The political scene
The political struggle for power in the city continued with some modifications. In 1942, the Democrats selected Francis J. McCabe as their mayoral candidate. This popular figure had been postmaster of Apponaug during Woodrow Wilson’s administration and had established the area’s first real estate firm.
The Republicans within the city had consolidated their power, however, and Albert Ruerat moved into an unprecedented fourth term. The only Democrat to win a council seat was Lambert M. Lind of the 8th Ward.
At 7 p.m. on Aug. 14, 1945, President Harry S. Truman announced the surrender of Japan and World War II was over. The celebrations in Warwick, as well as in the rest of the state, were the greatest the city had ever experienced. Every church held religious services to give thanks for the end of the war. On Sept. 21, 1945, Warwick’s Civilian Defense officially came to an end. Over 3,000 residents served the organization during the war years and received recognition for their efforts. Plans were quickly made to honor the 4,618 men and women who served in the armed forces and for the 121 dead.
During these early post-war years, Warwick continued to focus its attention on obtaining a suitable war memorial. In December 1946, the city’s wartime wooden plaque in front of City Hall was taken down and a new bronze book-type honor role was created and placed in City Hall. In 1954 it was transferred to Warwick Veterans Memorial High School.
During the period following World War II, Warwick slowly emerged as a city rather than a group of villages. It was a period of phenomenal growth accompanied by both positive and negative factors. Led by William A. Grube, Warwick’s businessmen started a local Chamber of Commerce using Gan’s Hall in Apponaug as a meeting place. Road repairs and construction, both neglected during the war years, now became more necessary as automobiles began to come out of their wartime hibernation.
Changes in the police department also became imperative. Police Chief William C. Kindlen, after more than eight years in office, resigned to enter private industry and Deputy Chief Forrest R. Sprague became the new head of the police department. By this time, the police force was almost completely motorized, had a radio technician and had adopted frequency modulation radio. When Sprague had first joined the force in 1930, officers walking the beat had to carry nickels with them in order to make a call from a public telephone to report to headquarters.
Of the utmost significance in the post-war period was the rapid inflation. Unprecedented rises in prices wreaked havoc with the city’s economy and budget. Once the O.P.A. restrictions were lifted, prices in restaurants and grocery stores rose as much as 100 percent. The days of the five-cent ice cream cone and the five-cent cup of coffee were over. A pound of coffee went from 14.5 cents under O.P.A. ceilings to 26.5 cents on the open market. In the grocery stores, hamburger prices rose from 28 cents a pound to 59 cents a pound, and the cost of milk and milk products soared. In many instances, rents were increased up to 50 percent and evictions were common.
This resulted in increased costs for almost all facets of the city’s services and in a demand for higher salaries by municipal employees. In April 1947, Warwick’s garbage collectors and incinerator operators went on strike over the pay loss and increased hours that resulted when they were transferred from the health department to the highway department pay scale. Mayor Ruerat agreed to reconsider the change and granted retroactive restoration of salaries to the earlier scale. After a one-day strike, the city employees returned to work.
Despite the fiscal problems and rising costs, Warwick continued to grow rapidly. Land was still relatively cheap in the city and taxes, while rising, were below those of other cities. For many, the American Dream of “the little house with the white picket fence and garden” meant living in Warwick. Wage earners in the post-war period found Warwick’s medium and low-priced housing developments within their price range, especially with FHA mortgages and help from the federal government for veterans. As mortages were fixed and wages increased, it became easier for families to own their own homes and Warwick witnessed a building increase that turned it into a “bedroom community.”
After a wartime low of $225,258 for building permits in 1944, the post-war building boom saw the numbers soar to $2,614,771 in 1946 and $3,199,870 in 1947, surpassing the pre-war 1940 record of $2,031,968.