Oakland Beach 4 - World War II and the Post War Years
One of the hopes of Albert Ruerat, Warwick’s Mayor in 1938, was to see Oakland Beach rebuilt and again claiming its place as one of the great amusement centers of Southern New England. This was not to happen however, as priorities changed on Dec. 7, 1941, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. This “day of infamy” was especially devastating for Oakland Beach as it meant all hope for quickly rebuilding the hurricane damaged areas had to be abandoned. Old priorities gave way to the demands of a wartime economy and winning the war was paramount.
These were the days of fuel shortages, rationing, air raid warnings, war bond rallies and war relief drives. It was also the time of great personal tragedies as the list of those who died in the war increased. Among the casualties was Father Savignac of St. Rita’s parish. He was one of Oakland Beach’s most popular figures as he was close to the youths of the parish and started many sports activities. His ship, the U.S. Henry Mallory, was torpedoed early in World War II as it attempted to carry troops to Europe.
The “War Years” created a great demand for housing and many of the cottages at Oakland Beach were renovated and rented to sailors and workers at Quonset. This increased the income of some, but many of the permanent residents felt that this, like the “cheap housing” of the Depression Years, proved to be detrimental in the long run. The demand for housing was so high that even sub-standard cottages were easily rented. The chance for quick profits, rather than pride of ownership prevailed and a transient population lowered the standards of the community and overshadowed the once pleasant summer resort area. Despite the problems, Oakland Beach managed to keep its identity intact and to retain much of special aura that made the beach so popular at one time.
Part of the rich history of Oakland Beach stems from the pride its residents have taken from the volunteer fire department. By the fifties many of young men in the Bonn family of Oakland Beach had served with the department. At one time there were seven Bonn brothers who were volunteers.