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Memories of the Home Front
Ruth Smitt shares her WWII years at Gary, Indiana

by Ruth Smitt



 Ration Books were some of our most precious documents during World War II.  Everyone, including children, had their own Ration Book for food.  There were also Ration Books for gasoline.  Food and gasoline were in great demand for the Armed Forces.

There was very little traveling for pleasure.  The trains were full of soldiers.  The buses were filled with employees going to and from work in lieu of using their automobiles.  We walked a lot!

Everyone with a little bit of land planted a Victory Garden and grew vegetables.  Some cities allowed community Victory Gardens and everyone attended to their own little plot.

Long lines were the order of the day at food stores and many supply points.  For instance, when word got out that a store had a shipment of sugar, every homemaker would dash out to the store for their share and people would be lined up through the store and out on to the sidewalk.

Meats were rationed, especially the red meats.  Chicken and turkey required less food stamps.  We all learned to eat SPAM.  We substituted margarine for butter because fats were needed for munitions.

I do not remember complaining about rationing.  We did complain about hoarders.  We understood the need and worked together.  Farmers worked overtime to increase production of food, especially the grain products.  Some also went into the factories to help out.



 Because our city had an essential industry, it was mandatory that there not be any lights showing from homes, businesses, or street lights, from dusk to dawn which might guide an enemy bomber to our area.

All windows and entrances had to be covered by heavy curtains, draperies, or blankets so that no light was exposed.  Otherwise we sat in the dark and listened to the radio.  If we had to drive at night, we drove without lights or the lights had to be shielded parking lights.

There were Civilian Defense volunteers posted throughout the city.  They were trained in first aide and other possible emergencies.  It was their duty to go out after dark to patrol their assigned area.  Wearing a white hard hat and carrying their credentials and powerful flashlight, they would look for any exposed lights.  They had the authority to demand that lights be turned off or covered immediately.



 The World War II years were a time of anxiety and mourning.  We were anxious for sons, fathers, and brothers and often women members of the family who had been drafted or who had volunteered their services.  We were concerned for our friends.


A brother-in-law was sent to the Pacific area.  It was heartbreaking to see a sister wait for the mail.  His transport ship had been bombed and eventually sunk.  He did not meet his first son until the son was fourteen months old.

We mourned our friends.  An Air Force pilot who trained pilots crashed and both pilot and trainee were killed.  His son was born seven months later.

A friend was a Flight Nurse stationed in Europe.  She ferried wounded soldiers back to the United States.  On her last trip, the plane and all personnel were lost.

It was with sadness when we saw a gold star in a window.  It indicated that a Gold Star Mother lived there and her son or daughter had lost their life.



 “Rosie the Riveter” was the name given to women who entered the work force to replace men who had been drafted or volunteered and was off to war.  Women of all walks of life joined the work force and replaced men workers in every conceivable type of work.  They even became riveters and created a legend for themselves as the song implies.

One friend of mine who lived on a farm and was knowledgeable about machinery drove heavy trucks for the steel industry.  It was cooperation like that, which helped win the war.  It was also a big step for women to enter the business world.  They could do it!  n


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