Ration Books / Points

Posted in WB Cartoon Companion on March 22, 2004

    During the Second World War, a wide variety of goods were rationed at one point or another. Gasoline, meat and coffee were some of the most important items. Shortages of goods like sugar, coffee, tires, and other items are noted in the goods Bugs robs from the 5:15 in Buckaroo Bugs (Clampett, 1944), the items Bugs recites as “picture postcards” in Hare Conditioned (Jones, 1945), and the goods Queenie hoards in Coal Black and De Sebben Dwarfs (Clampett, 1943).

    An overview of the gas rationing system can be seen under the spearate entry for Gasoline Rationing. Rationing of items like coffee, meat, sugar, and butter worked in roughly the same way. Households were given ration books, and items cost a certain number of points, represented by coupons. Each person was allowed 48 blue points for canned goods -- brown and green points were also used during the war -- and 64 red points for meat, fish and dairy products per month. Two extra red points per pound could be earned by turning in meat drippings and other fats, which were used for paints and munitions. Ration points could not be carried over to the next month. How many points were set for each product fluctuated from time to time. For example, grapefruit juice was 23 points in March, 1943, but only four in March, 1944.

    The whole system was rather complex and could be difficult to understand, both from the point of view of the grocer and the shopper. The Warner Brothers cartoonists did a short entitled Point Rationing of Foods which was released in February, 1943 for the Office of Price Administration, the government agency responsible for the rationing program. The short explained, via limited animation, the reasons for certain product shortages, and hence rationing. The Jones-produced short was praised for its ability to get the message across.

    Some cartoons refer directly to ration books or ration points. As the Hubie-like mouse in From Hand to Mouse (Jones, 1944) is about to be eaten by a lion, he displays a sign saying “12 Points” and asks the lion if he has his ration book. The lion, indicating he does not, agrees to let the mouse go so the mouse can go get a ration book. The mouse returns, but only to rubber-stamp the word “SUCKER” on the lion’s rear end.

    The flea in An Itch in Time (Clampett, 1943) ends up carrying off Elmer and his dog as a blue-plate special, with a sign reading “No Points”. He also takes care to tear off a ration stamp before biting into the dog. When the hotel manager in Porky Pig’s Feat (Tashlin, 1943) presents his dueling card to Daffy, Daffy responds by taking the card, applying a card puncher to it repeatedly (making a pretty design) and saying “You’ve had your coffee ration, Robespierre!”

    See also Meat Shortage.

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