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October 8, 2012

Area saw meatless Tuesdays, 'Chickless' Thursdays in 1947

This marks column No. 1,200, with plenty more where they came from. Over the years I’m sure a few topics have gotten some cackles and clucks from readers, but as I’ve always said, it is local history and it happened, for better or worse. Cackles and clucks aside, I’m sure none of yours were as bad as they got in late 1947 under the President Harry S. Truman White House.

No meat on Tuesday, no poultry or eggs on Thursday, and saving a slice of bread each day. That was a request of the American people from President Harry S. Truman in an address to the nation on Sunday night, Oct. 5, 1947. It was a historic broadcast, because it was the first presidential address to be televised in addition to being aired on radio. The call for conservation of food was made to provide the shipments needed to prevent starvation and suffering in Europe in the coming winter.

While there was some enthusiastic response to the call, there was also plenty of grumbling about such a request, especially by farmers. Europe was still recovering from World War II and had endured “misfortunes of nature” during the year, in the forms of drought, floods and cold, resulting in failed crops. In the U.S., the economy was enduring inflation, so the president felt that conserving food would foster lower prices.

President Truman said of Europe, “Their most urgent need is food. If the peace should be lost because Americans failed to share their food with hungry people there would be no more tragic example in all history of a peace needlessly lost.”

The Binghamton Press reported that on the first meatless Tuesday, Oct. 7, there was nearly no compliance by restaurants and hotel dining rooms in Binghamton and Johnson City. In Endicott, 90 percent of the restaurants were complying with no meat courses, including the cafeterias of IBM and Endicott-Johnson.

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