World War II rationing

By Marion Tucker-Honeycutt | Jun 12, 2019

The combination of the 70th anniversary of D-Day and, it seems, more and more people getting their own gardens going this spring, brought back memories of my brother and I, during World War II, living up on the farm with our grandparents.

Daddy was off in the war in Europe, 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, (no electric or phone bills). People were independent, providing for their own needs, including the lion's share of their food. They had their own water and wood for cooking and heating.

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. You couldn’t hunt moose those days. (And they pranced around in the upper field like they knew it.) In the cellar, shelves full of shining canning jars filled from the summer's gardens, barrels of apples, potatoes, salted down pork, etc. Certainly, we never went hungry.

What food Grampa and Grammie couldn’t provide themselves, they bought or traded for at the general store, for example, butter and eggs for sugar, flour, molasses and coffee — a pair of school shoes.

But during the war, you couldn’t just buy however much you wanted. There was an army to feed overseas so everyone had to ration at home. You had the government ration cards, a booklet of stamps, separate ones for gas, sugar, floor, etc., and you couldn’t buy any more than you had stamps for. Everyone had a booklet. (I still have one of the booklets, half-used.)

So we were very fortunate on the farm. There was plenty of food on hand year-round, as I mentioned, and come spring, the added delight of dandelions, mustard greens and fiddleheads, wild berries, etc., for free in the fields and along the streams.

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.

And since Grampa and the other menfolk 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.

Even so, my big brother planted his own Victory Garden. He was about 8 or 9, two years older than I, and he had a mighty fine little garden separate from Grampa’s gardens. The one thing from his garden I liked most was 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," who ate as many as I picked, until I had 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 schools, now lives in Morrill. Her columns appear in this paper every other week.

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