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LOCAL HISTORY - Rural Roots # 11

‘Rural Roots’ is drawn largely from my book ‘*Sisu – The Finnish Determination of a Canadian Family’.

Copies are available ($30.00) by calling me at 577-7484, cell 621-6621 or email: leoh@tbaytel.net









Rural Roots
by Leo Hunnakko
Issue #11 (Published in 'GrassRoots'  February 2009)

World War II – Life on the Homefront

The end of the ‘hungry thirties’ depression years had less to do with politics and more to do with the onset of the Second World War. Today, we are experiencing the beginning of what could be a prolonged recession. Some are speculating on the possibility that the current global financial crisis could even lead to another depression. It is also possible that those of us living in rural areas like Nolalu, with an abundance of land for cultivating and forests full of edible game, are well positioned to survive.
What, if anything, did we learn from those difficult times? Although very much a way of life in rural areas, ‘Victory Gardens’ were one way the average citizen dealt with food shortages and contributed to the war effort. Empty lots, school fields, former flower gardens and back yards were cultivated for viable sources of fresh and preservable foods. With war rationing in effect, there were limitations on many goods, including essentials. Signs appeared in store windows – “Loyal citizens do not hoard”, “Sugar – ½ lb. a week per person, Tea – ½ of the usual purchase, Coffee – ¾ of the usual purchase”.
One of the changes many made in their diet was the substitution of margerine for butter. Dubbed "poor man's butter" before the war, margarine became a staple on many people's tables. To stretch real butter, people mixed it with light cream (or top milk), custard or unflavored gelatin. Cottage cheese was often substituted for meat. Some stores sold only non rationed items like canned chicken, pastas, pancakes, pickles and eggs to attract the customers tired of trying to figure out what coupon went with which item.
My sister Violet showed me an actual ration coupon book that had been used in the Hunnakko household during the war. Many coupons are missing although several still remain intact. Issued by the Ration Administration – Wartime Prices and Trade Board, each coupon book had its own Prefix and Serial Number. Hers was Ration Book 6 -- “WE 281536”. Each showed the name and address of the holder on the cover. On the top of the inside cover it reads – “Primary producers, such as farmers, who produce rationed foods, must collect coupons for all sales of rationed foods and deliver them to their Local Ration Board. Primary producers must also deliver coupons to Local Ration Boards, according to current regulations, against the consumption in their household of certain rationed foods produced by them”.
That follows with strict “Book-Holders’ Responsibilities” such as “ration books may be used only by or for the person to whom issued. Severe penalties are provided for misuse of the ration book or false statement in connection therewith”. It also states that the bearer should “take the Ration Book with you when traveling. It is good anywhere in Canada”. Difficult times with strict limitations. But we survived.
In the March issue of ‘Rural Roots’, we end our three part series on the war years. With the war over it was a time of healing, remembrance and optimism. And yet, unfortunately, there still remained some dark clouds on the horizon.
(February 2009)