War years challenged comfortable living in ’40s

It goes without saying that summer is coming to an end as we move into September. This can be a nice month with cooler temperatures and crisp, cool nights. Let’s plan to enjoy these fall months because they can be one of the best seasons of the year.

Let’s don’t spoil fall by worrying about the winter that will come along. If we are going to live in this part of Ohio — and it has its advantages and disadvantages — we will need to find ways to enjoy winter. Sometimes when it is cold with a lot of snow coming down, it is hard to find anything to enjoy when we live northeastern Ohio.

Because I am old enough to be retired, I can sit inside during these winter storms and watch it snow. But I can also feel sorry for those who have to be out in bad weather keeping roads clear, delivering the mail and newspaper, and keeping the farms operating.

Speaking of being retired, I am fortunate to have lived a lot of years with many and varied experiences. Some that I remember very well were the years in which we were at war. I remember when my three brothers went into the service during World War II, but I didn’t pass the physical exam and was left at home. I could help Dad and also had a part-time job that was considered an essential occupation during those years.

During the war, we had ration books for many things. Some that I remember most were for gasoline, sugar, shoes and even stoves. Dad had a cobbler’s bench and some shoe leather he had saved and half-soled many of our shoes.

We saved everything. If we happened to get anything packaged in tinfoil, which was not often, we saved that tinfoil and donated it when we had enough. Fat was poured into tin cans to be used again when needed. Clothing was patched and used more than once and passed on from one family member to another.

There were scrap metal drives, and because Dad had a truck, we drove around the township to pick up scrap that had been carried to the roadside. Farmers scrounged fencerows and rarely used areas where machinery had been abandoned for anything that would help the war effort.

Filler for life preservers was scarce and it was discovered that the fiber from milkweed pods was a good, water resistant fiber. So notices were sent out that these milkweed pods were needed. Again we went around in Dad’s truck to collect these pods that had been saved.

If you didn’t have a ration coupon for them, tires were not available. So some cars were put up on blocks until the war was over. New cars were not available, so repairing older ones was a major occupation for good mechanics. Sometimes certain parts were hard to find and repairs were delayed.

Paper was scarce, so much of it was bundled up and sold for a few cents a pound to be recycled. Paper sacks were saved and reused anytime one went to grocery store.

Grocery store products were not packaged like they are today but came in bulk quantities. They would be sold in whatever amounts customers wanted and put in their paper bags.

The war years were difficult for those with family members in various branches of the service. For those at home, they learned to deal with shortages for the good of our country. Not many today remember what those years were like.

Fortunately, all three of my brothers came home safely.

Parker is an independent writer for the Tribune Chronicle. Reach him at 149woodside@twc.com.

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