Washtenaw County's historic preservation program is dedicated to supporting local historic districts, spurring heritage tourism, and attracting investment in our historic resources.
World War II transformed Ypsilanti from a largely agricultural community to an industrial hub. With the construction of the Willow Run Bomber Plant in 1941-43, the community was transformed rapidly, bringing new people and culture to the area. On the home front, the war’s impact was felt through fuel and clothing rations, as well as food rations and meat shortages. The government encouraged citizens to grow their own food in back yard gardens dubbed “Victory Gardens.”
Local resident Joy (Walters) Hayes grew up on Olive Street in Ypsilanti during the war. She remembers going downtown and seeing the influx of people from around the nation moving to Ypsilanti to work at the Bomber Pant. She also remembers her father growing a two acre Victory Garden and distributing produce to friends and family. Folks would use this local produce for meals as food shortages and rationing limited selection and purchasing options at the grocery store and area markets.
Books published during the war to aid citizens adjusting to the new lifestyle include What Do We Eat Now? and Ration Time Recipes. A few recipes from these books are included here, making good use of locally-grown ingredients such as apples and squash. You can find the same types of local produce at farmers markets, and perhaps in your own backyard garden.
(Ration Time Recipes) 1 quart sliced apples ¼ cup water 1 ¾ teaspoons cinnamon ¾ cup sugar ½ cup flour ½ cup margarine [During the war, margarine was a good substitute for butter; you may choose to use butter instead of margarine in this recipe] Place the sliced apples in a shallow baking dish. Add the water and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon. Blend together the sugar, flour, and margarine until crumbly in texture. Spread this mixture over the top of the apples. Sprinkle with remaining cinnamon. Bake uncovered in a moderately hot oven (400°F), for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the apples are tender and the top is brown.
(What Do We Eat Now?) 1 Acorn Squash Butter or margarine [about 1 tablespoon] ½ to 1 teaspoon brown sugar, syrup, or honey Water [to cover bottom of dish] Scrub the outside [of the squash]. Cut in halves or quarters, according to size. Remove seeds and stringy parts. Stand in a baking dish, dot the inside of each half with butter or margarine, or bacon fat, sprinkle with salt, add one-half to one teaspoon brown sugar, syrup, or honey. Add water to bottom of pan. Cover and bake in a moderate to moderately hot oven, 350-375°Fahrenheit, for forty minutes to one hour. Serve in the shell.
Sources: “Willow Run Story.” Available at www.washtenaw.org/preservation. Ration Time Recipes. Durkee Famous Foods. Circa 1942. Ridenour, George. “A View from Olive Street.” Ypsilanti Gleanings. Available at http://ypsigleanings.aadl.org/ypsigleanings/318985. Robertson, Helen, Sarah MacLeod, Frances Preston. What Do We Eat Now? Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Co. (1942).
Willow Run Postcard, source: http://gisapp.ewashtenaw.org/public/hp/willowrunstory/