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Registering Day

Posted by on August 4, 2015

October 21, 1943. A letter from Anna in Albany to her brothers.  Anna gets them all caught up on the comings and goings in the neighborhood, passes along more news about the baby’s latest antics and has complaints about her mother’s stinginess with using fuel for the furnace. Rationing is still in effect, and in unrelated news the local papers have been reporting on a state investigation into a shortage in city funds – Anna has an opinion about that too.

A few of the young men from the neighborhood are home on furlough. Anna specifically mentions “That Johnson guy across the street…and it seems to me that this is the third week that he is home. He has one gold bar on his shoulder. …Maybe he was overseas and is home for 30 days now? Who knows?” She also mentions that Eddie’s brother is home too. “Billy is also home on furlough. He came yesterday around supper time and he called to our house and thought that maybe he would get in touch with Eddie but Eddie still isn’t home. It looks like he didn’t get a deer the first day.”  You may recall from Anna’s previous letter that the 20th was the first day of deer season.

The baby has graduated to drinking plain milk “and it is a relief not to keep on mixing the formula … However milk makes her constipated and the doctor says that she should drink a whole quart of it a day…” Anna does some math and figures that 7 ½ ounces four times a day (at 6 am, 10 am, Noon and 6 pm) she’ll have to fit the other 2 ounces in mixing it with water or adding to cereal.

Anna also relays a story about the baby. “One evening mama had her on the bed in her bedroom and Terry was sitting on mama’s stomach and playing when suddenly she notices her shadow on the wall and she got scared and yelled and kept on turning around looking at it. Mama would ask her where the baby was and would turn and look at the wall and yell. Finally when mama left the bedroom she still kept on looking toward the bedroom to see if that awful shadow was still there.”

Anna writes that it finally got cold enough for mama to break down and light a fire in the furnace. “…she told me that if we didn’t have the baby in the house we would have not had any fire in the furnace until the first of November. Well, I certainly am glad that Terry is here with us and it feels good to have your frozen bones thaw out. If this had kept up much longer the government would have assigned points on me for frozen meats.”

As far as rationing and points go, Anna mentions, “Today is registering day for Ration Book No. 4 which is supposed to be the last ration book for this war and I do hope so and I think it is good for three years. Evidently they are preparing for a long war and I only hope that they will be wrong and that it ends very soon.”  Apparently certain fruits are in short supply too. “…oranges around here are getting pretty scarce. For half a dozen big ones they want forty five cents.” That would be $6.21 in 2015 dollars. She makes the point “They say that prices have gone down and so has the price of living but if they only investigated more… In the first place they let the prices go up three times the amount they were in 1940 and then they lower them a penny or two down and think that they are doing people such a favor…”

Although Anna may have been exaggerating with her “three times” comment, a look back at some economic data from the 1940s shows that the US inflation rate was 11.35% in 1941 and 7.64% in 1942. It is not exactly “three times” but nonetheless, with the cumulative effect of rationing, shortages and inflation, it was enough to be felt.

A chart showing year by year inflation data for the 1940s. Image credit:

A chart showing year by year inflation data for the 1940s. Image credit:

She wraps up the letter with two paragraphs about an investigation into the Democratic administration of the City of Albany by New York State Republicans over missing city funds. I’ll let Anna tell it. You can click on the image below for a more readable image.

Anna describes the investigation into Albany city finances.

Anna describes the investigation into Albany city finances.

Anna goes on to say that, “The guy across the street…was in the capitol working on a civil service job without passing a civil service examination. Well when [Governor] Dewey came in his job was cancelled and he went out looking for something else. …In fact Dewey cancelled an awful lot of these offices that Lehman had put up and that weren’t really needed and were not passed by Civil Service Examination. It looks like a lot of these guys were friends of somebody… I think there should be a lot of these investigations in every phase of our government…” To be clear “the guy across the street” that she is referring to in this section is not “that Johnson guy across the street” she had mentioned earlier in the letter.

A contemporaneous clipping form the Saratogian dated October 18, 1943 about the investigation into Albany's finances. Image credit:

A contemporaneous clipping form the Saratogian dated October 18, 1943 about the investigation into Albany’s finances. Image credit:


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