A community newsletter serving New Melle, Defiance, Augus​ta, Marthasville, Dutzow​​ a​nd surrounding areas.

World War II Rationing

Submitted by Ellen Knoernschild

Rationing began in early 1942 with tires and sugar, expanding to food items and gasoline in December 1942. The Japanese had cut off the supplies of rubber from Java, so what rubber there was was needed for tires for the military. Shoes were added to the list if they had rubber soles. The manufacture of tennis shoes was not allowed.

Industrial alcohol and sugar for the soldiers used up most of the sugar supply. When rationing started any sugar you had on hand was deducted from your allocation. The day after Pearl Harbor housewives who remembered World War I cleaned grocery stores of all their sugar. The ration was about 2 pounds per month per person. Application had to be made for extra sugar for canning or wineries to make wine. Whiskey disappeared because distilleries were making industrial alcohol instead.

Gasoline rationing started in December 1942. Non-essential drivers were allowed only 3 - 4 gallons a week. Farmers, health workers and those with military jobs got more gas, but basically pleasure driving was out. There were no repair parts anyway.

Ration books for each family member, good for only a month, were issued. A monthly amount of 10 gallons of heating oil was allowed. I don't know how far this would go in the winter. 64 red (for meat, cheese and butter) and 48 blue (canned fruit, vegetables and beans) stamps were issued monthly. There was no limit on cottage cheese, so it soared in popularity. Coffee and baked goods were not rationed but there were shortages, as well as on rationed items.

Each item had a point value, based on #2 cans (1¼ lbs). Cans of vegetables and fruits were 16 - 24 points. 1 lb. of meat or cheese was 7 - 12 points, butter 16 points but margarine 4. A small jar of ketchup was 15 points. When you had used all your points you were done for the month. Also, the Office of Price Administration adjusted points for items as supplies rose and fell. But there was little grumbling.

The government often visited farms to make sure they were growing as much as possible, though inability to repair machinery and the shortage of labor due to the draft cut into what they could produce. POW's from Germany and Italy and Mexican workers were used on farms. Many people planted victory gardens.
Recycling of kitchen fat (for soap) and scrap metal were pushed. Appliances were not available because steel was used for planes. Nylon stockings were not available (nylon was used for parachutes). There was a black market for almost everything. People with extra coupons sold their books (coupons were invalid if torn out). Rationing continued until 1945.