Dimouts Yield New Regulations and Enforcement
A Field Day for Bureaucrats
Blackouts caused Oregonians some hardships but dimouts introduced a whole new level of bureaucratic regulation on the citizens of the state. While some dimout regulations were in effect before August 20, 1942, they paled in comparison to the new edicts from the Western Defense Command. Public Proclamation No. 10 and No. 12, which followed soon thereafter, clamped new restrictions on everyday life in homes and businesses across western Oregon but especially those in view of the ocean.
Restricted lighting becomes the norm
The proclamations set up a "zone of restricted lighting" that required lights to be extinguished or controlled at all times from sunset to sunrise. Outdoor illuminated signs, ornamental lighting, and floodlighting, including advertising signs, billboards, display lighting, theater marquees, and other lights of "every description" were to be turned off. Outdoor recreational lighting was greatly limited. Moreover, all interior lights that projected rays above the horizontal (skyward) were to be extinguished as well. Practically, this meant changing habits and retrofitting lights and blinds for many Oregonians. Shades or blinds had to be pulled down to at least the level of the bottom of an interior light. Many people painted door and transom glass black to conform with regulations. Porch lights had to be painted or shielded to emit light only downward and toward the house. Other restrictions applied to traffic signs and signals, navigation and railroad lights, industrial areas, and other facilities.
Dimwit Regulations?As tough as it was for local defense council officials to decipher and implement regulations related to dimouts, they also had to contend with what some would call the "dimwits" distributing the regulations. S.O. Newhouse of the Curry County Defense Council finally got fed up with the "silly and childish" procedures for distributing information about the new regulations. He complained to State Defense Council officials: "To start with I received some 100 posters, which I distributed. I next got some more posters and bulletins from another source, which I also distributed. I next got some 1,700 bulletins, more than there are families in Curry County, after we were satisfied everbody [sic] had been informed. Nobody wants them." Newhouse continued to assess the situation: "If this case has been an example of efficiency amoung [sic] the armed forces, and various civilian defense setups, God help this country to ever win the war. If anybody at the head of this setup had any brains they would work out a sensible, workable, easy method of getting the public the information they wished them to have...." In fine bureaucratic style, James Olson of the State Defense Council replied to Newhouse by denying responsibility and passing the buck to another level, in this case to the federal regional civilian defense headquarters in San Francisco: "I sometimes wonder what the I.Q. rating is of some of those chaps in San Francisco that are responsible for some of these boners which are pulled from time to time."(10)
New adaptations develop
As is always the case with regulations, adaptations and work arounds quickly developed, in many cases only adding to the confusion. For example, various solutions sprang up to cope with the new restrictions on headlights visible to the sea. The regulations called for not more than two headlights with no more than "250 beam candlepower" of light each. Some people just started driving with only their parking lights on. Others bought one of many "restrainer" electrical devices designed to reduce power to the headlights.
Not long after the first regulations were issued, Lincoln County authorities were "experiencing considerable difficulty with the enforcement of Proclamation #10 in regard to the Dim-Out. A good many motorists are covering their headlights with a wide variety of cloth. It is my opinion, after considerable investigation on the matter, that most of the cloth covered headlights do not conform with the regulations of Proclamation #10. Some of the late model cars with strong seal-beam lights will penetrate these coverings to the extent of from 1,000 to 2,000 beam candle power."
In response the State Defense Council issued a bulletin entitled "Cloth Covering Now Taboo for Automobile Headlamps Used in Dim Out Zone." The bulletin confessed the council's role in the confusion: "As a temporary expedient to avoid unnecessary inconvenience to persons driving coastal highways on brief pleasure or business trips, the Oregon State Defense Council on August 5, 1942, approved the use of one thickness of muslim or other suitable cloth of a grade comparable to flour sack material for dimming automobile headlamps in light restricted zones, where they would be visible from the sea." Claiming that enough time had passed for motorists to install light restrainers, the council put an end to the use of cloth coverings for compliance with the regulations. (view PDF-2 pages)(2)
Enforcement and interpretation problems
Curry County officials had their hands full trying to enforce the dimout regulations related to headlights. The remote southwestern Oregon county had about 60 miles of road that, tracking close to the coastline, fell under the strict "visible from the sea" regulations. With few law enforcement officers and only one incorporated town, many drivers soon discovered that they could ignore dimout rules. One Curry County defense council official complained: "The result is that tourests [sic] going through quickly find they can leave their lights on without anybody stopping them except at the three villages in the County. So they apologize for having their lights on and drive to the edge of the villages and turn them on again and go on down the highway." The official called for a state police patrolman to be assigned to the area to put an end to the problem: "I am sure that after a few arrests there would be no more trouble! With the Government and State hireing [sic] so many men at fat salarys [sic] to put on a Hollywood war it seems queer that they cant [sic] put one man on such work...."(3) According to one federal official, the lack of patrols in Curry County was exacerbated by politics: "At the present time there is a hot political fight on for the office of sheriff, a four-man race. The sheriff is very busy campaigning and little help can be expected from him until after the November election."(4)
Inspections yield violations
Officials conducted inspections of businesses and industrial facilities looking for violations of the dimout rules. For example, November 1942 inspections in Portland resulted in a long report of infractions. A large area of downtown Portland "contained many interior lights that emit direct rays above the horizontal out-of-doors, also several outdoor unshielded lights that emit direct rays above the horizontal." Traffic signals also drew criticism for being "improperly shielded." Industrial and defense areas yielded several pages of violations just for the Portland area. Inspectors found 16 itemized problems at the massive Oregon Shipbuilding Corporation yards, most related to unshielded lights and floodlights. Willamette Iron and Steel Company also drew 16 violations for similar reasons. The Kaiser Shipyards on Swan Island had "many violations" but the chief electrician assured the inspectors that "construction of shields for floodlights will start soon."(6)
New regulations ease restrictions
Federal officials issued Public Proclamation No. 19 in October 1943. The new regulation set up three geographic zones that generally loosened the dimout restrictions for most of western Oregon away from view of the sea. But it still generated its share of bureaucracy, including official explanations of lighting regulations that showed shifting priorities away from strict civilian protection measures and toward coping with growing social problems. For instance, officials wrote that "in order to reduce juvenile delinquency, provide evening recreation for war workers, and improve the health and welfare of people generally - all of which is necessary for our maximum war effort - lighting for recreation and sports is now permitted in locations more than three miles from the sea, up to a maximum of thirty foot candles" The explanation further delineated the subtle differences in lighting needs for different sports:
|Badminton||30 foot candles|
|Baseball (Amateur)||30 foot candles|
|Basketball||20 foot candles|
|Football||20 foot candles|
|Golf Driving||25 foot candles|
|Handball||30 foot candles|
|Horseshoes||10 foot candles|
|Playgrounds||25 foot candles|
|Dog Race Tracks||30 foot candles|
|Softball||25 foot candles|
|Swimming Pools||10 foot candles|
|Tennis||25 foot candles|
|Volleyball||10 foot candles(8)|
Within weeks authorities issued Public Proclamation No. 20 that suspended earlier dimout restrictions. The government cited "improved defensive measures now in effect" as the reason for the suspension. Unfortunately for earlier violators of the dimout regulations, prosecution of any prior infractions would proceed. Moreover, regulations related to blackouts remained in full force.(9)
1. "Public Proclamation No. 12," Headquarters Western Defense Command and Fourth Army, October 10, 1943. Folder 23, Box 32, Defense Council Records, OSA.
2. Letter from Jerry Whitlock to Jerrold Owen, September 10, 1942. Folder 2, Box 19, Defense Council Records, OSA; Oregon State Defense Council Bulletin, September 15, 1942. Folder 2, Box 19, Defense Council Records, OSA.
3. Letter from S.O. Newhouse to Jerrold Owen, September 25, 1942. Folder 6, Box 17, Defense Council Records, OSA
4. Memorandum from Captain William Rogers to Stanley Donogh, October 8, 1942. Folder 21, Box 11, Defense Council Records, OSA.
6. Memorandum from Earl Cleworth to Provost Marshal, Fort Lewis, Washington, December 31, 1942. Folder 21, Box 11, Defense Council Records, OSA.
7. Memorandum from Lt. Colonel Willis Vincent to Stanley Donogh, November 16, 1942. Folder 21, Box 11, Defense Council Records, OSA.
8. "Regional Regulations No. 7," Office of Civilian Defense, Ninth Civilian Defense Region. October 10, 1943. Folder 20, Box 11, Defense Council Records, OSA.
9. "Public Proclamation No. 20," Headquarters Western Defense Command and Fourth Army, October 28, 1943. Folder 5, Box 27, Defense Council Records, OSA.
10. Letter from S.O. Newhouse to James Olson, August 14, 1942. Folder 6, Box 17, Defense Council Records, OSA; Letter from James Olson to S.O. Newhouse, August 18, 1942. Folder 6, Box 17, Defense Council Records, OSA.