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  • Writer's pictureCat T. Gardiner

The 3 Rs For the Boys

Hi-di-ho, friends! I hope you're having a wonderful summer and enjoying some vacation time. Maybe jumping into the car and taking a few day trips to destinations on a gas tank? I have one of those books "Florida Day Trips on a Tank of Gas" and have made a few fun stops, one of which I'll write about on a later date. It got me thinking about my trusty ten gallon gas tank and just how far my car could take me. Ten gallons of gasoline may not seem like a lot today, but try using only 3 of them on gas ration requirements and you'd really be hard pressed.

The wartime home front ration has been widely covered on other blogs, and as WWII history-lovers, you no doubt know the hows and whys of the implementation of the ration by the Office of Price Administration, but I'd like to visit a couple of points about the 3 Rs. I am sure that if you were a "she-soldier" homemaker 70 years ago, you would have donned your apron, rolled up your sleeves, and proudly proclaimed that you were going to help win the war through your compliance. It was for the boys! It was for Victory! The fighting forces needed your coffee, sugar, meat, gas, and rubber to name a few, and you wanted to give it all to them. No sacrifice was too great for the men and women serving in the Armed Forces. And chances are, one of your own was fighting either Hitler or Tojo.

The Office of War Information (OWI) drilled into Americans the 3 Rs - Rationing, Recycling, and Recruitment. The first made sure that items in short supply were doled out fairly. Homemakers took the oath. "I pay no more than top legal prices. I accept no rationed goods without giving up ration stamps." And the Homemaker's War Guide was proudly displayed in the kitchen as a reminder to Plan, Conserve, and Salvage. I don't believe people complained much, and town and cities nationwide gladly adapted. The horse-pulled buggy replaced the milk delivery truck and people car pooled, old bicycles were pulled out of the garage. Some may have balked at "meatless days," "cheese-less" macaroni and cheese, and spaghetti sandwiches. And, I have no doubt, many got the shivers having to add yellow dye to margarine to make it look like butter, but overall, Americans knew why it was all necessary and there was a feeling of patriotic zeal in their stick-to-it-iveness. It makes me ponder ... Does that exist today?

So, back to the gas ration. Who was affected? Well, in a nutshell everyone, but those who didn't have a "war essential" job got hit the worst. For the "average" family, a class A driver was allotted 3 gallons of gasoline a week. The sticker on the windshield sort of acted like the opposite of a Scarlet Letter declaring that you were doing your bit. The driver used the special gas ration book, which was presented to the attendant, the coupon within promptly torn out, then away you went until the following week. Let's just repeat: 3 gallons of gas a week consumption in a car that got 20 miles per gallon AND you were only allowed to drive the Victory Speed Limit of 35 mph. Wow. Hope you lived in the city where trolleys and subway cars ruled the day. That's about 60 miles a week, 8.5 a day, a near impossible endeavor today. Those "Sunday drivers" we heard once existed were banned as was were auto racing events

Here's the breakdown of rationed goods.

Class A drivers were allowed only 3 gallons of gasoline per week. Class B drivers (factory workers, traveling salesmen) received 8 gallons per week. Class C drivers included essential war workers, police, doctors and letter carriers. Class T included all truck drivers. Class X was reserved for politicians and other “important people.”


Coffee was rationed from Nov. '42 - July '43

Shoes (3 a year)







Cooking oil




Nylon stockings

Here is how the National WWII Museum explains the usage of Ration books

Because of these shortages, the U.S. government’s Office of Price Administration established a system of rationing that would more fairly distribute foods that were in short supply. Every American was issued a series of ration books during the war. The ration books contained removable stamps good for certain rationed items, like sugar, meat, cooking oil, and canned goods. A person could not buy a rationed item without also giving the grocer the right ration stamp. Once a person’s ration stamps were used up for a month, she couldn’t buy any more of that type of food. This meant planning meals carefully, being creative with menus, and not wasting food. More than 8,000 ration boards across the country administered the program.

And just when you thought that now in the 21st Century, we are the pioneers of Recycling, let me tell you, our contemporaries during the war blew us out of the water. Recycling then meant saving and reusing the things we readily dump in the trash: cooking grease and even paper. Broken appliances and radios were fixed - because nothing new was being produced - not even cars. Almost every manufacturer was in war production for the duration. And so were she-soldiers and children collecting scrap metal, tin, aluminum, rubber. In June of 1942, President Roosevelt ordered a sixteen-day "Salvage for Victory" war drive and in homes it continued until the boys came home in 1945. "Let's Beat the Pans Off The Nazis" was an America home front battle cry from the kitchen to the scrap metal drive. These household items built weapons, ammunition, and military vehicles. They saved and recycled everything - even girdles for the rubber within. Wow. Incredible nationwide determination to Victory!

Take a listen to these three short rallying radio announcements:

So happy that you stopped by today! Next time we'll be paying homage to someone who gave all in his wartime service. Until then, Keep 'Em Flying!

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