When In Crisis – Head Back to the Homefront and We’ll Meet Again!

I find it notable that in times of national crisis on an international scale our (writing from the U.S. here) collective reaction is to draw on the resolve and the homefront spirit of World War Two.

Image credit: Amanda Stiver

What has sold out in stores, aside from toilet paper and vitamins? Yeast, meat and potatoes, and other staples. In a strange way, we’re self-rationing. Just as our grand and great-grandparents did during that all-consuming war in the 1940’s. People are scrounging online to learn how to make their own bread, or at least have the means to do so, and looking for other simple comfort meals much like those that people relied on to stretch their rations.

This sense of, “If I’m stuck at home, I might as well go on with life and get back to the basics” is striking.

Families are exercising together, at least in our neighborhood. And neighbors are trying to keep a healthy distance, not unlike the way neighborhoods used to make sure that everyone had their windows blacked-out as an air-raid precaution. If we’re all in this together we have to take a care for those around us.

What else has sold out? Vegetable seeds! Can you believe it?! It’s like there is an instinctive need to plant a Victory Garden deep down inside us, despite being several generations away from WW2. Those who survived the war are in their 80’s and 90’s, yet this collective sense of history has reached all the way through the years of trends and revisions to visit their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

On the dark side, we also have hoarders and black market-style price gougers (individual and corporate, and mostly online). The good and bad of the WW2 has a tendency to repeat itself.

The global and national nature of the Coronavirus epidemic and the fact that it, like war, is no respecter of persons, wealth, or nation, has forged a similar atmosphere as the Second World War. Totality and finality forces you to face reality.

I had the privilege of studying civil defense documents from WW2 as my undergraduate thesis, and the same kind of local pull-together was recorded for me in those memos, memorabilia, and notations. First-Aid training was a community wide-effort. Plane spotters (which my own grandparents did while living in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon) and Air-Raid wardens were a vital part of daily life.

Experts were sent out from Washington D.C. to train local communities and encourage clothing and other drives for necessities for soldiers and civilians. Avid knitters and seamstresses accomplished great things to send items to those in need over-seas, just as readily as many now are making masks to protect loved-ones, neighbors, and perfect strangers.

In the same way, industry was refitted to produce vital supplies and the phrase “make-do and mend,” which was already a part of daily life from the Great Depression, extended into the war years as production of non-essential items was stopped. And here we are with our light and some heavy manufacturing rapidly refitting to produce medical supplies and field hospitals (also a feature of WW2 and WW1).

It’s no wonder that after Queen Elizabeth II’s televised speech last night in which she quoted the lines from a Vera Lynn song “We’ll Meet Again” (made famous during the Second World War) that it, as so many things related to that historic time, has surfaced again. It’s now number 22 on the iTunes chart.

There truly is nothing new under the sun. What we experience now has been lived before, yet how we react to it will be the measure of our generation.

Keep your chin up and keep thinking history!

Amanda Stiver

4 Comments

  1. Learning lessons from the past is two-fold : we can avoid reaping the same consequences of short sightedness, and we can more wisely prepare for the future. Sharing your insight is always interesting and thought provoking! B.

    Reply

    1. Thank you Auntie! I feel very proud that I scooped the mainstream media by about two weeks with this post. I’m amazed how people are heading back to traditional things during tenuous times! Now yeast can hardly be had in the grocery stores because of all the baking. (But we found some 🙂 )

      Reply

  2. not sure if you’re aware of them, but have a look at the WRVS (now RVS)

    there’s quite a lot of history there specifically abotu ww2

    I backed their KS project to digitise their collections, so a lot of it is online now

    Reply

    1. I will do! I have heard about the WRVS and read about it. There was a great show made in 2001, “The 1940s House” about a family who got to relocate to WW2 for 9 weeks. The mother was given the role of an WRVS volunteer complete with uniform. I think in the states the Red Cross and other women’s voluntary organizations shared a similar role. I read a great book “Home Fires/Jambusters” about the Women’s Institute in England during the War, and the canning for victory efforts. Interestingly, the Women’s Institute concept started in the US and Canada, but then was dropped at the turn of the century in favor of the aforementioned groups, 4H (Head, Heart, Hands, and Health) and Future Homemakers of America (FHA). Whatever the case, my mom’s mom was involved in almost all of them!

      Reply

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