My grandmother and her fellow prisoners could choose from a variety of jobs: gardening, mowing, serving food, cleaning the restrooms and other public areas. There were even postal workers, doctors, police officers, and electricians. Refusing the work, they all understood, might be interpreted as defiance. Obaachan’s father warned them to be careful never to act in way that might be perceived as rebellion. He believed that if his family followed the rules and complied with all requests, they would be treated better. He did not seem troubled that he’d already complied with every single one of the government’s requests—handing in his radio, following the stipulations of the Five-Mile Curfew back in Los Angeles—yet he’s been forced out of his home anyway.
Rationing in the US began just a month after Pearl Harbor. Previously, 90% of America’s raw rubber came from the Dutch East Indies, an area controlled by the Japanese. Americans were encouraged to recycle rubber items ranging from tires to raincoats and gasoline rationing was introduced in part to reduce the need for new tires.
Rationing soon expanded to include items such as meat, sugar, coffee, cheese, bicycles, home heating oil, typewriters, and home appliances. Recycling programs were developed for scrap metals and cooking fats. Even the smallest material savings were considered important, so much so that the hems on commercially produced clothing were required to be reduced.
The cooperation of women was necessary for rationing to succeed as women were most often responsible for household behaviors such as recycling. The US government produced educational materials on how to cook with limited food options and encouraged women to realize their conservation was vital to the war effort.
Among the materials produced were a series of photos by Ann Rosener for the US Office of War Information. These photos profiled the practical efforts women could make to support the war effort such as recycling, walking instead of driving, and mindfully extending the life of home appliances. Today these photos are good examples of environmentally conscious behavior.