Sunday, October 17, 2010

My best find, ever!

Those of you who have known me for a while know that I have the highest regards for our forebearers who lived during the hard years of the Great Depression. IMHO, what we’ve been going through now is a mere inconvenience compared to life in the years where basics were scarce and mend-and-make-do was second nature. I’ve read a few books about the era, watched a few documentaries, and actually found a diary written in 1943 by a local young lad who grew up to be a lawyer in my vicinity. A few of his entries remark about gas rationing and lights out practices. Along with the memories that my mother has relayed to me, I have the little red tokens that were given to her as change from ration tickets. She explained that if the commodities were less than the value of the ticket, the shopkeeper would give you these, the same as if the transaction was being conducted in cash.

A few weeks ago, another piece of the puzzle fell into my hands. In a bin of mixed goods at a second-hand store, I found some old Office of Price Administration WWII booklets.

It seems that no one who was there that day knew, or cared, what these were. They were on a table that contained such things as old remote controls, toys, curling irons, greeting cards (scattered from the broken rubber band that once held them together), rusted muffin tins, and holiday decorations. That they remained together and were not ripped and destroyed is a joy in itself.

The booklets are each for a woman, man, and 2 ½ year old child. My mother explained that you would register each member of the household for ration stamps. I’ve looked through them several times, trying to imagine the lady of the house as she carefully decided what was needed for meals and how to get the most from her allotment. There are separate stamps for coffee and sugar, the most rare foodstuffs during that time.

The value of these pieces of paper is not great. They are available at online auctions for a few dollars. But when I hold them I get that wistful feeling, like Eddie Albert’s character on Green Acres as he waxed poetic about planting a seed and watching it grow. We may go through hard times for the next few years as we adjust to the “new economy”, but I hope we never have to live through the shortages that our ancestors knew.

My mother pointed out the notice on the back of the booklets. She remembered saving used cooking fats, and getting a few cents for it at the butchershop. This was a valuable commodity that would be used for the war effort.

Today grease is tossed out in the trash. I’m constantly amazed at what a wasteful society we have now become…..


Aimee said...

If I ran this country, one of the first things I would do is implement a national recycling program - and one of the most important items would be used grease. Right now, there is a small market in used waste oil, but for the most part it is still discarded, where it creates all kinds of problems. Cleaning waste grease out of the sewer lines is a task that costs millions of dollars a year in large cities. Imagine if all that were instead collected and used to power publicly owned biodiesel factories!

farmlady said...

We better start doing something instead of talking about it or we're going to all be bit players in the old movie SOYLENT GREEN.

Simply Authentic said...

What a find---and thank you for sharing it here. I always love to learn new things, especially about our history. I am in awe as well that the books had held up so well!

Wendy said...

When I lived in Germany as a soldier, I was issued a ration card. I'm not sure that concerns about shortages were the issue as much as concerns about soldiers and their dependents buying as much as they could of certain American commodities (like American cigarettes, which were very popular) and selling them for a profit on the Germany economy.

It was odd to have the ration cards. I never felt deprived, but there were some months when I'd get pretty close to my limit on certain items :).

I think it would be very cool if we could recycle our cooking grease that way. Isn't it too bad that everything has become disposable and nothing has any value anymore?

MyStory of HiStory said...

That is a really cool find! Wonder how long they had been there before you happened along. Pretty soon you're gonna have quite the collection of WWII memorabilia!

The 4 Bushel Farmgal said...

Hi Amiee,
I like your thinking. Logistically, I think we could have a waste oil recycling program. Getting rid of the used oil is what I don't like about frying, so I bake instead :(

Simply Authentic,
Thanks! It really made me happy to see them that day. Of course, it doesn't take much to make this gal smile :)

Interesting thought! I remember C. Heston's quote, too ;)

I am intrigued by your comment that you never felt deprived when using the ration cards. It's all in how you lookd at it, isn't it?

Your time in Germany must have been very interesting!

Yep, you know I keep stumbling across these things.

Thanks, everyone, for stopping by!