Vacations for Victory

Challenged by food shortages, gas rations, scrap drives and factory work, Michigan’s tourism trade made taking time off for fun a call of duty during the early 1940s when America was at war.
Victory - Grand Rapids, West Michigan
Photography courtesy West Michigan Tourist Association
Vacation in East Michigan
Photography courtesy East Michigan Tourist Association

United States Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes led the way, recommending that civilian travel continue as an aid in the promotion of national health and morale: “Travel strengthens America — it builds the Nation’s health, wealth and unity,” his campaign proclaimed.

In 1943, Hugh J. Gray, the Secretary-Manager of the West Michigan Tourist Association, wrote that patriotic America was not thinking of taking vacations for fun’s sake that summer. “Vacations as we have known them up to now do not fit into the present picture,” he expressed. But all work and no play could result in casualties on the home front. West Michigan would do its part, Gray vowed — wartime priorities were not going to cause a shortage of water along Michigan’s beaches, or sand in the Western Michigan dunelands, or fresh pine-scented air in the North Country.

Victory - Southeastern Section Michigan
Photography courtesy Southeastern Michigan Tourist & Publicity Association

In the interest of both physical and mental health, a “sensible, planned Michigan vacation” would result in increased efficiency and production, attested Frank Davis, Secretary-Manager of the East Michigan Tourist Association. Health and civilian morale were of equal importance, because war production and soldiers were dependent largely on the men and women back home. Workers in the heart of the war industrial belt were encouraged to “keep fit for work” and build their health while vacationing in East Michigan.

The Grand Traverse region offered its lakes and trout streams, water-washed air, quiet country roads and deep forests with those who have only known “hot pavements, crowded buses, acrid smoke and city din,” while advertising in Traverse City declared, “For war time relaxation and rehabilitation, wise men choose the Park Place Hotel.” The Petoskey Chamber of Commerce — now, “more than ever, supporting our country in the War Effort” — recommended visiting Petoskey for a change in climate. And wellness advocacy took wing.

“Victory demands good health!” vouched Pennsylvania-Central Airlines. “Time out for play speeds victory.”

New BLUE “Vintage Views” columnists M. Christine Byron and Thomas R. Wilson reside in Grand Rapids.

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