“Dimout Area” was a precaution against air raids in Shrewsbury during WWII


“Dimout Area” was a precaution against air raids in Shrewsbury during WWII
The “Dimout Area” in Shrewsbury during WWII had only limited lighting during the hours of darkness to make it less of a visible target for possible German air raids. (Photo/Courtesy)

SHREWSBURY – We are indeed fortunate that two people from long ago took the time to document many scenes around the town of Shrewsbury through photography. One of these men was Herbert A. Maynard, who ran a store in the center of town and lived in the house shown in the photograph. He produced a number of photo postcards, many of which still exist today.

The other photographer was Ralph B. McKenzie, who travelled around town taking black and white photographs from around the time of World War I up until the 1960s. One of his photographs, taken on February 26, 1943, shows a large sign in front of the Maynard house (still located at the intersection of Main Street and Maple Avenue) that warned people that the “Worcester Dimout Area Begins Here.”

Just what was a “Dimout Area”? During the early part of World War II (in fact, just a week or so before the photo was taken), the state of Massachusetts implemented rules that were very specific about having any type of lighting during periods of darkness. These rules pertained to homes, businesses and vehicles. It turns out that this probably was a good precaution. After the war it was discovered that Worcester was quite high on the proposed list of targets specified for attack by the German Luftwaffe if they ever had the chance to bomb the United States.

Ironically, it appears that the Worcester Dimout Area did not reach the area a few hundred feet east of this sign. This means that the center of Shrewsbury, including the town hall, fire and police departments, Beal School and many stores and businesses, would possibly have been brightly lit up in the event of an air raid. Fortunately for everyone, no air raids ever occurred.

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