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1940s Downtown Bend 1943

Deschutes by the Decades: 1940s

Deschutes County started the decade with 18,631 residents, with 10,021 people in Bend and 1,876 in Redmond. Bend entered 1940 with a brand-new library on Wall Street—a building that now serves as Deschutes Public Library’s administrative offices. New libraries were also in place in Redmond and Sisters.

Reaching residents throughout the county became even more viable in 1946, when the library ordered its first bookmobile, a 1.5 ton Vanette bookmobile. It serviced the local schools of Deschutes County, increasing school circulation by 1000% in its first two years of operation. That bookmobile was destroyed in a garage fire in 1948. A new GMC truck was purchased as a replacement, but needed considerable alteration to function as a bookmobile. A local truck dealer, a cabinet maker, and a blacksmith collaborated on the job and finished it just in time for the start of school in that same year.

Elsewhere, the Tower Theater opened its doors on March 6, 1940, with the movie Four Wives. Shevlin-Hixon made headlines in 1941 for wages of .70/hour, the highest pay in a regional pine mill. Teachers in Bend also received raises; high school teachers made between $1,320 and $1,800 per year. Works Progress Administration (WPA) and Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) work continued throughout the county. The first commercial air flight arrived at Roberts Field in 1940 and in 1941 work began on a WPA-funded expansion of the airfield. In 1946 United Airlines started commercial service from Roberts Field.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ construction of Camp Abbot brought the war effort front-and-center for Deschutes County. Established December 4, 1942, and located along the Deschutes River south of Bend, Camp Abbot provided training access for army engineers to construct and deconstruct bridges under simulated combat conditions. The camp was also the base for the Oregon Maneuver, the largest military exercise executed in the Pacific Northwest. More than 100,000 soldiers descended upon the county to take part in war games before deployment. Camp Abbot closed in June of 1944; the Officers Hall still stands as the Great Hall at Sunriver.

Post-WWII was the end of an era, marked with the demolition of A.M. Drake’s Pilot Butte Development Company office at the corner of Wall and Franklin in 1947. Downtown Bend installed parking meters and parallel parking, and the city purchased 80 acres for Juniper Park and constructed a new municipal pool. The first classes for Central Oregon Community College were held at Bend High School in 1949. By the end of the decade, Deschutes County’s population reached 21,812.

Page Last Modified Thursday, March 5, 2020