Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Stuff I Learned As A Kid--Chapter One

This is one of the posters I recall seeing in merchant's windows. I didn't have full comprehension of how rationing worked, but since my uncle was a Navy medic, I understood that if I went without, he would have enough of whatever he needed to make it home safe. My childish logic worked. He came home safe and sound. 

If you're a kid during WWII, you learn things by osmosis. I know I did. The lessons taught weren't meant to be lessons. They were just part of everyday life in a nation where everything was rationed, all the better to supply our troops first and we citizens last. It was a time of ration stamps and wooden tokens, mended clothes, and unusual foods on the dinner table. I was young enough to know no better. For me, going without wasn't a big thing. Everybody went without--and I personally never saw anyone pouting or ranting about it, for it was an era when every American I knew stood shoulder to shoulder against a common enemy.

In the small farm community where I grew up, farmers and city dwellers alike bartered and traded, especially when the month's ration stamps were gone. Because we had pigs and chickens, with a ready supply of eggs, dad traded our supplies with the farmers who raised beef or who had milk cows. Oddly enough, I grew up strong and healthy, even though I filled my tummy with unpasteurized milk straight from the cow. The one thing I remember is how creamy the milk was. Not at all like today's offerings. I also vividly recall how good that milk was cold rather than straight out of Old Bossy. But maybe that was just my personal taste. At any rate, I not only lived but flourished. Selling unpasteurized milk these days is illegal. Maybe drinking it is illegal too. Do you suppose this belated confession will land me in jail?

We ate strange things. Weeds were a big favorite--especially since they were readily available long before the garden vegetables were fit for the table. Actually, dandelion greens were fought over when mom cooked them. Dad showed me and my sister how to look for the youngest ones. The empty lot behind our house was always green with some weed or another, and once my sister and I knew what to look for, we went at it with gusto. There was such a small window where they were tasty, so we grabbed all we could so mom could cook them up, sprinkle them with vinegar, salt and pepper. We didn't know people weren't supposed to eat weeds. If neighbors today saw me on my hands and knees in the empty lot down the street gathering up dandelions, do you suppose they'd have me committed?

Duck is tasty; rabbit is downright good; doves and quail are so small you have to eat a lot of them; venison is delicious; pheasant is dry unless loaded up with lots of mom's onion gravy. Oddly enough, I thought nothing about eating whatever dad brought home from his hunting forays. My sister and I were told to eat it so we did. And even though we liked chicken the most, we knew dad sold all he could to the local grocery stores and restaurants, so there wasn't always chicken left for ourselves. Besides, we needed to keep the eggs a coming, so there were always a lot of hens clucking around the chicken coop and barnyard. I do not remember one time when any of us complained about the food. We kids were taught to be grateful that we had enough to eat. According to today's guidelines for health, we were most likely over-proteined youngsters. Do you suppose anything bad would happen if the USDA found out about my overly carnivorous past?

Mended clothes can be uncomfortable. Most of the time, the mending was inconsequential. Unless the torn seam had frayed and mom had to take bigger seams to repair the damage. It was worse with blouses than skirts. Underarm seams chaffed the skin when sewn too tight and Lord knows, I put up with some chaffed skin in my day. Socks were the worst. Mom had a small light bulb she stored in a little basket where she kept darning needles, assorted colored floss, and a mixture of holey socks awaiting surgery. My sister and I hated darned socks. As thorough as mom was, making small lattices of embroidery floss across the hole, the sock never laid smooth, and since most of the holes were in the heel....well, you can imagine how comfy they were to wear. One day I got up nerve enough to tell her what I thought about darned socks and why couldn't we just go buy new ones? That was the day I learned that socks for soldiers came first and there were no ration coupons left to buy socks, even if they could be found. Do you suppose I could sue the government for my having to grow up wearing darned socks that blistered my heels?

To be continued....

Author's note: Seems I learned more than I realized for as I was putting this story together, it dawned on me it was far too long for a single blog. I've broken it into chapters. You can read more next week. Blessings to all my followers. Thank you for being so faithful to my blog.

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