75 years ago today – Sugar Rationing Comes to Town

In this day of instant gratification, it’s hard to imagine the war years in Weber County.  We have grocery stores open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, including Sundays and holidays.  You buy your groceries on Amazon and they can be delivered to your door in a couple of days.  We can buy what we want, and more importantly how much we want.

75 years ago today registration for sugar rationing began in the United States.  It was the 2nd commodity to be rationed, the first being tires. Each county had a ration board that oversaw all the rationing in that county.  They were the ones who decided who got tires or retreads based on the many regulations the Federal Government provided.  They were also closely scrutinized to assure procedures were correctly followed.

When sugar rationing started, the process was crazy.  They (not sure exactly who??) decided that it would be handled on the school district level.   First of all, every school district administrator in Utah was asked to count all of the individuals in that school district.  Every person.  And the deadline?  Less than a week.  They used that number to send the proper amount of books delivered to each county.

And who would be registering the population and handing our books?  The teachers of course. They would stay after school on May 4, 5, 6, and 7th and register thousands of people.  All without pay.  There was also registration in the city-county building.

Since each person in the family was eligible for a stamp (1/2 pound of sugar and each stamp lasted two weeks) they needed to find out how many people were in the family. You were advised to fill out the registration form.  It asked for name, height, weight, eye color, hair color, age and sex of every person in the family.  This included babies and anyone living in your house.   And you couldn’t count your servicemen.  They were counted elsewhere.  Don’t ask me how they figured out births and deaths!

By May 8th, 65,805 in Weber County had signed up.  It was below the expected estimate of 75,000 persons needing books and stamps.   An extra day was added to complete the registration.  After that, you would have to wait until the next registration and no sugar for you!

Now on to the poor grocery stores.  This would be a complete change in the way they conducted business and was a very hands on process.

It was explained in the May 8th Standard Examiner, “Every day the corner grocer will have to handle dozens of ration stamps.  At the beginning while the whole sugar rationing program is new, he’ll probably have to do an awful lot of explaining.  One of his best customers may plead for just ‘a couple pounds more’ with which to bake a cake for Junior’s birthday.  Somebody may show up without a war ration book and ask for sugar and promise to bring in the stamps later.  The grocer will have to say, “Very sorry, but that’s contrary to regulations.’

“Another customer may bring in loose stamps, and the grocer will have to explain very patiently that he can’t accept stamps in such form.  He must see them torn out of a war rations book in his presence.  Another customer may come in with a war ration book containing stamps whose period of validity has expired.  The grocer will probably have to keep repeating over and over again that a stamp is valid only for the period for which it is issued and cannot be used afterwards.

“The consumer problem is the first the grocer faces.  Another one, which involves a lot of work, is pasting the stamps he gets over the counter on the cards distributed by the OPA.  He has to be very careful about those cards.  He has to be careful not to lose them and to turn them in for sugar before their term of validity expires.

“From now on, the quantity of sugar which the grocer will be able to get from the wholesaler will depend upon the number of stamps and sugar purchase certificates he surrenders.  He will have to keep records.”

Ever been behind a shopper with mountains of coupons?  I expect that this had to be even worse.  And remember, you still had to pay for the sugar.

And this is just the beginning.