Monday, November 17, 2008

Fairborn Loses Its Industry: FAD Shut-Down & Dayton Connections

As we've seen in this post, Fairborn was sort of an industrial suburb for the Army Air Corps depot maintenance activity, the Fairfield Air Depot at Patterson Field. This activity expanded during World War II, along with the rest of Wright & Patterson Fields, and Fairborn expanded with it.

However, at the end of WWII, the Air Force closed Fairfield Air Depot, probably as it was not large enough to handle the increasing size of aircraft and due to cramped conditions. This was in addition to the general demobilization after the war.

This graph shows the combined base population and the big postwar drop in employment.

Removing the military we look at the civilian workforce, who were more likely to remain in the area after de-mobilization. One can see the wartime increase in civilian employment (both before and during the war), a drop after 1942, then the big three year drop during 1945, 1946, and 1947 (the postwar low).

At that time there must have been some concern as to what to do with this surplus civilian workforce if the base continued to shrink to pre-war levels.

Of course this was not to be as the Cold War and Korea kept employment levels stable around 20,000. Yet there was still a surplus workforce of around 15,000 coming off the wartime high. It's unknown from where on the base this surplus came from, but one has to assume the depot closure at the Fairborn side contributed its share.

Instead of mass unemployment industrial growth in Dayton apparently absorbed some of the surplus civilian workforce. Industry in Dayton grew with the war, and continued to do so after as the US transitioned into a consumer economy.

By 1957 the employment situation was stable at the base and the surplus blue collar workforce from the old Fairfield Air Depot was included in the Dayton metropolitan ecconomy.

One can measure the interaction of Fairborn with Dayton via an ODOT traffic survey of 1957. The methodolgy was to divide up the urbanized area into traffic zones, and then to measure the amount of trips in a 24 hour weekday from zone to zone. The study actually has Fairborn as an "external zone", so its possible to measure trips to and from Fairborn into the build up areas of Dayton.

Graphing all the traffic zones with the most trips first, to see if there is a pattern. Not shown here is downtown and Page Manor area, which had by far the most trips. These are the next highest, and one can see some obvious employment centers, perhaps indicating a lot of commuting going on.

..then things level out.

Mapping the traffic zones with the most trips and color-coding the data to show hot spots for commuting, and probably other trips. It's noticeable that some of the eastern suburban areas, including areas of emergency housing and jerry-building are seeing a lot of interaction with Fairborn, as is East Dayton.

Laying in early shopping centers (built by 1957) and industrial districts and large employers its interesting to see some areas are more attractive to Fairborn commuters than others. But I'm sure not all of this was commuting as one can infer social connections between inner Dayton and Fairborn folks, perhaps due to people moving out to the suburbs from the city, or moving from rentals to home ownership.

Not shown is Vandalia, which was getting 123 trips/day from Fairborn, possibly to the big GM plant across from the airport. Vandalia was still sending a lot of people to the base in 1957, too.

An interesting feature of this trip pattern is that Webster Station industrial district (including the massive Delco and Frigidaire plants) recived the most trips after removing downtown and Page Manor.

This area was right next to the Dayton suburban bus station, so one can speculate that factory workers who were riding the bus in from Fairborn in the late 1940s and very early 1950s had graduated to automoblies by 1957, as had people heading downtown for shopping, doctors appointments or whatever.

And one could travel into the city in style in those sharp 1950s cars, like this two-tone Packard Clipper spotted on a Fairborn car lot

But it's interesting to think on the mid 1940s, when the war was being won, but the future was uncertain going into de-mobilization.

What is certain is that WWII and the Cold War era starting in the late 1940s cemented Wright-Pattersons' role as a big gun in local employment.

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