1942: Rationing involves home front in war
Editor's Note: This is one of a series of articles about the history of the Sun Advocate and the county it covers as a newspaper. These articles are being prepared as the 120th anniversary of the newspaper's birth approaches in 2011.
As 1942 wore on, the sacrifice of some families by the loss of soldiers, sailors and Marines lives in battles around the world, the general public that had no one in the service also began to sacrifice, but in a different way.
By the spring of that year, six months after Pearl Harbor was bombed, a person just couldn't walk into a store and buy butter, meat or sugar just because they needed it.
They couldn't go to a gas station and say "fill 'er up," nor could they buy tires easily for their cars.
These few items became the tip, a well known tip, of the iceberg known as war rationing. It was the last war in American history (up to the current time) that American citizens as a whole had to give up daily needs to support a fight in another place to protect their liberty.
After Pearl Harbor the government warned people that they needed to cut back on many items, particularly gasoline to support the war effort. In actuality, the gasoline people were using, in terms of supply, was not as much of a problem as the wearing out of tires on Americas vehicles. Tires that got 60-80,000 miles on them did not exist like they do today. Tires then were made of soft rubber that mostly came from the Dutch East Indies, a place the Japanese military had invaded, so supplies were cut off. So saving gas also saved tires.
But just asking people to give up things they were used to didn't work very well. Gasoline use dropped a little, but not enough. It was time for the government to move in.
While rubber was in short supply because of raw materials, much of the rationing that was to take place was due to increased use by the military, and supplies became short. Due to this problem, items in stores and shops went way up in price and in some cases what had once been available to almost everyone, now became the items of the rich.
In the spring of 1942 the OPA (Office of Price Administration), a federal agency created for the economy's management during the duration of the war, placed price controls on almost everything that could be bought. Along with that they began a program of rationing, so that everyone, rich or poor, could have some access to the things they needed and wanted.
Some of the first signs of rationing programs in the Carbon County area appeared in the Sun Advocate in April 1942. On April 23 a story along with a notice appeared concerning sugar. Commercial users (such as restaurants and food preparation/manufacturers) were told they would need to register with the Carbon County Rationing Board. Those that had businesses and that lived north of Blue Cut (where the Carbon County Country Club is now located) were to register on certain days at Helper Junior High. Those south of Blue Cut were to register at the "Carbon College Building."
But sugar registration didn't stop there. Household consumers were also told to register in early May. They were told if they didn't live in Price they could register at an existing elementary school in their area and Price residents were told to register at Price Junior High (the old high school building) or at Harding Elementary School (located where the Price Fire Department building is now located) depending on their address.
Users needed to prove how much they needed and households had to report how many people lived in the house so that sugar rationing would be for everyone. Both commercial and residential users had to report how much sugar they had on hand as well. At the time it was said in the paper that both kinds of users would get about 80 percent of what they reportedly used per year after the rationing came into effect.
Rubber, as mentioned above, was also a big deal because of the supply problem. Inspections were done on tires on cars and private citizens were only allowed five tires; four for the wheels and one for a spare. Any extra tires that people had were expected to be donated to drives acrosss the country to supply rubber for the war effort.
On June 18 the Sun Advocate reported on the rubber drive in the community and why support was needed.. Not only were citizens asked to conserve gas to conserve rubber, they were also asked to support drives to get things like scrap metal, rags, rubber and many other things.
The paper said the community had a chance at a "double opportunity" in that summer's rubber drive. The paper also pointed out that the rationing of rubber would have a more profound effect on rural communities, such as those found in Carbon County, than it would in populous areas because of the distances people must travel to get to get to population centers.
"People should insure success of the rubber campaign in the first place from a patriotic standpoint, to lend direct and material aid to our war effort," said an editorial on page 1 of the paper that day. "They should insure that success in the second place to protect our economy, to assure maintaining our method of operation on a basis that will eliminate injury to our everyday life."
The list of drives and campaigns that appeared during World War II on the American home front are almost countless. Literally everything people used was either rationed or in short supply during those early years of the war.
It was another set of circumstances that forged the greatest generation.