Like a lightning strike, shoe rationing in February 1943 was added as an immediate effect of the ongoing material detouring for the effort in World War II.
Unlike sugar, tires, gas, metal and more, people across Lenawee County had virtually no warning that shoes would become a scarcity because of their rubber sole composition.
Word was passed along just a few days before the rationing was to start as of 3 p.m. Eastern War Time Sunday, Feb. 7, 1943. Across the country, reports were received that consumers “stormed shoe counters in stores operating on Sundays,” buying up what they could before the rationing took effect.
No such activity in Lenawee County was reported, however, although the Telegram stated that some business owners “received a few calls from frantic consumers asking that they be allowed to purchase shoes Sunday.” The business owners did not cave in to the desire for shoe hoarding and sales were refused. However, “dealers were confident that consumers can make shoe rations last without difficulty.”
Absent additional information on the seemingly sudden decision, Lenawee County shoe dealers hesitated to comment further on the topic, although all contacted agreed that “rationing is the only fair method of assuring everyone footwear for the duration.”
“The announcement was received with good grace generally in Adrian, dealers declaring they would abide by the order in spite of considerable inconvenience,” the Telegram reported.
The rationing, while creating a feeling of initial panic, did not appear to be much of a sacrifice. Trade officials calculated the average American went through 3.7 pairs of shoes each year, and the scaleback to three pairs seemed doable.
However, most households felt the effect of the war sacrifice a year later. On March 20, 1944, shoe rationing was reduced to two pairs of shoes yearly. This would continue until the fall of 1945, when restrictions were lifted and people could sport new shoes without first bringing a ration book to the shop.
Dan Cherry is a Lenawee County historian.
This article originally appeared on The Daily Telegram: Lenawee County History: World War II shoe rationing began Feb. 7, 1943