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Dee Burris Blakley ([personal profile] dee_burris) wrote2013-02-04 06:13 pm

Another one of those "I Had No Idea" things

I never heard of the American Protective League, a group of private citizens who worked with federal law enforcement during World War I.

Only according to this article in Slate's The Vault, sometimes they got a tad over zealous.

Busting citizens they considered to be food hoarders.

And other stuff.


[personal profile] captain_catgut 2013-02-07 02:31 am (UTC)(link)
Oh, aye. Reporting food hoarders was a major national pastime in both the US and the UK during both world wars. Hoarding food, expecially controlled foods such as sugar, fats, and flour, was considered to be a form of treason. Even allowing leftover food to spoil, or throwing away uneaten something that had gotten burnt or otherwise spoiled in the cooking, was considered tantamount to aiding and supporting the enemy. My Granny had a fund of stories from the wars about such things, and my mum still can recite rhymes that were written and broadcast on the airwaves to help teach children not to waste food.

More generally, citizen vigilante groups like that have often flourished during wartime, and often get either overt or covert government support. Which is rather horrible, really.

[personal profile] captain_catgut 2013-02-08 06:58 pm (UTC)(link)
Aye, but you're from an agricultural area so it may have been much less of an issue where your family was located. Food was always more plentiful near farms, even in the depths of the war. It was cities, and especially cities in densely populated areas, where food policing was more eagerly engaged in by vigilantes, because everyone knew how thin the margin was there.

Here's a rhyme my mum remembers from WWII:
We all liked Mrs. Parker, in the City,
Until we heard she wasted crusts --- a pity!

Until the war, ladies making sandwiches for lunch or tea trimmed the crusts off the bread, and in well-off families these were thrown away or fed to pets. (Poor families dried them to make bread pudding and the like, or simply ate the bread crust and all.) During the war, throwing away your crusts was considered inexcusable even if you were wealthy and lived in the expensive part of London (the City), and everyone was expected to save and use them.

It was really a different world, wartime, at least back then. Not so much now; we take wars in stride anymore. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad.