CALIFORNIA
AFTER WORLD WAR II
Chapter 35

As reconversion to a peacetime economy began, the possibility of business mortality among war-born defense plants loomed over California. Domination of manufacturing by companies that had grown exponentially during the war posed another threat. A third source of anxiety concerned how to provide future employment for the huge number of wartime workers who had moved into the state.

After the war, a further population influx ensued as thousands of returning service men and women swelled the tide of new residents. Fortunately most of these veterans obtained postwar employment. The “G. I. Bill of Rights” paid those who had served their country to enroll in a college of their choice. This was a form of emergency relief partly designed to help future employment prospects. The state also created a Reconstruction and Reemployment Commission.

The war not only gave new life to manufacturing; it also helped diversify the economy. This expansion had been overdue in California, where economic organization was clustered around too few major industries, among them citrus, film, aircraft, and oil. The war, furthermore, allowed California to enjoy and benefit from a larger share of national per capita income than it had ever known.

Some California products gained new prominence in the postwar era. Among these were wearing apparel (especially, as previously mentioned, sportswear), jewelry, and footwear. Significant expansion also occurred in the manufacture of refrigeration equipment, technical instruments, chemicals, hardware, and cosmetics for national markets. Los Angeles continued as an automobile assembly depot second only to Detroit, as well as a tube and tire center. Before the war, only minor smelting and refining of ferrous metals had occurred. After 1943, Kaiser’s Fontana mill began to process iron ore from Eagle Mountain and tungsten from the Rand Mountains.

-320-

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