The Social Experiment

This blog is about understanding and exploring what my Grandmothers experienced by living on the home front during World War II. I am going to be living, as best as I can, to the US rationing standards of 1945. This is a social experiment, not only to connect to my families past, but to explore new way to live environmentally and socially responsible. I hope to show, that by living as our grandparents did, we can reduce the amount of waste that our society throws out and live healthier and more simple lives.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The 4th… What was it really like?

                This 4th of July, America’s Independence Day, was very different then celebrations in the past.  One difference is that it was on a Wednesday and I was required to work on Tuesday and Thursday … this made traveling to celebrations unavailable.  In the past, I would gather with family in South Dakota or go up to our cabin in Lake of the Woods.  This year there was not time.  Another thing that was very different was the heat.  Rochester, MN had temperatures of 100 degrees Fahrenheit with 60-70% humidity.  Nobody was outside celebrating.  On a day that is all about cooking outside and picnics… people huddled inside their air conditioning.  I did not have any air condition at home so to survive – I volunteered to work at the Hospital – at least there was air!

                These differences got me thinking.  What was Independence Day like in the 40’s?  Did families celebrate, discovering new ways to make their favorite foods…?  Did men too old to go off to war – did they do fireworks?  Were there any black powder to use for fireworks or did it all go to the war effort?

                Often working in a hospital, I meet people … who give off a presence of strength and confidence that their loved one will get better- then as I talk with them cracks are seen in this mask.  I see their eyes brim with unshed tears, worry and fear of the uncertainty of the future shines out of those eyes.  Their voice breaks then they stop, take a deep breath, then their “strong” look is back.

                Thinking back to celebrating the 4th… how did families truly celebrate when so many of their loved ones were gone.  Their father was not the one cooking on the barbecue; the family would be so much smaller as the men had gone to war.  How did women celebrate?  The 4th of July is celebrating a victory in war- celebrating an end to fighting…. Yet that is not what was happening in 1942.
                As I stood to sing the American National anthem, I wondered how women could stand to be patriotic, singing about ‘the rockets’ red glare and bombs bursting in air’… without thinking of their husbands huddled in a fox hole, trying to stay alive.  Did they present a “strong” presence – like loved ones do in the hospital?  Or would a person see the cracks in their patriotism… the unshed tears and the fear of the unknown future?  

Would they be singing “God Bless America,” or be quietly crying out “God, Just bring them home!”

I realized that this year – It was hard for me to be 100% patriotic.

This year, I have been given glimpses of the loss that goes with these holidays.

And I pray – Lord, bring Peace!


  1. That was a very lovely post.

    My grandfather was a WWII vet, and my family and I spent one 4th with him before he died (he's been gone for well over 20 years now) and I was told stories of how it was. Before the war, yes, but it was the depression and maybe it will help you get a glimpse of the time.

    He grew up in rural south Texas. By rural, there was nothing close, going to town was a day long trip. He said that the whole community got together and had a picnic on the square, or wherever they could sit. There were parades, and basically just the community having a block party. No drinking (as so many do now), no fireworks (he remembered one year when he was about 12 that he got a sparkler) and no grilling.

    Funny enough, until I moved from Dallas, I used to go to a museum that did the same thing until I moved.

  2. I stumbled across your blog while I was looking for some information on amounts people were allowed to buy of certain items. More power to you for trying to live the rationing! I sincerely doubt that with our current culture of spoiled entitlement there could ever be such a movement again regardless of how "patriotic" our people pretend to be. Nowadays, being American means the freedom to buy what you want, when you want, and any government trying to say you can't is facsist, socialist, communist, or something else considered by many to be unsavory and unacceptable.

    But thinking of the theme, I remember playing in my grandma's junk drawer and finding coupons and "red cents." (I sure wish I had those now!) In their house, even though they were permitted to buy certain things or certain amounts, they didn't if they didn't need to so there it would be available for someone else. I don't even think you expect THAT today.

    As far as the "use it up" rule, I'd like to read about whether you can pull this off: My dad said that when milk started to turn, grandma would put it out on the counter until it "spoiled" solid. Then she would salt and pepper it and eat it like cottage cheese!