Most Americans are not asked to personally sacrifice in support of U.S. actions since September 11, 2001. World War II rationing, war bond sales, internment, and restrictions are familiar to many. Few remember, however, that World War I brought similar calls on patriotism and challenges to civil liberty for Hawaii residents.
When war began in summer 1914, the United States declared its neutrality, seeing the conflict as European. That position held, despite the mid-1915 death of 128 Americans in the Lusitania sinking. The campaign slogan, “He Kept Us Out of War” helped re-elect Pres. Woodrow Wilson in 1916. Neutrality was soon impossible: in early 1917 Germany began unrestrained submarine attacks on Atlantic shipping; rumors circulated of a German-Mexican anti-US alliance planned to reward Mexico with territory it had lost to the US. When the United States entered The Great War on April 6, 1917, Lodge 616 members did their part financially and socially.
An ongoing 1917-18 effort was food conservation. Herbert Hoover, Pres. Wilson’s “Food Administrator,” exhorted Americans to stretch and increase available food. Food saved by civilians could feed frontline troops. Patriots would plant Victory Gardens, avoid waste, and not horde. Hawaii must feed more troops, stationed here or passing through. Shipping food to Hawaii took valuable cargo space. Better to use less, eat local foods, and dry or can fresh produce.
Hawaii faced unique challenges: could pineapple be classed as a “war time essential” crop?; did tourists consume too much food?; was serving locally plentiful fish on a meatless day patriotic?; could the Chinese community abstain on an alternate day when Lunar New Year 1918 fell on a porkless day? When poi, rice, and fish prices escalated, editorials and political cartoons blamed profiteers.
Ideas for food conservation were plentiful. Ads linking businesses to patriotic efforts crowded the press. Honolulu Gas Co. touted a gas stove as“an aid to food conservation” – it would enable you to “put up” perishable fruits and veggies with easy home canning. E. O. Hall encouraged you to “Hoover-ize Your Kitchen” with canning supplies and waste-preventing refrigerators. Royal Baking Powder offered less-egg recipes.
Key military ration ingredients were targeted for conservation. “The woman handling the home food supply is equal to the man who handles a battlefield gun,” wrote an advocate. Housewives were encouraged to observe Meatless Monday and Wheatless Wednesday.
While an egg saved in Hawaii might not reach the troops, flour not needed here could. Ways to stretch flour, and avoid waste were pushed. A patriotic baker experimented with a recipe for a “Victory Loaf” – sandwich bread made from bananas. Patriotic letters to the editor pushed “Bread Economy”: a slice a day per person saved in Hawaii translated into food for thousands. Love’s Bakery ads suggested ideas for cooking with stale bread – “Don’t Waste.” To “Do Your Bit”, Love’s said, buy their “Truly Patriotic Loaf” – Graham Bread made with ingredients not used in white breads. If all Honolulu ate Love’s Graham 2 days a week, 10,000 lbs. of wheat would be saved the company claimed.
By Sept 1917, Britain was on the verge of food rationing. In a passionate Central Union Church sermon a visiting pastor linked godliness, patriotism, and food conservation. The same month, 616 members met at their King Street hall to hear rousing speeches from members Buckley, Beaven, and McKenzie on conserving food.
Responding to a call from the GER, 616 ER James H. Fiddes appointed E. Quinn, J. A. Hughes, and R. W. Shingle a committee to draft a pledge for members’ consideration. Using Hoover’s 6 ways to “help the fighter to fight” the committee asked members to pledge to eat a meal a day without wheat, a meal without meat, 3 meals a week using left-overs, cook without butter, and end bread waste. The Star-Bulletin reported the 616 Elks’ pledge as an example of community resolve.
Of course, it was Elk wives who made family meals live up to those pledges! When the city’s male movers & shakers held a Civic Convention with a sumptuous banquet, then made a Red Cross gift, housewives delivered a rebuke. A letter to the editor writer, citing the forbidden-foods packed menu, asked if Mr. Hoover’s rules only check “the extravagances of women and children who can’t sop their conscience with a big purse to the Red Cross?” Touché!
The way to male redemption? Honolulu Mayor Joseph Fern advocated Victory Gardens on unused city land, and a downtown model garden where businessmen, Elks included, could learn to raise veggies. Gives new meaning to an executive’s “I’m stepping out of the office for a bite to eat”!
Anita Manning, Lodge Historian
Advertiser 1917 Jul 3, 5, 15, 24, Sep 21- 24; 1918 Jan 23, Mar 21, Apr 11
The Friend 1917 6:125, 8:174
Minutes 616 1917 Jun 29, Aug 3, 31, Sep 21, Oct 19
Star-Bulletin 1917 Jun 26, Sep 5, 18, 21-22