My dad likes to make comments about how soft my generation is.  (Don’t all dads?)  Even with fighting two wars, we’ve never had rationing.  The stories from WW2 make for good anecdotes in a Sunday morning post.

Wikipedia says on this date in 1940, Britain started food rationing.  I work with a Scottish immigrant, and he has mentioned rationing of eggs even after the war ended, and that because he was young, he was allowed an egg a week.  His mother would soft-boil the egg, cut the top off, and give the little bit of egg in the top to her elderly father.

I’m sure there was a black market for ration books then, just like with the EBT cards and food stamps today.  One of my grandfathers raised pigs and sold meat on the black market whenever he needed extra money for medicine or emergencies.  My grandmother used lemon candy instead of sugar to sweeten tea.  A great-uncle had the right ration sticker for gas but had a hell of a time finding tires.

One story my aunt told me was receiving a ration stamp for shoes, so she could buy a new pair for her wedding.  I think you only got two pairs of shoes a year, so that was a very nice wedding gift.

Any stories from your parents or grandparents?

9 thoughts on “Rationing”

  1. My dad used to go around town collecting old tires. He would get one, put it in a makeshift wagon, and keep walking. He did this from sun-up to sun-down, and would get 5 cents per tire.

    My grandmother (mom’s mom) made her own sugar from her own cane which she grew. She used it to trade for scrap and tires my grandfather would need on the farm.

  2. My grandfather told of the townsman who was sure that rationing was coming. He propped up the dining room table with bricks and stacked several hundred pounds in sacks of sugar on it. Then he went before the ration board and told them the only sugar he had in the house was on the dining room table (Geneseo, IL_

  3. My Grandpa Lind was a farmer, and could get all the gas he needed, but it was dyed blue, and every now and then, the Minnesota State Patrol would sample the fuel in his pickup and car, to make sure he wasn’t tooling around on gas meant for the Case. Old farmers here in WI tell me that same thing was done by the Wisconsin State Patrol .

    Over the road trucks could get a T card that would allow the truck to get unlimited fuel, as they carried raw material for the war effort, and I believe that thier gas was dyed green, for the same reason, so no one would siphon a few gallons out of the Mack, and put it in the Hudson. This was before diesel took over as the engine of choice for over the road trucks.

  4. re: scott – i’m not sure the situation in the usa these days, but here in the uk we still have funny coloured diesel (red i think) that farmers and constructors can buy with reduced tax on it, for work purposes only.
    i must dig it out, there’s a tin (filed away somewhere in my parents house) with my grandad’s war medals etc. and an old ww2 ration book from my mum’s family, always used to fascinate me as a child (growing up in the 80s, the concept of rationing seemed so distant and quite scary!). saying that, recent studies have shown the health of the populace was improved in the 40s and 50s as people ate a lot more fruit and vegetables (that they often grew themselves) and less meat and processed rubbish, and we’re on a downward health spiral now in these more ‘advanced’ times we live in …

    1. We used Red Diesel for untaxed Diesel here as well. Every now again they catch a big rig truck with a tank full of red “gas” and throw the book at them. One trucker showed where he had paid full price for his last fill up and it turned out the dealer was selling red fuel as taxed fuel. I never heard if it was intentional or if the delivery truck screwed up, but the trucker dodged the bullet.

  5. Believe it or not, the reason for gas rationing was not a gas shortage; it was because of a shortage of rubber for tires for vehicles. Reduce nonessential driving and you save on rubber.

    We still have dyed gasoline for farm work here in Virginia. It is taxed at a lower rate. Have a few of those pumps in my town.

    Here is a good website which explains rationing in the US.


    1. I’ve heard that story, but don’t believe it. There was a crimp in all Petroleum products at the time. We ran our refineries at max and barely had enough fuel to fight the war. Refineries were not near as efficient as they are now, and some fractions were hard to come by at the time. Add in the fact that gasoline was the primary fuel that moved the country, outside the railroads, and that gasoline was the primary military fuel as well, and you get a serious bottleneck with the POL supplier. The primary problem with rubber was the sources. We still used a lot of natural rubber at the time and took time to switch over as the infrastructure to make large amounts synthetic rubber was almost nonexistent in 1941 and it took time to build it up. The two problems existed at the same time and we restricted gas because of the massive amounts we needed to fight the war. That restricting gas had the beneficial side effect of keeping rubber demand in line as well was a coincidence.

  6. My mom was born in 41, but she still distinctly remembers gathering foil off of gum wrappers for the war effort. It’s her only memory of WWII.

    Her mother remembered parading through town as a little girl on Armistice Day in 1918, banging pots and taunting the German family in town (which she later regretted because, “they were such nice folks”).

  7. It wasn’t a gas or rubber shortage. It was the feds wanting people to focus on the jobs at hand and GTFO the road when they should be sleeping and getting ready for the next shift.

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