Column – Rationed life

Published 5:38 pm Tuesday, March 14, 2023

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“Nazis may use zeppelins to bomb U.S. East coast.” “Heavy fighting resumed in Philippines.” “95,000 persons massacred by Nazi soldiers in Russian cities.” These were the headlines that ushered in 1942. A world at war was the main topic of every front page of the News-Herald for several years. 

Almost immediately after the United States entered the war, talk of rationing began. The top headline of the Jan. 28, 1942, paper read, “Nation faces rationing of all commodities sold by stores; price fixing near at hand.” The story stated that living costs had risen more than 11% since September 1939. In another story on the same page, it was predicted that taxes were expected to be higher than in previous years to fund the war effort. 

In May 1942, the Coach Company bought a property at Saratoga and Cherry Streets to erect a bus terminal; it would open in April 1943. An inset story detailed plans for an upcoming gas ration, which took effect before the end of summer and would continue the duration of the war. It was just one of many items rationed. Meat, razors, sugar, gas, mileage, tires, canned, dried and frozen food, alcoholic beverages, shoes, coffee, and many other items were rationed, according to various stories on the front pages throughout the war years.

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On Feb. 4, 1942, all clocks shifted ahead one hour. For the remainder of the war, a nationwide, year-round Daylight Saving Time schedule was kept. The purpose was to conserve resources such as heating oil and electricity for use in war.

Even during war, relaxation and rest are needed. To assist this, the Suffolk library opened Sunday afternoons to provide servicemen a place to read, listen to music, dance or just relax. A group of volunteers served the men refreshments. 

With attack by air a real threat, films such as “Fighting the Fire Bomb” instructed individuals on how to protect themselves from incendiary bombs were presented to the police, as well as several local banks. This was one of several examples of training given to the public to prepare for possible attack.

Along with new air raid sirens, in June 1943, Suffolk began an observation post. The post operated by volunteers that for a minimum of two hours a week observed and reported airplanes to the Army headquarters in Norfolk.  

In late August, the Suffolk airport was completed. It had three 500-foot runways, a single beacon light and only a dirt driveway. No barracks or buildings had been built. The airport was leased upon completion to the U.S. Navy until the end of the war and then six months thereafter. 

Suffolk was still a small community. Several front page stories detailed the efforts citizens went to to assist each other in times of challenge. One such story detailed the efforts of the fire chief while on vacation with the help of his acting fire chief. 

“If your cow gets stranded on the house roof or the cat falls in the cistern, don’t despair — just call the fire department, for its members apparently know all the answers. A sparrow got into the Suffolk News-Herald composing room, some time during the night. Then the frightened little bird flew up into a skylight, where it was beyond the reach of workers. As morning advanced and the heat mounted to a point closely approaching that of Hiram’s forge, the bird’s distress increased — heat goes upward, you know, and there was no ventilation in the skylight. Fire Chief J.H. Bangley, apprised of the situation, came with Acting Chief J.W. King — Chief Bangley is on vacation — and with the aid of a ladder and a net attached to a pole, finally scooped the frightened bird from its heated surroundings. The bird was released and the firemen departed with the staff’s thanks.”