THE UNITED STATES Food Administrationís guidelines to food rationing issued in 1918.
Sandy Vasko Columnist
In our time war feels at once close to home and very far away. We certainly see footage of war and the people fighting it on a daily basis on the television in our own home.
But we feel no need to ration our food or gasoline to help feed troops in Afghanistan. It does not affect how we live our own lives. This was certainly not true 100 years ago. The war and its effects were everywhere you looked.
The production of food was a priority to the federal government. Many foods that could be kept without refrigeration were designated for the troops.
The food stuffs left to the civilian population were also highly regulated. Prices on potatoes, onions, apples, etc. were set by the government, usually by how much was available.
In June of 1917, 88 corporations and individuals were indicted by the federal grand jury for conspiring to monopolize interstate commerce on onions.
The indictments were in Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin. It was found that the supply was hoarded in order to increase prices.
The United States Marshall service was also directly involved in the war effort.
We read on July 13, 1917, "Deputy U. S. Marshal Thomas Hennebry of Wesley, Monday of this week took John Tusek, a draft slacker, from Joliet to Chicago, where he was given a hearing before Commissioner Mason. Tusek claims San Antonio, Tex., as his home and was arrested after making boasts that he had evaded registering."
Regulations concerning home land security were also put out. One of them was that lights in businesses must be kept on all night. Thus, if anyone were going to bomb a place of business they could more easily be seen.
We read in July of 1917, "One of Wilmington's saloon keepers was brought before Justice Hadsall Monday morning and fined $6.60 for not turning on his lights in his place of business for the night Sunday evening last.
"The proprietor stated that he and his bartender were out of the city that day and did not return home until 10 o'clock that evening. On their return the lights were turned on but this did not save the proprietor from "digging up" for the few hours the sample room was in darkness."
There were two organizations in town that helped the war effort. The first was the Women's Relief Corp. They had been in business since the 1870's. Their main goal was to raise money to donate toward other charitable groups, locally the Soldiers' Widows' Home, by holding fund raising events.
The other group was the Red Cross. Prior to WWI the American Red Cross was concerned with first aid, water safety and public health nursing.
In 1914 there were only 107 local chapters. By 1918 that number had jumped to 3,864 with over 20,000,000 adult and 11,000,000 junior members.
In May the Women's Relief Corp held a benefit at the Opera House for the Red Cross. They cleared $250 ($4,800 today.) All of the proceeds going to the Red Cross, not the Soldiers' Widows' Home. The logic was that the Home was already funded by the State.
By June there were 180 members of the Wilmington Red Cross unit. All of their names were published and many are familiar to us today. We see Allott, Beckwith, Butterfield, Baskerville, Bertino, Donahoe, Dorsey, Hazzard, Hiles, Killey, Kahler, Warner, Whitmore and Weidling. And so many, many more.
Twice a week classes were held in the permanent headquarters set up in the Sime building downtown. Members learned to roll bandages, give basic medical treatment, etc. If the war ever came home, Wilmington was prepared.
However, we know what the best thing that civilians could do for their boys on the front. Robert Jardine wrote in a letter home to tell his family of it.
"After we had our tea last evening, the major brought out the first mail and I wish you could have seen the 150 stampede for their letters. Just like a bunch of hungry cattle.
"Every letter looked like a $5 gold piece. I got your letter and one from Bernice Strong, one she had sent to Evanston to bid me good-bye. I was craving for a letter and read both greedily. I got two more this morning; one from George and one from Miss McElin. Be sure and write often, for I have told you what letter looks like over here."
Yes, it was letters. The Red Cross would help with that too. Letter writing campaigns were started. Soon people all over town were writing to young men that may only have known is passing - a touch of home to lonely frightened young men.