I’ve invited gpcox to share another post with us. This one concerns the life of an American Family during the 1940’s. I learned a few things myself.
Gpcox of pacificparatrooper.wordpress.com
Judy’s collection of letters from her grandfather is an excellent example of what the American family endured during the Second World War.
With the onset of war, patriotism certainly skyrocketed as well as marriages, job opportunities and salaries. But here, fresh out of the depression, poverty, divorce and taxes soared. Twenty million people bordered on starvation. There was a shortage of shelters, hospitals and child care facilities. Many youngsters quit their education to help support the family.
Food rationing began. The Office of Price Administration (OPA) was constructed to handle the rationing regulations. Since most
everything went to the military, Americans at home had to tighten their belts once again. If the readers have seen my father’s first few letters home, you know that money was of great concern. Dried, powered eggs were sent to men in combat and also on the market. Liquid paraffin was often used as cooking oil. (If oil was available, it was saved and recycled.) My mother often told me of the start of “margarine,” the make-believe butter was basically a white grease with a yellow capsule. As you “kneaded” the bag, the pill broke and colored the grease to look like butter.
The government pushed to sell war bonds and war stamps. Movie stars promoted them and small children often took the job of selling them. The main problem was that only about one-third of the U.S. could afford to buy them. The war wrapped itself around every aspect of their lives, from newsreels shown at the theatres to the music and news on the radio; even their job, whatever it may be, was somehow involved in the war effort. Approximately 16.1 million were in the U.S. armed forces as opposed to approximately 1.6 today.
On the brighter side of things – the two-piece bathing suit was developed out of the need to conserve cloth. Nieman Marcus stores advertised the apparel as
“patriotic chic.” Victory gardens sprouted up wherever edibles could be grown. And – recycling, which many today consider a new and enlightened concept, went into full swing. Americans saved everything and the government called them “salvage drives.”
The recently posted memories of Aunt Biss are indicative of the times. The children used their imaginations and ordinary objects to conjure up toys and games. Children and adults alike generated their own amusements; it was not solely the military that required creativity, but those of each family. This was a necessary characteristic for survival; something that is not a requirement today; TVs and videos produce entertainment without any effort on our parts.
What is so obvious in Alfred Guion’s letters is the unknowing. To have his sons away from home while the entire world seemed
upside-down leaves a feeling of helplessness that borders on grief. Whether in combat or not, the son’s return is not guaranteed. The little boy you once said, “No, no,” to when he went near a hot stove is out of your protective control. Mr. Guion dearly loved his sons and their letters were as close to them as he was going to be. His love and concern is shown in his words and between the lines.
The military was not equipped to deal with military families. WWII families lived with the war 24/7 and it was a full scale confrontation that touched everyone and whose consequences are still being felt today. The stress could become unbearable. All they were able to do was pray they did not receive the next telegram that began – “We regret to inform you …”
I am not attempting to downgrade what emotions today’s military families are going through, as I experienced those same feelings myself during the first Gulf War when my son joined the Marines; I am trying to clarify the extraordinary circumstances of the country for the WWII era.
Should any of you have additional examples of this time, please comment. Judy and I enjoy hearing from all of you.
This is a pretty clear picture of what your parents and grandparents were living with on a day-to-day basis. Because the war was world-wide, families all over the world had to deal with shortages, deprivation and the added horror of bombing in their country, their cities, towns and villages. This was their life, for YEARS, something hard for some of us to imagine.
As always, your comments are greatly appreciated.