Tell me your experiences with Ration Books

Today, while engaging in the art of garage sales with Hallgirl1, she picked up five ration books from WW2. (For a song, I tell you, for a SONG!) Since she’s a history chick, she’s familiar with why and how the ration books were implimented, however, what she’d like are some stories. She had the opportunity to briefly speak with the wonderful lady who owned the ration books, but afterwards, she and I were talking and were realizing that the generation that owned this piece of history are in the process of perishing and we’ll soon not have the stories to relate to the articles we may have in our possession.

So, me your stories about ration books during WW2–yours, your grand parents, whomever. The more details, the better.

After garage sales this morning, Hallgirl1 and I made stop at the store to purchase the picture frames and mats, which will contain the five ration books, where we can see the pieces of history of another generation.

I guess this means that there aren’t dopers as old as I originally thought…

Not to over-generalise, but the generation involved in WWII aren’t noted for their computer literacy, unfortunately…

Well, give us old uns a chance here! I have to fire up the boiler every morning to get my computer working. You young whipper snappers don’t know how good you have it!

As for my memories of ration books: I was born in Australia in 1945, and moved to England in 1947, where some goods were still rationed. Among the last things to go off rationing was sugar, so I can remember how wonderful it was that you could suddenly buy unlimited amounts of sweets (“candy” for the Americans) from the corner shop (as long as you had the money, of course, which at that age I didn’t have much of).

So I would have seen ration books, but I really can’t remember what they looked like.

If you would like to hear non-US experience with ration books I can share my experiences with them in Cuba, 50 years of ration books and still counting.

Absolutely, lalenin! Share away!

I have some of my grandmother’s old ration books at home, and I remember her telling me how she used to have to queue for various things. My mother (born in 1935) seems only to remember the lack of sweets (as noted by Giles).

Dad was a very young boy during the War, but he still has one of his ration books, framed & on the wall.

He recalls air raid drills & wardens in his boyhood home, Pittsburgh PA.

Oh yes there are some of us. I’ve been a Doper for a while, and I was born in 1927 (you do the math), so went through the Great Depression, and of course, WWII with it’s ration books. And as somebody posted, you’d be surprised how many of us geezers are pretty much up on computers. Hey, it was our generation that invented the things. I got my first computer in 1981, before some of you were born and built several of my own.

I don’t really know how much I can “tell you my stories about ration books.” I can tell you a lot of hair-raising stories about a lot of things back then, but using ration books was really not, oh, I don’t know, very exciting. You got the damn things and took them shopping. Every store (no supermarkets then, just corner grocery stores) had signs on everything. They gave the price, as they do today, and the number of ration points. When you were ready to pay, we gave the grocer the money, and tore out the correct number of stamps to make the points necessary.

All kinds of things were rationed, but not everything. Most frustrating was when you had enough stamps at the end of the month, but when you went to buy some sugar, meat, butter or such, they were out of it. Lots of things were in very short supply.

Boy, now I can’t remember for sure, but I think there were different color stamps for different products, but as my mother did most of the shopping, not too sure. I do know that people traded; if they had extra for something, they would swap with a neighbor for something they might have more of.

As I recall, most vegetables were not rationed, but often there was not much of a supply, so many people planted “Victory Gardens” and we grew our own stuff.

Of course, gas was rationed too, but as we could not afford a car, so not sure how that worked, but don’t think stamps were used for gas. Every car got a sticker to put on the windshield, A, B or C, I think. Only doctors and those with jobs essential for the war effort got a decent amount. Ordinary people might get enough to drive a week or two during each month, but not very much. Tires were rationed too (as was anything made of rubber) and it was almost impossibe to get them anyway, so people were loath to drive unless necessary.

I can see how these things would be interesting to people today, but for us it was one more thing we had to cope with during the war. I went into the Army at the tail end of the war, and for the first time in my life, had enought to eat! Never did during the Depression, then when we had some income after Pearl Harbor, could not get enough to eat due to rationing. Hard to get too upset about the so-called problems of today. Life, compared to back then, is pretty darn good.

Yes, please.

Here’s a lump of aluminum foil from cigarette packs collected for WWII.

Ma and her siblings had to collect milkweed pods for the war effort. It was used for life jackets.

For threads like this I miss Dopers like Dave Simmons, who have gone to that Great Messageboard In The Sky.


Maybe I’ll call my parents, who are certainly old enough to remember some of that, but asking about those years tends to freak them out a bit of late.

I’m also interested in this stuff. There is some talk about British rationing in Agatha Christie novels, particularly A Murder Is Announced. The movie *84 Charing Cross Road *refers to it quite a bit. And I recently bought a frightfully large book about British domestic life during and just after WWII, entitled Austerity Britain.

My grandmother was also born in 1927 and still has some (American) old ration books hidden away. I’ll ask her about them when next I see her.

In my job of buying things from the public, I tend to see U.S. WWII ration books on a weekly basis. Hey! Everybody had one, and when the war was over you tossed it into a box. So, when cleaning out grandma’s attic/basement, in comes all the history of the 1920’s-50’s.

They have little commercial value as collectibles. Since 100,000,000+ million Americans got them, there’s more than enough left for collectors. My mom, 85 this year, still has ours from the war(I was born in 1944, so I got some stamps myself. I just don’t remember using them :slight_smile: )

I just talked with my mom. She remembers mostly taking MY shoe stamps and buying a pair of shoes for my dad who was in the Pacific. He never got them!

She also remembers that lard was rationed(we were living in Southern VA. where lard might have been used more that butter). She especially remembers that you had to have stamps to buy nylons, but you couldn’t always find them. As others have said, you had a corner grocery where the stamps/points were indicated.

Even after the war ended and my mom and dad and I lived in Arlington VA in 1946, you would see lines of people outside a store, and you ran and jumped in line. You didn’t know what they had just gotten in—you just stood in line because maybe you had a chance to buy something that was still in short supply. Such as a refridgerator. You couldn’t just go out and buy that or a car in 1946. Things were still in short supply.

On the topic of lard. I recently ran across something where they ask all women to do their part and save all the fat they can for the war effort. The fat was collected to provide glycerin.

This has the reasons for fat, tin, silk and nylon reclamation.

I am a 1942 baby so I have slight recollection of the war other than the Africa Corps POWs doing our yard work in Texas and my parents being very, very happy about something in 1945. During the war my mother and I were with my grandparents in rural Iowa when my father was in North Africa or with my father at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. From my mother’s stories rationing was not a big problem in either of those places, except for sugar, car tires and gasoline and that was more of an annoyance than a burden.

In rural Iowa the food rationing was not a problem, except for sugar. If you wanted meat it was easy enough to barter (in my grandfather’s case) a suit of cloths for a side of beef or a half a pig. Most people grew and canned their own vegetables and fruit. Eggs and chickens were readily available. In small towns most people walked any place they had to go anyway so the gasoline and tire restrictions did not mean that much. Until after the war there was still a fair amount of horse based transportation and there was a pretty efficient net of railroads and inter-urban trains.

In cities, where people were not as self-sufficient, things were worse and there was real sacrifice. It was not so bad for rural families who had survived the Depression and were use to relying on what they could produce and doing without what they could not produce.

There were advantages to being in the service, too. My little sister was a sickly child. She probably would not have survived infancy if it were not for the Army’s medical service and the availability at the army hospital of what was otherwise an hard-to-get drug, penicillin.

My mother still has her ration stamp books for sugar and lard.

I have my dad and uncle’s ration books. They are in a scrapbook with pictures of my Dad’s family during that time period. As the unofficial family archivist, I interviewed Dad about them when he gave them to me.

Like Spavined Gelding’s experience in Iowa, most food rationing wasn’t an issue and they had a Class C gas ration as Indiana farmers. My grandfather was also able to barter meat that they raised and butchered for some of the scarce items.

Harmonious Discord mentioned the milkweed pods. My father also collected these, as well as scrap metal when he was a schoolboy for the war effort. Paper was used right down to the tiniest scrap to conserve resouces.

My mother’s family were in a different position. They lived in town and had to depend mostly on food bought at the grocery. Ironically, food rationing didn’t affect them much. They were extremely poor and had many mouths to feed. Her father walked to work, so the gas rationing really didn’t affect them much either. They did plant most of their yard as a vegetable garden, though, but they did that before the war just to help feed the family. Mom says that they traded some of their ration stamps for cold, hard cash at times because otherwise they would be wasted for lack of money to buy the rationed items in the first place.

…There is no way the average American could survive living like this today…

Thank you for the stories. Although intellectually I know this occured, it’s difficult for me to see how it could.

I can’t really speak to having used them, as I’m only 38, but as a kid, I did an interview with my paternal grandfather, who ran a gas station in the years leading up to WWII.

He ended up having to close the station, as he was too honest to accept improper gas rationing stickers. He had the gas, but wanted to do the right thing.

It’s also claimed that he invented the peg-board system, but didn’t patent it, and as a result, we’re just regular folks, rather than stinking rich. I suspect that this is mere family legend though.

samclem—you ever seen old Pulp magazine float your way?