Today, as many people reflect on the wars of the twentieth century, “rationing” seems to serve as a great buzz word of the World War Two era. In spite of a practice so common and mundane, many people do not fully appreciate the challenges and difficulties connected with this part of daily life. Reading the pages of the Sherburne County Star News, the burden of rationing and the pressure to maintain a semblance of normalcy becomes apparent.
|Ration book issued in Sherburne County, 1942|
In Sherburne County, the greatest rationing challenge impacted farmers and the agriculture industry even before the war began. As the winter of 1941 set in, advocates of the federal government urged farmers to keep their machines in good repair. “New equipment in many instances will not be available” next year, the paper reported. The war machine first rationed automobiles and tires, later sugar, gasoline, and pharmaceuticals joined the list. 1942 marked a year of even more stringent rationing as raw materials such as aluminum and steel came in short supply. The Star News suggested in one headline: “People May As Well Get Accustomed to Rationing.”
The Office of Production Management (the OPM), first developed the rationing programs. A federal agency that created local offices to enforce rules and rationing laws. The War Production Board (the WPM) quickly took over the OPM, with a stricter adherence to the rationing programs. The WPM issued the ration stamps to regulate and control access to scarce items. Almost like coupons, individuals could not purchase some items, such as sugar or cooking oil, without redeeming ration stamps.
As the war stretched, the government developed national programs to highlight civilians and their significant sacrifice, this way make the entire country appreciate self-sacrifice. One such program featured Mabel Hislop, as an example of sacrifice. By 1944, of her ten sons, eight had been drafted or enlisted in some branch of the military. That year she was featured when she gave all her kitchen pots, except one soup pot, to the local steel drive. In the feature she allowed cooking would be difficult, but insignificant if it helped “bring her boys home.”
For most everyone, like Mabel Hislop, rationing and sacrifice became common during the four years of World War Two. Yet, more than 75 years later, society seems to have lost the meaning attached to these tasks so central to life in the 1940s.