Second World War: Pearl Harbor Day Heralded Food Rationing and Long Days

Kansas woman recalls Pearl Harbor Day and the United States' entry into the Second World War, bringing food rationing and long hours at work.

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Many who farmed during the Depression Era started looking for better-paying jobs before the Second World War. My husband and I were among them. My husband got a job with an aircraft company in Wichita, Kansas, and commuted to work from our hometown of Winfield. It seemed like half the town did the same, men and women alike. 

Then came Pearl Harbor Day, and the entry of the United States into the Second World War. We had gone for a pleasure drive through the countryside, coming home to learn of the terrible disaster. We couldn't believe it. It quickly became a reality, bringing food rationing to combat shortages.

I learned to make soap from all the grease I could save up – supplies were rationed as well, and soap was almost nonexistent in stores. Many used coffee grounds twice, or added a little fresh grounds to yesterday's in the percolator. Honey and molasses were used instead of sugar.

Linoleum was practically non-existent, too. When the day came I could buy a new linoleum rug, I was so happy! We had a battery radio, and when the news came on, we were glued to it. The daily newspaper put out "extras" to keep people informed.

After the Second World War had gone on long enough for German prisoners to be sent to the United States, I was driving by a friend's house in the country and saw a strange man in prison garb walking along the road. I notified the sheriff, but the man had vanished. I later learned he had stopped at my friend's house and got a drink from the well. Their dog barked. The man was very frightened and spoke to the dog in a foreign language, then left in a hurry. My friend didn't go out, but watched him. He was probably starved, having run away from the prison camp. War is terrible for everyone.

I am now 80 years old, but I still remember those terrible years. I have felt since that perhaps the aircraft factories had a premonition of things to come, as my husband started working 12 hours a day a long time before Pearl Harbor. For peace time I thought that was strange.

Mrs. Clay W. Archer
lola, Kansas


Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.