MARY BRASWELL: Looking Back - Feb. 1940

The worst years of the Great Depression were over by early 1940.

Mary Braswell

Mary Braswell

Americans were well into the recovery years following the greatest economic depression ever seen in this great country. As things improved and the country had yet to enter what would become known as World War II, a devastating tornado hit downtown Albany in the early morning hours of February 10. That and what else was making news?

— Albany’s Finnish Relief Fund stood at $479.45 with just two days remaining on the drive. The contributions were to relieve the suffering among non-combatants in the Scandinavian country. One of the most recent contributors was Girl Scout Troop 3 with a gift of $2. The quota for Albany was set at $500.

— Reservations for the annual Chamber of Commerce meeting were being accepted for the affair to be held at the Gordon Hotel. This year’s dinner invitation encouraged members to “bring their ladies.” Although the Chamber had 425 members, seating was limited to the first 225 reservations.

— Albany Postmaster Dan L. Gibson reported an increase in receipts for January over the previous year (same month) of $14.52. Gibson also reported that the new Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalogs had just been mailed out.

— The Albany High School marching band had 58 members and 58 instruments but only 40 uniforms. An editorial in the paper urged citizens to step up and fill the gap by sponsoring a complete uniform at the low price of $11.50. One day after the editorial ran, four uniforms had already been sponsored.

— For sale: Five-room dwelling with barn, deep well, servant’s house and 40 acres of cultivable land on the Sylvester Highway - $2,250.

— Twenty-one prominent Calhoun County citizens met at the courthouse in Morgan to discuss the organization of the Calhoun County Tax Payers League. The group planned a county-wide mass meeting in coming weeks. Of chief concern to the citizens was the indebtedness of the county which stood close to $93,000.

— A count was done to determine the number of trees lost in the February 10 tornado. A total of 391 trees were lost on city property alone. Nearly every tree in the 300 block of Oglethorpe and the 400 block of Highland avenues was blown down or damaged too severely to recover.

— Moultrie High School’s Packerettes basketball team completed a third undefeated season.

— After a dog was killed on Third Avenue and tested positive for rabies, parents were encouraged to instruct their children not to handle any strays. Any dog suspected of being bitten by a rabies carrier should either be destroyed or receive the Pasteur treatment followed by 90 days on a chain.

— Two weeks after the tornado, a bid was let to rebuild the downtown A&P. The brick and steel grocery store was expected to be completed in 60 days.

— The sweet potato, with an annual value of approximately $7 million to Georgia farmers, was considered the most important truck crop in the South. Improvements in seed and packaging for market were expected to increase the value of the 1940 crop.

— Reports were given from the Dougherty County Board of Public Welfare for the month of January. County funds totaling $362.90 had been distributed among 192 persons as well as $77.70 for heating fuel. In the old age group, $1,875.50 went out to 246 persons while 14 blind persons were given $136. Dependent children, 39 in total, were given $390.50. Three crippled children were cared for at the hospital with the Rotary Club providing transportation. A total of 438 garments made at the Dougherty County sewing room were distributed among 624 families. Fresh apples, corn meal, grits, oatmeal, wheat flour and dried apples were given to families of school children when available.

— The National Red Cross building advisor came to Albany to begin plans for rebuilding homes lost in the tornado earlier in the month. Each case was studied and the homes individualized according to the needs of the family. It was expected that 100 new homes would be constructed.

— Albany Police Chief Jim Moore reported that officers are rigidly enforcing the city’s new ordinance which required automobiles to come to a complete stop before turning right at a stop light.

— Albany’s newest motion picture theatre, the Clair, opened with the showing of “Jamaica Inn” starring Charles Laughton and Maureen O’Hara. Located in the 200 block of Broad Avenue, the theater ticket prices were 20 cents for adults and 10 cents for children. All opening night proceeds went to the local Red Cross for tornado relief. Meanwhile, at the Ritz, Roy Rogers, Gabby Hayes and Doris Day were starring in “Saga of Death Valley.”

— Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA) checks were received in Lee County. The checks , including those for sharecroppers, totaled $$6,405.22 and were to be distributed among 87 farms. Another 120 farms in the county were approved for the program and awaiting subsidy checks.

— Between the store and its employees, Churchwell’s donated 88 blankets for tornado victims.

— Albany’s 10-consecutive year domination of Second District basketball came to an end when the Moultrie Packers defeated the Indians 37-28 in the district final.

— The Southeastern Pipe Line Company completed its gasoline pipe line through Dougherty County. The line was under construction from Port St. Joe, Florida to Chattanooga, Tennessee.

— By the end of the month (within 19 days following the tornado), donations to the Albany Chapter of the American Red Cross for tornado relief reached $53,259.96.


Data from a survey of farm families recently gaining electricity through the Rural Electrification Administration showed that, aside from lights, radios came in second among the most-purchased items for the farmhouse. What was the top product?

a) cooking stove

b) clothes iron

c) water pump

d) refrigerator


b) A clothes iron was the top product purchased within one year of becoming an electrified farmhouse. The survey showed that within that time, 84 percent of the rural homes purchased this item.