20 million victory gardens
The combination of the 70th anniversary of D-Day and getting my garden going this spring brought back memories of my brother and me, during WWII, living up on the farm with our grandparents.
Daddy was off in the war, Mama was working in a hospital in Connecticut and we kids were being raised by Daddy’s folks, Grampa Roy and Grammie Mable up on Tucker Ridge. Tucked into the forest 20 miles north of Lincoln, life on the Ridge was simple. There were no telephone poles bringing power to the farms. People were independent, providing for their own needs, including most of their foods.
Fruits and vegetables came from their gardens, meats and milk (and cheese and butter), from the barn, chicken and eggs from the hen house. Other food sources were the woods and waters for fish and venison.
What food they couldn’t provide themselves, they bought or traded for at the general stores, for example: butter and eggs for sugar, flour, molasses and coffee for a pair of school shoes.
It was a good life. There was plenty of food on hand year round, either in the gardens or shelves full of shining canning jars filled from the summers' gardens, barrels of apples, potatoes, salted down pork, etc. Certainly, we never went hungry.
The War, however, created a shortage of food across the country as the need to feed the troops siphoned off supplies. So the rallying cry became “grow your own, can your own,” and the “Victory Garden” was born — nearly 20 million of them.
People grew them on their lawns, in empty lots, on rooftops, in parks, in flower boxes — anywhere they could dig and put in seeds. Adults and children alike got into the effort. As a result, much of the food from the big producers was freed up to go to the troops.
The government also issued "ration books" for buying things like sugar, butter, eggs, cheese, meat and gas. (I still have one of the ration books.) We folk on the farms were lucky, being able to supply most of our foods ourselves, needing the ration stamps more for only sugar, flour, coffee and gas. And since Grampa and the other men folk didn’t work off the farms, they didn’t need as much gas as city folk. The normal routine stayed the same — piling into Grampa Roy’s ’33 Ford V8 for a trip to town on Saturday mornings. And besides the stamps, we could still trade butter and eggs for the dry goods.
Even so, my big brother planted his own Victory Garden. He was about 8 or 9 and he had a mighty fine little garden separate from Grampa’s gardens. The one thing from his garden I liked most were his radishes. I really loved those radishes. But when I asked him for some he said I’d have to earn them! So we struck a deal, so many radishes for so many wild strawberries.
Fortunately, there were plenty of wild strawberries on the farm. So I’d head off with my basket and Joe Dog, our ‘genuine mongrel,’ and pick enough for a good trade.
I still love radishes, but my brother’s Victory Garden radishes were the best I have ever had.
Marion Tucker-Honeycutt, an award-winning columnist, a Maine native and graduate of Belfast, now lives in Morrill. Her columns appear in this paper every other week.