The Redbud City: It happened in the summer of 1941

Clyde Wooldridge
Contributing writer
With the world aflame in Europe and Asia by mid-1941, this political cartoon depicted the feelings that were dominating in America on Labor Day. The cartoon was entitled “LABOR DAY PARADE — 1941.” (The depiction appeared in the Shawnee News in September of 1941.)


Kenneth Crownover, 18-year-old head lifeguard at the Shawnee Municipal Swimming Pool, was in the A.C.H. Hospital Saturday night, June 28, 1941. He was treated for injuries received when he went down the storm sewer while draining the pool. Attendants said Crownover walked into the hospital, but he was “critically” bruised and in shock.

Buddy Wilcoxson, pool manager, said Crownover had pulled off a cast from a grate to drain the water flow out faster and was “playing around” the outlet when suction pulled the youth into the storm sewer. Wilcoxson tried to go down into the drain to attempt a rescue of Crownover in case he became snagged by a valve but was unable to squeeze through the outlet. He received severe bruises about the hips.

Crownover pulled himself out through a manhole at Union Street after passing through about 150 yards of sewer in about 90 seconds. He passed through 50 yards of 18-inch sewer pipe and about 100 yards of 36-inch sewer pipe.


What many hoped would prove to be the salvation of a nation’s shortage of gasoline during the national defense emergency, and at the same time, save Secretary of Interior Harold L. Ickes from bursting a blood vessel over his whacky driving campaign, was an invention from the fertile brain of a Shawnee car salesman.

The invention was a patented carburetor for automobiles that was perfected by A.C. Russell, an employee of the Norton Motor Company. Russell experimented with his gadget for years, but aside from some amazing results as to its performances, had little success in getting it on the market.

Limited personal capital, not to mention a very ardent desire on their part of gasoline refiners to suppress it, kept his light under the proverbial bushel. Then came along the war and national defense. And out of the New Deal approach to the defense question, came the character known as Ickes, who got himself made czar of the oil industry.

Everyone knew that gasoline was the very essence of all modern defense, being the life-blood of airplanes and tanks and armored cars, etc. It required tankers to get this precious fuel to England, and when our country got through giving England some tankers, we found that we did not have adequate facilities left to get domestic gasoline to east coast ports in sufficient quantity to meet the demand.

This gave Ickes his chance to put forth the greatest of all his whacky dreams as a national public official. He decreed that eastern motorists could not race car motors, get off to quick starts, use badly adjusted carburetors, and do a lot of other things that used gasoline unnecessarily. Ickes figured he could save a drop of gas here and another drop there and make a lot of drops run into a lot of gallons.

Russell heard about Ickes’ gasoline troubles. He figured it would be a lot simpler to get a carburetor adopted that of itself reduced gasoline consumption from 30 to 70 percent. He wrote to President Roosevelt and told him all about his patent. The president turned the letter over to the national inventors’ council of the Department of Commerce and requested that Russell’s idea be investigated for its value to national defense.

The council wrote Russell for more information, which he supplied. Then K. Pat Murphy, also an employee at Norton’s, had occasion to go to Washington in his capacity as mayor. Murphy called on the council to check up for Russell and was surprised at the rather friendly reception he received.

The council investigators began looking into the invention. If they found that Russell’s gadget would do all that it claimed, maybe the defense officials would make it mandatory for the carburetor to be placed on all cars.


Contract for Shawnee’s $285,000 federal airport project was formally approved Tuesday night, August 5, 1941, at a special meeting of the board of city commissioners. The next step was the awarding of contracts and assignment of army engineers to the airport, that received Civil Aeronautics Authority approval.

According to terms of the contract, the government would pay for the clearing, grubbing, grading, seeding, and sodding of the 240 acres comprising the field. City Manager T.E. Thompson said the city was working on plans to file a WPA project that included construction of a combination hangar, administration building and repair shops.

The field would be for public use, except in the event the government deemed it necessary for military use. The city would also maintain the airport in serviceable condition and handle all improvements once the field was finished. The letting of contracts by the CAA was expected in about 30 days.

These stories all appear in Volume Two of the six-volume history of the City of Shawnee. The first four volumes, through 1989, are now available for purchase at the Pottawatomie County Historical Society. They are now open, and you may visit them, or you may order them online at their website, or by calling (405) 275-8412. Each volume is $35, but a purchase of two or more volumes can be obtained at $30 each. We are offering a special deal. If you purchase any other volume, you may obtain Volume One (1830-1929) for just $20. Volume Five, (1990-2009) is now finished and on its way to the printer this week. Look for it availability toward the end of the month of May. Volume Six, (2010-2021) is almost completed and should be on the market in a couple of months.