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Important Things in Small Packages

Mar 25, 2009 9:45 AM | 1 comment

I could write many, many entries on Brooklyn during World War II (and perhaps someday I will), but for the time being I am drawn to a small, rarely noticed item in our collection:

There is nothing astounding about this particular ration book, other than the fact that it still exists.  I have been fascinated with the World War II home front since I first encountered the American Girl tales in my childhood, but I have never seen an actual ration book.  So you can imagine my delight when I stumbled upon a few of them while preparing for a lesson on war efforts in Brooklyn.

The construction of the book is unimposing and reflective of a period when everything was conserved for the greater good.  The cover is thin, the stamps are even thinner, and the entire book is the size of a passport.  One can imagine that many a ration book was damaged or lost. 

To me, the book is evidence of the struggle and sacrifice that every family had to face during the war.  The instructions are clear and intimidating: "Any attempt to violate the rules is an effort to deny someone his share and will create hardship and help the enemy."  And the emphasis on rationing as much as possible is repeated time and again: "If you don't need it, DON'T BUY IT."

Even the front with its official identification information, including height, weight, and occupation, emphasizes the intense importance of this book.  This is not just an accessory for the weekly grocery shopping; it is a government-issued tool of the war effort.  The stamps themselves include images of tanks, guns, and aircraft carriers - constant reminders that, no matter how small, every action at home had an impact overseas.


3/27/2009 11:40:12 AM #

Love this post! Especially the instructions.