The thirties - the island's economy booms

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This image of the Plaza Ballroom was taken in 1939. Europe was on the brink of war, Jersey would soon have five years of German rule which would all but bring an end to simple pleasures such as ballroom dancing. But in 1939 Jersey's economy was booming, life continued virtually unaltered despite the gloomy news daily received of the political situation in Europe. And the Plaza was one of the island's premiere entertainment venues, somewhat more sophisticated than the discotheques and other nightspots of today.

Life in Jersey during the German Occupation from 1940 to 1945 has been thoroughly documented in thousands of books, films, television programmes, newspaper and magazine articles. And the period after the Liberation in May 1945 has also had extensive coverage. But apart from the Evacuation and the days immediately preceding the German Occupation, little has been written about life in the island in the years before the war. This new section of Jerripedia aims to put that right.

Jersey’s economy was booming when all progress was suddenly brought to a halt by the arrival of German troops in August 1940. The same had been true of the years before World War One, but although that conflict had nothing like the impact on the island that the second global war was to have, it took some time to recover from the setback which many of the island’s industries suffered.

The ‘twenties were a period of global depression, but by the time the next decade arrived, the British and other European economies were back on their feet, and business began to pick up in the Channel Islands, too. Jersey’s farming industry, fuelled by the demand for its early potatoes, reached new peaks. And tourism, helped by much improved transport links, enjoyed a period of exponential growth.

Timeline

Our 1938-1940 timeline is drawn largely from the Local Record in the Evening Post almanacs of the time. The daily extracts, seldom more than one or two sentences long, are as much a reflection of attitudes to news reporting of the time as they are to what was happening in the community. Annual general meetings of local clubs and societies rank equally with elections for public office, records of inquests into deaths requiring explanation and preparations for what was seen as inevitable war.

The extracts chosen for our timeline are largely those which contrast the ongoing life of a community not yet directly affected by the impending and ultimately declared war with what was to come a few short months away. But the full record also provides a stark contrast with life in Jersey today. One is struck by the enormous number of deaths in road traffic accidents and the workplace; by the remarkable frequency of inquests into suicides; by the number of people found in their homes days or weeks after their death from natural causes; by the number of drownings of people low water fishing. Certainly most of these events would make the front pages of the newspaper today, because of their rarity: in 1938 and 1939 they were seemingly weekly occurrences.

HMS Jersey

Islanders took great pride in the naming of one of the Royal Navy's new fleet as HMS Jersey and arrangements were quickly made for the vessel to visit Jersey within days of her launch.

Jersey Airways

Following the opening of the new Airport in 1937, passenger traffic grew rapidly, and the island's own airline, Jersey Airways, opened up more and more routes to cope with demand.

The need for new and larger aircraft, capable of using the grass runways, rapidly became apparent, and just a few weeks before the war started, Jersey Airways took delivery of the new DH 95 Flamingo on a trial basis.

Electricity

The boom in the island's economy during the '30s created a rising demand for electricity and the Jersey Electricity Company expanded its generating capacity to meed this demand, as well as opening a new outlet in the centre of St Helier to offer all the latest electrical appliances and gadgets.

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