As the United States marks the 75th anniversary of both Victory in Europe and Victory in Japan days in 2020, one Raymond resident found something special her family has saved since World War II.
Lolita Johnson found a folder of World War II ration books that belonged to her parents and her siblings.
“It’s interesting when we stop and think what people did and sacrificed for the boys that were fighting for us,” Johnson said.
She found the ration books inside a folder that was about five-inches by six and a half-inches in size, made especially for keeping the books safe. The one her family had was compliments of Hiller’s Sheet Metal in Hillsboro.
Johnson said the front had a large “Victory” emblem, as the term victory was used often during the war days. She added that it had a quote on the front “You serve, when you conserve.”
In the years of World War II, families were issued war ration books due to the shortage of supplies. Each member had his or her own book of coupons used for things like sugar, flour, material and other items.
The daughter of longtime Raymond mayor Ned and ern Bockewitz, Johnson’s family had five ration books, one for each of her parents, one for Johnson, and one for each of her siblings, Marlene and Ned Allen Bockewitz.
“I was in high school at that time,” she said of her years from 1941-1946. “They called us the war kids.”
In addition to the war ration books, Johnson, who is now 93, said there was a ration on gasoline, although she didn’t remember how that was done.
A high school cheerleader, she said her mom often drove the cheerleaders to neighboring communities for basketball games. She added that at the start of the war, skirt length for young women was from just below the knee to mid-calf, which included their cheerleading uniforms. Due to the shortage of material, skirt length was shortened to about two inches above the knee.
She also remembers piling into the back of a farm truck with her friends and heading to Nokomis or Litchfield to go roller skating, which also conserved gasoline.
“The whole story of these years is so interesting,” said Johnson, who began reminiscing with a high school classmate after a story about the 75th anniversary of VE Day ran on the front page of The Journal-News. “There were a certain number of things we didn’t have because of rations and a number of things we did without.”
One of the ration coupons remaining in her books was one for sugar, which people used a lot of for home canning at that time. The label read “We must get along with less sugar this year,” and listed five reasons. Those reasons included military needs for sugar being high, ships that typically hauled sugar were hauling supplies for battle, manpower at both sugar plants and shipping stations were scarce, the beet sugar production was 500,000 tons short and last year, many oversupplied for canning sugar. “Do not apply for more sugar than you actually need.”
Johnson said the finding the books brought up lots of memories from that time in her life, including the lyrics to a popular song, “We’ll Meet Again” by Dame Vera Lynn, which was often played on the radio in honor of the soldiers serving overseas. Lynn was a longtime symbol of hope for troops. She lived to be 103, passing away in June 2020.
“We’ll meet again
Don’t know where
Don’t know when
But I know we’ll meet again some sunny day
Keep smiling through
Just like you always do
‘Till the blue skies drive the dark clouds far away.”