Patriotism, then and now

Thursday , March 06, 2014 - 2:22 PM

Audrey Godfrey, Standard-Examiner

Americans are tired of war. Our military has served in war torn countries for years. Unless we have family or friends serving we tire of the endless reports of casualties and conflicts and we don’t feel engaged in the fighting.

Not so during World Wars I and II.

The government asked citizens to make sacrifices to feed the men and to help the war effort in 1918. Mormon women were advised to avoid political discussions, to teach peaceable things. “Keep cool; cultivate the spirit of calmness, love and peace. ... Look after the needy, plant gardens, economize.”

Instruction to Cache Valley citizens during the Second World War included limiting phone calls in case the lines were needed. See that children attend school. Save rags and fabric to make quilts and paper. Limit food intake so there there would be more for the troops. Cut down on spending and buy war bonds to fund the war.

A garden shop in Salt Lake City encouraged citizens to “Plant Your Victory Garden Now! Every one with space to plant a garden should do so in order to produce the food they need so there will be plenty to send to the troops.”

A U & I Sugar Company’s recurring advertisement urged women to “Can more to win the war.” The text of the ad read, “Home canning is no secret weapon ... but it’s a winner in the fight for food.” Consumers were regularly instructed as to which food stamps were available. For example, “Stamp 40 is good for five pounds. [of sugar] at your grocers. See the ration board for additional ration stamps.”

I remember my parents used stamps for food and gasoline. We lived on a farm so we were quite self sufficient, but I never did like the oleomargerine we used instead of butter; probably because I watched my mom use the yellow tablet to mix into the spread so it looked more like butter. However, I did collect foil from my gum wrappers which we made into balls to donate for “whatever they did with it.”

My husband lived on a farm also. His father drove the school bus during the week. Then on weekends he drove it to Ogden to carry the local men who worked at the Army Depot on Second Street. Upon emptying cans of food, his family took the lids off and crushed the cans to be taken to a collection place for use in making weapons. The family loved eating bread and milk with sugar on it, but with the rationing they made the sacrifice to give it up.

As the war drew to a close, women who had worked in offices and factories were asked to return home so men coming back from the military could find jobs. One piece of interesting advice given to the women included a warning of the realities they might find at home. Children who were used to taking care of themselves and making decisions would likely be resentful ot the “closer surveillance” of the mother in the home.

Yes, during these early wars we all were urged to make sacrifices — buy bonds, work hard, support our soldiers, make do with less. People were actively involved and aware of the war. Some of us prayed daily for the soldiers’ safety. Today war doesn’t affect us much. Those with family enlisted in the military make the sacrifices now. Supporting our country is not promoted and some of us are oblivious to war efforts.

On Veterans Day this year perhaps a moment of thoughtfulness, and an effort to instill patriotism in ourselves and family beyond putting our hands over our hearts when the flag goes by or the national anthem is sung is in order. That wouldn’t be too great of a sacrifice would it?

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