Thursday, January 6, 2011

Manning Lorain's Civil Defense Tower in the 1950's

Seeing that photo of the Dew Drop Inn with the Civil Defense tower in the background reminded me that I had this article. It's from the November 26, 1953 Lorain Journal and tells about the 'skywatchers' who used to man the tower.

Lorain Skywatchers Acquire Additional Knowledge On Canton Inspection Tour

Some 35 conscientious skywatchers are still talking today over their recent journey to Canton to learn more about skywatch activities from the Filter Center there.

Ranging in ages from 12 to past 60, the sky-scanners of Lorain share one common interest despite their diversified ages: that of keeping tabs on the air lanes of the nation in the event of a possible enemy attack.

Youths of junior high age and women who have been grandmothers for years all flocked onto the bus near the skywatch tower on Erie Avenue, eager to visit the Canton center which filters plane information from skywatch stations of northeastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania.
At the filter center, the Lorainites were briefed by volunteer and Air Force workers there on the efficient procedures used in filtering plane information. Many of them listened to conversations from Columbus, Youngstown, Warren, Sharon and Pittsburgh, Pa., and other main skywatch points in the two states. The Canton center relays most of the information received to other stations lying in the paths of air traffic.
In the middle of the floor at the filter center is a large, odd-shaped table containing a chart where aircraft positions are marked. Around the table, volunteer workers use direct telephone lines installed at certain points to converse with stations in other cities. Complete records of every plane spotted are kept and are passed on immediately upon receiving warnings from other skywatch workers.
The trip, arranged by Co-Chairmen Mrs. Mary Rieger and Mrs. Ann Miller, kept the scanners in Canton four hours, learning filter center procedures. They also learned that the same problem facing them in Lorain faces the center in Canton – both stations lack volunteer personnel to do a thorough, highly efficient job.
Over six million dollars have been allotted this year by the government for civil defense activities. In the Canton center a poster is displayed on the wall revealing a photo of President Eisenhower appealing for support of skywatch activities. Even with the President's backing, many of the skywatchers said, there is still a need for more and more volunteers.
At present, the tower in Lorain, next to City Hall, is operated by volunteers who work four-hour shifts. Mrs. Rieger said that one woman, over 60 years of age, put in more than 20 hours in one week along with her regular duties at home. More volunteers would mean that the shifts could be cut down to two hours.

OFF TO CANTON – Some 35 members of the Lorain Skywatchers, Ground Observer Corps, met in front of the skywatch tower near City Hall over the weekend preparing to visit the Canton Filter Center. Shown awaiting arrival of a special bus, skywatchers, old and young, anticipate viewing Canton's methods of spotting planes and recording airplane information from eastern part of Ohio and western part of Pennsylvania. Skywatchers ages range from 12 to past 60 and all hold an intense interest in their jobs as part of the Civil Defense's all-out effort.

I remember seeing that tower next to City Hall as a kid (I even drew it here). According to some online research, there doesn't appear to be very many of these towers still standing today.
For more information about "Operation Skywatch", here's a link to a great article in AIR FORCE magazine about the history of the Ground Observer Corps.  Here's a link to a Wiki page, as well as another website, if you prefer a shorter version.

1950's government sticker promoting the Ground Observer Corps

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