Archive for The Way It Was

The Greatest Generation’s Advice for Stretching Meat During a Shortage or When You Can’t Get to the Store

Our grandmothers have some advice for our Covid-19 food prepping and planning. Granted, Covid-19 is not the same as war, but scarcity is. It only took me one trip to the grocery store this weekend to realize that the words contained in WWII era cookbooks (when meat and basic staples were rationed) is part of the legacy of the women who kept things together on the home front.

The words below are from The American Women’s 3-Way Meat Stretcher Cook Book: How to Make the Most of the Meat You Buy published for the Culinary Arts Institute, edited by Ruth Berolzheimer and printed in 1943. Whether you are in a meat-shortage situation or trying to make what you have already purchased last a few weeks without leaving the house, these tips may help you think of basic ways to prepare meat and reuse leftovers.

It may sound difficult at first, but when you read through these tips you’ll see how a pound of meat could stretch over three meals by adding something to it to make a small amount more filling at each sitting. I’ll leave the challenge of Meat Gelatin and “Variety Meats” up to you!

Ways to Make Good Use of All the Meat You Get

Be open-minded about using different cuts and kinds of meat. Try new ones. Be prepared to change your purchases to what the market offers. If you buy a roast be sure to have definite plans to use the trimmings and the leftovers.

 

Cooking Meat

Vary seasonings, especially when you use the same kind of meat often. Use a little onion, tomato or green pepper – a dash of herbs or spices to give a different taste.

 

Serve attractively. Serve stews, ragouts or rechauffes in a meat pies, as a filling for hot biscuits, or scallop with macaroni, spaghetti or vegetables in a large or individual casserole.

 

Save all bones, leftover meat, drippings, gravy and meat stock for use in soups or chowders.

 

With Sandwiches

Sandwiches – Use a variety of breads; add catsup, chili sauce, chopped pickle or salad dressings. Use plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables in season.

 

French-Toasted Sandwiches – Spread ground cooked meat between bread slices, dip in egg and milk mixture and brown in hot fat in a skillet.

 

Hot Open-Faced Sandwiches – Place slices of cold or hot meat on toast, bread or biscuits, top with gravy or savory sauce.

 

With Cereal

Loaves and Patties – Combine ground meat with cooked rice, bread crumbs, mashed potatoes, cooked corn meal, oatmeal, cracked or whole wheat, or ground vegetables for quick top-of-stove patties or oven-baked loaves.

 

With Fresh Vegetables

Scalloped Meat – Fill baking dish with alternate layers of chopped cooked meat, or meat stew and cooked noodles, hominy, macaroni, crackers or vegetables; cover with sauce, top with bread crumbs and bake.

 

Meat Baked with Vegetables and Fruit – Put layers of shredded cabbage or kale and sliced apples in a baking dish, top with cooked sausage cakes, cover and bake.

 

Baked Stuffed Vegetables – Peppers, eggplant, squash, artichokes, cabbage, potatoes, onions, tomatoes or cucumbers may be stuffed with rice and ground meat or leftover meat and corn.

 

Chop Suey – Combine browned diced cooked meat with cooked celery, onions, mushrooms and soy sauce; serve with steamed rice or fried noodles.

 

Salads – Combine chopped cooked meat with vegetables and salad dressing; serve with lettuce, watercress, cabbage or other greens.

 

With Dumplings

Stews – Add sliced or diced vegetables to cubed meat cooked almost tender; top with dumplings.

 

With Gelatin

Jellied Salads – Cold diced meat with diced vegetables in gelatin make jellied salads. These are an attractive way to serve left-overs.

 

On Toast

Meat Broiled on Toast – Spread bread, toasted on one side, with uncooked ground beef or lamb; broil.

 

In Soups and Chowders

Soups and Chowders – Add vegetables with barley, macaroni, cracked wheat, whole wheat, spaghetti or noodles to soups and chowders made from meat trimmings and bones.

 

With Stuffings

Stuffings – Stuff boned breast or shoulder roasts, sparerib sections, chops, heart, ground meat roll or rolled strips of steak with bread, cracker, corn meal, fruit or vegetable stuffing.

 

With Dried Vegetables

Meat and Dried Vegetables – Combine ground meat with dried beats. Limas, split peas, marrowfat peas or lentils simmered almost tender; cook slowly until mixture thickens.

 

In Meat Sauce

Meat Sauce – Brown ground meat with leftover gravy or soup stock, onions and pepper; add tomatoes and serve over cooked macaroni, spaghettis, noodles, rice or potatoes.

 

With Biscuits or Pastry

Biscuit Squares – Spread seasoned cooked meat on squares of baking power biscuit dough, seal edges and bake.

 

Meat Pies – Cover stew with pastry, biscuit rounds, mashed potatoes or corn-meal mush.

 

Turnovers – Fold filling of chopped cooked meat in rounds of pastry dough, seal edges and bake.

 

With Croquettes

Croquettes – Combine ground cooked meat with cooked rice; mashed potatoes or white sauce; shape; sauté or bake.

 

With White Sauce

Timbales – Bake ground cooked meat, white sauce and eggs in custard cups.

Souffles – Ground cooked meat, bread crumbs, white sauce, egg yolks and beaten egg whites in a baking dish make a delicious souffle.

 

Creamed Meat – Serve chopped cooked meat with white sauce or gravy on toast, waffles, potatoes, rice or macaroni.

 

In Hash

Hash – Dice cooked potatoes with chopped meat, onion and gravy; sauté in cakes or cover skillet and turn like an omelet.

 

Peanuts – Peanut Butter

Mix chopped roasted peanuts with carrots or other chopped vegetables for loaves or croquettes.

Use peanuts with meat, tomatoes, sliced onion and other vegetables in scalloped dishes and in salads. Combine peanut butter with chopped crisp vegetables, chopped dried fruit, jelly, jam, honey, salad dressing, chopped pickles or hard-cooked eggs for sandwich fillings.

Blend peanut butter with pureed tomatoes for soup.

Thicken hot milk with peanut butter for sauce for scalloped or creamed rice, macaroni, potatoes and other vegetables. Add peanut butter to omelet.

 

If Variety Meats Are New to You

Variety meats such as liver, kidneys and brains are excellent sources of many vitamins and liver is important for blood building.

 

Liver – Scallop with potatoes, crackers rice, macaroni or noodles; make into loaves, patties or dumplings; or mash for sandwich spreads. Be careful not to overcook.

 

Kidneys – Broil or scramble with eggs; or make into stews.

 

Heart – Simmer a long time in moist heat and serve with onion gravy; stuff or slice and braise; or use chopped for meat loaf.

 

Tongue – Simmer and serve sliced, hot or cold with an interesting sauce; scallop with vegetables; scramble with eggs; or mince for salad spreads.

 

Sweetbreads – Parboil, dip in egg and milk mixture and brown in fat; pour melted fat over parboiled sweetbreads and broil; serve creamed on toast, croustades, biscuits or muffins. Parboiled and combined with vegetables and nuts, sweetbreads make a delicious salad.

 

Brains – Serve breaded and fried; creamed on toast; in croquettes; or scrambled with eggs. They can double for sweetbreads in salads.

 

Tripe – Cook tripe until tender, dip in batter and sauté; brush with fat and broil; or serve creamed on toast. Use in pepper pot and chowders.

Spleen and Lungs – Simmer and use in stews or with heart in stews and loaves.

 

Poultry is America’s Sunday Dinner

Chicken, turkey, duck and goose have long been favorites with everybody.  Stuff and roast young well-fattened poultry in uncovered roasting pan in moderate oven. Pour clear fat into jars and use for meat cookery.

 

Stuff and braise older birds or lean young poultry in covered roasting pan.

 

Fricassee – Brown cut up poultry and either simmer in added liquid in covered utensil or bake in oven until tender. Make plenty of gravy. It is a favorite extender.

 

Oven Fry – Fry chicken until thoroughly browned; transfer to covered roasting pan and bake in moderate oven.

 

Salads – Combine diced cold chicken with celery, lettuce or other greens and mayonnaise. Fruits and vegetables may be added.

 

Stew or steam less-tender poultry, to make tender. Cool in broth; or add dumplings or noodles to stew and cook tightly covered. Cream cooked poultry cut from bones; serve with rice or noodles, or on toast, waffles or biscuits.

 

Use chopped cooked chicken as the basis for loaves, croquettes, souffles or timbales, chop suey or hot sandwiches.

 

Serve sautéed chicken livers on toast; giblets in gravy with rice, potatoes or on toast; chopped giblets mixed with fat for sandwich fillings.

 

Fish and Shellfish are Valuable Alternatives

Learn to use all the varieties of fish available.

Bake, broil, poach, broil or sauté fresh fish at moderate heat.

 

Use boned cooked fish in cakes, scalloped dishes, loaves, croquettes, chowders or salads. Extend with chopped vegetables, rice, mashed potatoes, spaghetti or white sauce.

 

Soak or parboil salt or smoked fish and serve in same way as fresh fish. Serve oysters and clams in stews, chowders or scalloped; sauté minced clams in fritter batter. Dip oysters in egg and crumbs and saute; scallop with cracker crumbs or rice; or heat and serve in white sauce on toast.

 

Serve shrimp in salad; French fried; poached in tomato sauce; broiled and dipped in cold sauce; baked in Creole sauce with rice; or scrambled with eggs.

 

Crabs may be steamed and served hot or cold; scalloped; made into small flat cakes and fried; deviled in shell and baked; or served in salad.

 

Alternate Main Dishes to Spare Your Ration Points

Use cheese, eggs, poultry, dried legumes, peanuts and soybeans. Like meat, these foods make a good basis on which to build a meal.

They all contain protein, plus one or more of the other food values found in meat, and usually have additional food values.

 

Hard Cheese is Rationed

Serve cheese with eggs in fondues and souffles.

 

Melt American cheese in white sauce and pour over cooked macaroni, spaghetti or noodles; use this sauce over vegetables.

 

Combine grated American cheese with white sauce or egg for rarebit.

 

Soft Cheese Does Its Share

Serve cottage cheese as main dish, baked with noodles, on greens, as salad or in sandwich fillings.

 

Cream cheese, Neufchatel, Camembert, Liederkranz, Brie and the Blue Cheeses are delicious. Use them for sandwiches, salads, desserts and for cheese trays with fresh fruit.

 

Eat Eggs Often

Serve eggs soft-cooked, hard-cooked, deviled, poached, sautéed, baked or scrambled. Cook eggs at low temperature.

 

Combine hard-cooked eggs with macaroni, crackers or spaghetti, and cheese sauce, top with bread crumbs and bake.

 

Combine chopped hard-cooked eggs with salad dressing for sandwiches; or use scrambled eggs, hot or cold, with tomato sauce.

 

Combine eggs with meat, vegetables or cheese for souffles or timbales.

Poach eggs in milk, tomato sauce, meat or vegetable stocks.

 

Dried Beans and Peas

Simmer beans slowly in covered pan; or bake parboiled beans long and slowly with molasses, mustard, salt pork and onion. Save bean stop for soup.

 

Combine mashed cooked beans with milk, beaten eggs, bread crumbs and seasoning for loaves and croquettes.

 

Combine baked beans with onion, pickle, relish or tomato sauce and mayonnaise for sandwich fillings.

 

Soybeans

Cook dried soybeans and serve in the same way as other dried beans.

 

Press cooked dried soybeans through a coarse sieve or grind for pulp to make soup, croquettes, loaves, souffles.

 

Combine cold soybean pulp with chopped onion and salad dressing, milk or tomato sauce for sandwich fillings.

 

Cook green soybeans, shelled or in the pod; serve hot as vegetable or cold in salads.

75 Years Before Now

The year 2020 marks a number of 75th year anniversaries in WWII history, both on the front lines of the war and on the home front. While the war tested every American wherever they were, doing whatever they were doing, the last year of the war was a rebirth of the country (and the world). The difference between American pre-WWII and post-WWII is dramatic.

The year rapidly changed the American way of life.

Early in 1945, the US and the Allies were in Germany with the success of the Battle of the Bulge. Troops began witnessing first-hand the disturbing atrocities of life under German Nazi rule. Concentration camps were liberated after the shock of their discovery.  One after another camps were discovered starting with Auschwitz on January 27, 1945. News of the camps arrived to the home front slowly. It wasn’t until August, 1945 when secretly taken photos of Auschwitz provided scenes of the camps did it really set in at home about what hell on Earth looked like.

For the most part, Associated Press and Life Magazine reporters provided ample stories and pictorial testaments of the war, but slanted in a way to protect the country’s moral and keep the patriotic spirit strong. Propaganda.

Other photos arriving home in the first few months of 1945 were signaling the end of the war in very graphic detail. On February 13th – 15th US and British air raids on Dresden, Germany obliterated the town, killing approximately 25,000 people. 949 bombers were involved in the attack and 3.9 tons of bombs were dropped to create a firestorm of destruction. I’ll never sew another Dresden Plate quilt block without thinking of the town it was named after in pre-war 1930s.

Battles in the Pacific Theater were fought hard and long. The Battle of Iwo Jima produced one of the most iconic photos of all time (Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima) but it took from January 3rd until March 26th to earn the victory.  In that time 18,000 Japanese and 6,000 Americans lost their lives.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, our 32nd President and only President to serve four terms was sworn in for the final time on January 20th at the White House, not the Capitol with a very brief speech and without a fanfare parade. Sadly, he died only a few short months later on April 12th. A nation mourned for a President that had led them through the Great Depression and a war that was close to finally ending. Many Americans in the minority classes mourned for the hope of a future under their beloved FDR.

Unfinished portrait of FDR by Elizabeth Shoumatoff. Started the day he died.

May 8th marked VE Day, Victory in Europe. What an incredible day! The entire world celebrated together with impromptu parades, dancing and cheering in the streets — and with uh…well…sex. The Boomers Generation officially started. Do you know any 74-year-olds who will be celebrating their 75th birthday in early to mid-February of 2021?

The birth rate in 1946 jumped 20% from the previous year to a whopping 3.8 million. We won’t credit all of the stork flights on the celebrating; many had put off having children during the Great Depression and saw the promise of best times ahead and a good reason to get going.

The celebrating in May was a bit short-lived when the reality of the second front in Japan was remembered. Instead of taking the first boat home, sons and husbands were on the first boat to the Pacific. Here’s where debate of what would have happened if history did not play out exactly the way it did heats up.

The Manhattan Project was nearing a working solution to end the war — The Atomic Bomb. A famous flight by the Enola Gay bomber over the Japanese city of Hiroshima created another iconic photo of history. The huge mushroom cloud rising into the sky was the visual effect of 80,000 instant civilian deaths (tens of thousands more in the following weeks from radiation exposure). Three days later a second bomber was sent with the same outcome over the city of Nagasaki, resulting in another 40,000 lives taken.

Would President Roosevelt have ordered the detonation of the bombs had he been alive? The opinions of the time were harsh. Many Americans justified the bombing with the realization that war in Japan would have cost many, many more lives on all sides — American, Allies, Japanese, and civilians. The race for the a-bomb was incredibly close. Upon takeover of German labs, Allies found that they were hot on the Americans’ heels of solving the formula. The formula, by the way, was shared later on in 1945 with only Britain and Canada.

VJ Day or Victory in Japan day was finally celebrated on August 14th. More babies!

Between May and October 1945 over three million US Soldiers, Marines, Airmen, and Sailors returned home. One million returned home in December alone. Shout out the September 2021 septuagenarians!

Many more had not reached their points needed for discharge from the service and had to spend a few more months stateside on bases all over the US before returning to their civilian lives full-time.

The GI bill and other veteran programs made a good life possible, if they could leave the scars of war behind them. What they saw and experienced overseas has had a lasting effect on every American life still to this day, in bad and good ways. Many of the common foods we now enjoy regularly were novel ideas to the greater population. Take note of how many restaurants and hometown businesses proclaim “Since 1945 or Family-Owned & Operated Since 1946”.  Especially pizzerias. Many returning from Italy could not imagine a life without the taste of the food they tasted from a wood-burning pizza oven during the war.

Our country learned a lot about plastics, laboratory food and preservatives, medical trauma advances, rapid production, women’s abilities (oops…better to tuck them back in the kitchen even if they didn’t want to work there anymore), and human resiliency towards a dream being home in the good ol’ USA.

The ultimate sacrifices made by those that did not come home left their mark. With all the celebrating and happiness can deep grief felt by the parents, siblings, widows, and children of those not getting their homecoming reunion. Not in 1945, not ever. 420,000 American lives were taken by the war.

Rationing ended. First, on August 15th, 1945 with gasoline and fuel rationing ending. Then, October 30th, 1945 with shoe rationing ending followed by November 23rd, 1945 with most food rationing including meat and butter coming to an end. On December 20, 1945 tire rationing ended and sugar rationing ended a little later on in 1946. The scars of rationing include hoarding behaviors and attics full of boxes of random materials that could be used over again — anyone else have grandmothers holding onto a lifetime supply of bread bag twist-ties, snagged pantyhose, glass jars, or clean nice-sized cardboard boxes?

Over the next twelve months, we may hear of other septua-anniversaries and note-worthies. Here are just a few:

February Date Unknown: Anne Frank dies from typhus along with her sister Margot. They were spared immediate death in the Auschwitz gas chambers and instead were sent to Bergen-Belsen, a concentration camp in northern Germany. Their bodies were thrown into a mass grave.

February 9th: WAAF (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force with the Royal Air Force) Margaret Ida Horton, a Fitter Mechanic Airframes took a flight clinging to the tail of a British Spitfire when the pilot forgets that she was adjusting the plane before take-off.  She successfully landed back on the ground after the pilot realized that his plane was not handling correctly.

February 10th: Rum & Coca-Cola is released by The Andrews Sisters. It is one of the most recognized and loved songs of the WWII Big Band Era.

March 4th: Princess Elizabeth (who becomes Queen Elizabeth II seven years later) joins the British Auxiliary Transport Services as a driver. 

March 6th: The trampoline is invented by George Nissen.

March 8th: The first International Women’s Day observed.

March 8th: Phyllis M. Daley becomes the first African American nurse sworn in as US Navy ensign.

March 12th: New York is the first state to prohibit discrimination by race and creed in employment.

April 18th: Well-known war correspondent Ernie Pyle was killed by enemy fire on the island of Ie Shima, Okinawa, Japan. After his death, President Truman spoke of how Pyle “told the story of the American fighting man as the American fighting men wanted it told.”

April 30th: Adolph Hitler and Eva Braun commit suicide (or did they…?).

May 1st: Joseph Goebbels (Hitler’s successor) and wife commit suicide after killing all six of their children.

July 6th: Abbot and Costello’s ‘Who’s on First’ routine is aired.

July 28th: US Army B-25 crashes into the 79th floor of the Empire State Building due to fog. Fourteen people die. Elevator Girl Betty Lou Oliver survives a 75-story fall in the elevator she was operating at the time.

July 29th: USS Indianapolis sunk by Japanese forces. Only 316 survive after being pulled three days later from shark-infested waters. 833 lost souls. Amazingly, this is the ship that delivered components of the A-Bomb to US forces in Japan. They were on their return journey. What would the world be like now had the Japanese taken out the ship on their way to the drop off point?

August 21st: President Truman ends the Lend-Lease Program which was created by President Roosevelt to provide for military aid to any country whose defense was vital to the security of the United States. The plan thus gave Roosevelt the power to lend arms to Britain with the understanding that, after the war, America would be paid back in kind.

September 9th: First computer program bug is discovered by Grace Hopper. She used a tweezers to remove a moth that she found inside a rare massive computer being used by the government.

September 9th: The first successful kidney dialysis takes place in The Netherlands.

September 15th: Hurricane Homestead hits southern Florida inflicting $60M in damages ($900M in 2020 dollars).

September 19th: School integration spurs a walk out in Gary, IN.

October 3rd: Elvis Presley makes his first public appearance at age 10.

October 5th: Meet the Press airs for the first time on radio.

October 21st: Women in France are allowed to vote for the first time.

October 29th: First ballpoint pen goes on sale. It is created by the Biro company.

December 5th: US Navy Flight 19, a squadron of five bombers with 14 crewmembers report problems with navigational systems over the waters near Bermuda and completely disappear. Rescue flight PBM-5 and its crew disappeared in its attempt to find any sign of the missing. This began the mystery of The Bermuda Triangle.

December 21st:  General Patton dies from complications of a broken neck sustained during a car crash near Manheim, Germany twelve days earlier. In 1947, his memoir, War as I Knew It, was published posthumously.

A Love Story for the Thanksgiving Holiday

Postcard: “North Platte, Nebr. Canteen, located in Union Pacific Railroad station is operated by townspeople and neighboring communities. Coffee, milk, sandwiches, cakes, candy, cigarettes and magazines are distributed by volunteer workers to service men and women traveling on the Union Pacific.

There is a story about WWII home front heroes that you most likely have not heard (unless you are living in Nebraska…and even then maybe not). It’s a very important story that must be preserved as a witness to what the American spirit was all about and hopefully can be reborn.

What may be defined as strange fate or ‘seek and ye shall find’ guidance, I came into possession of a book written by Bob Greene from a second-hand bookstore in Montello, Wisconsin. 

The book, written in 2002, is titled “Once Upon a Town: The Miracle of the North Platte Canteen”.  The story behind the story is about a writer who is in search of “the best America there ever was”. I believe he found it and managed to share a story that needs to be honored, remembered, and retold as an example of the essence of America’s Greatest Generation.

The story (credit to John Deadline Enterprises, Inc.) — “During World War II, American soldiers from every city and walk of life rolled through North Platte, Nebraska, on troop trains en route to their ultimate destinations in Europe and the Pacific. The tiny town, wanting to offer the servicemen warmth and support, transformed its modest railroad dept into the North Platte Canteen.

Every day of the year, every day of the war, the Canteen – staffed and funded entirely by local volunteers – was open from 5:00am until the last troop train of the day pulled away after midnight. Astonishingly, this remote plains community of only 12,000 people provided welcoming words, friendship, and baskets of food and treats to more than 6 million GIs by the time the war ended.

In this poignant and heartwarming eyewitness history, based on interviews with North Platte residents and the soldiers who once passed through, Bob Greene tells a classic, lost-in-the-mists-of-time American story of a grateful country honoring its brave and dedicated sons and daughters.”

In a time when sugar was rationed, the women who took turns volunteering (some driving for hours pre-dawn to make it to North Platte) their pantry and made certain that every train had a birthday cake, knowing that someone on the train was very likely traveling to war on their birthday.

The trains would only be stopped for the time it took to fill the water tanks or load coal from the depot; typically only 10-15 minutes. But just those few minutes were enough to overwhelm the troops with the love, kindness, and memories of fried chicken, egg salad sandwiches, and cake. For too many on those trains who did not come home, it was the last good meal they would enjoy — a thought that was always present on the minds of the volunteers and the soldiers.

Bookkeeping records from a few of the women’s groups describe the unimaginable amount of baking and sharing that came with each volunteered day:

25 birthday cakes, 39 1/2 dozen cup cakes, 149 dozen cookies, 87 fried chickens, 70 dozen eggs, 17 1/2 quarts of salad dressing, 40 1/2 dozen doughnuts, 20 pounds of coffee, 22 quarts of pickles, 22 pounds of butter, 13 1/2 quarts of cream…

Sixteen women of another community donated 52 dozen Easter eggs, 600 bottles of milk, 2,000 buns, six hams, 12 sheet cakes, one quart of chicken spread, three boxes of apples

This was all precious food that would have gratefully been on their own tables, but lovingly donated and prepared with gratitude and love for another mother’s son on his way to war.

As Bob Greene described so well, the story of the North Platte Canteen is a “love story between a country and its sons” and a miracle.

It’s November as I write this – the time of Thanksgiving, with traditional thoughts centered around bountiful harvest and gratitude for the American graces of safety, community, and kindness. I hope it is within your reach to find someone with a story that stands witness to kindness that has not become rare or extinct in this country and perhaps honors a home front hero.

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!

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