People in the outlying communities were just beginning to get cars and trucks, and things of that nature. It was not at all uncommon for people to work five hard full days, and a half a day on Saturday, and then load up the family and the neighbors and whoever they could find that wanted to come to Marshall, and come to Marshall. And with all the through traffic that was coming through Marshall and all the local traffic that was coming into Marshall, Marshall on a Saturday afternoon was like most malls at Christmas
The United States entered the Second World War in 1941. Many Madison County men volunteered or were drafted into service. And many of the county's women joined the war effort, working in mills and factories to fill the work shoes of absent men and to produce goods to be used in the war. Experiences abroad or while working in cities led Americans from all classes to desire a higher standard of living, inspiring many people from rural communities to seek the comforts of city living.
Madison County's population, which had grown only slightly since reaching 20,132 in 1910, was now decreasing. It shrank from 22,522 in 1940 to 20,522 by 1950. It continued to fall throughout the 1950s, numbering 17,217 by 1960. For those who stayed, the 1940s and 1950s was a time of great change in the county as rural electrification, interstate highways, and farm mechanization came and changed both the physical and cultural landscape of the Mountain Region.
Following the end of the war in 1945, the United States entered a time of great economic prosperity. Two effects of this boom were increased automobile sales and the subsequent need for interstate highways. Modern highways made motor vehicles a competitor to railroads, and gradually cars and trucks became the favored method of transporting people and goods throughout the country. The rugged geography of the region hindered highway construction in the North Carolina mountains, but routes like US 23 were busy as Americans hit the road.