My grandmother, Theodocia Argo Sorrow sent five sons to join the “Greatest Generation” in the Second World War. I clearly remember the blue banner containing a circle of five white stars that hung just inside her front door. Howard was a baker who fed the D-day invaders. Benjamin was a rifleman in the South Pacific. J.D. drove a jeep for a high officer in the Army Air Corps. James and Pete were in the Navy’s Pacific Command. All five came home in reasonably good condition.
All five were great collectors of souvenirs which they sent back home to their mother and sisters. I frequently find reminders of that era hidden in chests, cabinets and drawers around my house, the same house I helped my father build in Dogsboro when I was a teenager.
Recently, I found a tiny cookbook published in 1942 by Arm & Hammer and Cow Brand baking sodas. It is about the size of a post card and has 16 pages. It is named “Good Things to Eat” by Martha Lee Anderson. As I glanced through some of the recipes I realized that the recipes were carefully designed to deal with the shortages every family faced due to the war. Shortages like sugar, salt, coffee, butter and flour. Each family received a monthly ration book and they had to hand over a ration stamp for the purchase of each limited item.
That kicked off memories from my childhood of food substitutes that became popular or emerged during the war. For example, Postum. Invented by cereal maker C.W. Post in 1895, Postum was a coffee and chocolate substitute made from toasted and finely ground wheat bran and sweet molasses.
It could be dissolved in hot water to replace coffee or in cold water for a chocolate substitute. It was still commonly available until a few years ago, and can still be purchased over the internet.
To replace butter, someone invented Oleomargarine. Of course today, they drop off the Oleo part. When it first appeared in the stores, there was a great fear that people would mislabeled it as genuine butter, so a law was made that it had to be sold in its basic form which had the consistency and look of lard. But a small packet of flavoring and color came along with it. Users had to mix in the packet with the material and stir it until the color and flavor that resembled butter was achieved.
I vaguely remember one or two of the ration books being around. I will probably run across one of them some day.
Only one of the brothers remains alive today. James Sorrow still lives in Franklin Springs. Some of my older readers may remember Sorrow’s Bakery in Commerce. You may not know that he learned to bake in the Army. Many of you might remember the Rev. Benjamin Sorrow. He returned home suffering from “battle fatigue.” He sought help in the church, which led him to bible school and eventually into the ministry. J.D. continued to drive, eventually working delivering R.C. Cola to stores around north Georgia. James was a clerk who used his typing skills to operate a Linotype for The University of Georgia press, the Athens Banner Herald and finally the Emmanuel college press.
Pete was a navy photographer who used his skill to make documentary films for various churches and schools. And me, I turned the stories I used to hear them tell into my love of writing, and most of you know how that came out.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. His website can be accessed at http://www.frankgillispie.com/gillispieonline.
Marie Sorrow Adams
06/28/13 at 05:05 PM
Frank, I too remember that banner hanging inside Mama Sorrow's house and wonder how she was able to stand all her boys gone to war. The greatest generation is almost gone. For the first time in my life, I am not optimist about our country's future. Who will take their place? I fear our generation has failed to raise anyone to follow in their mighty footsteps.
Marie Sorrow Adams
06/29/13 at 11:47 AM
I too remember the banner hanging inside Mama Sorrow's front hall. So many mothers sent all their sons to war. How did they bear it? Very proud of all my uncles. I fear that our generation did not produce men and women with the character, strength, love of God, family and country to fill the footsteps of their forefathers.
I remember the WW1 vets who had eye whitening scarring due to mustard gas of WW1. By the 1980s they were getting rare. Now our WW2 vets getting rare. This said, my grandmother talked lovingly about our Civil War vets and even remembered stories from her grandmother about the war of 1812 told by her mother. Good article Frank.