January 16, 2005
Not so long ago...

At dinner last night, we started talking about the differences between the generations and somehow, the conversation turned to the rationing of food and supplies that took place during World War 2, when Canada was still a Dominion and the world in general was a much different place.

The above picture is a scan of an unused ration card issued to my Aunt in 1942, when she was just 10. While my parents can't quite remember the exact amounts that were issued to each, as they were young themselves, the point was clear. How do you think our society would react now, being told they can't have whatever they want, when they want it? When we tend to forget what freedom entails and how much we take for granted in our material rich society, we need to take a minute and remember how much has changed in such a relatively short time.

My nieces were horrified at the thought. They hadn't even heard of rationing and certainly, couldn't comprehend not being able to just pop into Store X for a loaf of bread or some sugar, let alone all the processed stuff.

I did a little googling this morning....

Canoe has an article on rationing in Britain, which I assume was a similar programme to what we had here:

A monthly points allowance enabled people to buy whatever canned food might be available.

Everyone had their own ration book filled with coupons that were cut out by shopkeepers when the weekly rations were bought. Children came first for certain foods such as the very rare occasion when oranges were available.

Read the full article here.

Just a mere 60 years ago, such common, every day items such as nylons/stockings were very scarce and some girls, when dressed for dancing, would have their legs dyed with a light brown dye (some say cocoa) and a fine line drawn down the back of the leg with an eyebrow pencil to look like a seam of the stocking. An interesting document on rationing is written here.

I've grown up listening to stories of wartime blackouts, of rationing cards, of my mother's brother going to war and coming back married to an Irish woman. My Aunt Flo was the first wartime bride to arrive in our town. We lived next door to a man who survived a concentration camp in the Netherlands. My cousin's wife's family was interned at a Japanese internment camp near New Denver, BC. When my mom was 10, the war ended and the air-raid sirens went off in celebration. Unfortunately, at her tender age, she only thought that we were under attack. She jumped into a nearby ditch where she huddled under a bridge for nearly 3 hours until her father found her and comforted her. These stories are alive to me. They make history come alive and instead of just dry facts, I imagine how it must have felt to actually be there.

But my generation is not far removed. It was my parents and my grandparents. People I knew, people who made an impact on my life. I've seen my Uncle Bill's naval tattoo's, and heard his stories of close calls as a gunner in an aircraft. When I travelled to England, I became emotional seeing the white cliffs of Dover and I could envision the fighter planes returning to England on just no more than fumes. We spent some time in a pub in Cambridge, which had been a popular place for the servicemen in WWII. They would write in lipstick, coal, or whatever they had on the walls where they were going and who they were. They've now closed the room, but we were lucky enough to see it, and something about standing there, seeing all these long-ago written missives, you could almost feel the energy of these young airmen still sitting there.

When I was in Munich, I had the opportunity to go to Dachau. I have never been to a place that affected me so profoundly and I hope never to again. It was as if you could still hear the souls screaming. I felt physically ill, and even just mentioning that name now, I get such deep pain. Reading about such places doesn't do it justice, but to stand in the courtyard, and to see where it occurred...oh, I don't even have the words to describe it. I did not enter the crematorium or the gas chambers. I couldn't. It was too much.

So when I see things like Prince Harry's ill-planned costume or my niece's horror at the thought of being told what they could buy, it really concerns me. Have we really begun to forget? Not even a century later, is it really so far in our memories that our present generation cannot even contemplate this actually happening?

Vancouver, British Columbia
A patriotic Canadian full of visions of a better Canada, random thoughts and a lot of hot air. Who am I? A struggling writer and photographer, who looks forward to a better Canada. I read. A lot. I learn. A lot. I push myself. A lot. The world is a small place, and getting smaller every day. I'm proud to have friends in every corner of the earth, and abide by the old adage that there are no strangers, only friends we haven't met yet.

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