Second World War: Sugar Beets and Ration Books

Nebraskan relates tale of a sugar beet farm during the Second World War

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During the Second World War, we had ration books for tires, shoes, sugar, coffee and gasoline. We lived on the farm and raised sugar beets, so we received 100 pounds of sugar a year. My husband was a II sugaroholic" and never learned to use less. When we exchanged work on the farm, the neighbors just didn't put it on the table. He always covered his oatmeal with a layer of brown sugar and put several teaspoons of sugar in his tea and coffee. 

Since we lived on an irrigated farm, we raised sugar beets and potatoes; both required lots of hand labor. We used German prisoners of war to hoe the beets and pick up the potatoes. When they came in the mornings they brought a thick milk soup for their lunch. When we harvested the potatoes I cooked maybe a bucket of small ones, then put butter on them and browned them in the oven. They liked those, but they wouldn't eat sweet corn - that was pig food.

In the summer the prisoners ate their lunch in our yard under the trees. One day I showed them a Life magazine that had lots of pictures. On the front was a picture of one's hometown, and he could see his parents' house, so he knew they were OK. One of them was a pianist, and he loved to come in and play the piano. The others enjoyed the music too.

My husband and his family had lived in the same town as the superintendent of the prison camp, and he invited our family to the camp to eat Thanksgiving Day dinner with him and his family. We sat on the wooden benches and had the same food as the prisoners. My boys, ages 6 and 8, were impressed. What I remember most was the big silver bowl of fruit.

Frances Hoyt Trail
McCook, Nebraska


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.