History: Tires were rationed in January 1942. Sales were frozen in December 1941, and then if you needed a tire after January, you had to apply to the local ration board to get one. On January 7, 1942, A. B. Blake, an electrical contractor, was the first person to get a tire in Wilmington under the new rules. This certificate documents that a Mrs. Bernard Gravely purchased a tire, and turned in her old one.
In the run up to, and during World War II, the U.S. supplied huge quantities of food to the Allies, and produced all sorts of guns, tanks, ships, ammunition, and other military material. As the country geared up for war, federal government began to regulate the economy in order to make sure the nation could produce enough goods for ensure a victory.
The war effort made its mark in Wilmington. War stories filled the newspaper. Residents lived with blackout curtains, air raid warnings, and drills. There were German U Boats off the coast. The war era provided new economic opportunities for many, created severe housing shortages, and altered families as soldiers went off to war, more women went off to work, and some of the city’s children went to school next to a POW camp. The local shipyard became the largest manufacturing employer in the state, and ran 24 hours a day, with three shifts. Thousands moved to the city for employment, and thousands more came to the region as soldiers stationed at Camp Davis. The city was flooded with people on weekends.
As the city adjusted to a wartime economy, the government developed a national strategy for recycling, reusing, conserving, and distributing scarce resources. People on the home front were encouraged to see their domestic activities as a part of the war effort. Citizens were admonished and encouraged to share rides, to garden for victory, to preserve fats for munitions, to salvage metals, and to make sacrifices on the home front to help the “boys overseas.”
The US began rationing in 1942. Starting with tires, civilians were limited in how much of certain commodities they could purchase. Gasoline, sugar, and coffee were all rationed in the run up to February 1943. At that time, the Office of Price Administration, the agency in charge of rationing, issued Ration Book 2 and declared that every man, woman, and child needed a ration book. Parents were responsible for their children’s ration books, and if someone died you had to return their book to the proper authorities.
For more than three years, a person going to the store would have needed to take their cash and their ration book (and later their tokens). They’d have grown some of the vegetables they ate, and they’d have struggled to keep a car going, or gone back to walking or taking public transit. They may have had a hard time finding a place to live, and gone to stay in a trailer home provided by the shipyard, or to live in one of the new housing developments that sprung up to serve the booming war population. And all the while, they lived their lives knowing the world’s sons were fighting a deadly war.