Childhood Memories of Food in the 1940s


Probably twenty years ago, I was prevailed upon by my (now deceased) cousin Peg Townsend, to record my childhood memories. At first I was reluctant, but finally I did it. The following ramblings are excerpted from those memories, and they concern what we ate on our farm during the 1940s.

Before the war, Mom made root beer, which we all loved. She bought Hires (I think) Root Beer Extract, mixed it with sugar and water, and sealed the concoction in Mason jars that were stored on a shelf in the cellar. Sometimes a jar would burst because of the carbonation, but most of them turned into excellent root beer. Unfortunately, due to wartime sugar rationing, she had to stop brewing her root beer.

For the same reason, we stopped using sugar in our iced tea; I still prefer my iced tea unsweetened.

Even though we had our own milk, Mom seldom churned butter. It probably just took too much time; once in a while she'd give me a half-gallon jar of milk and tell me to shake it until it turned to butter. It took a long time and a lot of shaking. We mostly ate oleomargarine on our bread. In those days, because of the dairy lobby, they weren't allowed to sell oleo that was yellow colored. The oleo was dead white and came with a small cellophane packet of orange food coloring that you could mix in it if you wanted. Sometimes Mom would go to the trouble of mixing it, or make either my sister or me do it, but most of the time we spread our bread with white oleo. I don't think it bothered us.

My sister and I ate a lot of what we called milk toast for breakfast. It was homemade bread toasted and buttered, and covered with sugar and milk. Our favorite snack was a slice of bread with oleo and sugar.

We also ate warm rolled oats, probably in the winter, and dry breakfast cereals with milk and sugar. I remember Wheaties and Jack Armstrong, the "All-American Boy." We ate Shredded Wheat, and some kind of a Ralston cereal that was promoted by Tom Mix and his "TM-Bar" ranch. I saved box tops and, when I could either save up or con Mom out of the 10, 15, or 25 cents needed, I sent away for some of the great offers that were touted on the backs of those cereal boxes. I had a Jack Armstrong pedometer, a round metal gadget, about 3 inches in diameter, painted blue with a yellow dial, that you hooked over the top of your shoe or sock and it recorded how many miles you walked. I had at least one Tom Mix pocket knife that had the red and white checked colors of the Ralston Purina Company, along with the brand mark of the TM-Bar Ranch on each side. I also remember a "Secret Decoder Ring" put out by someone, probably Little Orphan Annie.

Richard Harris
5/29/2013 12:36:05 AM

By the 60's National Biscuit Company was going by the name Nabisco. They advertised their Shredded Wheat on television; particularly their spoon size shredded wheat. They were still producing it in Niagara Falls, Ontario through the 60's. At some time after that they were bought out and production in Niagara Falls ceased in I think the early 80's.


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