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  Texas : Features : Columns : "It's All Trew"

Rationing reminds of
sacrifices for war effort

by Delbert Trew
Delbert Trew
While shopping the mega-malls of today, reading the reams of media ad materials and watching hours on hours of screened commercials, it's hard to believe that at one time in the past, most the these products were rationed.

On April 11, 1942, four months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the government began rationing all items needed for the war effort and established the Office Of Price Controls to freeze prices, begin rationing and enforce the new rules with strict penalties for anyone disobeying.

Questionnaires were sent home with students for families to fill out in great detail. From this information, the local Ration Board determined the amounts of items your family would require for living. It was the first time America experienced rationing.

More than 122 million ration books containing ration coupons were mailed each month to the American citizens. Strict rules, enforced by the government with offenders punished by law, had to be obeyed by all. The changes were often traumatic.

Current rules plus availability of items information were published in local newspapers under titles like, 'Town & Farm In Wartime' or 'Ration Book Reminders.' Samples of how to fill out the many forms were also published and local people named who could help applicants. Ration Books and coupons became a form of currency. Lost or misplaced books or single coupons became a major headache to owners and theft became a problem. Immediately a 'black market' began buying and selling stolen coupons. Along with rationing, prices of all goods and materials were frozen for the duration of the war. Complaints and requests for change had to be pleaded before the Price Control Office.

Gas rationing was started more to save rubber than gasoline because the Japanese had seized the Dutch East Indies which supplied 90 percent of American raw-rubber supplies. The last new car rolled off the assembly line on February 10, 1942, when factories converted to making war vehicles. Distribution of consumer goods to the public was severely curtailed with the remaining supplies diverted to the war effort.

An example of these extraordinary changes came if your car needed gas. The station owner asked for your ration book of gas coupons. All coupons had to be attached to the book. The station owner had to compare the car and owner identity, the gas type posted by sticker on the windshield and if the gas was allowed by a dated coupon. Only four gallons were allowed and afterward the car owner and station owner had to sign the back of the coupon along with date and car identity.

If you needed a tire, you had to bring an old tire with ID number intact. Inner tubes were often cut, a section removed and then vulcanized back together to make it fit a smaller size tire. All rubber items required coupons in order to be replaced or repaired.

Almost all food items required coupons with items identified by a point system. Everyone saved paper, especially newsprint, along with burlap, fats and cotton rags. This was one of the first examples of recycling by the American public.

Rationing gave the citizens the personal satisfaction of sacrifice for the war effort. Perhaps that is what has been missing from the wars since.

Delbert Trew
"It's All Trew" >

October 17, 2006 Column
E-mail: trewblue@centramedia.net.

See World War II
 
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