Archive for The Way It Was

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.”

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.