My beautiful 93-year-old mother came to live with us this past October. She is getting frailer and has some problems with memory. She fills her days with putting photographs in albums and collecting items to donate to the Cleburne County historical society. When I asked about her apparent compulsion to get this done now if not sooner, she said she wanted to do these things before she couldn’t remember. Therefore, these remnants of WWII ration books have come to light. They made me keenly aware of the advantages I have had in this lifetime as contrasted with her life through the Great Depression and WWII.
Her books have several full pages of these blue stamps. She says she thinks they must have been fuel rations because her family did not have a vehicle and didn’t need to buy gasoline. I have Googled as much as I care to and can’t locate a clear description of exactly what the various “stamps” represented.
I have learned that there were stamps for various food items and stamps for various rationing periods. The ration week ran Saturday to Saturday. Mom couldn’t remember what the numbers and letters represented because “Daddy and Momma took care of all that since I was just a teenager.” From reading novels set in WWII I have learned that meat, cheese, butter, and sugar were rationed. Can we even comprehend what it was like to have these items not available any time we want them?
The oldest sibling, J. B. “Jake” Harmon, was serving with a tank battalion in Europe at this time. I’ll have more about his service later.
All of this made me wonder how the people of our nation would deal with rationing now. It seems that many of us have the perspective that life, this nation, and the government owe us something. Disasters strike and the response is never quick enough or complete enough. We view the privilege of being free and prosperous as ours alone, something we definitely don’t want to share with people from other countries who come here seeking a better life for themselves and their children. The sense of patriotism that was part of day to day life in the 1940s seems to be a thing of the past. Hats off and standing for the national anthem are frequently omitted in various settings.
I have the feeling that today’s population would complain with bitter insistence that we are entitled to better things if faced with the same realities that my mother’s generation accepted as their lot in life. I fear I might be one of those people. Tom Brokaw (in his book The Greatest Generation) said that the men and women of my mother’s generation had values of “personal responsibility, duty, honor, and faith” that made them able to defeat Hitler and leave us with the economic affluence, scientific progress, and vision that has made America great. Have we lost touch with those values? Have we lost a sense of appreciation for how far this nation has come? Have we lost the ability to value simple things like truth, right and wrong, and living for some higher calling than our own pleasure?
So, my set of New Year’s resolutions: To start each day with a prayer of gratitude that I have it so good, to live each day trying to be a better person than the day before, and to end each day thanking God that His grace has seen me through the day, no matter the challenges.