Second World War: Ration Stamps

Californian recalls using ration stamps to buy groceries during the Second World War

| Good Old Days

To help the war effort during the Second World War, many, many items such as gasoline, tires, food items, meat, sugar, and coffee were rationed. For these we were issued tokens or ration stamps in a very limited quantity. Even if you had tokens or ration stamps, if the grocery store didn't receive a large quantity you had to wait in line for products before the store opened. The store's stock soon ran out. 

On one particular day I arrived at the grocery store early. In my arms I held the baby of a neighbor for whom I baby-sat. My free hand held my small daughter's hand. The grocery stores had carts for your groceries, but they were not built with child seats. A sign on each cart read "Do Not Place Child in Cart." When the store opened, we were still in line as we moved toward the products we wanted.

My small, energetic daughter was becoming restless as the line slowly moved. We were standing next to the shelves of coffee. Coffee was vacuum-packed in glass jars to save metal for the war effort. Customers had bought coffee, but there were about a dozen left. My daughter released my hand, stretched her arms horizontally, made the sound of an airplane with her mouth and ran the length of the coffee shelf.

Her make-believe airplane wings had knocked three jars to the floor, and the sound of the glass jars hitting the floor was like firecrackers. Customers toward the end of the line knew they would be going home without coffee. The store manager did not charge me for the damage.

Could that be why shopping carts today have child seats? 

Lucile Hebert
Yucaipa, California

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. 

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