My great-grandparents were preppers way before prepping was a thing.
Is there a specific term for preppers who are also hipsters? Hipster-preppers? Prepsters? If there is, then that’s what you could call my great-grandparents, Dell and Hildegarde Stringham. They were the original preppers, long before the media started making documentaries about them.
They had food storage before it was cool and were able to pass down food storage lessons to the next generation. They had food storage even before they called it “food storage.” We even have photographic evidence that they wore “Hipster Glasses” in the 1980s, well before it became “cool.”
Their oldest child was my grandmother, and she has made it a point to tell all our family about their experience with food storage during the Second World War. Food storage is an important part of my family’s history, and we have learned much from it.
My great-grandfather, Dell, owned a cannery in the 1930s and was a member of a charitable committee for his local church. In 1939, one of the church leaders came to Dell and suggested that, as a member of this committee, he store extra food in his home. The hope was that other community members would follow the Stringham’s example. In 1939, America had not yet entered World War II, so there did not seem to be an immediate need for food storage or emergency preparedness as we think about them today. This was also well before rationing. The United Kingdom did not ration food until January 1940, and the United States did not follow suit until 1942.
The suggestion to store food may have seemed strange in 1939, but by the time the United States became fully embroiled in the war, it proved to be extremely good advice.
In the spirit of learning from history, here are five lessons that can be learned from my great-grandparents’ wartime food storage adventure:
Food Storage Lessons Learned
Lesson One: You can never have too much.
My grandmother wrote, “My father brought about 5 100-pound sacks of flour and the same of sugar and stacked them in a room over our garage. And in the basement, he put cases of can goods he had canned and bought other things. . . So, Mother had bottled some fruit (like raspberries). We had lots of canned fruits (peaches, pears, apricots, and cherries) and canned vegetables (corn, beans, peas, beets, tomatoes, etc.) and canned meat like tuna fish, salmon, [and] corned beef. We didn’t have any shortage of food in our house all during the war.”
NOTE: A significant point here is that you can never have too much of the right foods! The lesson is to stock up on foods that will last a very long time and can be used in a variety of ways.
Lesson Two: Build up your food storage supply now and not after rationing starts.
“When the war started and rationing started because of the uses of metal for weapons and canned foods for soldiers rations, Mother [Hildegarde] had to go to the school and declare what food we had. Ladies were in line telling [the officials] that they had two cans of soup and a can of tuna fish. And then Mother told her list. She said everyone gasped and made a big fuss. But it was all legal and not hoarding.“
TIP: A number of interesting food dishes came from this time in history.
Lesson Three: Sometimes it is better not to advertise exactly how much you have in your house.
During this period, the concept of “fairness” was very much in the public consciousness. Perhaps some didn’t think it was “fair” that the Stringham family had so much food in their house, even though they had the same ration cards as everyone else. With a surplus on hand, they were able to help others, but if their food had been confiscated or stolen, they would have had nothing for their own survival nor that of anyone else.
Lesson Four: Money you don’t have to spend on food can go toward other necessities.
Hildegarde had five children. She was able to use some of her ration cards to buy shoes for her growing children during a time when shoes were a luxury item.What can we learn from the WWII era when it comes to food storage? Click To Tweet
Lesson Five: The best way to learn the ins and outs of stored food is to store it and use it.
“We found there were things we didn’t do right. Weevils got into the flour. We should have had it in metal cans. Or stacked it one sack of sugar on the floor, then a sack of flour on that, and alternate sugar and flour to keep weevils from migrating to all the sacks. [When] we went to use some flour, we had to put flour in a sifter, and instead of turning the wheel, we hit the side of the sifter so the flour would go through the screen and the weevils would stay in the screen. And we ended up dumping so many cans of flour into the garden. – Wheat in cans stores so much longer.”
Do any of you have stories about food storage in your family history? We’d love to hear about them in the comments!
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