Archive for The Way It Was

D-Day + 75 Years

The first time I heard the story of D-Day was in 1984 on the 40th anniversary of the historic event and I was in the living room of my grandparents’ home watching a television special about the day. The anniversary was well documented that year.

I remember the day so vividly because I could gather from my grandparents’ reactions of the show that it was a very special story. This set of grandparents served in the war from their farm in Wisconsin. Farmers were needed on the home front to feed the troops, our country, and our allies.

The videos of the 40th anniversary introduced my 8-year old mind to the graphic footage of Operation Overlord and laid the groundwork for honoring the ultimate sacrifices made by all of those men jumping from airplanes and storming the beaches and the families back home.

Nearly every big anniversary of the date — 50th, 60th, 70th added more and more stories and clarity about the enormous undertaking. And now, the 75th anniversary is upon us and not many remain that lived through ‘the longest day’ to tell their stories in first person.

This video from CBS News commemorated the 70th anniversary and told the story of the Bedford Boys.

 

Photo: Warfare History Network

The relatively small town of Bedford, Virginia sent 35 of their sons to D-Day. Twenty-two perished. The town realized the highest casualty rate from one single American hometown.

News of the battle was reported during the night. It was Sunday morning forty days later when the families started receiving the Western Union telegrams notifying each of their sad news. In the story from CBS News, Lucille Boggess talks about how her mother received the telegrams about her two brothers’ deaths as they were preparing to leave for church. The first telegram was delivered by the sheriff.  The second telegram came by a cab driver.

Today Bedford is home to the National D-Day Memorial. The hallowed grounds freeze in time a tiny glimpse of D-Day. Over 425,000 Allied and German troops were killed, wounded or went missing during the Battle of Normandy on June 6, 1944. It is regarded as the battle that changed the momentum of the war and gave all hope that it would end soon. Each passing year gives us a chance to pause and consider the ultimate price paid for freedom — both in Europe and on the home front as each mother received her yellow Western Union telegram.

Photo: National D-Day Memorial

An Army of 1.5 Million

Aside from talking to the people who lived on the home front or those who have stories from their parents, magazines and newspapers are my next best source of boots-on-the-ground information but it’s not especially easy to find these gold nuggets.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt formed the War Production Board (WPB) in early 1942 to “oversee the conversion of industries from peacetime work to war needs, allocate scarce materials, establish priorities in the distribution of materials and services, and prohibit nonessential production”. The WPB quickly launched nationwide scrap drives that were enthusiastically supported by civilians longing to help in any way to win the war and bring their loved ones home. Campaigns were organized on a city level to collect metal, rubber, kitchen fat, newspapers, rags, and so on.

The War Production Board smartly rolled out the Paper Troopers program, designed to sound like “paratroopers,” to involve schoolchildren in the effort. Troopers were awarded arm patches and certificates for collecting certain amounts.

And then they got called in the Boy Scouts of America.“In order to meet the paper requirements for our military and essential needs, we must save, collect, and move to the paper mills even greater amounts of scrap paper than before. We must do our utmost until the last knockout blow is delivered to the enemy. We again urgently request the Boy Scouts of America to expand and concentrate their efforts with a special nationwide collection of paper during March and April. The goal for the Boy Scouts – 150,000 tons. This amount will strike another potent blow for victory. I am confident the Boy Scouts have the courage and resolution to meet the goal.” – J.A. Krug, Chairman War Production Board. 

The little armies of boys went in for all — a campaign medal was on the line. By final count, 1,500,000 scouts and cubs were cited for “astronomical success” — too successful when it came to my beloved newspapers and magazines.  The WPB had to call a stop to the paper drives. They had no where to store 300 million pounds of paper!

And paper was only recycled as packing material.

“Awarded for extraordinary patriotic achievement in the Boy Scout General Eisenhower Waste Paper Campaign March – April 1945.”

The medal was awarded to individual scouts who collected over 1,000 pounds of waste paper. Imagine the competition in one small town where several scouts were vetting for your waste paper, hoping to make the 1,000 pound mark somehow!

So, you can see what I’m up against in my search for WWII era reading sources, unused cookbook pamphlets, letters, postcards, etc. When faced with the message that paper could bring your son home sooner, and when the army of one and a half million patriotic little boys pulling little red wagons shows up at your front door, it’s a wonder that any sheet of paper remains!

Bucket List Trip: The National World War II Museum in New Orleans, LA

I have just returned from the National World War II Museum located in New Orleans, Louisiana. It did not disappoint!

‘Offering a compelling blend of sweeping narrative and poignant personal detail, The National WWII Museum features immersive exhibits, multimedia experiences, and an expansive collection of artifacts and first-person oral histories, taking visitors inside the story of the war that changed the world.’

The museum is truly an honor to the generation that sacrificed so much to secure our freedom and will always remind future generations of the price paid.

In size, the museum campus covers six acres with five multi-level pavilions, a period dinner theater, and two lovely places to eat on site. For period actors, a specialty shop offers gorgeous era-style clothing and accessories.

Of course, my favorite exhibit in the museum was the Arsenal of Democracy collection — a home sweet home display.  You’ll walk past the huge victory garden mural that was a proud example of using every inch of space available on a lot. Junior must have just come back from a scrap metal drive in the neighborhood.  His wagon sits near the front door loaded with much needed steel, aluminum and paper ready to turn in.  The kitchen welcomes you inside with bright and happy appliances from the era.  “We had that sink!  We had that stove!”

In the living room you’ll come upon a scene of a quiet evening at home listening to the radio and gazing upon photos of those serving in the war, hoping all are safe and will be home soon.

Turning the corner out of the living room brings you to work.  And lots of it! The displays of U.S. manufacturing efforts are incredible. Hello, Rosie!

Must See: Beyond All Boundaries 4-D movie. There is no way to describe just how good this movie experience is. Hint: Sit in the first five rows for optimal viewing.

And my trip is not over yet!  The museum’s digital collections allow anyone with an internet connection to explore personal stories and photos.

 

The Home Legion Medal of Distinguished Service in Homemaking

“Believing that good homemaking is a vital contribution to a better world…

Homemaking should have a greater recognition as a contribution in the world…

I would like to be a member of the HOME LEGION dedicated to good homemaking for a better world.”

So read the Betty Crocker Home Legion membership application in Fall, 1944.

My endless search for home front keepsakes never fails to remind me of the goodness of people willing and supportive of a mission to honor and memorialize the women who held together the country and values of a nation at war.

In October of 2018 I received an email from a soon-to-be friend in Texas who had found The War in My Kitchen through her own research of an item found that was too good to be true — The Home Legion Distinguished Service Medal. !!!!

The gift of this medal was truly the 2018 highlight of The War in My Kitchen. I had never come across mention of a Home Legion medal in all my research or reading and found it to be incredibly difficult to find any Google mention of it either. Piece by piece, through persistent emails, phone calls, and searches I was able to find just two more instances of the medal on auction sites and an honest-to-goodness, still-in-the-envelope Home Legion membership application.

Let me start from the beginning (thank you to Rebecca Brown, an archivist at General Mills, for filling in the details):

“The pin you have is indeed from the Betty Crocker Home Legion, started during World War II. The Home Legion was dedicated to “Good Homemaking for a Better World” and “Greater Recognition for Good Homemaking”. It began in the fall of 1944 through the Betty Crocker Radio Cooking School. To join the legion a homemaker registered (for free) in the Betty Crocker Radio Cooking School. Once Betty received the membership application, she would send back the Homemaker’s Creed (a list of ideas and beliefs that legion members held to) and it could be hung up in the kitchen for inspiration.

Source: General Mills Archive

 

To receive the pin, two questionnaires had to be returned. The first was sent out with the Homemaker’s Creed. It had to be returned before January 5, 1945. Questions on the first report included: “How do you make your meals fit your situation?” and “What do you do to insure taste, appeal, and eating satisfaction in your meals?”  Then, later in January, the second questionnaire was sent. This one was a bit longer. Questions on this one included: “What do you do to insure a smooth-running home?”, “What little tricks do you use for saving time and labor?” and “How do you practice thrift in conserving food, household supplies, and equipment?” The second questionnaire had to be received by March 23, 1945. If both questionnaires were turned in on time, then the homemaker received that pin as proof that they were a distinguished member of the legion.

Source: General Mills Archives

Additionally, the questionnaires (which were more like essays with several prompts) were given out to those who “show that they are making the greatest contribution to other American homemakers”. The questionnaires were judged by a group of experienced homemakers. By the end of March 1945, 20,000 women had joined the legion.”

Source: General Mills Archive

Source: General Mills Archive

So…here’s my task before January 5th: Reply here answering the first questionnaire — How do you make your meals fit your situation? What do you do to insure taste, appeal, and eating satisfaction in your meals?

Wish me luck in earning the Home Legion Distinguished Service in Homemaking Medal! My responses will be posted in my next entry within deadline!

Christmas Gift Ideas From WWII

The Woman’s Day December 1943 magazine found at an estate sale provides us a glimpse into Christmas Past:

Christmas Gift from a Sea-Bee

“I have just seen a girl wearing with great pride a matched set of hand-wrought jewelry especially designed for her. A rare treasure, this lavaliere and bracelet set of shining white metal, and though the proud wearer does preen a bit, she is not to be accused of unwarranted vanity or unpatriotic giddiness. Her polished bracelet, with its entwined heart motif, her heart-shaped lavaliere, were both designed and engraved under the light of a tropical moon by her Sea-Bee husband. The shining white metal came from the wing of an American plane which dropped to rest on a coral strand, after it had put three Zeros in their proper place in Davy Jones’s locker. The lavaliere sways gently from its dog-tag chain. No perfectly matched string of pearls ever had a greater history, no royal bracelet ever a more impressive inscription – “Mimi and Bill forever”. As modern as the blonde young girl who wears it, as simply streamlined as the plane from which it was born, as sentimental as the most doting Victorian heart could desire – here’s jewelry of the hour, heirloom of the future.”

If you’re like me, you hope that Mimi and Bill had a victorious reunion after the war and wonder if the bracelet and lavaliere set still have a home in a jewelry box somewhere. Imagine the story of jewelry crafted from a WWI bomber could tell!

 

Pyrexware. Heck yeah, we girls want Pyrexware for Christmas!

The 1943 ad for a relatively new series of Pyrexware helps us date the pieces that remain in use today.

Notice the Pyrex Double Duty Casserole has a cover that can serve double-duty as a pie plate.

Pyrex Pie Plates from the WWII era had ridged sides and in 1943 featured the first-ever easy-to-hold handles.

The Pyrex Bowl Set of today still features the three nesting sizes sold 75 years ago — 2 ½, 1 ½  and 1 quart.

All are made of clear, see-through glass. (Highly-sought after Pyrex colored bowls were a 1950’s novelty. The bright colors and patterns were a lovely variation to these practical clear pieces.)

“Look for this label for your own protection”. The logo was important because not all glassware was hot-to-cold shatter-proof at the time. Pyrex had been made of borosilicate since 1915. It was an innovative thermal safe glass that could go from boiling hot and remain safe if ice cold water were added. In 1998, when Corning sold Pyrex to World Kitchen, LLC, a Chicago manufacturer, the glassware sold in the U.S. was replaced with lime soda glass. Lime soda glass is more resilient to dropping (anyone else have a mother who was ecstatic about her non-breakable Corning Ware plates in the 1990’s), but not as thermal protective.

Corning Glass Works is still around today, but only holds 8% interest in Pyrex (sold to World Kitchen, LLC).   As the makers of Pyrex during the war, the company was also called on to produce searchlight lenses, Army tableware, hospital supplies and other in the scientific realm, which remains today as its primary focus.

 

War Bonds – The Most Sensible Gift Under The Tree This Year

When was the last time you wore a corsage? Prom? Maybe Mother’s Day or for a wedding? Can you imagine if the corsage worn on any special day — a Sunday or night out — came back in style?

Money not wasted on flowers was better used to buy War Savings Stamps. But, not wanting to be left out of the pretty tradition, the stamps were crafted into a corsage.

 

“A War Savings Stamp corsage comes first on anyone’s gift list. From $1 up.”

How practical was it? It’s hard to say. Magazines were allowed to stay in print through the war even when paper drives were held to aid in the war effort if they served the purpose of advertising war bonds. This ad was such an example of complying with the agreement. Discreetly tucked into articles and advertisements, such things are fun to spot and are a sign of the era.

Marlene Dietrich pinning on a savings bond corsage.

 

Signs of a WWII Veteran

One hundred years ago today, at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the First World War, which killed 40 million people, finally ended. Dubbed the ‘war to end all wars’, it was a day continuously prayed for and hoped for four years.

Twenty-three years later the United States entered the Second World War against all hopes that it wouldn’t be necessary. What happened to the shared notion that the world should never again be involved in such a regrettable tragedy as war?

Until 1954 Armistice Day remained the day to memorialize the lives lost in WWI and to honor its ending. Becoming Veterans’ Day, the holiday honored all those who served in the armed forces at any time.

You could say WWII had two Armistice Days — VE Day (Victory in Europe) on May 8, 1945 and VJ (Victory in Japan) on August 15, 1945 or September 2, 1945 depending on how you measure the end of the war officially.

US troops returned home in full force. There was shortage of boats, trains, buses, and automobiles to bring everyone home to their final destinations. Many had earned their ‘points’ needed to honorably discharge from the military and once they hit shore, were relieved of duty and free to go on their way in a very big hurry.

Shortages in civilian attire made it difficult to determine who was discharged and who was AWOL. It wasn’t possible for every soldier to simply change out of uniform into civilian trousers, shirts, or suits to become non-military. Therefore, the discharged soldiers were given a lapel pin to wear, signifying their approved departure from the military.

It was officially called the Honorable Service Lapel Button and was crafted of glit metal or glit plastic during metal shortages (the plastic versions were allowed to be traded in for a brass version when supplies returned to normal). Though the design is of an eagle standing, about to take flight with one wing outside of the button’s round border, the pin became known as a “Ruptured Duck” because the eagle didn’t quite look as regal as one would hope.

Some veterans wore the button on their civilian lapels for many years after the end of the war and it became widely used as an unofficial symbol of veterans’s pride.

Other signs of a veteran’s home was of course, the blue star banners hung in windows of homes. The number of stars represented the number serving from the same home. A blue star would be covered with a gold star if the serving family member died in service.

One more sign displayed, though not as often, was a welcome home banner. Many versions were used and are very hard to find circulating in antique shops or estate sales today.

The military scrambled to discharge the troops efficiently, but there were many things to consider – life insurance benefits, payroll, bonus dollars, housing, certificates of honorable discharge — lots of paperwork to process. The Department of Veterans Affairs had only been established in 1930 and was still learning the best way to process the 16.5 million men and women who served during WWII (before computers!). It was quite an undertaking and involved many steps that could be mistakenly missed or skipped if not careful. Pamphlets were given to the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines in hopes of making the transition go smoother.

Today, Veterans’ Day 2018, an estimated 496,777 veterans of WWII are living. To each and every one of them I say — Thank YOU and may you live all your days in peace and comfort for the unfathomable valor of your service.  And to the home front veterans of WWII — Thank YOU for the inspiring example of courage, resolve and tenacity that would be impossible to replicate today.

Where Do You Fit In – Finding Your War Job

When the United States entered World War II, American women were called on to serve the nation in many ways. Unprecedented numbers of women entered the ranks of factory workers, helping American industry meet the wartime production demands for planes, tanks, ships, and weapons. It was through this aspect of war work that the most famous image of female patriotism in World War II emerged, Rosie the Riveter. At the height of the war, there were 19,170,000 women in the labor force. Between 1940 and 1945, the female labor force grew by 50 percent. (Source: Susan M. Hartmann, The Home Front and Beyond: American Women in the 1940s (Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1982).)

I just completed a quiz included in the December 1943 Woman’s Day magazine to help me determine “Where Do I Fit In”.  For women who were contemplating a war job, this quiz may have helped to correctly choose the best category to explore.

Ranked answers bring women to ten different categories: A) Manual Jobs, B) Mechanical Jobs, C)Painting or Textile Jobs, D) Scientific Jobs, E) Clerical Jobs, F) Civil Service and Government Jobs, G) Service Jobs, H) Retail Jobs, I) Social Jobs, and J)Inspection and Supervising Jobs.

Women in Manual jobs were needed in canneries, meatpacking or agricultural work.

Mechanical jobs meant lathe operation, drill press, plastic molds, wood working, welding, riveting, or instrument making.

Painting and textile jobs were for making parachutes, cover airplane wings, do upholstery in planes, spray painting, doing insignia painting or being a “doper” on plane wings.

Scientific jobs were for schoolteachers, and they could do draftsman work, tool design, radio communications, color testing, work in the food conservation program, do food dehydrating, become a chemist’s aide or a meteorologist.

Clerical jobs “may not have the glamour of overalls and a blow torch”, but equally essential was the typist, file clerk, messenger, tabulating machine operator, stenographer and production clerk.

Service jobs were for ‘essentially feminine’ women who had “nothing aggressive or masculine in their make-up”. Think scientific child care, running day care nurseries, being a hospital aide, a dietician, teacher or athletic director. She could also run a cafeteria in a war plant.

Retail jobs for those “quick witted and easy to know” girls. According to the quiz, she can take up merchandising, be a stock girl or a checker or get a desk job. She could also fill a variety of jobs in banks, brokerage houses, or insurance companies.

Social jobs were for those “as gregarious as they come”…You probably talk too much but you are entertaining and gay and full of the joy of life so who cares?” These women were advised to become a ticket salesman, trainman, a reservation clerk, a Western Union gal, or a telephone operator.

Inspection and Supervising jobs were for those who did not like the detail work but were true-born executives at planning it for others to do. “You inspire confidence and if you will remember to keep a tight rein on that bubbling impatience of yours, you will have great success in handling other women. You like me and work well with them and you are probably smart enough not to let them know that you can out-think them in many instances. These are jobs for executive women. You’ll fit the bill for inspector or supervisor in war plant or private industry.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It turns out I tied in highest rank for two categories: Manual and Clerical.

Questions for Manual:

  1. Do you read serial stories in the magazine?
  2. Can you knit rapidly without watching the pattern?
  3. Can you hammer a nail without bending it?
  4. Can you stand routine mechanical work without getting bored?
  5. Can you adjust yourself to doing the same thing over and over?
  6. Do you do jigsaw puzzles?
  7. Do you follow exactly the recipes in the cook book?
  8. Do you listen daily to the radio serials?

Manual Jobs: You are one of those salt of the earth gals – the kind that makes a swell wife and mother. You are kind, generous conscientious and painstaking. You never will set the world on fire as you have no creative ability but you could fit right into the production plan at any defense work near your home. You could do bench work, polishing, detail assembling, munition loading, painting of small parts, sewing, winding coils or sorting. You could also do valuable work in canneries, meatpacking or any agricultural work that might be near your community.

 

Questions for Clerical:

  1. Have you studied typing?
  2. Can you do filing?
  3. Are you the quiet “listening” type?
  4. Have you a good memory?
  5. Are you a methodical housekeeper, finishing each task before starting another?
  6. Can you operate any business machine?
  7. Do you keep your dresser drawers so that you can always find things?
  8. Do you know shorthand?

Clerical Jobs: You are the kind of person that the world needs more of today. You are quiet and self-effacing, the perfect buffer for the bombastic dynamos of business. You do each job with a careful eye to details that others forget. You are a true and loyal friend and devotion to duty is your motto. While your jobs may not have the glamour of overalls and a blow torch, they are equally essential when it comes to making the wheels go round. You could be a typist, a file clerk, a messenger, a tabulating machine operator, do stenography or be a production clerk.

 

How much fun was that? Now, back to work I go!

Hot in the Kitchen…And Everywhere Else

Summer heat. Thank goodness for air conditioning, right? Can you imagine living without it? Can you imagine a summer road trip without air conditioning in the car?

Although it was invented by Willis Carrier in 1902, air conditioning was not a home feature during WWII. It was used primarily for industrial quality control.

Air conditioning became an attraction during the summer of 1925 when the Rivoli Theater in New York City installed it as an experiment to see if summer receipts would be positively affected by such a posh comfort. Boy, was it ever well received!

Soon, movie theaters across the country were installing air conditioning systems and pulling in crowds that went to the picture show primarily for the comfort of cooled air and a couple hours of relief from summer heat.

But how else did one survive the heat on the homefront during the war?

Building materials were different. Homes built from earthen materials have been proving their worth since Man lived in caves, but how often do we still find new construction of stone or brick? These materials kept heat out.

Buildings were structured differently. Think old-school, literally. Do you ever pass an old schoolhouse (becoming more rare by the day) and notice how different they are compared to modern school buildings? Back when school days were not called for being too hot, they were built of stone or brick with high ceilings, transoms, ceiling fans, and windows that actually opened and let in cross breezes between rooms on the opposite sides of the building.

Homes too, were structured differently. The layout of a typical floor plan had a stacked effect that allowed open stairways that vented heat up. Upper floors were used only at night with the windows open – hopefully with a breeze of cooler temperatures.

Turrets, cupulas, vestibules, or a widow’s walk were not just attractive on the top of a home, but also served the purpose of ventilating the whole house, or acted as a wind catcher no matter direction the wind blew.

Awnings and window hangs were added to shade out the sun. Shade trees were planted on the east and west side of houses to add additional shade.

And let’s not forget the importance of porches. Some were screened on all sides to create a sleeping porch and others simply served as a place to sit out away from the heat inside.

Iceboxes were called on for relief. Some folks shared stories of putting bed sheets or even their underwear in the icebox or freezer to bring the temperature down to comfortable.

Natural pools weren’t for scenic beauty only. You’d find people at creeks, streams, and lakes taking a dip or wringing out towels to wear around their necks while motoring through or working in the garden.

Kitchens were put to use. Summertime meals were no-bake as much as possible. Sandwiches with a variety of spreads, homemade lemonade, fresh from the garden salads and raw vegetables were typical. Cold soups were plain, but welcomed. No-bake desserts were perfected as refrigerator technology and community freezers became more common.

From the July 1943 Health-for-Victory Club Meal Planner, today’s menu:
Breakfast – Orange Juice, Cooked Cereal with Whole Milk, Buttered Whole Wheat Toast, Coffee and Milk

Lunch – Cream Soup of Leftover Vegetables, Egg and Celery Sandwich Filling on Whole Wheat Bread, Apples, Cookies

Dinner – Potatoburgers, Sour Cream Cabbage, Grated Carrot Salad, Soybean Bread – Butter or Fortified Margarine, Sweet Cherries or Apricots, and Buttermilk

Lunchbox for Tomorrow – Cream Soup of Leftover Vegetables, Liver Sandwich Filling on Whole Wheat Bread, Deviled Cheese Sandwich Filling on Bran Bread, Whole Tomato with Salt and an Apple.

A Social Era Ends

Following WWII, air conditioning was a noted amenity of newly constructed suburban homes to many newlywed couples. Adding modern cooling remains a big project to homes built prior to the war. As common as AC has become, most of us can’t imagine living without it and its constant hum in the background. Where winter used to draw us indoors to hibernate, air conditioning in the summer has accomplished the same anti-social act. Instead of sitting on the porch or under a tree with neighbors and iced drinks to cool off, we stay inside only going out to rush from our cooled homes to a cooled car on our way to a cooled store or office to do our day’s chores or errands (usually toting a light sweater in case the building is too cold!). Yes, we are miserable in summer’s heat but maybe we can be miserable together again sometime.

Lessons Learned

One sunny day last summer my neighbor’s daughter, age nine, came to my door on an errand to borrow some sugar or an egg, or something like that.*

 

As I handed off the item she was there to fetch I also wrote out a note to her mother and handed it to her.  She said, “I can’t read that.  In cursive, I can only read my name.”

 

Her statement stayed with me after she ran off and I thought about it throughout the day — and still am as this is almost a year later when I write this. I had heard about The Common Core education standards years ago when in 2013 it was determined cursive was no longer a needed skill to teach in school. It takes too long to teach, especially when increasingly computers, tablets, and phone texting has all but totally replaced every day message delivery.

 

In the context of The War In My Kitchen, I’m feeling very concerned about the extinction of family recipes. For one reason, while some home-delivery cooking programs like Hello Fresh® and Blue Apron® are bringing cooking back to the home, they are making it almost too easy. It is real food, and in many cases good food, but with it magically showing up at the door, we’re not learning about where food really comes from.  Not even from a grocery store anymore, are kids to think cabbage grows in a FedEx® truck?

 

Second, the corporate recipes are coming printed on glossy card stock in color with lots and lots of how-to pictures through the steps. We’re missing lessons handed down from family members actually showing the techniques and family way of doing the steps.

 

Third, the saddest to me is that we are losing the hand-written — cursive — recipe card with ingredient stains on a scrap of paper or index card. These cards appear to be written in code to someone younger than fifth or sixth grade.

 

Maybe one day it will become in fashion again to learn old-fashioned cooking and baking using the “retro” system of recipes written in cursive; I hope so anyway.

 

If we move too far beyond the current generation of not learning cursive, the recipes will fade and become lost. Sure, we can take the time to transcribe the hand-written recipes to computer and print them out or store them on a flash drive, but we lose something in translation when we stop reading the recipe written in the hand of a great-grandmother or great-aunt who learned very well the core lessons of reading, writing, and arithmetic.

 

 

* Yes, even though I live in the very modern suburbs of Chicago, I insist on old-fashioned treatment from my neighbors where we indeed pass pantry items over the fence or share recipe details. We need to get back to this sort of living and I plan to share some advice that First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt shared with me (and others) very soon.

Christmas 1943

What was Christmas like during the war?

 

For a peek, I turned to the December 1943 issue of Woman’s Day Magazine.

 

“Santa Claus’ bag is still bursting with goodies for Christmas stockings after three years of war. There are enough pecans, peanuts, walnuts, and filberts to fill the stocking feet, but not any of our favorite imported holiday brazil nuts, pistachios, and cashews. More raw materials than last year have been made available for the manufacture of novelty candies, clear candy figures, and hardtack for Christmas.”

 

“Fewer chocolates are on the shelves for civilians since candy makers are manufacturing more 5-cent bars in order to reach more people. The greater part of the familiar candy-bar brands are being sold to soldiers, sailors and marines, while the newer brands, made in place of the ordinary chocolates, find themselves on the 3-for-10 counters.

 

The rich chocolates, however, that are made especially for the Christmas trade are as numerous as last year, but their boxes are more economically designed and wear no cellophane.”

 

A Christmas ham tradition remained strong during the war. Famers produced in record as their part in fighting the war, seeing their honor duty to keep our troops and Allies fed, and to keep everyone on the home front content. 127 million pigs were raised for slaughter in 1943; a 6% increase above their goal for the year. This is nearly 5 million more pigs raised than in 1942. Today, an average of 117 million pigs are slaughtered each year (2009).

 

Do you remember the tradition of stringing popcorn for decorating the tree? How about popcorn balls? In 1943, it was announced that there would not be enough popcorn supply for decorative and eating purposes. “Although the popcorn crop is larger than prewar times, it is lower than last year’s – and more people want to buy it. Corn syrup supplies for making popcorn balls are average; honey, a little above. And you might try puffed wheat balls for variety.”

 

“Good news comes in an orange skin. Christmas will usher in the big crops of oranges from Florida and California which are estimated to be ten per cent larger than the 1942-1943 crop. Tangerines, at the height of their season during the holidays, will be only slightly less plentiful than during the second war-Christmas. There are enough lemons for everyone to haul all the lemon-pie filling he might long for. Candied orange, lemon and grapefruit peel are plentiful.”

 

“There are few canned cranberries for holiday dinners. But now, as in November, there are fresh berries on most markets.”

 

“We have as many turkeys ready for the oven on Christmas day as were available last year. And there is a big market of roasting chickens, but no capons – they require too much feed for wartime production. Geese and ducks and guinea hens are plentiful in most farming districts.”

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