Railroad workers displayed unity after Pearl Harbor
Posted On: Feb 10, 2017
On January 2, 1942, Bloomington's Chicago & Alton Railroad repair Shops workers dedicated a new flagpole, less than one month after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Ever drive by Bloomington’s White Oak Park on the west-side and notice that tall flag pole? Few realize its history.
Following the December 7, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, headlines were bleak for Americans. The Japanese seemed unstoppable in the Pacific, while from U.S. Atlantic beaches citizens helplessly watched German submarines sink freighters.
In Bloomington, the largest employer was the Alton Railroad, with its west-side Shops repairing railroad locomotives and cars.
World War II meant gasoline and rubber rationing, so most transportation went by rail. Bloomington’s Alton Shops kept older steam locomotives running and rail cars patched together to meet incredible traffic demands.
Shops workers, members of craft trades that included union Machinists, Boilermakers, Fitters, Carpenters and Electricians, wanted to do more.
The Shops workers voluntarily contributed funds to purchase the steel, fabricating smaller poles into larger ones, until a 90-foot tall flagpole was finished.
On January 2, 1942, a bitterly cold day, the Shops workers clustered around their creation to dedicate it.
Bloomington Mayor Mark Hayes and railroad officials spoke; the flag pole was blessed and Shops workers raised the American flag on their new symbol.
In 1993, local union volunteers removed the flagpole from the Shops complex and re-erected and lit it in White Oak Park.
Every April 28, this is where local unions gather for Workers’ Memorial Day, to remember those killed and injured on the job.
Livingston & McLean Counties Bldg & Trades Council