Saturday, September 25, 2010

Doing Without in the 1940s

Party on Russet Lane about 1950 with Chris R. on the left,
maybe Maureen, then John R. and one of the Harrisons.
We were often reminded when we were very young how lucky we were to have sugar.

Those of us born in the 1940s remember World War II's rationing. Even after VJ Day in 1945 rationing and scarcity continued and the memories lingered into the 1960s.

Cele feeding her cranky new baby (me) a few months after the War.
Appropriate food was not easy to buy as much was still rationed.

My mother was a big fan of Jell-O. Because it's composed primarily of sugar, Jell-O was one of the sweet things unavailable after sugar supplies were cut off by the Japanese invasion of Manila. Once it was back in the stores we ate a lot of it.

If we didn't clean our salad plates we were reminded that we should be grateful just to have that wiggly treat. I guess because it could be green, Jell-O was considered a salad. In certain parts of the Great Plains it is still a salad bar feature.

Poster from 1946

Meat was rationed because it was shipped overseas. In New York City, Mayor LaGuardia declared meatless Tuesdays and meatless Fridays. Meatless Fridays wouldn't have been much of a hardship for Catholic girls but cooks of that generation had a hard time coming up with vegetarian dishes. My mother's old stand-by of creamed salmon on toast with canned peas would have been tough because canned goods of any kind were scarce due to metal rationing in manufacturing.

Ration book and stamps

I remember a few ration books in the back of the "junk drawer" in the kitchen into the 1950s. Housewives had coupons and stamps to be used for meat, butter, sugar, coffee and canned goods. I imagine the coupon books were saved because they were so valuable during the War that people couldn't bring themselves to throw them out....ever.

Bacon Grease Cannister

My mother saved bacon grease in old coffee cans.

During the War it was patriotic to take the cans to the butcher who sent them to the government to be recycled for weapons. (How---I do not want to know.)  And shortening of any kind was difficult to get.

I stored used bacon grease in cans well into the 1970s until one day I realized you didn't need to keep a can of bacon grease. You could just throw the grease away after you cooked the bacon. Just put it in the trash. (I still feel guilty although the house smells better.)

Cele and Ben and their friends the Hetricks in Barnegat on the Jersey Shore, May, 1944
Separates and rayon dresses were the effects of rationing.

War-time regulations dictated how much yardage could be in clothing. Any waste of fabric from patch pockets to cuffed pants was forbidden. No one item could have more than a certain amount of fabric, so short skirts became popular and so did separates. Blouses and skirt combinations became the fashion as manufacturers figured out ways to get around the cloth restrictions.

May, 1943
Even Grandma's skirts got shorter.
The McNallys on a visit to Jack at military camp.

Silk and nylon were needed for parachutes so women began wearing rayon. Rayon was made of small fragments of cotton formed into long strands using a kind of mucilage. Cele told us about a rayon dress she wore into the city one day. It started to rain and her dress started to shrink and dissolve as the mucilage decomposed in the water. She was always a little wary of rayon. (Fashion alert: Rayon is more durable today.)

Rayons in the 1943 Montgomery Ward's catalog

Saturday, September 18, 2010


Kathy, Joan and Maureen in the wedding party, August, 1960
How many crinolines does it take to get a skirt to fluff up like Moe's?

Barbara, Bill and Jane
These crinolines, our first, may have been gifts from Aunt Laura and Aunt Vera who were visiting at the time.

The  look was nostalgic and romantic, perfect for one's First Communion or a wedding
but it was also a fashion necessity for fifth-grade school clothes too.

Barbara, Ben, Jane and Bill, 1959

We were all trying to be Debbie Reynolds.
Or a French fashion model. The New Look with tight waist and full skirt had been created after the War by Christian Dior. Skirts were supported by petticoats of stiffened nylon tulle.

The New Look echoed fashion of the 1850s and '60s when crinoline skirts were outrageously large.

And then replaced by hoops. Above a photo from the 1860s.

We never had hoops in the 1950s, just starched nylon net.
My friends and I spent a lot of time thinking about physics---physics in relation to crinolines. We wore as many as we had and debated about whether the newest and fullest should be under the others to support the tired older examples. Or whether the fullest should be on the outside where it wouldn't be weighted down.
But then why wear the others?

By the 1960s crinolines became old-fashioned, except for bridal parties and First Communions.

Anonymous contemporary wedding party

Lora, Kathryn, Ann and Dorothy as bridesmaids at Peggy's wedding in classic Bridesmaid's fashion.
Ben is the Best Man.

 Bridesmaids and Barbie dolls continue to suffer, but the new fashion for A-Line skirts in the early 1960s saved the rest of us.
Barbara, Bill and Jane behind Cele

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Uncle Lew's Family

Grandma's brother Uncle Lew married twice. His first wife was Elizabeth Donohue who died when she was about 28 in 1910, leaving 4 young children: Elizabeth, Edward, Dorothy and Ruth. These children were our parents' first cousins.

Lew and Theresa

 He married Elizabeth's older sister Theresa about 1914 and they had a daughter Miriam.

Miriam at 10

Lew and Theresa with Miriam behind them and an older daughter
 John V. says this was his grandmother's favorite photo and it hung in her bedroom.


Miriam married John Joseph Sheehan in 1945 and had four children: John Valentine, Mary, Monica and Matthew.

John J. and John V in the late 1940s.

John V. is a subscriber to this blog. He has posted his family photos on a Picasa web album. Click here to see his albums, featuring photos of his mother Miriam and his granddad Lew.

Lewis about 1885???
All these photos are from John's web album.

Uncle Lew's inauguration as Police Commissioner in 1934.
Our Great-Grandmother Elizabeth Daly Valentine is standing to the left. I am guessing that Lew's wife Theresa is next, then two of his older daughters.

Lew's descendants had a reunion in 2006.

I didn't recognize any McNallys in John's photo albums but you might.

Saturday, September 4, 2010


That looks like Grandma McNally on the right.
Who is the woman dressed so much like her on the left?

In Uncle Jack's box of pictures Lorraine found some pictures of people that we can't identify.
There were no notes on the photos either.

Who is this little girl?
What a beautiful building.

Maybe the same girl, same day photographed at the Queens Village house.

Who is sitting to the left of Grandpa in the anniversary photo?
This may be their 50th wedding anniversary, which would make it November, 1955.

That's Grandma on the left and Grandpa on the right, but who is in the center?