Well I thought I might as well weigh in on this pandemic issue. Being deluged by the tsunami of information shared with us regarding COVID-19, we Americans generally attempt to make sense of all this and chart the correct course for government and personal action from historical, tried-and-true experience.
Admittedly, this never-before-seen consequence causes current game planning to be a tougher nut to crack, especially for those who are charged with directing public response beneath the microscope of sometimes unenlightened scrutiny. It’s a tough assignment.
I have been reading with interest and a bit of humor via social media regarding the subject of “hoarding.” My wife directs that linguistic unit toward me when viewing the clutter lying about my computer room and closets. I lovingly clarify, “It’s not hoarding; it’s collecting.” There’s a fine line.
The word originally became part and parcel to my vocabulary years ago thanks to my maternal grandmother. The lesson she shared about hoarding certainly didn’t involve masses of Wal-Mart, Meijer, or Aldi patrons bearing cartloads of toilet tissue and bottled water. No, it was associated with another dark period of our nation’s past.
For those who launched spit wads, pooh-poohed, or slept through U.S. history class, the unprecedented attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, compelled our government to make some mighty difficult decisions, many of which were controversial at the time and remain so today. Hindsight regarding yesteryear is always 20/20.
When Japanese warlords took control of Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific, natural resources for the production of rubber were vastly reduced for the Allied Nations. Tires, as well as new car production, fell victim to rationing or sudden death in February 1942 and remained that way for the next four years.
Doctors, nurses, farmers, bus owners, fire and police departments could obtain new tires only through approval of local rationing boards comprised of local appointees familiar with needs of the community.
No new LaSalles, Hudsons, Studebakers, or way to shoe them. Vehicle production facilities were all re-tooled toward the manufacture of guns, military trucks, Jeeps, tanks, and airplanes.
The biggie was gasoline. Rationing of petrol was set in place, May of ‘42. Most family vehicles were allotted but five gallons per week. That move created an uproar which didn’t subside until war’s end. Office of Price Administration Deputy Administrator John Kenneth Galbraith said, “There was no degree of deceit, theft or chicanery to which people wouldn’t stoop to obtain gasoline.”
To control distribution of vital commodities, the OPA introduced ration stamp booklets. They were filled with pages of stamps to be detached as rationed items were purchased, together with appropriate currency. The consumer catch surrounded the fact that stamp usage was limited to certain time periods. If you used them up too soon, too bad. You could not (other than on the black market or bribery) purchase the stamped item until new books were later issued.
There were stamps for petroleum products i.e., oil, gasoline, greases, etc. Also most food items, meat, coffee, butter, sugar, fats, flour, canned goods, and soaps required the treasured stamps. Amazingly, fresh fruit and vegetables were excluded as were my beloved Wheaties.
Nylons for the ladies’ gorgeous gams went by the wayside to provide hundreds of thousands of parachutes for military airborne requirements. Several accounts surfaced post-war where brides donned homemade wedding dresses fashioned from parachutes returned from war zones by their G.I. sweethearts.
Hoarding developed as a fairly major problem. Rather than a person purchasing what they needed for a given period, they would use up all their ration stamps, socking away an item whether they used it or not, thereby depleting availability for those who did.
From a recent foray into one of our local big box stores, I was surprised and somewhat disturbed at the scarcity of items on the shelves. Folks, just as our World War II ancestors, we have no date when this situation will rectify itself. Hopefully soon.
Is it pleasant? Nope. Will it be difficult? Only if we allow it to be so. Let’s make the best of it, OK? Use some common sense, and we will do just fine.
We’re Americans. Be cognizant of what others need. Raise the bar. Take some pride, and step up to the plate. Suck it up, and shove self-interest and politics to the back burner for a while. Maintain your composure, and share your sense of humor.
Drawing from two outstanding statesmen, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said in 1933, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” Secondly, Prime Minister Winston Churchill stated during the Battle of Britain in 1940, “Let them say, this. This was our finest hour!”
And in closing, recalling those inspiring words from grocer George Whipple in 1964, “Don’t squeeze the Charmin.”