Tag Archives: rationing

Sweet Memories

23 Oct

I was cooking the other day and managed to spill a good bit of sugar on the floor – the better (or worse?) part of a quarter cup of the stuff. I stared at it for a moment, and then went after the broom. I stood there with the dustpan full of sugar, and The Squire laughed. “You look as if you are going to put it back into the bowl.”

And there by hangs a tale.

I was born in the summer of 1942, a few months after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.   We had a fairly safe and stable life; after my dad got out of the hospital he had a “day job” with the Navy as an “abatu”, training men to go overseas. Sometimes Mum and I lived in the house my parents had bought as newly-weds, and other times we stayed with my mother’s parents. I think I must have stayed there more than she did, as I have a lot of memories associated with the place.

Nearly everything was rationed during the war – shoes, orange juice, canned veggies, eggs, fabric, and of course, sugar. We were luckier than most people, as my grandparents had a five acre farm. Even so, The Government Egg Man came around each week and collected some of their eggs for “Our Boys Overseas”. The only thing that wasn’t rationed  was chicken, as very few people liked it back then. Can you imagine what would happen to American tables if chicken was taken off the menu now?

The highpoint of my three-or-four year old life was going with my grandfather to buy chicken feed, and I got to pick out the two feed sacks needed to make me a new dress. Later on, he joked that I took for ever to select those bags. Much hmm-ing and umm-ing, walking back and forth before I made up my mind.

My grandfather was working for the B&O at the time, and one evening, whether by accident or design, a bag of sugar broke open as they were unloading a freight car. Sugar poured out onto the ground! Pure white gold!  My grandfather said the men scooped it up and put it into whatever was handy – lunch boxes, paper sacks, even pouring it into their hats.

One of my earliest memories is standing between my grandmother’s knees as she gently shook a bowl of sugar back and forth. From time to time, a speck of dirt or cinder would come to the surface, and she’d move that into another bowl. Naturally, each time she removed some dirt a bit of sugar would come with it.  That was the sugar they used in their coffee. The dirt sank to the bottom and you never knew it was there.