The War Years

My new bike.

The rabbit hutch’s roof is visible behind my new bike.

Every day fewer people personally remember the privations of the world war. The sad part is how long it took those who lived through the war to tell us younger folks about what it was like to live through the chaos of true war. I heard very little about the war until we received these letters from Lucy, along with the ones from Jim, Grace and Louie. Recently some veterans in Rochester have sponsored a monthly series of recollections by veterans, participants, and civilians who experienced the war in person. Listening to these older folks recount their stories moves me deeply.

I experienced the war second-hand. In Lucy’s letter below she talks about rabbit meat sold in the butcher shop. Rabbit was a familiar food. We were a poor family. Meat was a luxury. My mother and grand mother were farm folk. Raising live stock came to them naturally. There weren’t any city ordinances against it, so they raised dozens of rabbits in a shed behind the house. They built cages three deep along one wall. The cages were made of chicken wire, so the waste would drop through to the floor. Mom and Dad used it as garden fertilizer each fall, I assume.

We didn’t play with these rabbits. We ate the meat. Maybe it tasted like chicken. No big deal for me then. Lucy disagreed.

Lucy writes:

You couldn’t drive up to the gas pump and fill up the tank. It was rationed. Everyone had a book of stamps. You had stamps or the attendant would refuse to fill your tank. We did not have self service stations at that time.

Ken & Stan rode to work in the only car we had out there so we had 2 books. You just had enough to get to work and back.

Silk stockings (no nylon yet) were at a premium. You’d stand in line always. You’d wear them twice – runs for sure.

Food stamps were for meat also. Out in Seattle the meat counters were lined with skinned rabbit. We referred to them as cats and could not eat them. The hamburger was filled with filler and smelled like wool. You’d go outside when you cooked it. Eggs just simply could not be found. We went out into the country and bought a chicken from a farmer. We paid $6.00 for it and it was the smallest I’ve ever seen. Cigarettes were sold to lined up smokers. Both men smoked so we would stand in line for them. I guess that is the closest this country ever came to running out of food. That wasn’t the hardest part. Being separated from family and have the men off to war was so hard. The most worrysome for all of us.

Lucy Letter 026