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The Homefront, Then and Now


Memories on display
My book release party last March seemed to stir coals of memory to life, making them glow again. After my presentation and reading were over, my friends and colleagues who remembered the years of World War II wanted to talk about those sometimes traumatic, sometimes funny, always memorable times.

Topics popped up. Food rationing. How butter disappeared and we were able to buy only lard, a totally unappetizing stark-white lump you dropped in a mixing bowl. The unfortunate person (usually a child who had spent an unaccustomed amount of time with a bar of soap) given the chore of turning it into "butter" then squeezed a capsule of garishly orange food coloring and dribbled its startling contents onto the white blob.

What followed had, unfortunately, to be hands-on. Small, reluctant fingers squishing unceremoniously through greasy lard, over and over and over, trying to convince the lard it was destined to be sunny yellow. To encourage the dye to change from drips of dark reddish orange to streaks of lighter orange. And I do mean streaks. No matter how many times I squished the repulsive stuff through my hands the two products refused to blend. Separate but equal was their mantra. Eventually, when the heat of my hands threatened to liquify the whole pound, mother let me give up the futile struggle, but the plate of "butter" I carried to the table (after another interminable bout with the soap) fooled no one. We had another thing to hold against Hitler and Tojo.

People talked about scrap metal drives. How we had all scoured our basements and cupboards and closets for any kind of metal that could be made into armaments. How youth organizations spent Saturdays once a month walking their neighborhoods pulling red wagons they piled with each household's tin cans - washed, ends cut out and labels removed, flattened with a stomp and put out in a paper sack on the front porch. How we carefully peeled the tin foil from each stick of gum's wrapper and rolled it onto our ball of foil saved to donate to the cause. How towns pulled Civil War canons from their place of honor in the town square and shipped them away to be made into modern guns.

Old cars - railroad engines - toy trucks - bicycles - all were welcome. One party attendee remembered how, in a burst of super patriotism, he had donated his sister's bicycle to the scrap drive. His mother was not impressed with his sacrifice. How we all sacrificed time to the 35-mile-per-hour Victory Speed Limit. How we did without zippers, bobby pins and safety pins.

I remember how, the afternoon of my book release party, people lingered, talking, remembering, sharing stories and experiences. That why I decided to start this blog. I'll talk about those war days, try to bring out some interesting facts, and recognize that even today there are repercussions, continuations and parallels of that intense time.

I hope you'll "tune in," as we did in those days to "Your Hit Parade," to see what's on top this time, and perhaps, share some of your own memories. Read More 
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