World War II Rationing

Remembering World War II Rationing

In 1943, during World War II, I worked in our neighborhood grocery store. I was 14 years old. The owner and I were the only ones who worked there. I started at 8 a.m. and worked till 6 p.m. and made $5.00 a week.

Woman Exchanging Ration Stamps for Sugar, 1942 — Library of Congress Photo

During the war each person received a Ration Stamp Booklet. The stamps were used to buy sugar, coffee, flour, meat, etc. The ration stamps allowed you to purchase a certain amount of each commodity per person in your household. If you didn’t use all of one kind of your stamps, you would trade them to someone else for a stamp you could use. Some customers would turn in their extra stamps to us for someone else who needed that particular item to use. Store owners had to turn in the ration stamps to the government in order to get more supplies for their stores. The government also issued stamps for gasoline and tires to each family. Certain items were very hard to get, but we all made it through those hard times and we won the war.
From VB

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Jane D. from Kansas City, MO. sent us this message: Clothing and shoes, especially leather shoes, were rationed too.  I seem to remember the ration was two pairs of leather shoes per person per year.  This was hard for families with children because children’s feet grow so fast.  Adults used their rations for their children and went without themselves.  Decorative shoe clips became popular for women’s shoes.  They clipped onto the top of your shoes and let you change the look of a pair of plain pumps.  You could turn a pair of sensible office or church shoes into something suitable for a night on the town.  My mother had two pairs of leather shoes, one black, one brown, and about two dozen sets of shoe clips.  I loved to play with those shoe clips as a child.  We also wore cloth shoes like espadrilles in the summer as these were not rationed, and saved our leather shoes for the colder weather.

Alice from Philadelphia, PA writes:  Women’s stockings were almost impossible to get hold of because both nylon and silk were in such short supply.  I remember my older sisters and their friends drawing lines up the backs of their legs with black pen to make it look like they were wearing stockings.

D.C. from NJ writes:   In the early 1980s, when I was a college student, I bought a pair of inexpensive, flower-print calico canvas shoes from the local Woolworth’s store.  I was quite pleased with the fashionable “retro” look of the shoes, as well as the price, which fit my student budget.  When I wore my new shoes on a visit home, my mother took one look at my feet and burst out laughing, but wouldn’t tell me why.  Next to my plate at the breakfast table the next morning was a photo of my mother and my aunt from the spring or summer of 1943. Both of them were wearing shoes exactly like those I had just bought at Woolworth’s.  My mother told me that at the time, leather shoes were difficult to come by, so women wore cloth shoes instead.  She and my aunt had also gotten their shoes at Woolworth’s!

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