Have you ever wondered why Louisville Water Company bills the majority of its customers bimonthly? The answer lays in the histories of our company and the United States Armed Forces, which we celebrate with pride each Veterans Day.
World War II required the greatest mobilization of soldiers and resources in history, and like every other company in existence at the time Louisville Water was affected. So many employees left their jobs to fight the war that the company only had the manpower to read meters every other month. That schedule stuck long after the war ended in 1945, and today a majority of customers are still billed bimonthly.
At the end of 1942, there were 31 employees of Louisville Water in service. In 1944, the last full year of the war, there were 41 employees, including one woman named Loretta L. Becker, in service. Then-President Henry Gerber wrote at the time about the possibility of training women for jobs men would traditionally hold in order to help with the labor shortage.
Meanwhile, the company helped the war effort in other ways. We opened our Crescent Hill swimming pool, which existed across from the Crescent Hill Reservoir from 1919 until 1953, for private swims for pilots flying into Bowman Field. Our fleet also had signs reminding residents to “win with tin” and save their tin cans for the government to reuse. We also provided a 50 percent discount for water used on vegetable plots or “victory gardens,” which were popular during the war as a way to supplement the food rations in place at the time. The response was overwhelming—3,599 customers signed up!
Also during WWII, the government wanted the metal that was part of the water tower for scrap. They estimated they could salvage 200 tons of metal for the war effort. Louisville Water resisted, having long felt the water tower was a staple of the company and the community. Eventually, however, they did provide Uncle Sam with the winding staircase around the standpipe.
The impact of World War II on Louisville Water Company may be the most noticeable today, but our historical records capture the impact of other wars and conflicts, too.
The Civil War began less than six months after Louisville Water began operations in the fall of 1860. In the company’s annual reports, leadership complained about how union soldiers were damaging the fencing around the original reservoir.
During World War I, the government was looking for places to train soldiers, and documents show they chose Louisville as the site for Camp Zachary Taylor in part because the quality of the water was “unexcelled.” Louisville Water had just completed the Crescent Hill Filtration Plant and was already known around the country for its dedication to innovation and quality. The Great War did cause some concern for Louisville Water. At the time, there were worries about getting cast iron and delays in chlorine shipments—two important elements of operations.
In the 1950 annual report, Henry Gerber included a mention of an “international situation” and “the dire peril that threatens our peace and welfare.” He was referring to increasing tensions in Korea. Gerber reported that the company was ready to meet the emergency and had suspended all capital projects “for the duration unless necessary for national or local defense.” The following year, there was much less anxiety in the annual report, with Gerber noting that the conflict was not as disruptive as they’d originally feared.
If there is one constant throughout all of these historical stories, it’s that Louisville Water takes its commitment to community and country seriously. We are proud to support the men and women of the military and grateful for their service and sacrifice.
Happy Veterans Day!