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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Revisiting Henderson's Past: Christmas at war time

It's time for another peek into the archives ...

Henderson's Christmas during World War II

As Christmastime approaches and visions of iPods and Wiis blissfully dance in children’s heads, we fill the aisles of the nearest supercenters, searching for those “must have” items and gluttonously packing our carts to the brims. We stand by and watch as indulgent parents race and scheme against one another to wangle the most expensive and desirable toys and electronics in shallow attempt to satiate their clamorous children.

As some of Henderson’s senior citizens can recall, the scene this time of year during World War II was much humbler and not nearly as pretentious. 65 years ago, the citizens of Henderson diligently practiced the now unfamiliar concept of rationing, far exceeding governmental expectations for wartime supply quotas.

Ration books (which provided stamps, or coupons, for necessary goods, such as food and gasoline) were given to each family and could be confiscated for committing misdemeanors and infractions such as speeding. Aside from limitations on food and gasoline, each person could purchase only three pairs of shoes per year, leaving many growing children barefooted in the summer months. Blackouts were ordered occasionally to ensure military defense of the ammonia plant, and silk stockings were collected for use as wraps for powder charges. Nylon stockings were also considered unpatriotic, as the new synthetic material was needed for war supplies like ropes and parachutes.

As Christmas comes to Henderson this year, take time to remember this seemingly forgotten era of frugality, an era in which our parents and grandparents sacrificed so much to be able to give us the freedom we have today.

Want to learn more about World War II in Henderson? Visit us at the library, or online. You can also search a list of names collected in the Henderson Women’s Club World War II scrapbooks.

Read previous “Revisiting Henderson’s Past” posts.

(Photo is of women lined up for a sale on nylon stockings at Belk-Henderson Co. shortly after rations were lifted.)

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