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Throwback Thursday: Building a Belleville home to begin the Baby Boom

She didn’t sit under the apple tree with anyone else, so when he came marching home from World War II they were ready to settle down and start the Baby Boom. The G.I. Bill offered mortgage benefits; trouble was there was no housing.

For this Throwback Thursday, we found Belleville’s quick solution to the veterans housing shortage.

During the fall of 1946, the Federal Public Housing Administration was constructing 10 emergency housing units that looked a lot like the barracks the vets were used to. The long buildings at Lucinda Avenue and B Street were divided into four or five apartments, with four rooms and a bathroom each.

President Truman created the Veterans Emergency Housing Program at the start of 1946. For a year the federal government subsidized building materials to boost housing for veterans’ families.

On Veterans Day 1946, regional housing director Orvil Olmstead was promising that the first 18 families within 10 days would be moving in to the Belleville housing. It was Christmas Eve before 10 families moved in.

The News-Democrat was there to record the moment, with Evelyn Heintz and her three children getting the first unit. The 25-year-old widow was at the top of the list after her husband died suddenly the year before. Beds, dressers and Christmas trees all went into the apartments.

“The scene seemed to bear out the theme song most of the new occupants had adopted: ‘I’ll Be Home by Christmas,’” the paper reported.

A month later, Mrs. R.H. Strothmann Jr. was featured in the apartment that she and her husband had improved by refinishing the floors, replacing the coal heater with gas and decorating. The other eight veterans families were said to be within a week of moving in — two and one-half months later than promised.

Truman ended the emergency housing program that month.

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