The Days of Rationing in the Good Old Days
by Verna Mull
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There were a lot of things that I am sure I do not remember about rationing, but I do have some memories of a few incidents.
I know that each of us had a little book with little perforated pages of various things that one could not purchase without having one of those stamps. It was a little like coupons, only that the purchase was impossible without the ration book stamp.
I recall that purchasing shoes was quite a problem for growing children. There were never quite enough stamps to keep a pair of shoes which would fit growing feet. We owned one pair, which had to do for church and everywhere. (We used a lot of shoe polish.) Some people who didn’t have growing children, actually had Sunday shoes.
My parents and my grandma wore shoes until they nearly fell apart, so that my brother and I could have shoes that didn’t pinch our feet. My grandma cut out cardboard insoles for her shoes when the soles actually got worn through. She used the cardboard from the back of our school tablets.
Going barefoot was the order of the day for many children, especially in the summertime. This was no problem for me, as I always have loved being barefoot. The only problem was putting on shoes for Sunday, when the shoes really pinched, but I wouldn’t have missed Sunday school or church because of a little thing like that. My feet were so grimy, that the Saturday night bath had quite a challenge.
Many other things were rationed that we just accepted; but I remember that sugar, and some other groceries were among the rationed items. Sugar was the one thing that made an impression on me. We were only allowed a certain number of pounds per month, and I recall asking my mother, “Why can’t I have my sugar to make candy?” My mother explained, “I have to use sugar in a lot of things to make theme taste good, and you help eat all of these things.” She also explained that it was difficult to save enough sugar to make jelly for us to make sandwiches through the winter.
Money was short too, so sometimes we didn’t purchase the full amount allowed by the stamp;, and we were given red or blue tokens just like change, so we could purchase the rest, at a later date. The grocer had big barrels of many products, and just weighed out whatever we were going to purchase. I still have a container with some of the old tokens.
Everyone raised a “victory” garden in order to afford, or, be able to buy the food that was needed. My parents raised all of our potatoes and vegetables, and we were able to butcher our meat, as we had chickens, cattle, and pigs which we raised also. Of course, that meant that we always had our milk and eggs too.
Speed limits were at a crawl. We owned an old 1927 Chevy, and Dad didn’t drive over 40 mph to save gas, and vulcanized tires, as these were limited items also. We had many flat tires, with a hand pump to pump them up, and carried a can of patches for the inner tubes. Some of the inner tubes seemed to have more patches than tube. We drove mostly gravel or dirt roads, and with all the horses and wagons that went the same way, a lot of nails shook out of the old farm wagons etc.
When I became a teen ager, my brother was about 18. The speed limits had changed by then, but Dad still drove the same. I recall “tattling” on my brother; because he drove 60 mph, and I was petrified with fear. 60 mph was considered almost as bad as 85, or 90 today.
During rationing times, I recall buying chicken feed. This was an exciting day, as the feed sacks came with pretty designs all over the sack. The material was a little coarse, but all of my dresses were made from feed sacks. Most farm girls dressed this way. I often got to go along and pick out the colors and prints that I liked... Mother got some for quilt backs too, as she and Grandma always quilted through the winter.
My Dad would always say, “It sure doesn’t make much sense, buying all of this material and cutting it in pieces, and spend all winter sewing it back together. Why don’t you just get enough feed sacks alike, and sew them together and quilt that? It would be just as warm.”
Women back then liked pretty things as much as we do today, and quilting was about the only opportunity to try to make a house a home.
Yes, these were the “good old days,” and it was just the norm. I had never known any different life, and as I look back to the home made sleds, and other ways in which we lived, (even the path to the toilet,) I thank God for the simple days in which I was privileged to live.
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Clearly written memories of a very difficult time I am sure! My mom remembered eating peas off a flat iron (never did understand that one....) Thanks for this snippet of life during the depression.