Louis Fairchild’s parents were both born in Orange. Though

they lived in Iowa, La, they returned to Orange so their son could be born in

their hometown. Louis Fairchild only lived in Orange a few years, just long

enough to finish first grade. He became very interested in his hometown years

later when as a professor of psychology at West Texas A&M University in

Canyon, Texas he began to wonder what sort of effect the population explosion

of Orange during the WWII war years had on the population that had been so invaded by so many newcomers.

Fairchild had moved around and lived in several Southeast

Texas towns due to his father’s employment with Shell Pipeline Co. None of the

towns he lived in had had the same experience with those war years as Orange.

He earned several degrees, including a doctorate in psychology and was the head

of the psychology department at West Texas A&M University in Canyon, Texas when he finally made the

first moves toward finding out about wartime Orange.

Conducting personal interviews was his chosen method. He

started with 11 pilot interviews in 1986, and by the time he finished the

interview stage of his project he had interviewed nearly 200 residents of

wartime Orange.

The book details the explosion of Orange from a small town

of about 5,000 residents to an estimated 60,000 to 70,000 people living in the

same space. Construction of the Riverside housing addition made it possible for

people to live on what had previously been a swamp. There were shortages of

every imaginable commodity from salt to shoes. Housing was so tight that

families were living in tents and single workers often rotated beds, with one

man getting up to go to work and a returning worker taking his place until the

shift ended and things started all over again.

An extremely large number of unskilled laborers were

transformed into a formidable shipbuilding workforce. The shipyards in Orange

built a large number of vessels from seagoing tugs and barges to destroyers and

destroyer escorts. There were even wooden minesweepers. This was done by, in a

large part, pea pickers from East Texas and Cajun rice farmers from South


“If I would have been in a major university, I may have had

only one class to teach and three or four research hours per day to work. In my

case I was department head and had three classes per day to teach,” said

Fairchild. “I had hundreds of hours of interviews to transcribe.” The first edition of “They Called it the War Effort: Oral Histories from

World War II Orange Texas” was finally published in 1993.

Fairchild was in Orange Thursday night at the Heritage House

Museum to sign the second edition of his book. “This edition is an improved

edition, there are a few added interviews and there are a few corrections that

needed to be made. The introduction is different, overall it is a slightly

better book,” said Fairchild.

The book signing was held under the sponsorship of the

Heritage House Museum of Orange County. The book is available in the museum

gift shop during regular office hours.

For information about the museum or to arrange a tour of the

museum, you may call 409-886-5385. Tour

times are 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The museum is located at 905 Division Street,

near the Orange County Court House.