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‘If you don’t need it, don’t buy it’ way of life in the 1940s

‘If you don’t need it, don’t buy it’ way of life in the 1940s ‘If you don’t need it, don’t buy it’ way of life in the 1940s

Cadott native Judy (Gannon) Gilles was born in May 1945, and as a baby, has no memory of the rationing that took place during World War II. Instead, Judy relies on the knowledge her mother, Joyce Gannon, imparted about the rationing.

“I just remember all of the things that my mother told me about it,” said Judy.

Because certain food items were hard to come by and soldiers overseas got the largest share of items, Judy’s family and every other American, were issued ration books. The small paper books contained removable stamps, which were valid for purchasing needed food for the household.

Judy still has her ration book, as well those belonging to her parents.

“They were able to get me a ration book as a baby, but I suppose it just wasn’t used,” said Gilles, adding that most rationing ended in August of 1945. “There are stamps left in the three books.”

The ration books from Judy’s family were issued by a local board in Chippewa County.

“I think they (books) were probably standard…but the government kept changing what the books looked like and what the stamps looked like,” said Judy. “And how they were used and what you could buy, as time went on.”

Judy says she remembers her mother telling how tires and gasoline were rationed, as Cadott residents had to appear before local rationing boards and state why the gasoline was needed.

“But you had to prove you needed it,” said Gilles. “If you lived in town and could walk to work, you were not rationed any.”

Because Judy’s father, Francis Gannon, was a farmer and stayed home from the war to help Judy’s disabled grandfather, he was given gasoline for the tractor and family truck to get supplies. Judy says the reason rubber was scarce, was that the Japanese took over some Asian countries where rubber plants were located.

“The synthetic rubber was maybe in development, but it sounds like it had never been put in place,” said Judy.

It’s likely Judy’s grandmother needed extra gas rations, since she was a WOW (Women Ordnance Worker) and worked at what is now Presto in Hallie, making bullets. Judy says she wishes she had asked more questions of her parents when she had the chance.

Included in the rationed items, were flour, sugar, meat, cooking oil, butter and canned goods.

“With one stamp, you could buy 5 pounds of sugar,” said Judy. “Once your stamps were gone for that type of product, you could not get anymore until the next month.”

Some fresh foods were rationed because transportation was an issue, while imported foods like coffee and sugar had restrictions imposed on them. Farmers had it a little easier, as they could grow vegetables and make butter, as well as having their own lard, eggs and milk. If they needed to, they could butcher chickens, hogs and cattle for their protein.

“They were really much better off,” said Judy.

One controversy Judy found in her research, was that her mother said her dad could get additional sugar for bees to produce more honey. However, in looking at the research, sources say that couldn’t have happened, as people would have been upset that beekeepers got extra sugar.

Something that is a certainty, is that anyone who violated the rationing regulations, was subject to a $10,000 fine or imprisonment, or both, as depicted on the front of each ration book.

Now, that’s a big fine,” said Judy. “ Then, it must have been huge.”

The description and occupation of the ration book holder is also listed, as well as the date the book was issued.

Judy says with the current restrictions imposed on outings to cut down on public interactions, as well as a shortage of some items, she has to plan meals for a month in advance – not unlike the 1940s.

“So, you became quite good at menu planning, so that you used everything you had,” said Judy, comparing current times to the World War II era. “You couldn’t let anything spoil.”