While researching information about WWII for my latest novel, Mrs. Odboddy’s Wartime Experience, I discovered some things that came as a big surprise.
RATIONING: Rationing during the war affected every American citizen. The government spent a good deal of time and money promoting the idea that Americans should give up certain foods, clothing, tires, and other goods, and that doing so was patriotic and a worthy sacrifice. As most Americans had a son, husband or friend overseas, they readily accepted the deprivations.
COFFEE: During part of 1942-43, coffee was rationed. One pound every six weeks for each adult! This restriction was due to the blockade of ships from Brazil and other countries from bringing coffee to the United States, as well as the desire to send much of the limited coffee supply to the troops. Can you imagine buying only one pound of coffee every six weeks?
TIRES: A citizen was limited to purchasing only five tires during the entire war. This sounds like plenty by today’s standards, but remember, neither roads nor tires were as good back then as they are today. People were encouraged to car pool–not just encouraged, required is a better word. Bicycles and motorcycles were not uncommon.
SUGAR: Sugar was rationed and many other food items were available, but extremely expensive. Beef was costly as well as eggs, which resulted in many a chicken taking up residence in the suburban backyard.
Victory Gardens were encouraged and lawns and backyards were quickly converted to rows of cabbages, zucchinis, tomatoes and carrots. Any vegetable that was a high producer in a limited space became the focus of the weekend gardener and provided bragging rights at the local USO where ladies volunteered to serve coffee and visit with the troops.
It became almost a requirement of a good citizen to purchase monthly war bonds to help fund the war effort. About 18 billion dollars was collected through the sale of war bonds meeting the government's goals.
People lived in fear of invasion and many men and women spent hours with binoculars pointed skyward, watching and reporting any aircraft that flew overhead. Remember, radar was in its infancy and not wide-spread.
Young people spend their Saturday afternoons at matinee movies where, for a few hours, romance or cowboy stories with happy endings could whisk them away from thoughts of war or fear for their loved ones.
In general, Americans accepted rationing willingly. They gave up their coffee, sugar, tires and many other luxury and common-place items so the products could be sent to the war effort. Our citizens felt that by their sacrifice, in some small way, giving up sugar or coffee or driving less might shorten the war.
I wonder how Americans today would react, if the same rationing were forced upon us. How would your life be affected if you had to give up drinking all the coffee you wanted and you could only purchase four gallons of gas each week?
We take so many things for granted. We wallow in luxuries and the ability to purchase whatever we desire. We have come to believe they’ll never be taken away. It happened once. Could it happen again? Something to think about, for sure.