Dakota Datebook

Of War and Agriculture

written by Steve Stark

March 12, 2019 — Despite being in the middle of World War II, visitors to the North Dakota Winter Show in Valley City were enjoying the last hours of the sixth annual agricultural get-together on this date in 1943.

The final slate of events culminated in the popular livestock show. Top awards were bestowed on the finest Herefords, Shorthorns and Aberdeen Angus that proud North Dakota producers had to offer.

On just the previous day, the United States Senate had cleared the way for passage of legislation that would offer exemption from military service for all “substantially full time” farm laborers. The bill pending specified that farm workers must produce certain amounts of agricultural products, regarded by the secretary of agriculture, as vital to the war effort. Livestock and most of the food and fiber crops were on that wide-ranging list.

But, agriculture was also in the national news for America that day. The Fargo Forum’s headlines concerning the winter show were dwarfed by the banner headline that announced “MEAT AND BUTTER RATIONING ORDERED.” Meat, butter, other edible fats and oils, cheese and canned fish were now on the list to be rationed to the American public. The Office of Price Administration, known as OPA, would oversee the rationing.

Rationing began in 1942 with non-food items such as rubber, metals and gasoline. The first food rationing began with sugar in May of 1942. As the conflict progressed and valuable resources were directed toward the war effort, all Americans were called upon to sacrifice. To that end, rationing of standard American goods began. Rationing would continue until supplies of those selected items were deemed sufficient to meet with demand.

Ration booklets, stamps and even coins were used and monitored by a point system. Every person was given an allotment of points for all commodities. Points were allocated to all rationed items from prunes to petroleum.

Agriculture officials explained that the rationing estimate of two pounds per person, per week of meat, meant that much on the average. The point system did differentiate in meats, however. For example, Hamburger did not have as many points as steak.

When the initial meat and cheese rationing was announced, officials did not know how long it would last. It would not be until November 1945 – two months after Japan’s surrender – that meat rationing ended.

“Dakota Datebook” is a radio series from Prairie Public in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota and with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council. See all the Dakota Datebooks at prairiepublic.org, or subscribe to the “Dakota Datebook” podcast.

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DAKOTA DATEBOOK: Torkel Njaa’s German Shepherds

Dakota Datebook written by Merry Helm

March 13, 2019 — Torkel Njaa was born during this week in 1870 in Thime, Norway. He pioneered in Griggs County with a farm in the Sheyenne Valley southeast of Cooperstown. Njaa was well known for his experimentation with cerea1 grains and livestock, and some of finest horses and cattle in the county came from Torkel’s farm.

In 1914, Njaa wanted a good watchdog and decided try importing a German shepherd. He was impressed, imported several more, and started breeding them for sale. The quality of his dogs gained widespread attention, selling in all parts of the country, including Hawaii, and also the Philippines. Torkal’s canine industry reached its peak in about 1924, but the popularity of German Shepherds continued to grow and ended up becoming a nationwide fad.

“Dakota Datebook” is a radio series from Prairie Public in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota and with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council. See all the Dakota Datebooks at prairiepublic.org, or subscribe to the “Dakota Datebook” podcast.

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DAKOTA DATEBOOK: Reagan Speech

Dakota Datebook written by Lane Sunwall

March 14, 2019 — On this date in 1983, President Ronald Reagan spoke before members of federal law enforcement agencies at a memorial service in Washington, D.C. to remember agents who had fallen in the line of duty over the past year. Among the thirteen remembered on that cold March day were U.S. Marshal Kenneth Muir and Deputy U.S. Marshal Robert Cheshire, Jr.; both killed during the tragic standoff at Medina, ND, one month earlier.

In remembering the fallen, President Reagan left the audience with these words,

“It’s wisely said that nothing worth having comes cheaply or easily. And the price of a free nation is sometimes counted in the dearest currency: human life. These … men, all the best of professionals, were dedicated Americans. They gave their lives in a continuing battle to preserve the domestic peace and to make America safe from those who would prey on the innocent.”

“Dakota Datebook” is a radio series from Prairie Public in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota and with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council. See all the Dakota Datebooks at prairiepublic.org, or subscribe to the “Dakota Datebook” podcast.

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DAKOTA DATEBOOK: Welfare in North Dakota

Dakota Datebook written by Merry Helm

March 15, 2019 — Thirteen million people unemployed; 5,000 failed banks; industrial production down 45%; home building down 80%. When? Between 1929 and 1932. It was the beginning of the Great Depression, which lasted roughly ten years.

North Dakota was not spared. On this date in 1938, the director of the state welfare board reported more than one in three people were on public assistance, and four out of ten farm families needed emergency aid in January. More than 60,000 households required some form of welfare that month, at a total cost of over two million dollars. McKenzie County was hardest hit, with eight out of 10 people needing help.

Some public assistance was provided at county and state levels, but most was delivered through federal public works programs and the Farm Security Administration.

“Dakota Datebook” is a radio series from Prairie Public in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota and with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council. See all the Dakota Datebooks at prairiepublic.org, or subscribe to the “Dakota Datebook” podcast.

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