Problems Brought By The War:
"The abnormal and almost instant demands made upon the Charleston Consolidated Railway Company caused by war conditions are well nigh overwhelming..."
-- Chairman Richards, Seaboard Air Line Railway, November 27, 1917, on insufficient rail service from the city to the Charleston Navy Yard.
Along with the benefits of a war economy came significant problems, ranging from housing shortages and transportation issues to prostitution and disease. Throughout the war, efforts to solve them were only partially successful.
While the new military posts had accommodations for their recruits, the civilian employees and administrators needed to build these installations and maintain the infrastructure after completion often did not. Charleston was the worst. Old homes in the city were available but they needed much repair to make them habitable. Building new structures was difficult because building supplies were scarce and workers hard to find. A few new structures were constructed, such as a home for women working at the Naval Uniform Factory, but it was not finished until the late spring 1918.
Transportation problems were acute in many cities. The huge influx of new workers at the Charleston Navy Yard overwhelmed the tram line from the city to the base soon after the war began and remained a problem even after the Armistice.
"... thousands of employees of the navy yard marched down King Street, from Line to Broad... in a demonstration of their sentiments... [to] .... protest against the poor trolley car service... between Charleston and the navy yard...."
-- The State, January 19, 1919
Attempts to eradicate red light districts:
"I'm going to buy a pistol, sir. For twelve years, I've ... never felt the need to protect my two women-folks. [But what do you suppose will happen when 40,000 virile, red-blooded young men come here to train for the army and find the segregated [red light] district wiped out? I know..."
-- Columbia resident to reporter on recruits at Camp Jackson, Summer 1917.
Military leaders pressured city authorities to pass laws that would eradicate prostitution. The Army and Navy feared that their recruits would be tempted by "red light districts" and contract debilitating diseases. Before the war, towns and cities in the Palmetto State had tried to ignore the problem. By the summer, 1917, every city in the state had new restrictive laws passed to eliminate the illicit trade, but these were only partially successful. While many of these illegal centers were closed down, many of these "workers" simply found other places in the same community to carry on the trade. At least some citizens of Charleston and Columbia thought that such districts "protected the women of their communities."