Ration Book Blues

Corner of Howard Street and Church Street during WWII

“On the home front there was rationing of shoes, sugar, meat and other items. I think we got coupons for three pairs of shoes a year, but canvas shoes with rope soles were not rationed so we filled in with those. I remember I had a pair of bright green ones that I wore until the rope wore out.

“Mama had a friend in the meat department of Jitney Jungle, and he would slip her bacon under the counter. She would come in from the grocery store and say, half guiltily, ‘Mr. Tuck let me have a pound of bacon.’ Big hoarded so much sugar that it got hard, and we ate a lot of lemon ice box pies made from condensed milk since they didn’t require any sugar.

Roy Stott's WWII ration book.

“Nylon stockings had just come out a year or two before the war started. Prior to that time we had to wear old heavy rayon stockings with more expensive silk ones for dress. Everyone was so pleased when we started getting nylons, only to have them abruptly stopped when the nylon was used to make parachutes. Nylon lingerie was very hard to get, and when DeLoach’s would get in a shipment of panties we would spread the word around and line up to get one pair, the same with slips. Mary was working at the Bank of Greenwood by that time, and I would call the bank when I heard that DeLoach’s had a shipment.

Bank of Greenwood staff; Mary Olive Evans (Mamie) is on front row, far right.

“Also chocolate candy was very scarce, and Mary would alert me when Roberts Drugstore got in a shipment of Dream Creams, and I would run down there to get a Dream Cream. Mary said whenever there was a line when some scarce item came in she knew I would be in it, so one day when she saw the funeral home across the street unloading caskets, she came running to tell me that I had better go get in line.”

Ed. note: Nylons were a development of DuPont chemical; after they were introduced for sale in May, 1940, over 4 million pairs were sold in just four days. When the war started, all silk and nylon production was diverted for parachute and tire manufacture. I have no idea what a Dream Cream might have been, but if it involved chocolate, Sara would stand in line for it. And as far as I can tell, caskets were never rationed. Leave it to Mamie to find humor in shortages and funeral homes.

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About sec040121

Hello....I'm in possession of a priceless collection of memoirs and memorabilia left by my mother, Sara Evans Criss. She was a native and lifelong (88 years!) devotee of our small town, who covered this peculiar and volatile corner of the world for 30 years as the Memphis Commercial Appeal's Greenwood bureau chief, a job that started out with debutantes and high school football and wound up spang in the midst of one of the twentieth century's most enduring social upheavals. This blog is dedicated to her memory and the legacy she left behind, both for her family and her community.
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