Published Date

January 1, 1945

Resource Type

GI Roundtable Series, Primary Source

From GI Roundtable 33: What Will Your Town Be Like? (1945)

The best way to study the question “What Will Your Town Be Like?” is through informal discussion. This is not to say that a forum lecture cannot tell the story of what local committees of United States citizens are planning in the way of community improvements and job opportunities. But, if this subject is placed before soldiers for their consideration, they are bound to want to discuss many personal questions that occur to them. Informal discussion and panel discussion give widest latitude for exploring personal angles.

There are at least three ways in which you can make-use of the pamphlet text in your discussion. One way is to base your advance outline for the discussion directly on the pamphlet; you would simply follow the plan of the pamphlet and use the questions that appear in the headings or text. A second way is to use one or the other of the first three groups of questions given below under “Questions for Discussion.” A third way is to outline your discussion just as the subject has been developed in the pamphlet and use such of the “Questions for Discussion” as may seem appropriate.

If you use the first or the third method, it is suggested that you build your discussion outlines around these major questions:

  1. How has the war changed towns at home?
  2. Will (or should) there be more changes after the war?
  3. Is community planning or job planning the key to Hometown’s future?
  4. Is local planning the best way to assure a prosperous United States?

A fourth scheme may strike you as an even more effective springboard for your group. This would be to select one of the “Bull” Questions given below and persuade two or three members to take each side in an informal debate. While none of the “Bull” Questions requires the text of the pamphlet as a basis for discussion, each is nevertheless related to the text in one way or another. Further than that, this type of question may have a stronger appeal for some groups of men than the questions suggested directly by the text.



It is always a good idea to make copies of GI Roundtable pamphlets accessible to the men for reading ahead of time. This is especially true of the present pamphlet. The last half of the article, which begins with the question, “What are some towns doing about their postwar future?” is informative and provocative. To men who have long been away from home it will supply the answers to many questions. It will give them a background of fact without which they cannot join intelligently in the discussion of the future of American community life. Closely related to EM 33 is EM 32, GI Roundtable: Shall I Build a House after the War? It discusses some of the specific issues involved in town improvement and Will make interesting supplemen-tary reading.

Discussion techniques

For techniques on how to organize and conduct discussions of various types, see EM 1, GI Roundtable: Guide for Discussion Leaders. If you plan to broadcast roundtable discussions on stations or sound systems of the Armed Forces Radio Service, you will find practical suggestions on radio discussion techniques in EM 90, GI Radio Roundtable.

Questions for Discussion

  1. Are Most American Communities Alike? Would you rather live in a big city or a small town? Why? Will wartime experience tend to make veterans more or less community-conscious? Does the “community attitude” of the average town extend to the surrounding rural area or is there an undue feeling of group difference between “farmer” and “city folk”? Do you think there is any essential difference in the community characteristics of towns in widely separated parts of the United States-say a town in New England and a similar-sized town in New Mexico?
  2. What Do You Think the Community of the Future Will Be Like? Do you believe that very many new towns will be established in the future? Will present communities tend to absorb the population growth, in spite of technological and social changes? Will returning servicemen, who have traveled extensively during the war, be satisfied with the neighborhood life they lived before? As communities grow larger, do individual citizens grow less interested in how well their towns are run? Do they assume less community responsibility? Should something be done about this? What? Is it better for a small town to have a main highway go right through town or around the outskirts? Should a town plan such “modern” things as an airport for helicopters or a modern parking center as war memorials instead of the traditional memorial park full of statues, benches, and pigeons?
  3. Should the overage Citizen Take an Active Part .in Solving His Community’s Problems? Do you think the unsavory associations of the term “politician” prevents a lot of people from taking a more active part in their community’s affairs? If so, how can this be overcome? Should a community’s schools and libraries concentrate on teaching facts to youngsters or extend their influence into adult education, community development, and social activities? Is the general tendency for young people in recent years to leave farms and smaller towns to go to the cities bad for their home communities? What can smaller towns do to direct the energies and talents of young people toward developing their own home towns? What could be done to make the average town government more efficient? Should towns hire city managers responsible to the town council instead of having elected mayors in charge of municipal affairs?
  4. “Bull” Ouestions. Which would make a better mayor for a town of 5,000 people—a top sergeant or a colonel? Do you think the high school principal or the chief of police is considered a more “important” community official? Why? Who has more natural interest in community welfare and activities-men or women? Are you planning to return to your “old home town” after the war or to some other place? If you are not going back, why not?


For Further Reading

If you are interested in reading further on the subject of your town after the war you might look at some of the following magazine articles. They are brief, popular accounts of certain sides of the problem. “Community: The Seed Bed of Society” by Arthur E. Morgan, in the Atlantic, February 1942; “City Planning: Battle of the Approach,” in Fortune, November 1943; “After the Plans, What?” by G. Greer in Fortune, July 1944; “Can the Cities Come Back?” by Boyden Sparkes in the Saturday Evening Post, November 4, 1944; and “Is Your Town Ready with Post-war Jobs?” in Reader’s Digest, January 1944.

Principles of City Planning by Karl B. Lohmann and published by McGraw-Hill Book Company, 330 West 42nd Street, New York 18, N. Y. (1931) is a fairly complete textbook for anyone wishing to go pretty thoroughly into the subject. A briefer account is Russell V. N. Black’s Planning for the Small American City, put out as publication No. 32 by the Public Administration Service, 1313 East 60th Street, Chicago 37, 111. (1936). Two lighter treatments are

Communities for Living by F. Stuart Chapin, Jr., published by the University of Georgia Press, at Athens, Georgia (1941); and Mel Scott’s Cities ore for People, published by the Pacific Southwest Academy, Los Angeles, Cal. (1942). The latter tells how the Los Angeles region plans for community living.

Three interesting and detailed studies of communities are Middletown (1929) and Middletown in Transition (1937) by Robert S. and Helen M. Lynd, published by Harcourt, Brace and Company, 383 Madison Avenue, New York 17, N. Y., and The Problems of a Resort Community (Falmouth, Massachusetts) by Millard C. Faught, to be published in the spring of 1945 by the Columbia University Press, 2960 Broadway, New York27, N. Y.

These books are suggested for supplementary reading if it so happens that you have access to them. They are not approved nor officially supplied by the War Department. They have been selected because they give additional information and represent different points of view.