I was a very little girl during the early 1940s and our country was at war.
There were air raid drills and black-out curtains and black outs.
People bought War Bonds to show their patriotism.
I remember rationing of gasoline and sugar and other things. So many things were needed for the war effort.
Fresh eggs were in short supply. My family had two chickens Alice and Jerry, They lived in a fenced in dog house in our yard. They laid eggs. Sometimes the fox raided the hen house. I always worried about Alice and Jerry.
My family shared our eggs with neighbors. When a neighbor had a birthday, We pooled our family’s eggs and everyone’s sugar rations to bake a cake Portions were small but we each had a piece.
If someone had to drive a distance to see a sick relative, all of the neighbors donated their gas rations, so the neighbor could make that drive home.
Fresh produce was not readily available. Most things came in tins.
Uncle Sam encouraged his people to have Victory Gardens, even though they may not have had a clue how to make things grow. And those gardens were a community gathering place. War news was shared. Recipes and remedies were shared. And gossip too.
That special place, our Victory Garden, began as an empty field across the street from our house. There, my mother and other neighbors grew vegetables. My mom was a city girl, but wanted to do her part in the war effort. So she, along with her neighbors, tilled, hoed and planted and weeded. People soaked their sweat up with bandanas. Callouses were a badge of honor. Everyone pitched in-even the children.
After the harvest, Mom and her friends would use pressure cookers and can the vegetables to store away for winter. Sometimes the jars exploded and red pulp painted the ceiling of the kitchen. My big sister and I weren’t allowed to use knives, but we would sit on the stoop and slip the skins off of the parboiled tomatoes. We husked corn and shelled peas.
The Victory Garden was a community effort and a communal space. People shared what they grew and they worked together to make it grow. They also bonded and looked out for each other.
That Victory Garden was my first memory of gardening. I loved the smell of the earth. I loved watching things grow. I loved eating what we grew.I loved kicking the dirt with my toes. I loved playing in the field, while my mom worked. I loved weeding and sampling. I was always cautious to ask permission, before tasting. I didn’t want to take food away from anyone else. Things were scarce and the war effort was serious undertaking.
Although a very early memory, the smell of the earth and the meaningfulness of community gardening has stayed with me all of my life.