Archive for The Way It Was

Pitch Black

Has anyone ever told you that carrots are good for your eyes and will help you see better at night?  If you’re like me, you were told this by a parent or grandparent that probably heard it first during World War II. Here’s where it all began…

 

From my hometown newspaper (The Ripon Commonwealth in Ripon, Wisconsin):

 

A test black-out will be made on Friday Evening, September 18, 1942 9:00 to 9:15 o’clock.

 

Air raid wardens are asked to prepare their respective areas for this black-out and see that he following general instructions are carried out:

 

  1. All lights and illumination outside or visible from the outside of any building, either through doors, windows, skylights, or otherwise, shall be immediately put out. Lights inside any building may be kept on or turned on only where no lighting is visible from the outside.
  2. No door, window or other exit shall be opened if the opening of the same will allow light to be visible from the outside.
  3. All lights on any signs or billboard or other similar structure shall be immediately put out.
  4. All street, traffic and beacon lights shall be immediately put out.
  5. All persons, except duly authorized persons, shall immediately leave all streets, squares parks and open spaces and shall proceed to the nearest cover, avoiding the crossing of streets, alleys and other public places as much as possible.
  6. Operators of vehicular traffic shall immediately draw to the side of the highway or street and stop in such a manner and in such a place so as not to double park or obstruct the reasonable use of the highway or street, fire hydrant or police or fire station driveway or other emergency driveway. Extinguish all lights.
  7. No person shall wear any arm band or other insignia issued by the Fond du Lac County Council of Defense unless he shall be entitled to wear the same under the rules and regulations of said Council of Defense.

 

Not common inland as much as coastal areas, black-outs seemed to be one of the scariest realities of nation at war. Pitch black. Everywhere. To avoid aerial landmark detection should a bomber threaten the heartland and major supplier of food, black-out drills were important.

 

Have you ever noticed stop lights have a shield over the top of each light? The addition of the top shields and traffic lights were a result of World War II and the need to minimize the appearance of streets and heavily populated areas to hide from bombers overhead.

Oh, and those carrots? Well, it turns out the rate of accidents and injuries dramatically increased during black out times.  Drivers and pedestrians had a harder time seeing and avoiding each other. It was a problem for sure and one of the safety advisories given by the government that stuck in the mind of my grandmother — eat carrots.  They help you see better in the dark.