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Notes from the Paynesville Historical Society. . .

War rationing affected the whole community

By Dolores Hislop

The Paynesville Historical Museum has many exhibits and I try to inform you about each display. This week I will feature the military exhibit. Most of the articles we have given are military based; however, there are also rationing books on display which remind us of World War II and how the residents of Paynesville and the surrounding community were affected by the war.

Rationing is limiting the amount of items or commodities that you can buy or possess. When World War II began, the government decided to restrict certain products. According to War Ration Book #1, the war stopped the supply of certain commodities which usually were imported from other parts of the world.

The nation also went into production to make ships, planes and other war materials. The first rationing was for rubber and then sugar. In 1942, the Office of Price Administration (OPA) gave authority to officials to carry out the rationing program. Schools were involved to determine a family census of the community and were also to serve as distribution centers.

Fuel supplies were also rationed and gas shortages occurred. Coffee also was rationed. Pleasure driving was prohibited in 1943 and tires were patched many times as new tires were scarce. There was a speed limit of 35 mph for cars and there was a ban on selling cars as car manufacturing plants were used for military uses.

When Ration Book 2 was issued, a point system was instituted with point values given for items and letters on the stamp to indicate the time frame it was used for. Blue stamps included: vegetables, fruits, soups, juices, baby food, catsup whether canned, bottled, frozen, dried, or processed. Red stamps were used for meat. Also before Ration Book 2 was issued, a declaration of how much one had on hand was made.

Shoes were rationed also and families repaired shoes instead of getting new ones so shoe repair kits were popular. The ladies wore cotton socks (anklets) with high heels or wore slacks as nylon or silk stockings were not available. Silk was used for parachutes and stockings were recycled that were used.

Scrap metals were recycled, tin cans were melted down, and fat was saved and brought to the meat markets for recycling. Fat was exchanged for cash or ration stamps by the market and the amount received depended on what program was in effect at the time.

It was a time of white margarine as oleomargarine could not be sold as colored. Recipes for cakes, cookies, and baked articles were printed so homemakers could use corn syrup, molasses, or honey in the recipe instead of sugar.

There was also a "black market" for items that were rationed so some people made money by selling things not available because of the war. However, most people complied with the rationing program because it was important to make sure the men and women of the community, who served in the military, had supplies and the means to win the war. Victory gardens were common and provided the vegetables for canning and stocking of food. Women worked outside the home in numbers on farms and stores, factories and offices as the men were gone to the military. It was a banding together of the nation working toward a common goal of freedom that inspired the community.

Rationing was discontinued as the War came to an end and people once again found supplies in abundance.

When I researched this topic, it was surprising to find out where products came from. The dependence on free trade is what makes the nation's supply of goods available to us. At this time, products are produced all over the world and shipped to the United States and there is very little manufacturing done in our country. If a war occurred now in an area of Europe, Mexico, or Asia for instance, I wonder how we would respond to rationing. Hopefully, we would be as thrifty and hard working as the community of the 40s and we can be grateful for their contribution on the "Home Front" to winning World War II.

We invite you to see all of the military exhibit and remember the men and women who have served our community and continue to serve in the conflicts of today.

The museum has been given a display of trade tokens and they are on display. Perhaps you also have some trade tokens to donate and add to this display.

Also recently given was a Model T service and lubrication chart which is interesting to view.

We have a display of the South Koronis Community Park Association in the Lake Koronis exhibit so there are new things added for you to see.

Mark has been busy changing the exhibits and there is now an updated look to the museum this year. We invite you to come and see your museum and the items you and your neighbors have donated.

The museum will be the host for the Ethnic Day on Sunday, Aug. 4, from noon to 6 p.m. Please reserve that day for fun and relaxation on the museum grounds and tour the museum as part of the festival.

There is usually an ongoing list of items that the Museum could use and I will only list some in this article: Mannequins, Water hoses for watering our plants and trees, and a Copier. We do appreciate your interest in the Museum and your donations as it is a nonprofit organization but of vital interest to the Community. It is the repository of your items which make it special. I would like to see it continue for many years to come so we can take our children and grandchildren to Paynesville to see our history instead of traveling to another City. What a wonderful teaching tool for your Community! You can be very proud of the Museum and we hear comments to confirm this from our visitors. Thank you for your support.

I would like to see the museum continue for many years to come so we can take our children and grandchildren to Paynesville to see our history instead of traveling to another city. What a wonderful teaching tool for the community! You can be very proud of the museum and we hear comments to confirm this from our visitors. Thank you for your support.

Information for the article on rationing was gathered from: Meeker County Memories, Meeker County Historical Society; Home Front America, Robert Heide, and John Gilman; Grandma's Wartime Kitchen, Joanne Lamb Hayes; and from the files of Paynesville Historical Museum. The Paynesville Library has the books listed and they make excellent reading on this subject.