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Stretching the Meat

Posted by on June 16, 2014

May 1, 1943. A letter to Dad from Anna. This is the first letter from Anna where she takes Dad up on his advice of using carbon paper to send the same letter to both him and his brother Stanley. She notes that the idea is “pretty good” and that “I thought about it for some time and just never go around to buying the carbon paper”. It is 9:00 at night as Anna is writing the letter and her husband Eddie is putting the baby to bed.

His sister reports that everything is fine at home “with the exception of a slight cold which the baby and I have.” The weather seems to be swinging back and forth “After a few nice sunny days …it rained and today the wind was blowing to beat the band. It was cold too, but toward evening it stopped and maybe it will be warmer again.”

Anna further comments, “In spite of the cold weather that we are having on and off the lilac bushes and plum trees…are starting to get buds on them. Irises are coming out of the ground. They always get a head start from all the other flowers. Other things are also coming out but they are so small in comparison to the irises.”

Eddie took the day off to go fishing. “He caught 2 perches about 6 inches long and a big fat chub about the size of a herring. We won’t have much meat from the fish but we will have fish chowder.”

The family is making out the best they can with the wartime rationing, although Anna is obviously frustrated with the whole thing. “This meat rationing is certainly a lousy thing. They only allow 16 ounces of meat per person a week and if we didn’t use the baby’s portion we would be short. Mama also bought a 20 lb. barrel of herrings and she pickles them herself and that helps out a lot. We mostly eat meatballs and golombki because you can mix something else with them and stretch the meat.”

As with most families on the home front, they have found other ways of coping with the rationing. Since they had friends with farms, they had no problem getting chicken. Anna even comments, “I also eat so many chickens that pretty soon I will be laying eggs.” Every so often, they got lucky too as Anna writes. “This week Eddie went on the farm… Coming home he killed a rabbit with his car so he just stopped it and got out and brought it home. We will have some extra meat that the government won’t get any ration points for.”

A typical ration book and stamps from WWII.

A typical ration book and stamps from WWII. Image credit

With Dad now stationed in Kansas and Stanley in Washington State, Anna comments “I am glad that you landed much nearer to home than Stanley did. It makes us feel better that you are so many miles nearer.”

Anna finishes her letter with the following story of an incident that took place on Good Friday. “Mama was going to have ‘milczenie’ (silences) for 1:00 to 3:00. At one sharp she started and everything was going very well until the guy came with a bushel of apples that daddy had bought that morning. Daddy said that he paid for them and the guy insisted that they weren’t paid for so I went to Mama… I told him they were paid for so he ran out to the truck driver and he came and said that they weren’t but on the ticket was written paid. I mentioned that to the guy and he said that it was something else. Finally Mama got mad and started shouting at the guy. I went to the telephone and called the fruit market and told the guy and he wanted the driver to come to the phone. The next thing I heard was a lot of yelling at the other end of the phone and this guys face got red. He hung up and apologized to us. Mama was so mad and she says that the djabel was kusic (devil was tempting) the guys.”

Of course I wasn’t there, but it sure sounds like the delivery guy was trying to get one over on Anna and Mama. It’s a good thing that the boss back at the fruit market kept the delivery guy honest.  I wonder if the delivery guy still had his job when he got back to the market.

Anyway, that’s it for May 1, 1943 from Albany. Just to get everyone up to speed on where things are with the project as a whole. All of the letters for 1943 have been scanned and are now preserved digitally on my laptop as well as on a back-up drive. There are about 490 letters in all just for 1943. At that pace I’m expecting to have 1500 +/- letters total. Since the beginning of March when I’ve started this project I have made 78 blog posts in getting though the first 4 months of letters. This includes a two week period when I was away from the project to do some hiking on the Appalachian Trail (but that’s another story). Yes, it is starting took like a long slog.  Where it makes sense, I’ve been combining letters in posts in the interest of moving things along. I will continue to take this approach. I hope the readers of these posts enjoy the story as it is unfolding and find the glimpses into daily life in the Army and on the home front as fascinating as I do.

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