“They Called it the War Effort” Louis Fairchild releases second edition
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
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.