It has been fascinating to listen to people as they go through the new traveling exhibit at the ITOW Veterans Museum. “Our Lives, Our Stories: America’s Greatest Generation,” is an exhibit about a group of people moving through time together, sharing many of the same experiences.
Many visitors, looking at the rows of babies in basinets at the beginning of the exhibit, reminded us that they’d been born at home. Another, who’d been a hospital nurse in those days, remembered that one busy night they had so many babies they had to use dresser drawers.
“We didn’t need insurance in those days,” said another. “We saved up to have a baby. It only cost about $65.”
She recalled being in a ward with three other mothers: “We had fun.”
The other topic of great interest to visitors has been rationing, so I searched our East Otter Tail history books to see what more I could find.
For Ernest Boehland and Inez Krause, who were born and reared in Woodside Township, World War II material shortages meant that no gas could be used. There were practically no childrens toys available. Sugar was rationed to two cupfuls per person per week. Sugar substitutes had to be used for cooking, baking and canning. Much food was canned and preserved.
For the Boehlands, like many farm families, Victory Gardens were a way of life. Where families really felt the pinch was sugar and gas. One visitor to ITOW confessed that his mother had a ‘sugar bank.’ Like many others, she’d collect a little sugar each week until she had enough to make a cake.
Also in the history books, I found an interesting story about how Edgar Rosen handled gas rationing. Born in 1919 in Corliss Township, Edgar was inducted into the U.S. Army in 1942 and went to Camp Walters, Texas for infantry training. After 13 weeks of basic training he was sent to Southern California to join the 140th Infantry Regiment that patrolled the beach from Los Angeles to the Mexican border.
In May of 1943, he received his first leave home. He rented a 1934 Ford and took off, along with three others of his unit, for Minnesota. The trip up and back was about 5,000 miles but everything went quite well thanks to certain people who gave him extra gas ration stamps. His own “A” sticker, which was put on the windshield, would have allowed for only four gallons of gas a week.
These stories and more are available at www. HistoryMuseumEOT.org.