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When Energy Was Just One of Our Shortages

April 04, 2001

The recipe quoted in the article about World War II rationing ('You Want to Talk Energy Crisis?" March 7) was far too generous in its use of butter, eggs and even canned peaches. Those items were unavailable to most of us, as they went to our troops. We used all kinds of substitutes in cooking and, in fact, my mother and I cooked and baked with a kerosene stove supplied to our family in the wartime housing project we occupied, courtesy of the government, while my father worked for the railroad. It was emergency housing, but it was far better than what we'd had during the Depression. My father had been jobless, and we had lost our house and the car.

Because I was the oldest child, I did most all the grocery shopping for my mother, father and five siblings at the one grocery in Winslow, Ariz., towing home what was available that was on my mom's list and substituting what I could find on nearly empty shelves. Food was rationed, so there were those pesky but all-important food stamps to be torn out of the family's book by the checkout clerk. We had no car, but there was no gasoline available anyway, so I rode the only transportation the family owned in those days, a second-hand bicycle, to the store with a Red Flyer wagon tied behind to tow the groceries home. I was 10 years old.

Soap powder was also in very short supply and, when an occasional shipment was received at the store, the word went around and my siblings and I all lined up to each receive a box of soap powder. There was very little, if any, meat available in the butcher's case at the store. Clothing was in short supply-even cloth to make clothing was unavailable. My grandmother cut up old suits and overcoats to make into coats for us, and she tried her hand at making soap as well-not too successfully.

Those were grim times indeed, but nobody complained. On the jammed passenger trains we traveled, people willingly got up and gave their seats to a military person, no question. We all pulled together then. Americans today are so spoiled and self-serving they cannot even imagine what it was like during WWII-shortages and rationing and giving up for the good of the nation. I shudder to think what would happen if Americans were ever called upon to sacrifice any of their pleasures for the good of the country.

MERLENE ROBB Los Angeles

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