It was a small thing, done privately not to draw attention and happened every morning just before Rosenberg's Department Store opened its Fourth street doors. Clerks paused their fussing with the stock; floor managers stopped setting up cash drawers; accountants in the offices upstairs stopped accounting and janitors let their mops rest in the buckets. Those who were sitting down, stood. A crackly 78 RPM record played over the store's PA system and they all sang the "Star-Spangled Banner" along with it. They were honoring Malcolm Walt, a member of the family both literally and figurative - he was the nephew of owner Fred Rosenberg and had been a coworker before enlisting in the Navy Reserve (Malcolm was then serving in Honolulu, a fraught place to be in December, 1941). They were also honoring all the other Malcolm Walts who were in uniform, some of whom were starting to be named in the local newspapers as missing or presumed dead.

In the week after Pearl Harbor, Santa Rosa stumbled down an unmarked path. We didn't know how to respond to an air raid alert (which were always false alarms) and we couldn't even settle on what an air raid alert should sound like. It was unclear who was making critical decisions; was it the sheriff, police chief, district attorney or a civil defense committee (which came in city, county, Bay Area and federal flavors) - or the Army? These topics were visited in "CITY OF WAR AND ROSES."

During that second week of wartime Santa Rosa tapped its long list of citizens who had signed up as civil defense volunteers, creating a network of 1,000 air raid wardens and assistants to patrol their block during blackouts. (When there was no volunteer for a block, mail carriers were asked to make recommendations.) A pair of students used thumbtacks to mark where the lived on a huge map of the city.

The indefatigable women's clubs held a summit at the Saturday Afternoon Club to plan what each of the 50+ groups in town would do for the war effort. As many women belonged to more than one club, it would be quite a commitment for some, particularly as there was other charity work underway; 200 women were already fanning out through the neighborhoods to raise $18,000 as Santa Rosa's share of the Red Cross war fund campaign.

The rest of this article can be read at the website. Because of recurring problems with the Blogger platform, I am no longer wasting my time formatting and posting complete articles here. I will continue to create stubs for the sake of continuity, but will be publishing full articles only at

- Jeff Elliott


Newer Post Older Post Home