A Custerdale Christmas
Custerdale hosting units were built in Manitowoc in November, 1941 by the Federal Works Agency, a division of Defense Housing, to provide homes for hundreds, and eventually thousands, of workers at Manitowoc Shipbuilding who were building submarines for the U.S. Navy.
The prefabricated single and double units were of very basic construction, with each unit consisting of a kitchen, living room, utility room, two bedrooms, and a bathroom. The Manitowoc Vocational School's home furnishings class, under the direction of Mrs. E. F. Ludwig, was allotted Custerdale unit T4L to decorate as a model that would demonstrate how the houses could be attractively but inexpensively decorated. With the first 23 families having moved into Custerdale on November 1, the model home was opened for inspection on December 20, 1941. All 400 units in the first phase of Custerdale were soon occupied.
The Custerdale Citizens Club was organized for the purpose of providing for additional social life. Dances were held in the Community Building, which had a large auditorium, stage, and kitchen. There were also card parties and summer picnics. The Club also partnered with Manitowoc Shipbuilding, the City of Manitowoc, and the Board of Education to provide a kindergarten in the building as part of the public school system. 138 children, age 4 and 5, attended the daily kindergarten classes. Of the over 2,200 people living in Custerdale, approximately 1,000 were children under the age of 14.
Christmas parties were also held at the community building but as Custerdale grew, more space was needed. On Tuesday evening, December 22, 1942 hundred of children and adults filled the Town Hall meeting room at WOMT Radio, located on Washington Street in Manitowoc. The party, created for children whose families resided in the Custerdale defense housing, was sponsored by the Custerdale Citizens' Club. The entertainment included the crowning of Florence Teegarden as "queen of the festivities" and a visit from Santa Claus who distributed a present to each child. Part of the Christmas party program was broadcast over WOMT.
In 1943, the government built twenty-seven multi-unit apartment buildings at the east end of Custerdale to provide accommodations for another 250 families of war plant workers. The $1,400,000 project housed over 2,300 families in the first 3 years. The housing units were created to be temporary and would be taken down after the war ended but this didn’t happen and Custerdale became a permanent part of the City of Manitowoc.