We’ve Been Through This Before

For the past three weeks I have been house-bound, self quarantined would be today’s expression, not from any result of Corona virus but as I recover from knee surgery.

During that time, I have tried to follow online the progress of the US response to increasing numbers of afflicted individuals and communities across America. School closures, limiting the size of groups, church worship services going to online streaming rather than meeting in person, work schedules allowing for telework, and job loss: all of these have affected our family as well as countless families in our communities.

But what has struck me personally have been the food shortages at our local grocery. While the President has urged Americans to use restraint, not to hoard, that there is plenty of material in the supply line, it still seems as if many of the items we put on our shopping list are not available. Who would have thought that, along with toilet paper, there wouldn’t be any ground beef or milk, let alone bread, in the grocery aisles?

WWII rationing from The Ames History Museum. https://ameshistory.org/content/world-war-ii-rationing-us-homefront

Which in turn got me thinking of rationing and the days during World War 2 and America’s response during that time period. The Greatest Generation stepped up with a resilience I’m not sure we are seeing yet in our people. While President Trump has said that we are in a war with an invisible enemy.

“I do, I actually do, I’m looking at it that way,” Trump told reporters during a press briefing at the White House when asked whether he considered the U.S. to be on a wartime footing. “I look at it, I view it as, in a sense, a wartime president. I mean, that’s what we’re fighting.

“To this day, nobody has ever seen like it, what they were able to do during World War II,” he continued. “Now it’s our time. We must sacrifice together, because we are all in this together, and we will come through together. It’s the invisible enemy. That’s always the toughest enemy, the invisible enemy.”


I asked my Mom, who was 12 at the start of WWII, what she remembered about the time, especially how food rationing would have affected her family. Her responses really had more to say about the change in America over the past 70 some odd years than any individual shortage of TP.

“We were not allowed to read newspapers nor listen to the radio. What money I made baby sitting and house cleaning for other people, Mother kept. She did send me to the store once  to buy Snowflake Soda Crackers for 31 cents.  I know leather was rationed, but we only got one pair of shoes a year, so that was no problem.  Meat was rationed , but we could not afford it anyway, sothat didn’t affect us. We had cows, so lots of milk;  we had chickens so we did have chicken on Sunday; usually with a soldier or two, or sailors.

The Arrowhead Springs Hotel in the foothills beneath the big bare arrow head on the mountain had been turned into a naval hospital.  Mother would call the USO and have them send a couple of guys out for Sunday dinner.   And we had plenty of eggs.  Mother did not tell us what anything cost, nor whether it was difficult to get anything.  We didn’t go shopping; Mother made most of our clothes…at least  the girl’s.

Mom (third from right) with her siblings.

I don’t think we were affected all that much by the rationing.  We got hamburger and made spaghetti…big pots of it.  We grew vegetables, had a small orchard of fruit trees, orange and lemon and a few others. (They were living in Southern California at the time.)

From the time I was about eight, we had dancing and music lessons; we sang in the children’s choir at church, played in the children’s orchestra on Wednesday at the high school, and on Saturday at the high school during the summer.  We belonged to the Y, and had library cards. We were really very busy.” Lora Lea Willis Chamberlin

For an interesting perspective on rationing during that time, take a look here: https://ameshistory.org/content/world-war-ii-rationing-us-homefront

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