A bit of history — Ration Books

Rationing helped the war effort

In this time of coro­na virus and a dis­rupt­ed coun­try, I remem­ber anoth­er time of dis­rup­tion in the Unit­ed States, and the world. Since I’m old, I remem­ber World War II. I was a child, but I remem­ber ration books. The things rationed were to allow our coun­try to tool up to fight a war. We received the books in the mail, one book for each mem­ber of the fam­i­ly. In each book were tiny per­fo­rat­ed rec­tan­gles in a vari­ety of col­ors. We had no idea what would be rationed.

The told us by radio on a Sun­day morn­ing. (Stores were all closed, as usu­al.) Start­ing the next day, we would need a coupon as well as mon­ey to pur­chase cer­tain good. Canned veg­eta­bles, meat and but­ter, shoes, sug­ar, and gaso­line are the ones I remem­ber. The prod­ucts rationed were to save ship­ping space (sug­ar), met­al for build­ing ships (canned foods), meat, but­ter, and shoes to feed and clothe the sol­diers and sailors. Or, at least, that’s what we surmised.

Some prod­ucts were devel­oped to over­come such needs as shoes for a grow­ing child as, I seem to remem­ber the allot­ment was one pair a year. And, shoes were added to pro­vide a fash­ion change. They called them play shoes, and there was no leather in them, just plas­tic and cloth, rather like ten­nis shoes on steroids. Also, food providers devel­oped cake mix­es, and, I tell you, they were a sor­ry bunch of a waste of sug­ar. I remem­ber my moth­er try­ing one. Yuck. And, although, as a farm fam­i­ly we most­ly pro­duced our own food, rais­ing cat­tle, chick­ens, and veg­eta­bles and saved our meat coupons for but­ter, the city folks did­n’t have that advan­tage. Some­one devel­oped oleo margarine.

The gas for our cars was anoth­er thing. The speed lim­it was changed to 35 miles per hour to save our warn tires — as rub­ber went to the war effort as well. But farm­ers not only were gen­er­al­ly exempt­ed from the draft as the coun­try need­ed the food, but they had extra gas to run their trac­tors. My dad shook his head over the gov­ern­men­t’s sys­tem. They asked each farmer to record how much gas was used dur­ing the spring months then mul­ti­plied the allot­ment by four times that. Yep, spring is when the farmer runs his trac­tor the most, plow­ing and seed­ing his crop. He runs it also to har­vest accord­ing to what he grows. For us it was hay to feed the cows that pro­duced the milk.

I remem­ber one pair of my shoes. I was in the sixth grade and my moth­er decid­ed I was grown up enough for wom­en’s shoes. (Or, maybe my feet were too big.) Any­way, those shoes were a yel­low­ish col­or with Cuban heels. Now, pic­ture me play­ing soft­ball dur­ing recess, clunk­ing around in those shoes.

But, of course, I sur­vived. And so did our country.