Wartime San Diego
Photographs by Mike Hazelip
Text by Larry Booth
Page 197. To those of us who know San Diego now, and can remember it during World War II, Mike Hazelip's photographs bring back that time with heart squeezing power. Most of the following images were made on one day, April 10, 1943, when Hazelip's camera recorded goings on downtown. On some of his negative envelopes he even wrote the time of day the exposures were made (the intersection scene above, at Fourth and Broadway, was taken at 3:30 p.m.). In the best tradition of photographers as historians he quick-froze ordinary people going about their lives in extraordinary circumstances.
Page 198-199. Horton Plaza, at Fourth and Broadway, was alive and healthy in 1943 and the busy center of a Navy town. Few automobiles are in evidence due to gas rationing. Streetcar and bus lines from throughout the city converged at the Plaza. The Plaza was always busy as people on swing shifts, graveyard shifts and day shifts came and went at all hours. But, more important, people touched base there, met there and said goodbye there. It was like a sunny, cleaner Grand Central Station.
Page 200-201. Horton Plaza looking northwest toward Broadway and Third in hazy afternoon sun. The area bustles with activity as servicemen, civilians and workers from war plants are busy meeting friends or waiting to catch streetcars and buses to other destinations. Girls are in bobby sox, women war workers in unfamiliar work pants. One well dressed young woman wears visibly baggy stockings (far right) a wartime inconvenience when only rayon (it stretched and stayed stretched) hosiery was available.
Page 202. Traffic Officer W. F. "Blackie" Blacker at the left maintained the same beat for many years directing his charges at Fifth and Broadway. The San Diegans crossing Officer "Blackiés" intersection below are representative examples of the times.
Page 203. Typical of a much more rigid dress code, women's dresses were hemmed well below the knee and the pompadour and curled bangs were two of the more popular coiffures. In an era before large shopping centers became popular, regular trips to the downtown area were required to make purchases.
Page 204. Throughout the war years automobiles did long service because new cars were not manufactured for civilians. The somewhat battered vehicle above, receiving a parking citation by Police Officer C. N. Buck near the Balboa Theatre, is indicative of the neglected condition of many.
Page 204. Ration stamp books and small red and blue cardboard tokens were used to control sale of scarce foods such as coffee, sugar, meats and fats. For rationed items the customer paid in both stamps and money. Even small babies had to be registered for ration stamps.
Page 205. Perhaps next to the control of certain food items, the rationing of gasoline was most keenly felt. The price of gasoline was figured in money and in ration stamps. An "A" sticker on a car's windshield indicated the amount of gas allotted to a consumer.
Page 205. Instructions for the proper use of Ration Books were explicit. Fines and imprisonment could be the punishment for their misuse. "If you don't need it, DON'T BUY IT" became the motto to remember.
Page 206. At a meat market, Twelfth and F Streets, prices were lower than they are today, but not necessarily low for the times. Generally people were more concerned about whether or not they could spare the ration stamps.
Page 206. At the vegetable stand below the paper shortage is apparent from the signs being used which were cut from posters that had originally advertised entertainments. Because of the paper shortage patrons carried their own shopping bags and baskets to take home their purchases. While fresh vegetables might have been limited, they were not rationed.
Page 207. A powerfully designed and worded poster urged citizens to save waste fats for the war effort. The fat was turned in at neighborhood butcher shops and later used in the production of gunpowder.
Page 208-209. Overleaf is a lunch counter in the lobby of a downtown building. The menu offers Kale Soup for 10 cents, tuna sandwiches at 25 cents, meat loaf, Spam or turkey sandwiches at 20 cents, cheese, egg, peanut butter and jelly and liverwurst at 15 cents. With coffee, Coke or tea costing a nickel, one could have lunch for as little as 30 cents.
Page 210. The Bomber Cafe at 849 Fourth Avenue paid appropriate tribute to the B-24 bomber built at San Diego's Consolidated Vultee Aircraft plant. The B-24 and B-17 aircraft were the backbone of the national Air Corps Bomber Command.
Page 210. At another busy restaurant, The Chicken Pie Shop, diners wait in line to be seated.
Page 210-211. San Diego was a liberty town for service personnel from ships in the harbor and the many nearby military bases. Despite its crowds of people on the streets, the town had a busy, purposeful, happy atmosphere. Frequently late at night one could see sailors, who had made the rounds of bars, walking down Broadway singing popular tunes of the times. Below, sailors from the French Navy mill around a Fifth Avenue shoe store making plans for the evening's activities. Other than Balboa Park or the beaches nearly all entertainment was centered downtown. Visitors were likely to go downtown to eat, see a movie or window-shop.
Page 212. If downtown San Diego had an edge on the city's entertainment in 1943, the Hollywood Theatre could be counted on to offer the most desired attractions. A "Big Girl Revue" with Nita Louise, Harry Rose, Lili LaRue and the comedian "Say No More Joe" were favorites that year. Although the spot for "risque" entertainment, the Hollywood featured shows undoubtedly mild compared to those of today.
Newspaper headlines in stands by the theatre's entrance proclaim "27 More Axis Planes Downed Off Tunisia" and "Single Men First In New Draft Order." Local news chided San Diego civilians about observing wartime dim-out regulations.
Page 213. Peep Show Amusement Centers like those above gave servicemen an opportunity to while away spare hours. In a single row of mechanical gadgets it was possible to see a "girlie" show, nibble peanuts and test the striking power of your fists.
Page 213. Having a photograph taken was also entertainment and provided a chance to show wives, girl friends and family members back home how their man looked in uniform.
Page 214. A man looking for something to do could always stop at the Boot Black stand on Third Avenue between E and F Streets and experience the luxury of getting someone else to shine his shoes for twenty cents. Watching the passing parade of people on the sidewalk was free.
Page 215. At Sam the Tailor, 825 Fourth Avenue, servicemen might order tailor made uniforms, have alterations made to regulation uniforms or get the quick "clean and press while-you-wait" treatment when away from ship and base.
Page 216. War workers going to work at Consolidated Vultee Aircraft Corporation's Plant Number Two walk beneath a large camouflage net which is partially visible at the upper left. Camouflage nets also covered Pacific Highway adjacent to the buildings of Consolidated. The entire area of Lindbergh Field, Consolidated Aircraft and Pacific Highway was camouflage painted so that it appeared to be part of a town with streets and houses.
Page 217. All citizens were repeatedly exhorted to invest their wartime earnings in defense. The poster advertises defense bonds and stamps by appealing to people's concern for the nation's security and the desire to support efforts of men and women in the service.
Page 217. At the end of their day the group of defense workers at the right would be quickly replaced by another shift. Most war production plants operated around the clock with three full-time shifts.
Page 218. Propaganda posters warned that wartime security was everyone's responsibility. "Loose Lips Might Sink Ships" was one of the most popular and best remembered slogans because of severe naval losses suffered early in the World War II period.
Page 218-219. Many women went to work in jobs that until wartime had been considered "men's" work. During "Women in War Week" large downtown San Diego department stores such as Marston's, Montgomery Ward, Sears, Whitney's and Walker's created displays in store windows with machines, equipment and women workers performing their jobs for the public to see. These displays were sponsored by war defense plants such as Rohr Aircraft Corporation, Ryan Aeronautical Company, Consolidated Vultee Aircraft Corporation and Solar Aircraft Company.
Photographer Mike Hazelip was a man of many talents. He had been a cowboy in New Mexico and was an amateur magician and a harmonica collector who played in a group of fellow harmonica musicians. His interest in photography started as a hobby, then led him into free lance professional work and to Consolidated Vultee Aircraft's publicity department.
In 1943, Hazelip became assistant chief photographer at The San Diego Union and later became head of the photographic department. He later started Copley Productions, the motion picture unit of the Copley complex.
Hazelip knew how to aim his camera at life to record history. His death at the age of fifty in 1951 came much too soon.
Unless otherwise noted, photographs are from the collections of the San Diego Historical Society.