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 Texas : Features : Columns : All Things Historical :

WORLD WAR II HOME FRONT

by Archie P. McDonald, PhD
Archie McDonald Ph.D.
The first of the "Where were you when..." questions I can answer concerns the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941.

I had just begun the educational process at Averell Elementary School in Beaumont. That big Philco radio that focused the living room prior to the advent of television told us that war had found us. I remember my grandmother crying softly and the strained countenances of my mother and aunt, though I really did not understand why.

The next four years provided more memories of WWII. Lets see, now. Do you remember:

ration books issued by the OPA to every member of the household necessary to purchase such commodities as shoes and sugar. No ration stamp, no purchase, at least legally, but of course some unscrupulous individuals participated in a "black market." The purchase of meat required "red points," dime-sized red plastic disks that equated to so many points per pound allowed;

"A" or "T" stickers in auto or truck windshields, indicating the amount of gasoline allowable for that vehicle. And it cost about 20 cents per gallon;

War Bonds, Series "E," the $18.75 deducted from Daddy's paycheck that purchased a document worth $25 in ten years, and the little books we school kids filled with a stamp every week, at ten cents a stamp, until we, too, had helped pay for the war and put a little nest egg aside. We didn't care that this was the government's way to finance the war and slow inflation, but we did anticipate the agonizingly slow compounding of the interest;

V-Mail, or victory mail, letters received from servicemen overseas that had been photographically diminished to lessen the load of hauling so many letters from America's millions of men in far-flung duty stations. And marvel of marvels, they traveled all that way without a postage stamp;

Scrap drives of everything from rubber -- the first - to all metals, newspapers, even animal fat saved from cooking. I remember pulling my wagon door to door collecting newspapers to be turned in for reprocessing, but I don't remember ever hearing the word "recycling." I also remember searching for discarded cigarette packages so we could separate what we called "tin foil" -- probably aluminum -- used to seal the pack for freshness, rolled it into balls, and turned it in. I also remember lines outside stores on the one or two days per week that cigarettes were available for purchase;

Blackouts -- when the siren sounded, lights were "cut off" and if any had to be illuminated, blankets covered all windows lest the air-raid warden, usually a neighbor empowered to patrol the area, knocked to issue the warning that we were aiding feared but never appeared German bombers.

What I donąt remember is much complaining about these inconveniences. America had a different vision, then.


All Things Historical

December 2002 Column
Published with permission
A syndicated column in over 40 East Texas newspapers
(Archie P. McDonald is Director of the East Texas Historical Association and author or editor of over 20 books on Texas)

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