Alice Pieper, the youngest of three children, was born in 1925 in St. Paul, Minnesota, where she lived with her family until 1942. They then moved to Sunfish Lake, a rural community on the outskirts of St. Paul. Alice attended local schools when they lived in St. Paul, but she stopped her education after they moved and the war started.
She married in 1946 and moved back to St. Paul with her husband, where she was a homemaker and helped raise her four children. She also worked part-time at a doctor’s office and a school. They later moved to Lindstrom, Minnesota, where they lived until retirement. In later years, Alice remained active in her church, Trinity Lutheran in Osceola, Minnesota, and also kept busy with gardening and canning.
In this interview, Alice recalls the effects of wartime rationing and shortages on her family. She shares her memories of Pearl Harbor and of her brother’s injuries in the Battle of Okinawa. She also discusses going to church with her family and the lessons she learned during and after the war.
How Life Changed when the War Started
Well, of course there was the food stamps [ration coupons] that you lived on. I mean, I remember my mother going to the store and you could only buy this and that because you had so many stamps. We could only get so much sugar. We seemed to manage the food, though, like that. My dad had a garden and that always helped in supplying us for food.
Learning to be Conservative During the War
I think you learn to be very conservative to the time, because you had to at that time. It just kind of stays with you as you go on through life then. You don’t get lavishing on things or anything. You are just happy with whatever you have.
The government gave you the food stamps. And so much was used for meat and so much was used for certain other things like sugar and baking stuff. And then so much was used for canned foods like that. Your sugar and flour would be in one group, and then your canned foods would come under another different color of stamps, if I remember right.
They came in books, and then you tore off the amount, whatever you were allowed, for that amount that you bought. And if you used them all up, of course, then you had to skimp for a while, until you got your next batch of food stamps.
We always were [at a Missouri Synod] church until we moved up here [to Lindstrom]. Then, there was no Missouri Synod Church around. And our youngest daughter Debbie had to have one year of confirmation, so I would have to drive her all the way back to the city or join another church around here. That was our only alternative at that time.
So, then the closest church—that was close to Missouri Synod—was the one in Wisconsin, which is the WELS [Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod]. That’s how come we joined the WELS.
Awaiting a Refrigerator
Well, and the refrigerator—I don’t know, we put our name down for a refrigerator, and I think we had to wait about two months because they had all the manufacturing for the war. And then, of course, they had to change everything over and restart the manufacturing again before we could get a refrigerator. I remember that—we had an icebox that we used until we could get a refrigerator, could buy one like that.
Final Thoughts About the War
I think that you lived each day and whatever took place, you had to adjust to it. But I think that it matured people—younger ones like I was, it matured you. You lived through these things that were skimpy and you had to adjust to things like that, and it just kind of taught you a lesson: not to take everything for granted like that.