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Life goes on: Adjusting to World War II in January 1942

A Mining Journal article answering questions on tire rationing is from page 2 of the Jan. 2, 1942 edition of the paper. (Photo courtesy of the Marquette Regional History Center)

MARQUETTE — Dec. 7, 1941 is one of those dates that many people know: they know where they were, what they were doing, and who was affected by the happenings of that day.

And if they are too young to have been there, they know the family stories about this date. It has now been just over 79 years since the attack that destroyed 20 American ships and more that 300 airplanes. Over 2,000 sailors, soldiers and civilians were killed with 1,000 more wounded.

On Dec. 8, President Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed a joint session of Congress and asked that war be declared on Japan. Japan’s allies (Germany and Italy) quickly declared war on the U.S. More than two years after the start of World War II, the United States had entered the war.

It is relatively easy to get information about the attack on Pearl Harbor and conditions of the time for our armed forces but what about the people and communities that were left behind?

A review of The Daily Mining Journal from January 1942 finds many stories about the war and the people serving but also describes what was going on in the local communities. Some of these stories include:

On Jan. 2, the U.S. government stopped the delivery and sale of automobiles and light trucks pending a new rationing system. On page 2, answers explaining the new tire rationing program which was to begin on January 5. On page 3, an article on the installation of 1942 Kiwanis Club officers was printed just under an article on the number of tires and tubes that would be available for sale in the Upper Peninsula under the federal rationing program.

The efforts of the Alger County Women knitting for the armed forces with the names of the leaders in the various communities and the items to be made were printed on page 11. In most cases, the stories on page one of each paper were about the war and probably came through the Associated Press. The next few pages had a variety of topics including the war itself, the local impact mainly through rationing and general interest articles.

Jan. 3 brought an article on page 3 that in 1941 building construction was up 58% and in another article on the same page, the marriage license count was up slightly.

Paging through The Daily Mining Journal, the paper seems to have adopted a formula with the front-page being war news each day with local news not appearing until page 2 or 3. There are more and more articles on how to deal with the changes that the war was bringing, for example, how to keep and maintain cars and tires longer because of the rationing. On Jan. 15, there was an ad run by automotive dealers in Marquette, Negaunee, Ishpeming, and Munising stating that all service, parts, and accessories were now available for cash only.

The ads show a progression of limits of consumer goods available to the average home. Grocery store ads show definite price increases for items including sugar whose availability was taken for granted prior to the war years. In an interesting twist, restrictions imposed by food rationing during the war rendered the American diet the healthiest it had been for many years and is considered to be healthier than the diet of the typical American family of today.

Through to the end of January, as the Mining Journal interweaves articles about the war along with items from all the surrounding communities. There is a sense that the community was coming to grips with the war while still maintaining “normal” life.

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