The 1940's -- The War Years

World War II affected all aspects of everyone's life, including attitudes towards Smith Day. Many Minneapolis Smith women were active in the war effort. Mrs. F. Peavey Hefflefinger was in charge of the women's activities of the Minneapolis Civilian Defense Council. Alumnae participated in the Victory Aid Program and in the Red Cross Service Committee. A Smith College Red Cross group made jackets from remnants of leather. At the request of President Davis, all Smith alumnae groups were asked to join with other college alumnae to devote their efforts to a clothing drive for Greek relief, in a partial attempt to repay the debt to Greece for liberal arts and ancient culture. In 1944, 60,000 garments (25 tons) were shipped to Greece. Minneapolis Smith women raised $800 to contribute to the shipping costs.

As far as Smith Day was concerned, the question was not how to make Smith Day grow, but whether to have it at all. There were gas shortages, food shortages, clothing shortages. The question was put to a vote. The answer? A resounding "yes!" I quote here a paragraph from chairman Helen Sweet's report of Smith Day, 1943 to illustrate the tone of the times.

It was a great privilege to be chairman of Smith Day in the Country in this war year, 1943, for I shall never forget wherein lies the strength and spirit of Smith College. I have never seen anything more exemplary of intelligence and love than the way everyone works together to make the day a success. This year is an especially shining example; our gasoline was further cut just one week before Smith Day; Russian Relief had claimed many of our clothes two weeks before; the USO had been given many of our books for the soldiers and sailors; we didn't have as much sugar for our cookies and cakes this year -- but in spite of all this, every girl pitched in, and somehow we made more money than we have for several years. 95 members and 19 guests, prospective students, were there for lunch, and I am thoroughly convinced that 50% of them must have hitch hiked to Long Lake.

The next year, because of the gas shortage, buses were arranged to transport people from Minneapolis to Wayzata. In addition to "charming skits put on by the undergraduates" Smith Day entertainment in those war years included a talk by Anne Hull on the WAVES at Smith, and an auction of a War Bond.

In spite of the somber mood, Smith women kept their sense of humor. In 1944 a new feature of Smith Day was a walking "grab bag" in the form of Betty Crosby who offered war stamps of various denominations rolled up in straws. New raffle items consisted of hams, cakes and "pin-up girls" which sold for "fabulous prices." "Buy Books for the Boys" was the slogan for the book department one year. Guests were asked to buy books to be sent to the USO, and the book department made a profit that year of $243, half that of the Adult Clothes department, a ratio unheard of today. In that last war year, the total profit was $1454 -- The most successful Smith Day ever.

I asked my informant about Black Market items -- were they sold at Smith Day? "Never!" came the horrified answer. "The Black Market was looked down upon." It was "nouveau riche, snide. One would never have done such a thing. The Black Market meant cheating."

In 1946, though, with the war over, and relief in the land, the Black Market did, indeed, come to Smith Day. From Barbara Cullen's report:

Eleanor Atwater, Ann Dodge, and Lucy Bell were the sensation of the day. Lucy met new arrivals at the door, swathed and masked in black. She sold $0.50 tickets to the Black Market, which turned out to be Grandin's sewing room, dimly lit and hung with black paper. The shock of seeing Ann and Eleanor was nothing when buyers saw the prices of the scarce commodities displayed there. I am sure no one really minded paying a dollar for three rolls of toilet paper, or five dollars for Crisco, because every article was sold, and after paying all expenses, the net profit was over $300.

The Black Market may have been the forerunner of "themes" for Smith Day. The next year Wiggins Tavern was reproduced in Mrs. Hefflefinger's living room, and 1948 the White Elephants department became a "Thieves' Market" with one "hot" item required for entry. By the end of the decade, profits were up to $1560, and the scholarship aid was up to $800. By this time, about 150 members and 11 to 14 prospective students attended Smith Day, and we were ready to enter the expansionary era of the 1950's.

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