up in World War II wasn't
all bad. There were some good days, like the time my uncle, Pfc. Paul Jones, brought
me a big box of Hershey bars from the commissary at Ellington Field, where he
was stationed. While not rationed, Hershey bars were short in supply, a rare wartime
For sure, the government rationed sugar, leading us to make certain
adjustments in our cooking and eating habits. Uncle Paul and the Ellington commissary
couldn't help us out in the sugar department.
With three bountiful fig
trees in our yard, our family enjoyed preserved figs but the process of preserving
fruit takes sugar, lots and lots of sugar. For the duration of the war, Mother
had to substitute corn syrup for that major ingredient.
Tyer, my friend since the first grade, has an unusual story about sugar rationing
in her family.
“My mom and grandmother preserved figs, too,” Meredith
said. “It's funny -- they always had sugar to cook figs. I couldn't understand
why we had sugar for figs, and not candy, until about six months after the war
was over, I watched Grandma go out to the mysterious 10 by 10 building out in
her backyard. It was always locked and Grandma had the only key. It was on a 6-inch
ring with all her other keys. They never left her body.
“So, as I watched
her, I thought this is my chance to see what is so secretive about that building.
I snuck up behind her and peeped over her shoulder. I could not believe what I
saw -- there were bags and bags of sugar. They touched the top of the room. You
could not even walk into the room, it was packed so full of sugar. They had been
in there so long it would take a hammer to break the sugar up. That's when I realized
that sweet little Gray Hair Granny was a hoarder. Then I remembered the day when
Joanne, Barbara and I had been shopping for that one bag of sugar, we were at
Meredith was referring to the time that she and her cousins,
Joanne Ellender Ernst and Barbara Boudloche Sheppard, went all over Baytown looking
for a one pound bag of sugar.
“My Aunt Lily (Lillian Boudloche Ocker)
said she would make us fudge but she was out of sugar. We soon realized there
was not a grain to be found.”
were another rationed item that Meredith remembered.
“We were given two
stamps a year for each family member and that meant we could only have two pairs
of shoes a year. Mom would buy me Girl Scout shoes. Talk about ugly, but she was
right. They lasted a year and if I didn't out grow them I wore them another year.”
Butter, anyone? Meredith and I both recalled our introduction to margarine
during WWII when butter
was rationed. Because the margarine was white, our mothers mixed it with a yellow-colored
substance to make it look like butter. “I thought Mom had bought butter,” Meredith
recalled. “She told me later that I had just eaten margarine on my toast.”
In our home, the "fake" butter caused somewhat of a crisis. My father, who ordinarily
was not picky about food, strongly objected to margarine, and no matter how yellow
my mother made it look, he complained it wasn't the real thing.
doing without butter wasn’t nearly as bad as the lack of bubble gum. Meredith
remembered that a family friend, Eddie Cox, who owned the Yellow Jacket Inn restaurant,
would obtain a box of bubble gum every once in a while during WWII.
“Well, one day while we were visiting at the Yellow Jacket Inn, he pulled a box
out from under his counter. He opened it up and gave me one, just one piece of
bubble gum, but it was like winning the lottery.”
Meredith treasured the
one piece of bubble gum so dearly that she chewed it and then saved it over for
the next day, determined to make it last as long as possible.
ended, Brunson Food Market in Baytown
advertised the arrival of its first postwar shipment of bubble gum. I remember
joining a long line of bubble gum fans, waiting to enter the store. Our line was
so long that it extended across the street, literally stopping traffic.
Meredith wondered if the kids today could adjust to the rationing required in
WWII. “It did teach me one
thing,” she said, “and that was to do without. I don't think we complained. It
was for the soldiers.”
Wanda Orton Baytown
July 20, 2012 columns
Topics: World War II
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