The area news of December 1942, 75 years ago, certainly had a good share of what you’d see as “normal” news, a couple’s golden wedding anniversary, a confirmation class at Boyceville Trinity Church, a new teacher at Bolen School in Downing.
But those reports were overshadowed by stories of the Second World War on the home front. The war was just a year old, and all Americans, including the good citizens of Dunn County, still seemed a bit uncertain about the implications.
At the top of page one, the Dunn County News explained that “A plan has been set up by the government asking everyone to voluntarily regulate their consumption of meat.” It gave specifics for “sharing allowances” ranging from two and one-half pounds of meat per adult per week, to 12 ounces per week for children under six.
The paper noted, “To many people this does not mean a reduction in the amount of meat eaten, as the amount is generous for the average citizen in any climate and doing any kind of work.”
In another front-page article, the paper noted that “orderly buying and selling” of coffee under the new rationing plan will make the coffee supply “go around.”
“... a generally beneficial result of instituting rationing can be spoiled temporarily if consumers fail to cooperate,” said Don Allen, Wisconsin’s Office of Price Administration (OPA) director. “Every family should limit its purchases to a single pound when rationing first starts.”
You see, a family that had several “ration books” could buy, say, its whole five-week supply on the first day, but if a lot of families did that, it might leave no coffee on the shelves for other families. Better for everyone if everyone bought a pound at a time.
Yet a third front-page story emphasized that “ALL” must apply for ration cards. The article noted that 500,000 Wisconsin residents had not applied for ration books. However, the government was passing out a “Ration Book I” now, and if you thought you might ever want a “Ration Book II,” you would have to have an empty “Book I” to surrender…
You registered for the books. You provided the “local board” with “proof of identity — a selective service card, auto drivers license, bank book or similar item” — and also proof of address, meaning a current utility bill or a postmarked envelope.
After Dec. 15, only persons who had been out of the country, been serving in the military, or been in the hospital would be given a book. The OPA warned that records were crosschecked between local boards to eliminate double dipping.
Throughout the paper, even the ads had taken on war messages and motifs.
A page-four editorial noted, that, the year before, “America was a nation not yet fully awake to the war.” But now in 1942 it was time to “rededicate the nation’s strength, its time, its wealth and its very life ... to work, fight, sacrifice for all that is contained in the Bill of Rights and the Constitution of the United States of America.”
“To get along with less coffee, gasoline, and other items,” the editorial noted, “is just a small part that folks at home play in winning this war.”
The paper also noted a couple of practical advantages that seem just like today. One, “Gas rationing is a body builder. Less gas; more walking: stronger bodies.” Two, “Less driving: more citizens will patronize home business places.” In other words, do your crossfit and shop local.
On the other hand, I’ll admit it seems pretty quaint that the government hoped we’d all be willing to sacrifice our comforts.