Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Rationing in World War II

For those of us in the United States, World War II began on December 8, 1941, when the Japanese attacked the American fleet stationed in Pearl Harbor. At that time, I was five and in kindergarten. The only thing I knew about war was that Dad worked in a munitions factory in Parsons, Kansas. I didn’t know what “munitions” were until a year later.
         During the next four years, the war hit home in other ways. In early 1942, rationing began with tires and cars. Automobiles factories switched over to manufacturing tanks, weapons, aircraft, and other military products.

During the remaining months of 1942, the government began issuing War Ration Books for items like the following:

·      gasoline—This was necessary to save on the use of tires since no rubber was coming from Southeast Asia, which the Japanese had invaded. To save fuel and rubber for tires, the government imposed a national speed limit of 35 miles per hour.
·      coffee—This became necessary when German U-boats began sinking ships carrying coffee from Brazil.
·      radios, typewriters, bicycles, stoves, sewing and washing machines, metal office furniture, vacuum cleaners, phonographs, and refrigerators—These items were made of materials all necessary to the war effort.
·      shoes, silk, and nylons—These items were made of materials necessary for parachutes as well as boots for the military.
·      meat, oils, butter, margarine, and canned milk.
·      processed food that were canned, bottled, and frozen.
·      sugar, dried fruits, jam, jellies, and fruit butters.

According to Wikipedia, from which I gathered this information,

. . . Each person in a household received a ration book, including babies and small children who qualified for canned milk not available to others. Some items, such as sugar, were distributed evenly based on the number of people in a household. Other items, like gasoline or fuel oil, were rationed only to those who could justify a need. . . .
         Each ration stamp had a generic drawing of an airplane, gun, tank, aircraft carrier, ear of wheat, fruit, etc. and a serial number. . . . One airplane stamp was required—in addition to cash—to buy one pair of shoes and one stamp number 30 from ration book four was required to buy five pounds of sugar. . . . Red stamps were used to ration meat and butter, and blue stamps were used to ration processed foods.   

                                                                                                          . . . To enable making change for ration stamps, the government issued "red point" tokens to be given in change for red stamps, and "blue point" tokens in change for blue stamps. The red and blue tokens were about the size of dimes and were made of thin compressed wood fiber material, because metals were in short supply. . . .                                                                        

As of March 1942 dog food could no longer be sold in tin cans, and manufacturers switched to dehydrated versions. As of April 1942 anyone wishing to purchase a new toothpaste tube had to turn in an empty one. . . .

When Mom, Dad, any my little brother returned to Kansas City in the summer of 1942, we moved to Independence, Missouri. There, Dad got a job at the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant. That fall, when I entered second grade, Mom had to rely on me to purchase groceries after school. We had only one car and Dad, with his gasoline ration, drove it to Lake City.  

Across from St. Mary’s Grade School stood a small corner grocery store. After school, I’d take the cash, ration book and stamps, tokens, and Mom’s grocery list there, and the kind owner would take the rationed food from the wooden shelves and the meat from the glassed case, bag it for me, and collect the right amount of cash, stamps, and tokens. 
Then we’d watch out the window and he’d help me carry the sacks onto the city bus when it stopped at the corner. The bus carried me out into the countryside where my family lived. I did this until 1946 when rationing ended.
That grocery store owner and I became good friends. Behind the counter, he’d tacked a large map of the world. As we waited for the bus, he’d point to places in the Pacific or in Europe and tell me what was happening.
When I was able to decipher the columns of the morning newspaper, I’d see photographs and read articles that I could share with him. Together, he and I followed the war to its end. When victory was declared in Europe on Tuesday, May 8, 1945, he and I sang “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company C” and did a little jig in front of the cash register counter. We’d done our part for “the boys.”

To celebrate, the grocer gave me a Valomilk. I hadn’t had much candy during the war, so I carried this rare treat home. Mom suggested I split it with my little brother, and the two of us gobbled it up. The war was over! Maybe I’d get a bicycle for Christmas!

Postscript: If you’d like to know more about rationing during World War II and see pictures of the Ration Books and other memorabilia, please click on the two following sites: Number 1 and Number 2.

All photographs from Wikipedia.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

So Much for Which to Be Grateful

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you who have found your way to my blog this November morning. May your day be filled with overflowing gratitude for the wonders of our world and the humanity that inhabits it.
         Here's a video from YouTube in which the narrator sums up the gifts we have been given so abundantly. I hope it speaks to you as gently as it spoke to me.

 Just a reminder: Tomorrow—Black Friday—I’m thanking the Universe for the great abundance in my life by giving away free downloads of the Amazon e-books A Cat’s Life: Dulcy’s Story and A Cat’s Legacy: Dulcy’s Story (which was originally entitled Twelve Habits of Highly Successful Cats and Their Humans). Just come back to my blog tomorrow and click on the words beneath the pictures of the two covers on the right-hand side of the page. That will take you directly to the two e-books on Amazon.
         I’ll post this notification again tomorrow. Please let your feline-loving and animal-loving friends know about this gift from Dulcy and me. Peace.

Postscript: If you want to read a funny story about food and not being grateful for it, please read my posting for yesterday about white sauce! 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

White Sauce and Defiance

Tomorrow, many of us will celebrate Thanksgiving by eating an array of bountiful and delicious foods. 

         And so today, I’d like to post one of the few stories I can remember about a family meal. It took place on an autumn evening in November 1944 when I was eight and in the third grade.
         The rule for family meals was that all four of us ate everything that was put on our plate. Mom dished up the food and passed it down the table, which was rectangular. At each end, sat Mom and Dad. My little brother and I sat next to one another on one long side. The opposite long side was against the dining-room wall.
         On this particular evening, Mom passed Dad his plate. Then mine came down the table: meat, potatoes, a slice of buttered bread, and a mound of cauliflower hidden underneath some white stuff.
         “What’s this?” I asked.
         “White sauce. You’ve never had it before, but I think you’ll like it.”
         “Looks like paste.”
         “Try it.” She passed my brother his plate and then dished up hers.
         I eyed the paste. “I’m not eating this.”
         “Dolores, you know the rule. We eat everything on our plate.”
         “Not tonight.”
          “You’ll sit there until you do, Young Lady.”
         The meat tasted as good as mother’s cooking always tasted. The boiled potatoes with butter were delicious as was the bread and butter. The paste congealed.
         Time passed. Mom excused my little brother from the table when he had gobbled down his supper. Dad ate his meal, settled in his easy chair, and read the newspaper.
         Mom removed everything from the table except my plate, glass, and cutlery. Then she sang as she did the dishes. That night the strains of a Cole Porter song drifted into the dining room.
         More time passed. I stared at the wall. From the living room came the laugher of the “Fibber McGee and Molly” radio audience. After the program ended, I looked to my right and saw my brother playing with his Lincoln logs. Mom played solitaire. Dad read.

         For long minutes, I stared at the paste, my elbows on the table holding up my drooping head. Then I tried my defiance again. “Mom, I’m not going to eat this stuff.”
         “Don’t argue, Dolores. You know our family rule about food.”
         “I’m sleepy, Mom. Can’t I go to bed?”
         “When you eat everything on that plate.”
         More time passed. Dad went to bed. My brother fell asleep on the living room floor and Mom carried him to our bedroom. I sat, my head sinking lower.
         The next I knew, I was opening my eyes to a strange view—the rim of the plate. I lifted my head from where it rested on the cauliflower.
          “Mom, can I go to bed now?”
         “When you eat what’s left on your plate.”
         I grimaced as I ate the sauce-covered cauliflower, which was cold. It did taste like paste. Only saltier.
         “I did it,” I announced sleepily. “Can I go to bed now?”
         “You may.”
         I rose from the table, carried my dishes into the kitchen, and went to kiss my mother goodnight. When I leaned over her, she said, “Dolores, some white sauce is sticking to your cheek. Why don’t you go and wipe it off with the dishrag?”
         I scrubbed my face clean of the accursed mess and afterward crawled into bed and slept.
         The upshot of this is that I ate all the white sauce Mom served in the years that followed, but I’ve never been a fan of creamed peas or fettuccini Alfredo or melted white cheese. All pasty.

·      On Black Friday, I want to say “Thank-you” to the Universe for the many blessings of my life. So that day, I’m offering on Amazon free e-book copies of A Cat’s Life: Dulcy’s Story and A Cat’s Legacy: Dulcy’s Story (which used to be entitled Twelve Habits of Highly Successful Cats and Their Humans).
·      If you have an e-reader and would like to read one or both, please download them on Friday. And if you have friends who love felines and other animals or who would be interested in the philosophy of a cat and her human, please let those friends know about this offer.
·      As you know, all they need do is click under the two covers that are displayed on the right-hand side of this blog.
·      Also, my niece Melissa and my blogging buddy Elisa have helped me establish a Facebook fan site. Elisa suggested I add the following code here to let you know about it. I’m not at all sure about Facebook nor exactly what a “fan” page is, but I’ll give it a try. 

All photographs are from Wikipedia.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The 1944 Presidential Election Mishap

As I began third grade in the fall of 1944, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was campaigning for a fourth term as president of the United States. Two events about that election remain with me: the yellow dog and the black, plastic dishpan.
During recess one day, a classmate shouted, “My daddy said you Democrats would vote for a yellow dog if he ran for president!”

After supper, I told my father, who was reading the newspaper, what Cecilia had said. Sure of his superior knowledge, I asked, “Daddy, would you vote for a yellow dog?”
He rose from his easy chair, placed his calloused hands on my shoulders, leaned down, and whispered, “You bet your bottom dollar I would, Dodo.”
“But, Daddy, why?”
“Because even a yellow dog would be better than a Republican!”
That was my introduction to politics.
A few days later, on Tuesday, November 7, 1944, my mom got up extra early, hitched a ride with a neighbor to Courtney school, and served as an election judge. Before leaving, she made corn beef sandwiches, a salad, and cookies for Dad, my little brother, and me to eat for supper because the polls closed late and then she’d have to count the ballots.
One of my daily household chores was to wash the supper dishes while the rest of the family relaxed in the living room. We had no running water, so I’d take a bucket outside, pump it full at the well, lug the water inside, and heat it on the gas stove in a large kettle.

When the water boiled, Mom poured it over the dishes I’d placed in the thick, black, plastic dishpan on the counter along with Ivory dishwashing flakes.
After washing each dish, I’d place it in the porcelain sink. When it held a pile of clean dishes, I’d pour hot rinse water over them. We’d use the water, which drained into a bucket beneath the sink, to slop the pigs.
On that 1944 election night, I had a brilliant idea: Why heat the water in the kettle and then pour it into the plastic dishpan? Why not simply place the pan on the burner, pour the cold water in it, heat the water, and then wash the dishes! Great idea! Why hadn’t my mom thought of it before?          
So that’s just what I did.
As the water heated, I became absorbed in a storybook in the living room. Suddenly, Daddy shouted, “What’s burning?”
Black smoke billowed from the kitchen.

The smoke was as black as that in this photograph.

Daddy, my little brother, and I rushed through the dining room and into the kitchen. Water dripped down the front of the gas stove, puddling the floor. The plastic dishpan had collapsed on one side.
At that moment, the flame beneath the burner sputtered, but the propane gas continued to feed it. The odor of rotten eggs filled the room.
Dad reached forward to turn off the burner. Then he lifted the misshapen black mess from the stove, opened the back door, and threw the glob out onto the stoop.
“Dodo, why did you do that?” he asked.
“It was simpler, Daddy. One step less.”
“Good thinking, but do you see what happened?”
“It melted.”
“But why?”
“That’s what plastic does. It melts.”
“It’s good to think, Dodo,” Daddy said, “but sometimes you stop your thoughts too soon. Think longer thoughts. Okay?” he hugged me and that was that. We proceeded to open all the windows and drive the smoke out into the chilly November night by waving dishtowels through every room.
Afterward, I sopped up the water from the wooden floor and tried to think longer and longer thoughts. It tired my brain.

Postscript: To enjoy a story about dishwashing in the convent back in 1959, click here.

Yellow Labrador and kitchen stove photographs are from Wikipedia.
The smoke photograph if from

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A "Broken Hallelujah"

Ten words on the election:
It’s time to pull together for the good of all.

Prologue to Today’s Posting

This past Monday I read a posting that ended with “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen. I first heard that song when k.d. lang sang it at the Vancouver Winter Olympics in 2010. It led to my writing an introduction for a memoir that I hoped would be published the traditional way.        

            After reading that intro, a friend suggested I write differently. “You’re a  storyteller,” she said. “Tell stories in your memoir.” Then another friend suggested a blog and the two ideas coalesced: an on-line memoir.
            Thus, this blog, begun in May 2011, has featured stories rather than musings. So many blogs I read are replete with wisdom. I’m still looking for wisdom to tap me on the shoulder and announce its presence. In the meantime, I tell stories.
            Yesterday I found that 2010 introduction. I want to share it with you today as proof that I need to stick with stories!

That Old Introduction

I am a “broken Hallelujah.” Within the deep center of myself memory and Presence meet and merge. They proclaim, “I am broken, but I have survived.” What I have survived is my own desperate need to be enough for someone. To be enough that someone would love me despite my brokenness. Only in the last few years have I recognized that what I really want is to be enough for myself.
            The first five years of my life were idyllic. My parents loved me—dearly and deeply. Yet in 1941, when I was five, they left me with friends and took my baby brother with them to Parsons, Kansas. This seeming desertion left me fearful. That fear tripled when my dad began to drink heavily and a neighbor molested me for three months.
            Then came the loss of identity in a Benedictine convent in Kansas followed by twelve years of depression and the hallucination of three different aspects of myself. I kept these hallucinations hidden for twelve years during which I became both actively and passively suicidal.
            I have known my own failure of integrity, fallen into the frigid pit of despair, lost faith, endured Meniere’s.  
            We all have a long litany of the days of our life. This was mine.
            Through it all, I, like you, survived.
            In later years, Dr. Nimlos, an astute psychiatrist in St. Paul, Minnesota, told me that I had the most highly developed sense of survival she’d ever met. It’s like the word survival is branded on my soul. It’s the incised touchstone for each experience.
            I’m only guessing that, however, because in truth much of my life still eludes me. Who is that giggly child called “Dodo”?

            Who is that shy and subdued grade-schooler known as “Dolores?

            Who is that bemused college student hailed as “Dee Ready”?

            Who is that confused nun named “Sister Innocence”?

          Who are they?
            Who is she? 
            I’m hoping that writing this memoir will help me understand her.
            Depression, despair, apathy, deep-down-bone weariness are puzzle pieces. I’ve spent my life sorting them. Looking for like colors. Shapes. Images. This memoir, I hope, will finally reveal to me the picture that is my life. The pieces will sort themselves into the who of Dee Ready. I tell you now that she has come to believe in her own resilience. That was a gift of Meniere’s.
            Had I known before my seventieth year that Meniere's awaited me in its acute, progressive, intractable form, I do not know that I would have chosen to remain alive. Yet because of Meniere’s I now know that what I have searched for all my life is my authentic and true self. This broken Hallelujah seeks wholeness. As I begin this memoir, I wonder if the hardest, the deepest, the dearest wholeness is that which bears the jagged scars of struggle.
            All my life I’ve longed to be loved. To be enough for others. I now recognize, with gratitude, that the friends who have stood by me throughout these many years have loved me in my brokenness, almost despite myself. Now I begin to love Dee. Now I am enough for myself. Or perhaps I am just closer to being that enough. For does the journey of a broken Hallelujah ever end?

·      If you’d like to see the first story I related on this on-line memoir, click here.
·      If you’d like to know how I go about writing the on-line memoir stories, please look at the most recent posting on my second blog—the one about writing.