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The Thousand and One Days

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

In the old Far Eastern tale, it took Scheherazade a thousand and one nights of stories to secure her future. In 1945, Davenport, Iowa, took a day off that record by turning to advertising rather than storytelling.

Even before the end of World War II that August, Davenporters were looking ahead. Many of the 18,000 skilled workers at the nearby Rock Island Arsenal would be out of work when the war ended, and in desperate need of jobs. At the same time, the pent-up demand for cars, appliances, housing, and other civilian goods meant new opportunities for entrepreneurs with foresight.

Late in 1945, the Davenport Chamber of Commerce launched their response: the Thousand Days Program. Davenport would advertise to the whole world their wonderful climate, the nearby natural resources, the skilled workforce, and even the alluring entertainments to be found in the Rock Island area. As a result, the Chamber was convinced, new businesses and industries would beat a path to Davenport.

The rest of the story is worthy of one of those Arabian nights. In 1946, the Thousand Days campaign brought in Oscar Mayer to take over the old Kohn Packing Company, the Curtis-Wright Corporation had bought out Victor Animatographic with plans for expansion, and a new company, Lusk/Fresh Pak Candy, was up and operating.

By late 1946, J. I. Case had moved into the defunct Bettendorf Car Works plant, and the Aluminum Company of America had begun construction of the world's largest aluminum rolling mill on 400 acres east of Bettendorf.

By the end of the campaign in 1948, Davenport had developed a whole new industrialized west end, with Red Jacket Manufacturing, Ralston Purina, Nichols Wire and Aluminum, Priester Construction, Independent Biscuit, and a Giefman grocery chain warehouse.

Scheherazade was a bright young woman whose clever stories kept the king coming back from more, but even she might have learned a thing or two from Davenport's Chamber of Commerce.

Rock Island Lines with Roald Tweet is underwritten by Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois.

Beginning 1995, historian and folklorist Dr. Roald Tweet spun his stories of the Mississippi Valley to a devoted audience on WVIK. Dr. Tweet published three books as well as numerous literary articles and recorded segments of "Rock Island Lines." His inspiration was that "kidney-shaped limestone island plunked down in the middle of the Mississippi River," a logical site for a storyteller like Dr. Tweet.