WWII Temporary Housing
Written by Marlene Ohlin Mullen
New Kids in Town
School age children of NAD workers living in the Government Trailer Camp (Pleasant Hill), City Trailer Camp (private trailers at the Fairgrounds) and Spencer Park during World War II in Hastings, Nebraska
The annual school census for Adams County School District 18 was taken each year in June. From 1942 through 1945 the school census records show a total of 2,242 possible new students between the ages of 5 and 21 moved to Hastings. Census takers, quite often high school age students, would go door-to-door to record the household name and address and the names, ages, birthdates and places of birth outside Nebraska for all children in the residence who were between the ages of five and twenty-one. Through the years an apparent lack of consistency and accuracy by the census takers resulted in many discrepancies in names, spelling, addresses and birth dates in the census records. It appears that whoever answered the census questions was listed as the head of the household, and all the residents at that address were listed as students if they were under age twenty-two.
Actual street addresses for families were given for those who lived in houses or apartments or in Spencer Park. For those living in trailers the addresses were variously listed as house trailer, Fair Ground, City Trailer Camp, City Trailer Park, Government Trailer Park, Government Trailer Camp, or Tent. The addresses for trailers in the City Trailer Camp on the fairgrounds were given as Lot #2, etc. The trailers in the Government Trailer Camp (Pleasant Hill) each had a number, but their locations were inconsistently listed as either a Walk or a Unit. The addresses for trailers located on streets within the camp seem to be accurate.
Statistics recorded in the school census records for 1942-1945 reveal 104 households with 197 school age children lived in the City Trailer Camp at the fairgrounds; 356 households with 696 school age children lived in the Government Trailer Camp; and 647 households with 1,266 school age children lived at Spencer Park. Included were twenty-three families with 54 children who had moved from the trailer camps to Spencer Park after it opened in 1943. In all, an astonishing 2,159 school age children in 1,107 households lived in the trailer camps and Spencer Park between 1942 and 1945.
Included in the statistics for those years are 34 single entries of possible school age children (usually ages 17-21) listed as the head of household and 41 entries of couples of those ages that might have been married or brothers and sisters. Although the expansible government trailers were designed to house 4.5 persons, records show that families with as many as eight children in addition to their parents lived in the trailers. Large families with up to eight children also lived in some Spencer Park units and in the smaller private trailers on the fairgrounds. These figures do not include infants and children under the age of five.
The census figures also included 21 households with 71 children with addresses in the trailer camps and Spencer Park who had Native American-sounding names. Three families were described as living in tents north of the fairgrounds. Contrary to local legend, these figures indicate that all the Indians who came to work at the NAD did not live in tent settlements around town or on the grounds of the munitions plant but were among the residents of the trailer camps and Spencer Park.