2007-04-27 / Columnists

Do You Remember Rationing Of Food And Shoes And Gasoline?

Commentary From The Rockaway Museum

by Emil Lucev, Curator

Dedicated To The Memory Of Leon S. Locke

During World War II, goods made scarce because of the war were rationed so that all citizens got their fair share. The popular slogan touted by the Office of Price Administration was, "If you don't need it, don't buy it."

Instructions on the back of each ration stamp book stated that "this book is valuable, do not lose it! Each stamp authorizes you to purchase rationed goods in the quantities and at the times designated by the Office of Price Administration. Without the stamps you will be unable to purchase any of the goods. Detailed instructions concerning the use of the book and the stamps will be issued from time to time. Watch for those instructions so that you will know how to use your book and stamps. Do not tear out stamps except at the time of purchase and in the presence of the storekeeper, his employee, or a person authorized by him to make delivery. Do not throw this book away when all of the stamps have been used, or when the time for their use has expired. You may be required to present this book when you apply for subsequent books."

It was further stated that "rationing is a vital part of your country's war effort. This book is your government's guarantee of your fair share of goods made scarce by war, to which the stamps contained herein will be assigned as the need arises. Any attempt to violate the rules is an effort to deny someone his share and will create hardship and discontent. Such action, like treason, helps the enemy. Be guided by the rule 'If you don't need it, don't buy it.'" Lastly, the book stated that persons who violated rationing regulations are subject to a $10,000 fine or imprisonment, or both.

Despite all this there were "traitors" who printed and sold counterfeit stamps and gasoline rationing coupons (The plates of which were thrown into Jamaica Bay by perpetrators with the Feds on their tails). Traitors were price gougers, traitors were rent gougers, and traitors ran a "black market" for rationed goods.

Of course these traitors were turned in by concerned citizens about 99 percent of the time, with some undercover arrests made. Believe it or not some storekeepers were also traitors by reserving items for certain people for stamps, and a little extra cash on the barrelhead, so to speak! But the majority were decent storekeepers who took special care of the wives and children of the men fighting overseas for America!

Recently at a postcard show that featured paper emphera, I found these old War War II ration books that still contained unused stamps, which were decorated with artillery pieces, fighter aircraft, tanks and aircraft carriers…with consecutive numbers.

Ration books one to five were issued during the war, but rationing continued after the war for a time….until goods became plentiful once again. Meatless Tuesdays disappeared, as did wooden license plates for cars and trucks; sales of nylon stockings caused riots in Far Rockaway stores.

The rationing effort was worth it, because our enemies, domestic and foreign, surrendered unconditionally for a U.S. victory. And victory does mean, "The total defeat and destruction of the hearts and minds of the enemy!"

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