Saturday, June 3, 2017

The Stamps of Our Lives

Many, if not all of our ancestors, lived through good times and bad times. Some suffered at the hands of enemies that wanted all of them gone. It seems wars have always been a part of man's need to conquer others. Drought, too much rain, freezing conditions have caused pain, destruction and death through the centuries. Some are fortunate enough to have diaries, letters, or newspapers from our ancestors' times. Others of us are not as fortunate.

Today I have my children, my grandchildren and even grandchildren our family lived in the twentieth and part of the twenty first century. I am write about times I remember experiencing them. They are apart of my memories. Others can recall what I shared with them and what they thought. Now I would like those that follow to have a chance to sense what it was like in these times through my words.

They, and their children, will know GGma's words, written for them, and shared by me especially for them. I guess you, reader, need to know who GGma is. Emails, cards and letters sent to my grandchildren were signed Gma short for Grandmother. GGma was short for Great-grandmother, a title was I was so lucky to have in my life.

While raising my family in our Glencoe home on Woodlawn Avenue, there was a daily soap opera, “The Days of Our Lives.” It was not one that I watched. That name came back to me as I was thinking about this particular story. I started thinking about all the kinds of stamps, the different kinds of stamps, that linked to major events of my lifetime. I knew these idea didn’t know yet what I would write but I did have the title. It would be The Stamps of My Life.

Some of them spanned decades while others were available during very specific times. But all of them were a part of me and my journey. Perhaps some of you may remember a bit of those years. If so, perhaps my recollections may trigger your own stamp memories. For other readers, enjoy this history of another time.

Stamp by Stamp: The journey to a $25.00 War Bond

World War II influenced our lives in different ways. My dad was never drafted but several uncles would appear around the house in uniform. My brother, Mike, and I were old enough to be aware of the war brought into our world. I was born in 1931 and he was born in 1934. We were both in elementary school. Old enough to be aware of the serious situation for families all over the United States but, in retrospect, not the dangers or the reality of the worry for parents, wives and other family members as young men and women went off to war.

Women were working in war plants and men were going off to serve their country. It became even more of a reality after Pearl Harbor was bombed in 1941. Prior to that the war in Europe, which began when Germany attacked Poland in 1939, was on newsreels and America had not been directly involved. Only after the attack on Pearl Harbor did the United States declare a state of war.

As the war progressed women also became a part of the Armed Services. School age children, as we were at the time, were also encouraged to participate. Stamps were not the first way in which we youngster were allowed to feel we were participating; we were helping in what we knew as "the war effort."

In those days gum packages contained 5 sticks of gum and were about 5 cents a package. Each stick was wrapped in paper lined with foil. Even those gum wrappers played a role in helping the war effort. We would save those wrappers and then, when we had a collection of wrappers, we stripped the foil off of each paper and rolled the foil strips a ball of foil to be donated.

I still remember how hard it was to get the first corner to come apart and separate the paper from the foil - very hard work. We would wrap into good size balls before we turned them in. Later on we helped our moms collect fat and grease from cooking. We helped pour from the pan into cans that held other fats such as Crisco. These refilled cans were then turned in to help the war effort.

There was another way in which young people could participate. Money was being raised in a variety of ways to support the war effort. The government was selling war bonds in varied denominations, all redeemable 10 years after the purchase date. To involve young people, and those who could not afford to purchase the bond at one time, bond stamps were developed. This provided a way for young people and others to participate and feel they, too, were a part of the war effort.

The matured bonds might be $25.00, $50.00 or $100.00. The $25.00 bonds cost $18.75. We all saved allowance money, gift money and, if we were lucky, money we had earned by doing errands. We were very proud to take our 'stamp money' to school, buy the stamps and paste them in the books.

As school age children we were directly involved in this project and could buy the stamps right in the classroom. If my memory serves me correctly stamps could be purchased in our classrooms each Friday morning. There were 10 cent and twenty five cent staps.You could bring the money to buy a bond. Few did that. Many of us had our own stamp books and were excited when we filled a book. We knew that soon a new bond would appear in our mailbox.

Rationing Stamps During WWII

As the war continued there was another situation that required participation from those at home. Shortages gasoline and food items began to develop. In 1942 ration books began to appear. The first item to be rationed was gasoline. There were criteria developed for the amount of gas allotted to individuals, mostly based on how their work linked to the war effort. In 1943 other products began to be rationed. Family ration amounts were determined by the number of adults and the ages of the children in the particular family.

The first food to be rationed was sugar. Your family ration book showed how much you could purchase of the particular item during each month. New recipes and special Cooking with Rationing began to appear. Other foods began to join the lists. The color of the stamps in your ration books determined which items could be purchased and how many points would be needed.

The next item that appeared was sugar. Red stamps were used for buying meats, butter and other fats. Each family knew how many red stamps need to used by the weight of the particular item. Blue stamps applied to many different canned and processed foods.

As the war continued different shortages began and so purchases of other goods came under these limitations. They included clothing, shoes, gasoline and tires. The gasoline limitations were based on how far you lived from your work. I think it also applied to how much your work was needed for the war effort.

Sometimes the bad side of people is shown when time are difficult. A Black Market developed. There were people who were able to find ways to obtain more that they were entitled to of all of these products that were limited. They then found ways to sell them, for much more money than they were worth to others who were in need of them and were out of stamps. I am sure our ancestors had similar experiences.

Some neighborhoods were land was available found another source of food. Victory Gardens grew during this time. Where there was empty land, or empty lots in the city, families began to grown vegetable gardens. New recipes were developed using substitute ingredients. One of the wonders of our ancestors and ourselves is the ability to find ways through difficult times.

Learn About What Rationing Looked Like

Even though these are the list stamps in the list they really are the oldest in this collection. They began long before WWII. They were first offered sometime in the 1930s and were in use till sometime in the 1980s. They were named for the company that created them; the Sperry and Hutchinson Company. They were available in any store that displayed the S&H sign on the outside. Believe me, we tried to make sure that was where mom did her shopping. When you made a purchase the cashier gave you stamps equal to the amount of your purchase.

The number of stamps per dollar had been decided by The S&H company. The goal was to fill the book and them more and more books. This was a HUGH company and they had catalogs telling what was available to purchased using your filled books. They not only had the catalogs but special stores where you could go and make your selection from all the wonderful things that were available.

As kids we were sometimes allowed to make selections at the S&H store. I do not want you to think that it was all about kids... oh, no. With enough books you could purchase lamps, radios, TV sets and full sets of dishes. Those were wonderful times wondering through the catalogs looking for something you might be allowed to pick out for yourselves.

Fun with Stamps Oh, The Things We Could Buy

Today the internet has made it possible to find out a lot of what has come before us. You can find out lots more about these kinds of stamps by using the search engines that are available to you. And perhaps you have found other kinds of stamps. Many people are stamp collectors, just not the kind of stamps I have been telling you about.

Stamp collections also help us learn about other time. There are collectors who looked for stamps for many countries, stamps that show government leaders or pictures of trucks, or planes or who knows what. Exploring is part of the fun of stamps.

Sources: Foil Ball photo available at
Buy Victory Bonds, Saved from Pinterest: Mickey Mouse:
Stamp Images: From National WWII Museum:New Orleans United State History. World War II Rationing.

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