This blog contains photos, newspaper clippings and wiki facts regrading war rations, in particular the rationing of goods in West Virginia.
The United States did not have food rationing in WWI but it utilized propaganda campaigns to persuade people to curb their consumption. Through propaganda, the USFDA and Herbert Hoover reduced national consumption by 15%.
In 1941, the British tried to persuade the United States to reduce consumption so more allocations could be made to soldiers fighting in the war. They warned of potential shortages in various genres of production (gas, steel, aluminium and electricity). After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States joined the rationing efforts.
One of my greatest finds while researching old newspapers was an article regarding Shoe Rations in which my Pawpaw, Alex Taraczkozy, was interviewed for his perspective on a trade that had been carried by his family from Hungary to the United States.
I have transcribed the article (which is very difficult to read) below.
BY BOBBIE WITT
At last the shoe repairmen have “come into their own,” according to Alex Taraczkozy, of the Beckley Shoe Shop, who is “about to see daylight” since the “run” on shoe shops began the day after shoe rationing was announced.
Alex’s views are shared by Mike Verde, of the People’s Shoe Shop, where the shoes have been brought in and stacked by the hundreds until yesterday. Mike exclaimed disgustedly, “Too much!”
Mrs Gieshe, of the Service Shoe Shop, exclaimed, “It’s a pickle nowadays about shoes. A month ago we sat twiddling our thumbs. Now we are begging folks to be kind to the shoemaker. They’re harder to get than the new shoes.”
And so it goes. Mrs Gieshe reports that she took in over 300 pairs last Saturday night to begin work on Monday morning, while before 30 pairs would have been considered a lot. Her shop has repaired already over 300 pairs and has 600 or more stacked up, which she hopes to get rid of before others come in.
Mrs Gieshe urged that the public “to keep the relics which they have been dragging out of the attics because some of the shoes are even molded and too old to spend money on or to use good leather on.”
Skilled workers are hard to find, she reports, because not just anyone can sit down and put a sole on a shoe. She reports plenty of material on hand for the next six months and “after that we may all be going barefoot, but if it’s the style we won’t mind.”
“Even some of the most intelligent people in town come in and sit down and say ‘Fix my shoes right now.’ “ she reports. It is impossible to do better than to get the shoes out in a week, she declared.
Mike Verde, who was so busy one afternoon that he forgot to hand a lady her mended shoes until she waited a considerable time, exclaimed, “I’ve had to take on extra help, and even my wife is here. I can’t get home before 2 o’clock in the morning and she just came here to see me.”
Mike has three women and four men working for him now, and shoes are piled by the hundreds, some of them dated three weeks hence for delivery.
All the shops are open until 11 o’clock and after, they reported, and Alex Taraczkozy, who “grew up in his father’s shoe shop” explained that he works until he gets too tire to move, sometimes until after midnight.
Alex said that some of his customers get impatient, and “we always have to humor them a little.” He reports that shortage of help is his biggest problem but Jim Bill Sparacino, a lad of 13 years, has been working as an apprentice for the past six months. “He’s too young to be hired,” Alex said, “but he’s been a great help to my wife who waits on customers and runs the sewing machine.”
:The rush hit us just right though,” Alex laughed, “because there’s not been a chance since last war, with shoes selling in stores for 98 cents a pair. While we can’t afford to half-sole them for less than $1.50 a pair.”
Alex had had to cut out shoe shinning altogether because of shortage of help, and Mrs Gieshe reported that her shoe-shine boy had gone to the post office at 1 p.m. and had not returned at 3 p.m. “Independent, they are.” She smiled.
Alex reported selling 50 pairs of second hand shoes on the first day after rationing started. He had only eight pairs left on his shelves, out of 150 pairs he had accumulated over the years from persons who failed to call for them in the specified time.
“Floating customers,” which Aex described as “persons who go first to one shop and then to another” have increased, although he tries to take care of his “regulars” first.
Shoemaking A Tradition
Shoemaking is a tradition in the family of Taraczkozy. Alex’s father, who dies a year ago, learned the trade as a boy in Budapest, Hungary. The elder Taraczkozy had repaired shoes in Beckley for the past 30 years and “All of us worked in the shop,” Alex explained. “Dad was the first shoemaker in Beckley, I suppose,” he said. “He liked the work, and I like it all right, but it has been hard since the others went to the war.”
Alex’s brothers, Joe, Steve and Frank, have all had a turn in the shop, he said, and reported that Joe is now in Panama, Steve in Norfolk in the Navy, and Frank in the army in the West. “So you see,” he said, “I have to carry on.” He expects another helper to arrive this week, and he “could use at least two more.”
Al the shoe repairmen begged that the public give them time to catch up instead of piling shoes in on them to lie for days without being touched.
Even shoe polish has experienced a “run, and Tim, of Tim’s Shoe Shine parlor, reports that more people are having their shoes shined these day in order to preserve them.
“Shoe shines pick up 25 per cent in good weather,” Tim explained, “and even the ladies have started coming in for shines in order to save their shoes.”
Per Wikipedia: Each ration stamp had a generic drawing of an airplane, cannon, tank, aircraft carrier, ear of wheat, fruit, etc. and a serial number. Some stamps also had alphabetic lettering. The kind and amount of rationed commodities were not specified on most of the stamps and were not defined until later when local newspapers published, for example, that beginning on a specified date, one airplane stamp was required (in addition to cash) to buy one pair of shoes and one stamp number 30 from ration book four was required to buy 5 pounds (2.3 kg) of sugar. The commodity amounts changed from time to time depending on availability. Red stamps were used to ration meat and butter, and blue stamps were used to ration processed foods. To enable making change for ration stamps, the government issued “red point” tokens to be given in change for red stamps, and “blue point” tokens in change for blue stamps. The red and blue tokens were about the size of dimes and were made of thin compressed wood fiber material, because metals were in short supply.
Additional WV Articles on Rationing in 1943:
Beckley restaurant owners, already short of meat and other rationed foods, have called a meeting for Monday afternoon to discuss ways and means of serving their patrons when a 20 per cent cut in point allotments for the establishments goes into effect Jul1.
George Soler, proprietor of the Swan Cafe, said that proprietors of the approximately 65 restaurants in Beckley and near vicinity have been invited to attend the meeting at 3:30 o’clock Monday afternoon in the Beckley hotel.
One purpose of the meeting, Soler said, is to discuss the need of establishing uniform meatless days among the proprietors, most of whom are member sof the West Virginia restaurant association.
Another point to be discussed, those who proposed the meeting stated, are methods of substituting dishes for meat, difficult to obtain even under present ration quotas.
Local coffee consumers may purchase one pound of coffee with stamp 28 from War Ration book one from January 4 to February 7, officials of the local rationing board announced yesterday.
The officials again stated that persons who had not attained the age of 15 years at the time they registered for ration book one are not eligible for coffee under present rationing regulations.
“Ration coupon banking” a new type of banking service for retailers and wholesalers of rationed commodities designed to make the nation’s ration program work more effectively, will be inaugurated here in Beckley on January 27 at the Beckley National Bank, Bank of Raleigh and Raleigh County Bank. Frank R Ganns, cashier of the Beckley National Bank said.
This is a war service that the government has asked the banks to undertake, under which wholesalers and the larger retailers will be required by the Office of Price Administration in open “Ration Book Accounts” in the banks with which they customarily do business. Into these “ration accounts” the wholesalers and retailers will deposit the ration coupons received from their customers against which they will draw special “ration checks” when ordered new supplies. It is expected that only the retailers whose food sales in December 1942 exceeded $5,000 will be directed by the Office of Price Administration to open “ration accounts”. No charges by the bank will be made for this service.
Consumers who purchase rationed commodities for consumption will not be affected by the new “ration coupon banking” system. They will continue to obtain their ration coupons from local ration boards and will continue to
“spend” their coupons at the stores just like in the past.
The bank will have nothing to do with the fixing of ration allotments or allowances or with the issuing of ration coupons. The local ration boards will continue to perform these functions.
The new “ration banking” system will not affect the regular money or checking accounts of the public at all. The public will continue to use their bank accounts in the customary way.
These “ration checks” will have nothing to do with the payment for the commodities ordered. Retailers and wholesalers will continue to pay their bills in the regular way.
And one final clipping from 1945: