It’s not the 40s

Posted 6/7/23

People who lived in the early 1940s had just survived the great depression and were starting to enjoy life until the rationing of food, clothing and other items became restricted when German dictator …

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It’s not the 40s


People who lived in the early 1940s had just survived the great depression and were starting to enjoy life until the rationing of food, clothing and other items became restricted when German dictator Adolf Hitler began his siege which developed into World War II. In response, the United States lowered the draft age from 21 to 18, effectively recruiting a whole generation of soldiers. Families lived frugally and rallied behind victory gardens. If they could not get food at the stores, they could grow their own! Because of wartime rationing, recipes used meat substitutions. Meals consisted of Spam and eggs, garden fresh tomato soup, meatloaf made with only a little meat and a lot of soybeans, Harvard beets easily grown in their own gardens, and mashed potatoes which they could grow in abundance.  Interestingly, sandwiches were not an option because sliced bread was banned in 1943 as a wartime conservation measure.

Women transformed peacetime domestic chores and skills into wartime careers such as nurses, truck drivers, construction workers, factory workers and other previously men’s jobs. Rosie the Riveter, the heroine of a 1940’s song of the same name, emphasized the type of work women were able to do.

The radio became the staple for news and entertainment and would affectionately sit on a table in living rooms where whole families would sit and listen. It provided information to a country struggling with depression and war. News shows and current affairs would keep people up to date on the atrocities of the war, with comedy, drama and music shows to entertain. Some of the radio shows of the 40’s are somewhat reminiscent of the current upsurge of “Pod Casts”.

 Manufacturing shifted to war products such as military tanks, bullets, and soldiers’ helmets, eliminating the production of bikes, toys, and refrigerators.

During this time, children played traditional games such as hopscotch, jump rope, marbles, pick-up sticks, jacks and checkers, the same games I was playing a decade later, and the same games which have disappeared due to the use of technology and video games. Children in the 40’s were anxious and lived in fear that one of the constantly practiced air raids drills in school (where the students would crawl under their desks and cover their heads,) would be the real thing with German airplanes dropping bombs on them. I still remember “duck and cover” drills in school where my gangly body would try to finagle its way under my tiny desk, usually hitting my head on the way down.

The persecution of individuals who were Jewish began when Adolf Hitler came into power in Germany. At first, it was just a boycott of Jewish businesses and shops and barring them from holding civil service and state positions. Books written by individuals who were Jewish were burned. Jewish individuals were then forbidden from marrying anyone not Jewish. Jewish doctors were banned from practicing medicine. Jewish shopkeepers were forced to turn their business over to other German citizens.  All Jewish pupils were expelled from schools.  Their passports were marked with a large “J”, and they were forced to wear a yellow armband or big yellow star. As Germany began conquering other countries, such as Poland, they rounded up individuals who were Jewish and sent them to live in a locked ghetto from which they could not escape. In 1941, Auschwitz and other concentration camps became the place to send individuals who were Jewish with the intent of extermination the “non-humans”. 

This story is played out effectively in the History Channel’s “A Small Light”, where, amidst the repression practiced by the Nazis, diarist Anne Frank and her family went into hiding in Amsterdam in 1942. The story is about how regular, non-Jewish individuals risked their own lives to hide them.

I may or may not have been someone willing to hide individuals who were Jewish while they were being persecuted. My mind simply cannot comprehend that level of ignorance and hate. The concept goes way back to slavery, in my brain, when African Americans were similarly treated as less than human. What type of intelligent, rational person calls themselves human but then assigns a lesser role to others? 

We seemed to be getting “there” to not discriminate against other races, nationalities, disabilities, sexes, ages, and LGBTQ+. Finally. Or have we?

 Popular, charismatic politicians think it is okay to dehumanize others. One governor recently passed legislation “License to Discriminate in Healthcare Bill” which allows healthcare providers and insurers to deny patient care if they disagree with their beliefs. In other words, medical providers can refuse to treat anyone who is LGBTQ+.  That is a slippery slope…


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