When America joined World War II, everything — from the butter Martha Holland ate daily to the key moments of her yearly Christmas celebration — changed as the supplies needed to maintain her lifestyle were taken for the war effort.
Rationing After the War
In the summer of ’46 we came back home, my father was stationed in Washington. And we moved up to New York, where my grandfather had a farm. I was sent off to boarding school – but still the war wasn’t over, 1946 I went to boarding school and we did war work. The school where I went, we were trained to be nurses. I learned how to make a hospital bed, and do all this fun stuff. When I went to Wesley in 1949, they still had the victory gardens that they had used to feed the college. The whole acreage was still spread out there.
Then in 1952 I went bicycling in England with two friends, around to youth hostels. We had to have a ration book, Britain still had rationing in 1952. So, you know, ’45 was not the end.
Pearl Harbor and Christmas
Nowadays, people don’t put what we called rain on their trees which in my youth was strips of lead. You’d get a package of about a thousand shiny lead strips all carefully bound up, and you’d hang them on the tree individually. And the whole tree would be shimmering with beauty, and then you would throw them out. That year we carefully picked all the rain off and put it in a box. The following Christmas the rain reappeared, now much shorter, in bitty, bitty pieces but still hung on individually. The year after that was just before we moved to Florida. That was the final appearance of rain. They were all about an inch long and clumped in little balls. But because that aluminum, or lead that it was made out of, became part of the anti-radar devices for planes. They would drop a whole lot of this shimmering lead or aluminum or whatever it was that would mess up the radar on the ground and enable the bombing raids to be successful. So rain was not made for Christmas trees. But you couldn’t have Christmas without rain, so we had to save ours.
Margarine was invented in those days, because butter went into the army.
Did you like margarine?
[I] hated margarine. And it came in a white plastic bag, with a tiny little orange pimple. The pimple was visible, and the children’s job, our job, was to squash the bag, break the pimple, and then make sure that the orange dye went routinely through all of the white, so that it looked like butter. . . The butter lobby had said, you may not actually just sell margarine, it’s tinted yellow, so we had to tint it by breaking the pimple and squashing it. You never got it right; it always had streaks of orange and white over here and oh, it was grim. And it tasted horrible.