late in World War II was lifted quickly after the Germans - but not yet the Japanese - had surrendered.

“The government is just a bit late. Many Warren clubs have been observing the midnight curfew for the past year or more and doing a good job of it.”

It won’t come as a surprise to people that typically read this space that finding local Warren County impacts to national and international events has become something of a hobby of mine.

That midnight curfew is another one.

I only know about rationing, especially during World War II, in a general sense. Maybe I should add that to my topic list for a future piece in this space.

I remember thinking during the COVID-19 pandemic that the concerted national effort that went into winning World War II might not be possible today. But we also look at the 1940s with rose-colored glasses. There were efforts to subvert the restrictions imposed during the first part of the 1940s.

Photo from eBay A postcard with a slightly snarky comment in support of a nation-wide midnight curfew.

A midnight curfew was part of life in Warren during the latter stages of World War II.

The Warren Times Mirror on Feb. 20, 1945 included a note from a local reporter under the headline “Tonight’s the Night When Old Town Really Becomes Quiet.”

“With the brownout still keeping the village rather subdued as far as lights are concerned tonight will see the amusement places – theaters, bowling alleys, bars and nightclubs closed,” the paper reported. “Last evening with latent heat which had been generated during the day and before 7 o’clock the theaters, some bowling alleys and other places operated.

But the throttles on the gas were turned down at 7 last evening and the places will be closed. That is all of them except the lucky boys who are using coal for heat. Funny thing the ban is to conserve coal and gas but the coal heated nighties can keep open.”

That reporter gives us some colorful language on how the impending curfew could impact the nightlife in Warren County.

And the nighties are also worried now over the curfew order that followed on the heels of the gas ban. Under this order night life will cease at midnight and the folks will wend their weary way homeward to count red points due to the scarcity of sheep. And the order is further expanded by the powers that be in that the folks must leave the jernts so that the funneries can be locked up tight when the eerie hour tolls. Pulled shades won’t do and if the places are not quiet as a tomb the ghosts of the WPB (War Production Board) will walk abroad at midnight and get you if you don’t watch out.

The order on the curfew promises more headaches then do the brownout or gas ban. The gas ban will expire tomorrow evening at 7 o’clock unless the mercury dives again and creates a pull on gas supplies. The brown out will go on and on as will the curfew on the funsters and frolickers.

And the liquor store will close Thursday, too. So better get a little supply laid in as there will be no place like home after midnight pretty quick.

An Associated Press story in the next day’s paper, Feb. 21, provided the nuts and bolts of the curfew.

“The curfew, which is effective next Monday midnight, probably will be retained ‘at least as long as we are fighting a two-front war,’ one high authority who withheld use of his name, said,” the paper reported.

It’s important to remember that it wasn’t yet known that the two-front war – Germany in Europe and Japan in the Pacific – would end in three months.

One official answered a question about the length of the curfew this way: “(It) depends on Mr. Hitler.”

It was clear that exemptions to the curfew were unlikely. As one official said: “I don’t know why there should be any such exemptions. The soldiers don’t have any swing shift enjoyment.

The first local hammer dropped the following day.

“Directors of the Warren Outing Club have determined to close after this week, the club due to the curfew order issued by Uncle Sam,” the Times Mirror reported. “The order is a sweeping one by which all placed (sic) of amusement must be closed by midnight. This requires that all persons shall be out of the place before 12 o’clock to give employees an opportunity to set things in order for the night.

“In as much as patrons of the Outing Club do not arrive as a rule until 9 or 9:30 the place would have but a short time to operate until it would be time to close.”

The Outing Club during the months passed has presented some excellent floor shows and good music for dancing. The overhead is high due to the high quality of performers booked and with such a short space of time to operate expenses cannot be met.

The usual program of entertainment with four vaudeville acts and an orchestra will be featured Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights of this week and then the Outing Club will be closed.

Activities will be shifted to the downtown Marconi Club where a somewhat curtailed program in keeping with possible receipts will be carried on for the entertainment of the members and their women friend….

A little editorial comment in the next day’s edition pointed out one potential benefit to this arrangement: “Anyhow, that midnight curfew on amusement places, effective next Monday midnight, should make it easy for many men to get caught up on much-needed sleep.”

By the end of March, the curfew rules had started to relent. Restaurants without entertainment were able to stay open and those serving “beverages” would apply to the U.S. Employment Service of the War Manpower Commission for exemptions.

A ball – the first social event of the season at the Conewango Club – was held May 5 but at an earlier time to not conflict with the curfew.

The suggestion that it would last until America was no longer fighting a two-front war turned out to be accurate.

Germany surrendered to the Allies on May 2. The paper reported in the May 9 edition that the curfew was lifted.

“Wartime controls over production, rationing and pricing will be continued until Japan is defeated, the administration said today, but ‘some reconversions will start immediately,'” the Times Mirror reported.

“Prosecution of the war against Japan must take precedence over all considerations, but men and women who can be spared from the army will be demobilized,” one official said.

Outside of some comments that sniped at the curfew, I could only find one editorial that took a direct position on the issue.

It was published in late March 1945 and entitled “G.I. JOE AND THE CURFEW.”

“Speaking of the curfew here is a letter from a soldier who’s doing his bit to help the Yanks slug it out with the reeling Nazis inside of Germany which is recommended especially to that large group of nightlife’s who not only complain about the edict but are finding ways to circumvent it,” the paper claimed.

Here’s the letter: “I see in the Stars and Stripes (says the soldier) where the people back home don’t like the brownout and having their amusement places closed at midnight.

Tell them to come over here where we have a real blackout every night – but when we are up front, there are plenty of bright lights and music. Just tell those who like their night life to come over here: there is a floor-show every hour from darkness to dawn.

Plenty of room for all to dig foxholes and enjoy the show through rain and snow. Your feet freezing as you squat there in the mud. The bright lights are enemy planes dropping flares – and they are brighter than all the bright lights on Broadway. The music is the whistle of the bombs they drop, the clatter of their machine guns and the whines of the big 88s dropping in.

If those at home who don’t like the curfew only had to go through one hour of this, no one would have to tell them to go home at midnight to a nice soft bed and go to sleep. Of course, I know it is tough when they make so much money, they don’t know what to do with it and have to stay up all night to spend it… Now, don’t get the idea I’m complaining. I’m just trying to tell you what we do over here for night-life and amusement….


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