Guest Post – Introduction to American Family Life – GPCox

 

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.

Ration Coupons

Ration Coupons

Food rationing began.  The Office of Price Administration (OPA) was constructed to handle the rationing regulations.  Since most

Save Oil

Save Oil

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.

1940's 2-piece bathing suit

1940’s 2-piece bathing suit

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

Price (stamp) cost

Price (stamp) cost

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.

Take care.

Judy Guion

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57 thoughts on “Guest Post – Introduction to American Family Life – GPCox

  1. The Emu says:

    Thank you for an excellent personal insight into into the effects the war had on the home front.
    Excellent reading.

    • jaggh53163 says:

      The Emu – Thank you for your comment and I’m very glad you are enjoying them. I believe my family’s story is a piece of history and there isn’t a lot of this type of information available. I’m happy to share.

  2. Mary Ann says:

    Your guest post by GPCox was a nice addition.. It can imagine it took strength and imagination to push through troubling times.. I think flour sack dresses were a great idea! If we only continued to be frugal, I believe the world would be more thankful 🙂

    • jaggh53163 says:

      Mary Ann – I was excited to connect with GP Cox over 5 years ago.Her insight and research regarding the Pacific Theater gives us a different perspective on life during the War. Our blogs compliment each other and give us a more complete picture.

  3. Onisha Ellis says:

    Thank you for sharing this. Letters and handed down stories are all the upcoming generation will have to learn from.

    • jaggh53163 says:

      Onisha Ellis – Since so much of our history is being shortened or completely left out of history books, first-hand accounts of life for the American family during WWII is one way for future generations to learn from the past. Without an understanding of where we come from, it is very hard to figure out where we are going. I am honored to share the story of my family during this very trying time period. Thank you for your comment.

  4. Onisha Ellis says:

    Thank you for sharing this story. With most of the WW!! generation gone, letters and stories need to be shared. I attended the funeral of a WWII vet last week.

    • jaggh53163 says:

      Onisha Ellis – Thank you for your comment. I think it would be wonderful if more people took the time to listen and record the memories of older generations who are still with us. It takes a little bit of effort but with a tape recorder and time, it’s relatively easy to get older folks to share their stories. These stories give us insight into how generations pass on their legacy.

  5. Thanks for sharing GP and Judy. My parents were young adults during the war. They married shortly after the war was over. Dad (NY: family of 8 children was in the Navy in the South Pacific. Mom in California. Unfortunately we never got to hear their stories, so this was a peek into their past for me.

    • jaggh53163 says:

      Bette A Stevens – Thank you for your comment. I feel that this is the story of my family, but it is also the story of other families around the world. The sentiments expressed by Grandpa about his fears and expectations for his sons is universal for parents everywhere… no matter on which side of the conflict their country was fighting. Human emotions transcend geographic and political boundaries. Grandpa gives us a parent’s perspective about their children coming of age during WWII.

  6. Great job GP! I’m always impressed by the detail of your posts and your ability to share your knowledge so well. This is an excellent post and thank you for keeping memories alive! Thank you Judy!

  7. Jennie says:

    Wonderful post, GP. Our generation, children of the Greatest Generation, understand what it was like, but we really don’t know. Passing that information onto future generations is incredibly important. Thank you for doing just that.

    • jaggh53163 says:

      Jennie, It is very important for children to learn about the lives of their ancestors. It gives them an understanding of where they fit in the history of their part in the world. It also helps them understand the importance of different life styles and how they all work together to form one cohesive story. GP does a fantastic job giving us insight into the day to day realities of the battles in the Pacific during WWII. My Blog focuses on the day to day realities of life for the American family during that same time frame. Together, we flesh out life during the 1940’s. Thank you for visiting m log. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

    • GP Cox says:

      Much appreciated, Jennie. I learn as well when I research for a post. There is no end to the wisdom of that generation.

  8. shoreacres says:

    I was born in 1946, so stories of the war, and mementos of that time, were common. I still have some of the ration coupons from my family. My parents ended up in Rock Island, Illinois during the war, where my mother was a “Rosie The Riveter.” Both grew up in coal mining communities in southern Iowa, and things certainly did improve for them, thanks to the new opportunities for employment. When they began dating, Dad was in Illinois and Mom in Iowa. Every weekend, he would hitchhike home to see her — the purchase of a first car was occasion for great rejoicing!

    • jaggh53163 says:

      shoreacres – I was also born in 1946 and many baby boomers appreciate the letters, photos and memorabilia of that particular time in our history. The art of writing is fast becoming obsolete and I am proud to be able to add to the knowledge of that piece of history. GP does the same thing with the battle in the Pacific. I am very thankful that we connected five years ago and recognized how our Blogs complimented each other. I’m glad you stopped by and look forward to reading your posts.

    • GP Cox says:

      It makes me feel good to know that treasures such as the ration stamps are still preserved. Such as the stamps you sent me, Linda, will eventually be in the National Museum of WWII in New Orleans – younger generations will be able to view them.

  9. jfwknifton says:

    Apparently, the British during rationing were at their healthiest ever. No hamburgers and ice cream in those days!

    • jaggh53163 says:

      jfwknifton – That is the viewpoint I would also expect from those who lived through that piece of history. The Greatest Generation were the “greatest” because of their attitude and positive outlook on what we were fighting for – a better world.

  10. I enjoyed GP’s post. Thanks, Judy

  11. I think this picture has been lost. That responsibility–I could only imagine being so tough. Thanks for sharing this, GP.

    • jaggh53163 says:

      americanmilitaryfamilymuseum – Thank you for the re-Blog. I feel that both GP and I contribute to the understanding of the bigger picture of our history during this extraordinary time frame. It only helps us understand who we are and where we came from.Thank you for helping to spread the word.

  12. Tippy Gnu says:

    In spite of unemployment reaching near zero, it must have been very tough to live during those war years. Some naively say that the war improved the economy. But how was the economy improved when there were widespread shortages, and everything was rationed? That doesn’t seem like prosperity to me. It’s not the sort of economy I would care to live with.

    • jaggh53163 says:

      Tippy Gru – Actually, the economy did improve, it just took a while before civilian contractors could switch from war production back to civilian production. American families had endured the war for 4 long years and they were thrilled that the war was over and the servicemen were home again. New businesses were popping up everywhere and time-saving appliances were making an appearance. I believe, on the whole, American families were very happy and had the patience to wait as conditions improved.

      • Tippy Gnu says:

        Certainly after the war ended, the economy improved. But during the war, with all the shortages, I just have a hard time believing that was an improvement over the Great Depression. The only improvement I’m aware of is the sharp decline in unemployment, caused by the need for workers to build tanks and bombs, and so forth.

  13. Great post. Thanks for sharing. Hugs!

    • jaggh53163 says:

      Teagan R Geneviene – Thank you for the visit. I’m glad you enjoyed this. I’ve added Guest Posts from GPCox each Sunday for about another two months.

  14. I’ve come from GP’s site. Born in England in 1942 I can recognise much of this

    • jaggh53163 says:

      derrickjknight – Thank you for the visit. The interesting thing about my Grandpa’s letters is that he expresses the emotions of parents around the world, not just in the United States. No matter which side your country was fighting on, parents had the same fears and questions concerning their loved ones. The feelings were universal.

  15. GP Cox says:

    Reblogged this on Pacific Paratrooper and commented:
    Here is another post I wrote 5 years ago – what a terrific project those Guest Posts were – I am thrilled Judy is reblogging them.

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