Worthington 150: World War II felt here at home

The city’s Army National Guard unit, Co. F of the 215th Coast Artillery, was ordered to active duty in 1940, a full year before the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor.

We are part of The Trust Project.

WORTHINGTON — The threat of war in Europe as well as in the Pacific was first felt directly in Worthington when the city’s Army National Guard unit, Co. F of the 215th Coast Artillery, was ordered to active duty in 1940, a full year before the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. The active duty status of the reserve forces was followed by a national draft — the first peacetime conscription in the nation’s history.

One Worthington woman who was close to the welfare scene expressed it another way: “I never told my kids how tough we had it. And I forgot it as soon as I could.”
E. O. Olson was a prominent figure in Worthington's history
Worthington was a natural for the natural ice industry. The railroads were here. The lake was here.

By 1942, sons and husbands were in uniform, air raid wardens were appointed block-by-block in the city, residents participated in practice blackouts, and the housewife had to remember to carry ration books as well as money when making a trip to the grocery.

Gasoline was rationed with the ordinary car owner allocated an A sticker good for only a few gallons each week. Meat, butter, sugar and gasoline became precious commodities. New automobiles were not available and repair parts were in short supply. Farmers “made do” with old machinery.

Worthington Junior College enrollment dropped to only dozens of students after many males in the area changed from civilian clothing to military uniforms. Residents of the city collected lard, paper, tin cans and old tires — all to feed the world demand for arms and ammunition.

Agricultural machinery, long abandoned in farm groves as outdated, became the scrap iron that went to produce tanks and battleships. Women, too, left the community for work in shipyards and defense plants. “Rosie the Riveter” was a popular song.


The Red Cross, through an organization known as Canteen Ladies, saw to it that hot coffee was available at the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad depot for servicemen on the way to new assignments. Many volunteers were available day and night to staff the canteen and to serve doughnuts and coffee.

A pilot training program was organized at the Worthington municipal airport. Fledgling Navy pilots received their first hours in the air, operating from the grass landing strip north of the city. Classes were conducted through the local high school and junior college. Uniforms of the youthful cadets became a part of the city street scene.

Small pennants were seen in the front windows of many homes. One white star indicated one son in service; two white stars, two sons. A gold star signified a serviceman from the family had died fighting for his country.

It was a noisy, hilarious and potentially dangerous scene. But the merchants of 1934 declared it a huge success.
One night he ran smack-dab into a group of evangelists while staggering out of a saloon. He was converted on the spot. Since then he traveled all across the country preaching the gospel and convincing sinners to “get right with God.”
The city’s Army National Guard unit, Co. F of the 215th Coast Artillery, was ordered to active duty in 1940, a full year before the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Victory in Europe came early in May 1945. City stores closed and special church services were held. The point system for discharge from the military was initiated and the high point men were to be released first.

Victory in Japan followed three months later, after two atomic bombs were dropped. Again, city stores closed and a prayer service was held.

Rationing ended, it was possible to pull into a service station and say, “fill it up,” and uniforms filled the streets as the returning servicemen arrived and registered for the 52-20 club — $20 each week in unemployment benefits for 52 weeks, or until a job was found.

Worthington brought in surplus housing units from Baraboo, Wisconsin, and created a veterans housing project on Milton Avenue; enrollment at the college soared as veterans took advantage of the GI bill, and employers welcomed the return of workers to the civilian force.

A timeline that celebrates big moments in our town's history.
The Indian culture along the shores of Lake Okabena remained undisturbed until the mid-19th century, when white settlers first moved into the area.
An addition to the junior and senior high complex, the auditorium was designed with the classic art deco features so popular at the time.
The first public school consisted of 49 students and two teachers who met in various rented rooms throughout the village.
At least 50 confirmed reservations were received from Midwestern windsurfers of various skill levels.
First festival focused on playing soccer.
Committee member recounts sorting everything from dresses and suits to shoes.
Ludlow a figure in Worthington's early history.
“Building international relations on a community-to-community basis … represents a new approach to democracy.”
Jack started as an immigrant shoemaker and went on to lead a flamboyant rags-to-riches life. He was part of an interesting era in Worthington’s history.
Last local casualties were from Vietnam war.
The founder of this unique partnership visited Crailsheim in 1958, when she was decorated with the “Bundersverdienstkreuz Erster Klasse.”
His home still stands today as a bed and breakfast.
The Mobergs and Larsons came to America together in 1870, an arduous journey by boat, foot, wheel car and railroad.
Worthington’s economic base began to broaden from the narrow pedestal of farming to the much broader one of agriculture.
Worthington soared to a new population of 3,481 persons by the 1920s.
Adrian proposed dissecting Nobles County so it could reign over a new county.
In 1916, a hexagonal bandstand was built about 75 feet out on Lake Okabena at the foot of Third Avenue.
His most notable accomplishment was in 1911, when the four-story hotel which bears his name was built, with 118 feet of it faced on 10th Street and the courthouse square.
While Worthington City Hall maintains all council meeting minutes, the early minutes are handwritten.
From the first permanent house to the largest King Turkey Day in 1966, Worthington has a storied past.
Prior to 1909, post was termed president.
Worthington Mayor Mike Kuhle shares thoughts on city's milestone anniversary.

What To Read Next
“I want you to be very creative,” resident artist Bobbie Alsgaard Lien told Brienna Bahl’s class of first-grade students Thursday. “You’re artists now!”
Any resident within the city of Worthington can apply to get a nutritious, balanced meal delivered to their door. Both regular and special diet meals, such as salt-free or diabetic, are available.
Mahoney was named Education Minnesota Worthington’s Teacher of the Year in May 2022.
The Jackson County Libraries are hosting puzzle competitions at all three libraries on Feb. 25.