Saturday, February 5, 2011

Sepia Saturday

Somewhere in my travels (I couldn't tell you where or even when) I found and saved to my files this WWII advertisement -- and only recently re-found it and pulled it up to read.  Isn't this fascinating?  Who'd ever have thought that the bacon grease we throw out on big-breakfast-Sundays could be turned into gun powder if the need arose!?

 I love WWII history, especially as it pertains to life on the homefront.  Living in a time when it's considered a sacrifice to miss American Idol or run out of coffee creamer, it's hard to imagine the voluntary (and involuntary) sacrifices made by my grandparents' generation.  The courage, work ethic, and discipline of the people who won the Second World War is legendary and humbling.   They are aptly called the Greatest Generation.

  I once saw a photo of my grandmother, hair tied up in a bandana, working on her victory garden in the early 1940s. I think my grandfather was in the Coast Guard at the time, protecting our American shores.  It's part of our family lore how he won a medal of honor for saving sailors in a burning ship in New York harbor around this time. My grandmother and her friends and neighbors, though, performed a less flashy but an equally important job, supporting the war effort at home.   Everyone who possibly could grew their own vegetables back then.  Because our American farmers were not only feeding the folks at home but were shipping tons of food overseas to the boys fighting on the front,  victory gardens were not just considered a patriotic effort, but were often the only way a housewife could get greens for her family when supplies were scanty and unpredictable.  Among other food staples, that the US government began rationing in 1942, folks were limited in their purchases of sugar, coffee, meat, fish, butter, eggs and cheese.  Housewives just had to learn to make or raise their own, do without, or find substitutes for things.    Imagine the challenge a woman had making up her weekly menu.  I have no right to complain about the easy job I have, that's for sure!

It's fascinating too, though, the other kinds of things that were in short supply in the '40s because they were needed for war production.  Since silk and nylon, for instance, were used in parachute manufacturing, women around the world made do without stockings -- which up to that time were a fashion staple. It was a common practice for girls in those days to shave their legs closely and -- very, very carefully (probably with the help of a friend or sister!) draw a line on the back of their legs to look like the seams of stockings -- the way they were made at that time.  (The things we girls do for beauty!)

Shellac, which was produced in India, was used for (among other things) making phonograph records, but because of the war in Asia, trade with India was disrupted, and new records became a hot commodity.  Also, due to the interruption in trade, things like shoes, rubber and gasoline became hard to get. In their part for the war effort, children at this time would go door-to-door and scour junk yards collecting things like rubber, aluminum.   

Many of the things we take for granted in daily life were changed.    Families didn 't go on unnecessary rides in the car, not only because they had a limited amount of gasoline to use, but because they didn't want to waste the precious rubber of their tires.  Vacations were spent at home -- if there were vacations.  The work force had been so depleted by the enlistment of so many American men that most everyone worked overtime.  Out of necessity, women joined the workforce for the first time-- in droves.  Many of those that stayed home babysat for those out working.  And, if I know women -- and being one, I think I do -- those women of the forties, especially the Moms, were all using every ounce of their creative energy to  make things as normal as they could at home.    Working, praying, playing -- and saving their bacon grease for the war effort.  Times were hard, but they were tough women.

I think, if times became so troubled again, Americans would rise to the challenge.  At least I hope so.

But I hope we never have to find out.

Ration Blues
(A song from the 1940s era)

Baby, baby, baby,
What's wrong with Uncle Sam?
He's cut down on my sugar,
Now he's messing with my ham.

I got the ration blues.
Blue as I can be.
Oh, oh, me,
I got those ration blues.

I got to live on 40 ounces
Of any kind of meat,
Those 40 little ounces
Got to last me all the week.

I got to cut down on my jelly,
It takes sugar to make it sweet,
I'm going to steal all your jelly, baby,
And rob you of your meat.

(Listen to it here.)

Make a trip through time and visiti  more Sepia Saturday posts, found here!


tony said...

("Waste Fat") That's an amazing cutting ! Something To Think About The Next Time We Eat A "BIG MAc"!
Yes, it was the millions of little sacrifices that won the War& let us hope it never happens again this way.

Mel said...

Great post, photos and historical content. I videotaped my parents telling their grandchildren about the war years - victory gardens, ration tickets, collecting fabric for bandages - it is hard to imagine such times.

Anne said...

Lisa, you throw your bacon fat away!!?? For shame! Jk..My Dad discovered that when you make pie crusts, if you use bacon fat instead of crisco or whatever, it tastes so much better! Does not make your pies taste like bacon, just adds a little something...Try it..We save all of ours..

Laura said...

I may want to print this out (with your permission) and share it with my 8th graders later this year.

Alan Burnett said...

That is a great round-up of 1940s memories. I was almost tempted to put a little 1940s swing music on my iPlayer in order to read it and soak up all the atmosphere. Great Sepia Saturday material.

Tattered and Lost said...

As a child I got a little tired of hearing the stories about the Depression and World War II, but I realize how lucky I am to have had the idea of not being wasteful instilled in me. I make a lousy consumer, but a great recycler.

Thanks for the trip down my folks memory lane.

Karen S. said...

Great, great photos, and favorite is the mother and daughter heading to the kitchen waste dumpster! Very cool post! Quite interesting times back then!

Christine H. said...

We have recently seen thefts of cooking grease from the barrels behind restaurants. People steal it for biofuels. I guess they think nobody will really miss it.

L. D. Burgus said...

It is an interesting post you have created. I have heard so many stories of the things that were turned in for the war effort. I really liked yours.