A Matter of Perspective

It’s been almost seven months since we have been operating under some sort of restrictions. Businesses have closed, and our lives have been disrupted. Without any judgment, I thought I’d share some posters from the 1940s, during World War II. Material, food, and transportation had to be diverted to the war effort. Women and in some cases, children had to be forced into the labor ranks. Rationing was in effect for high-demand items. “Points” were issued to each person, even babies. Points had to be turned in along with money when buying restricted items. One example I found:

“A pound of bacon cost about 30 cents, but a shopper would also have to turn in seven ration points to buy the meat. These points came in the form of stamps that were distributed to citizens in books throughout the war.”

Other items were rationed as well, including gasoline. Families were allocated 3 US gallons (11 l; 2.5 imp gal) each week. You couldn’t drive very far, but that might not have been too bad, since you couldn’t buy a new car or even new tires for your old car. Also, cars and tires didn’t last nearly as long as they do today.

I started thinking about these things after visiting the “Propaganda Posters of World War II” exhibit at the Connecticut Historical Society in August. Today’s gallery includes photos from that exhibit. The posters are described in the captions, some of which are long, so I’m going to end this post without too many more words. I do have to include my favorite tidbit.

Macaroni and cheese became a nationwide sensation because it was cheap, filling, and required very few ration points. Kraft sold some 50 million boxes of its macaroni and cheese product during the war.

I love that stuff.

75 comments

  1. Wonderful post, Dan. Those posters are marvellous. They give you such a great insight into life on the homefront. You have to take your hat off to the people living in those times – tough and hardy.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Very humbling and a great reminder of how hard our ancestors fought at home and abroad. What can I say except we are spoiled as a result of their great sacrifices. My grandparents would have been disappointed at my concern over a couple of favorite items not being available during the hoarding days of this pandemic. Thanks, Dan, for starting the week off on a positive note. Happy walking with Maddie before the rain moves in. At least, I have my fingers crossed the rain moves in.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks Judy. Maddie and I got our walk in. We got wet, but it wasn’t too bad. Of course, when we got home, Maddie was all “dry my head, DRY MY HEAD!” (she can’t stand having her head wet). I had been thinking about this post for almost two months. I didn’t want to judge, but there really is a stark contrast between what people endured during that war and what we’re asked to put up with during this pandemic.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Fabulous posters. I grew up in WWII and am more than familiar with rationing. We had a Victory Garden in the back yard. Every jar was washed and stored for future use. Jelly jars became our drinking glasses! My mother canned everything in sight! Clothes were worn into oblivion, and then the buttons and zippers were removed for future use. Those garments were kept to use as “rags”. We didn’t go to the store to shop for new clothes, we wore hand-me-downs…..and no one complained because we were thrilled to have something “new” to wear.

    Every scrap of paper was used. Envelopes received in the mail were opened up and used for notes, grocery lists, etc. Rubber bands were reused until they broke. String was rolled into balls and saved. Pencils were used until you were practically holding them by the eraser! My mother would gather all the slivers of bar soap, melt them down, and form new bars of soap.

    My mother volunteered as a “Warden”. She patrolled our neighborhood at night making sure everyone had their blackout shades down so no light could be seen in the event an enemy plane managed to reach our shores.

    My dad was drafted at the age of 35. He joined the Navy. He never spoke about the time he served, but even as a child I knew he was someone to be proud of.

    Wonderful post Dan.
    Ginger

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks for sharing those memories, Ginger. I remember stories, and habits that lingered with my parents and grandparents after living through the Depression and the war. It’s no wonder I am loath to throw something out that might be useful. My brother and I joke about that all the time.

      My dad only spoke of the war on occasion, and never directly. He would have been young, 18 or so when he entered the service.

      Like

    1. It’s true, GP. They prospered and when they would talk about those days, they never sounded bitter or angry. They weren’t boastful, either. They did what had to be done, and they tried to impress that sense of duty on us. Somehow, that evolved to a sense of entitlement, and that makes me sad.

  4. In reading your post and Ginger’s comments, I wonder how our current nation would do in rationing food, gas, not going anywhere and abiding by the rules.

    Nevermind, I guess we already know…

    Have a wonderful Monday and week, Dan!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I loved Ginger’s comment! I remember gasoline rationing during the 70s, and I don’t remember it going all that well – and we were only dealing with not being able to fill our tank every day of the week. We’re seven months into a mild, by comparison, disruption, and we’re literally fighting with each other over stupid stuff.

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  5. Thank you for this post Dan. The sad fact is back then businesses were about sustaining life and not securing early retirement or mega wealth for the owners. Real people living real lives. I have three uncles who were in the service, one old enough to serve in WWII and served under Patton at one point. Frugality, appreciation, conservation and a strong work ethic were an integral part of our rearing at home. My Maw Maw could make a quilt of scraps in any design, all without a pattern. She made dresses for me when I was you g, always my favorites, by standing me on a chair and making a ‘pattern’ using a paper grocery bag.I still don’ know how I managed to make one box of Hamburger Helper feed a family of five but we never didn’t have enough. And they would eat macn cheese five nights a week if I fed it to them! That’s good stuff. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We were not well off, Cheryl, but we never felt like we needed something. People knew how to live and how to find joy in simple things that didn’t cost a lot of money (or any money). Those people could do this pandemic standing on their heads.

      Like

  6. So many of these posters say what we should be doing now…save, reuse, recycle. What a great exhibit this must have been. I raised my kids on Kraft Mac and Cheese, but my heart belongs to Annie’s Mac and Cheese. Plus I love that her little bunny is the symbol for her company. Have a great week, Dan.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thanks for this, Dan. For the past 6 months, this is exactly the sort of thing I’ve been thinking about. People today are so out of touch with reality. They have no idea what real sacrifice is because they’ve never had to do it. The people today who are most vulnerable are the very ones who DID sacrifice so that we could have all of our freedoms, and the privilege to not have to worry as much. Yet asking some to simply wear a mask when they go to the store is thought of as the most freedom-raping thing you can imagine. My brain can’t even comprehend the level of selfishness, ignorance and just plain wickedness that’s required to protest wearing a mask for the sake of others. I look forward to the day when God slaps them across the face with karma.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed this, Wendy. It’s so hard to see what we’re complaining about today as sacrifice in context with what they went through – and these were civilians! The rest of the people were living day-to-day in harm’s way.

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  8. Wow, the posters are amazing. My mom kept her extra ration tickets in her dresser. Now and then, she’d show them to us and remind us that we might experience the same one day. That time has come but we are so divided as a country that I doubt we could pull together for the greater good. Thank you for sharing these, Dan. What a reminder for all of us.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. So many parallels between WWII and fight against the virus. I wonder if they were successful getting the workforce to harvest the crops?
    I have a question for you – the one poster urges shoppers to pay no more than ceiling prices – what does that mean, do you know?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Office of Price Administration (OPA) fixed price ceilings for goods that were being rationed. This was an effort to control inflation as well as to insure there was enough to go around. There were still places where, if you were willing to pay a higher price, you could buy certain items without having to turn in ration points. They were asking people to avoid that practice. I don’t know if there were legal consequences if those merchants were caught. I don’t know for sure, but I think they were able to recruit necessary labor for harvest. The food was as important as ammunition, according to one explanation in the exhibit.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. “Can all you can.” What a different time in which to live. The posters are wonderful, and demonstrate how strong a country can be when everyone works together. Not exactly the template for what is happening now, though. Much to my dismay.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The willingness of most civilians to follow the rules, endure the sacrifices and support the war effort was truly amazing. I wish we could all take a lesson from this. As far as I can tell, we can’t even get people to return their carts to the corral in the parking lot :(

      Liked by 1 person

  11. A very interesting comparison. How times and situations change. And in other ways how they remain the same. Just looking at the posters tells part of the story. The story after we committed to the war. It does not touch on the devastation across the world before we committed to the war. And the devastation when we committed to the war. Nor does it give the perspective of what it took to get us committed to the conflict. Those are all different perspectives. Thanks for putting this together Dan.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There are many perspectives, John. None of these stories are clear cut, but I found this exhibit very interesting. I saw this at the same time as the Manufacturing exhibit for that same time period. Also a program with some mixed results.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Thanks for this post; I was in my tweens during the WAR. I remember rationing very much. Flour and sugar were rations and the red velvet cake became popular as there was no sugar in it. As I live in Idaho, My remembrance is different from my husband’s. I stood in line for nylon stockings each woman allowed one pair. I was old enough so I could a pair for my Mother. We had blackouts and air-raid drills at school. Our news came from the one radio in the neighborhood and during a weekly trip to the movies. The trains passed through at night carrying the Japanese from Oregon and Washington state.
    I now live in a senior retirement Home our generation had unwritten that those were diable went first anyone helped them if needed. The last potluck the table with the older and disabled residents was last and no offer to help them. I was unable to help myself as I was disabled and couldn’t do it. That was the last pot luck I have gone too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s sad that there was no one to help. You and the others of your generation gave so much for this country. My father fought in the Pacific, and my mother worked at home. It was made clear that they made those sacrifices so we would have a better life. But the lesson came with a reminder to help those people who came home and were unable to help themselves. We still remember those lessons, but I’m not sure they are being taught anymore.

      Thanks you for this comment and for all that you did for my generation!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Super post, Dan. I don’t see these posters as propaganda which is defined as “information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view.” I think these posters were to help inform folks on some of the things they could do to help the war effort and some of the things that could hurt as well. I found the posters very interesting. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The exhibit called attention to that question, John and they did include the word in the exhibit title. I tend to agree with you. There were nowhere near the means to communicate to the public then that there are today. These were important reminders.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I get a little uneasy when folks try and re-write history. There is a tendency for historians to view the past through their biased view of today. To include the word propaganda in the title shows little recognition of the extreme sacrifices the home folks made. The word almost mocks the home war effort as something the government made up.(for whatever reason) Okay enough of my soap box. I know you get it. Thanks for listening. (or not) 😊

        Liked by 1 person

        1. You look good on your soapbox, John. I’m going to send you the explanatory poster from the start of the exhibit. I’m not trying to send a message, but you seem interested and I think you might enjoy it. I see the point the curators are trying to make, but I don’t agree. I don’t think the word can span the distance of the examples they’ve given. I appreciate comments like this, so don’t worry.

          Liked by 1 person

    1. I enjoyed life in the time when I was growing up. As things “improved” it’s a mixed bag. I wish we could muster the kind of community spirit that seemed common during the war.

      Like

  14. Dan, I can relate to those who commented they grew up during the war. I did too. I was very familiar with rationing, black out shades, Victory gardens, canning, has shortages, etc. It was a good thing I lived in a small town in Maine. We knew how to survive harsh winters, so food was plentiful. And we didn’t need to travel. My grandmother was a Ham operator and had a German contact. She found out if soldiers were still alive for the Town’s families. Even as a kid, I had duties and never questioned the why. Maybe I learned well. I’ve taken this on this coronavirus challenge and do what I need to do to survive. No questions why. Great post Dan! And the posters tell the whole story. Bravo! 🇺🇸🎶 Christine

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Christine. I’ve really enjoyed the comments from people who have fist hand experience with these times. Hearing about it from my parents and history lessons like this exhibit are the only references I had. Consistent with the other actions during that time, the history that was shared as I was growing up made it sound like their sacrifice was no big deal.

      I think it’s fascinating that your grandmother was a Ham operator and could maintain contact with operators in Germany. Thank you so much for this comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. This is a terrific post Dan. There have been things (since my shopping is limited to online purchases and delivery) that I haven’t been able to get all year… like disinfectant spray. I just paid $15 for one ordinary sized canister of disinfectant wipes, from an off brand that I can’t help wondering if it really contains viable disinfectant — because that was all I could get. I can’t help wondering if the rationing & stamps wouldn’t be a better idea. But this country is on the brink as it is. That sort of move would probably push us over… Hugs on the wing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Our physical stores still limit purchases of certain items to one or two per customer. I think if they had started that earlier, things would have gone better. Still, as you say, it probably would have only added to the stress. People already don’t seem to be dealing well with what are comparatively minor restrictions, at least when compared to the early 1940s.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. What a fascinating look at these posters, Dan! We’ve watched and re-watched “Foyle’s War”, the war from the British perspective and I’ve read lots of novels set in WWII, so it’s fun to see these. It was a very difficult time, but the Brits were in it much longer than we were. Interesting about the mac and cheese. Just got some the other day (Kraft) and we both thought it wasn’t as cheesy tasting as it used to be. I’ve had Annie’s as well, but I think when I do the next Kraft I’ll add a bit of actual cheese to gin up the taste a bit. Of course I could go full out and make mine, but it certainly takes longer than Kraft. The Kraft story reminds me a bit of the Spam story. :-)

    So many did without during the war as well as fought and too often died. Yes, we tend to forget what real deprivation was like and think that we have it so bad when we have to wear a mask or something similar. Thanks for bringing some perspective to it.

    janet

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed this, Janet. I’ve read a lot of history from the military side but I didn’t know much about the civilian story.

      A little extra cheese sounds like a good thing. It’s humbling to see what they had to deal with, compared to our “challenges“ today.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. My parents were married right before Pearl Harbor Day and my dad then was drafted into WWII. From the stories they told, civilians did sacrifice willingly at that time. Now we are asked to make a much smaller sacrifice (wear a mask, social distance), and we have people protesting with automatic rifles at state capitals.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s such a crazy comparison, people willingly sacrificing much for the country’s benefit and people unwilling to take the most minor steps to protect themselves and others.

      Just the fact that they were just married and then separated by the war, probably for years, was a huge sacrifice.

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  18. Hi Dan – it’s always interesting to see things from the American perspective … somewhat different from the British ones – life was really tough over here. If you were in the services, as my parents were, you got fed … but after the war my parents grew parsley to sell – green ‘veg’, while we grew our fruit and veg, and we had chickens for eggs and meat, a pig and piglets … my Dad smoked the meat at home, and to get a better choice of rations – I think it was this way round … I was a vegetarian baby, my mother was a meat eating mother! Our rationing went on til July 1954 – must have been so hard, especially for those who lived on the land … your visit must have been thought provoking. We might need the recipes soon …take care – Hilary

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You had it so much harder for so much longer. And that was on top of your country being attacked on a regular basis. I didn’t realize the rationing went on for so long after the war was over.

      Thank you for sharing your experience here. The personal experiences shared in comments has added more than I could imagine.

      Like

  19. It’s hard to imagine rationing, isn’t it? And today we think wearing a mask is difficult and inconvenient. I didn’t realize Kraft macaroni and cheese was around during the war. Great posters, Dan.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It really is hard to imagine. They lived through that, and worked, and raised children, and still found other ways to support the war effort. I was also surprised to learn that Kraft Mac & Cheese was around. I would have been an easy kid to feed 😏

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, they did! I am so proud of my parent’s generation. Families weren’t all over the place, so there was a tremendous support group. Sadly, this a huge hole today. I’m glad I wasn’t the only one to be surprised that Kraft Mac & Cheese was around then. I would have been that kid, too. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  20. Wow. What commitment, Dan. I can’t imagine Americans consenting to any of those restrictions these days, since even wearing a mask today is considered an assault on “freedom,” Can you imagine trying to limit bacon consumption? Or gas? Great exhibit. And I loved mac & cheese too. :-)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Seriously, bacon? My father served in the Pacific during the war, and my mother worked. Neither my mom or my grandparents ever mentioned the rationing, and my dad never talked about the war, other than to explain things a little. They had also lived through the Depression. I think they were made of different stuff. I didn’t know mac & cheese was around back then. I would have been easy to feed ;-)

      Liked by 1 person

  21. I read a post like this and it makes me realize how not so long ago our ancestors sacrificed so much to get through a war. I grew up in the post-war years and was taught not to waste anything which to this day I still carry that ideology around with me. I really enjoyed those posters …. incredible to think that what(?), only 1.5-2 generations ago this was our country’s reality? Fantastic post, Dan! Thank you! xo

    Liked by 1 person

  22. We were brought up with the idea that almost anything could be reused/repurposed. It explains a lot of the stuff I’m tripping over in my garage. We know about the war, we’ve heard about rationing, but until you read some of the memories the people (above) who lived through it, it’s hard to put it all together. And that’s just our country. The people in England and Europe had it much worse for far longer. I’m glad you liked the posters. They are part of a traveling exhibit from the Detroit Museum, so I would guess they will be close enough for you to see at some point.

    Like

  23. These are fascinating! I have heard about this time, but seeing the details is a real eye-opener. They shed more light on my parents tendency to not waste anything which I inherited to some extent.

    Liked by 1 person

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