A young boy has his first experience using ration cards. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

During 1942, the people of Cumberland were worried about things. The Nazis were on the move and their sons, brothers, husbands, and fathers were being drafted. However, as summer turned to fall, a new worry entered their daily conversations.


Coffee was going to be rationed.

“Judging from the talk we have heard for several weeks past, there are those in this community – and the same is likely true elsewhere – who consider coffee, rather than bread, the real staff of life and have been in mortal terror lest this so-called necessity would be completely taken from them,” the Cumberland Evening Times reported.

Coffee wasn’t the only thing or even the first thing to be rationed in order to make sure American servicemen didn’t have to go without, but it seemed to be the one raising the most concern.

Rationing began with tires in January 1942 because the Japanese had interrupted the supply of rubber used in making them. Gasoline soon followed. By the summer, plans were in the works to ration food items. By the following year, coffee, sugar, meat, cheese, butter, lard, margarine, canned foods, dried fruits, jam, gasoline, bicycles, fuel oil, clothing, silk or nylon stockings and shoes had also been added to the list of rationed items.

Early in November 1942, the Cumberland War Price and Rationing Board, a volunteer three-person board, announced that coffee would begin being rationed on November 26. To prepare for it, not coffee would be sold during the week prior to the rationing.

This quickly led to hoarding, particularly when it was announced that the allotment would be one pound of coffee every five weeks for everyone over 15 year old. The board stressed that overall this should only represent a small reduction in a coffee drinker’s usual intake.

“In virtually every large family there is somebody who does not drink coffee at all or who drinks it sparingly. These persons, provided they are more than 15 years old, will, of course, be entitled to a ration book and there is no reason why their share of the coffee shall not go to other members of the family,” the Cumberland Evening Times reported.

It was estimated that a pound of coffee could be used to make 50 cups. Some estimates were even higher, but the more coffee each pound made, the weaker the coffee. For a stronger cup of coffee, newspaper articles recommended coffee essence, which had no coffee in it. When mixed into a cup of coffee, it made it stronger.

The Rationing Board also tried to discourage hoarding by writing that a count of coffee on hand would need to be taken before anyone was issued a war ration coupon book and for each pound over the first pound, a coffee ration coupon would be removed from the book.

Each person in the country was issued a war ration coupon book with a set of coupon stamps in them. The OPA then set what each coupon could be used to purchase, how much of the product could be purchased with it, and when the coupon was valid.



A WWII  ration book.

Cumberlanders adjusted to drinking little or no coffee. It was the least they could do for the war effort.


Then at the end of July 1943, the Cumberland Evening Times announced that due to ships being built with more cargo space and the success of Allied forces against German U-boats, coffee rationing would be lifted. When President Franklin Roosevelt made the announcement, he also hinted that the war ration of sugar would soon be increased. That was certainly good news to people who liked their coffee sweet.

Almost as soon as people started celebrating that their coffee was back, rumors started around town that coffee would soon be rationed once again. Some people started hoarding their roasted coffee.

The Cumberland Evening Times ran a story saying, “While it is true that the forthcoming Ration Book No. 4 contains coffee stamps, these will be removed before the book is issued, or else made applicable to some other commodity.”

The lifting of coffee rationing could be considered an early victory in WWII. It showed progress was being made in the war and it lifted people’s spirits. All rationing was finally ended in 1946.

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charlatan-9781400136070-lgI wasn’t quite sure what I was expecting when I bought Charlatan: America’s Most Dangerous Huckster, the Man Who Pursued Him, and the Age of Flimflam, but the topic caught my attention. I have to say that I loved it. It was a narrative type of non-fiction that I like to read and Pope Brock can tell an intriguing story.

Of course, he also found a great subject to write about, which is half of the battle.

In the early 20th century, confidence man John Brinkley came up with his ultimate money-making scheme. He would use surgery and goat testicles to restore male virility. It makes most men cringe nowadays, but think about some of the odd things we still do to maintain our youth that involved surgery.

Brinkley also developed a sideline of selling potions and pills that turned out not to contain what they claimed to contain. This sort of thing was going on before Brinkley with snake oil salesmen and still continues today.

I found myself reading the book and thinking how could people fall for this, but then I thought about the modern equivalents and wondered how many times I’ve been taken in without knowing it.

Brinkley made a fortune off his quack theories and inspired a lot of copycat “doctors.” He also left behind dozens of dead and maimed people, all the while claiming success.

So, if Brinkley was the antagonist, the protagonist would be Morris Fishbein, the editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association. I’m not sure about other readers, but I just didn’t like Fishbein. I actually found myself hoping that he would fail in his efforts to destroy Brinkley. On the other hand, I found myself cheering for Brinkley at times because he wouldn’t be stopped. He kept reinventing himself to work around the restrictions that were thrown at him. I admired that even though I hated what he was doing.


“Dr.” John Brinkley looking like a medical professional.


I’ve seen a few movies and read some books lately where I didn’t like either the protagonist or antagonist. Who do you root for then?

Besides his gross medical malpractice, Brinkley also had an impact on politics, radio, and country music.

One reason why Brinkley was successful with his scams was because he was a master marketer. His initial marketing efforts dealt with newspaper advertising and direct mail. He recognized the marketing potential of the new media of the day, radio, and made the most of it.

When the government started to crack down on how the airwaves were used, Brinkley moved south of the border and opened a radio station in Mexico that eventually broadcast more than a million watts. Not only was this more powerful than his Oklahoma radio station had been, it was more powerful than all of the U.S. radio stations combined.

Besides pitches for his products and surgeries, Brinkley also presented entertainment. Many of the performers he chose went on to become pioneers in country music.

When Fishbein started to have an impact on Brinkley’s goat gland empire, he used his radio popularity to move into politics and very nearly became elected governor of Oklahoma as a third-party candidate.

I found Charlatan to be a fascinating story. I kept guessing at what Brinkley would do next to outwit Fishbein and his other detractors.

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92a5f9aaef69885e223940203475c214The 25th Annual Academy Awards gave Americans the opportunity to sit in their living rooms and feel like they were mingling with the stars.

“Tonight’s the night movies and television get married, with the rites taking place at the 25th annual academy awards,” the Oakland Tribune announced on March 19, 1953.

Up to that point, most people never saw they award ceremony. They read about it in the newspaper or heard clips on the radio or saw clips when they went to the movie theater.

How It Happened

NBC offered the Motion Picture Academy $100,000 for the broadcast rights, and the academy accepted it. Six cameras were set up in the theater to capture the New York ceremony from all angles.

Bob Hope hosted the 1 ½ hour ceremony that was broadcast in the U.S. and Canada. The show had the largest audience in commercial television history at the time.

“Television sets were scattered all over the theatre, and a huge television screen at the back of the state dwarfed the performers.

“Even Bob Hope, the master of ceremonies, couldn’t compete with the commercials that the audience had to sit through. The commercials interrupted the handing out of the awards at frequent intervals,” Frank Morriss wrote in the Winnipeg Free Press.

He also noted that the actors had to wear baby blue because of the demands of the television broadcast and that it “didn’t suit John Wayne.”

Bob Hope Hosts The Academy Awards

The Academy Awards

Shirley Booth and Gary Cooper were favored to win the Best Actress and Best Actor awards. “High Noon” was favored to win Best Picture.

The ceremony featured a few surprises, though. Though Booth won Best Actress for “Come Back, Little Sheba” and Cooper won for “High Noon,” long-shot “The Greatest Show on Earth” captured the Best Picture award. It was the first Cecil B. DeMille movie nominated.

Other top awards included John Ford getting his fourth Best Director Oscar for “The Quiet Man,” Anthony Quinn getting Best Supporting Actor for “Viva Zapata!” and Gloria Grahame winning Best Supporting Actress for “The Bad and the Beautiful.”

“It was a brilliant, star-lit affair. As rain poured down on Hollywood boulevard and crowds sat on bleachers or stood, they covered their heads with newspapers and watched the automobiles disgorge mink-clad, bewilderingly beautiful ladies of the cinema,” Morriss wrote.

This was the first time the top six awards went to six different movies. It has only happened three times so far. The other two years were 1956 and 2005.

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CanawlersCurious how to pronounce the title of my historical novel Canawlers?

It’s CAN-all-ers. It’s what boatmen on the C&O Canal sounded like when they used to say “canaller”.

They also had a challenging and dangerous job during the Civil War. Canawlers brought coal and other goods 185 miles from Cumberland, Maryland, to Georgetown. All the while, they traveled along the Potomac River within site of the Virginia shore and the Confederate States of America. The C&O Canal ran along the border of two warring nations, the canawlers were caught in the crossfire.

Hugh Fitzgerald is a proud canawler. For nine months a year, he and his family live on their canal boat, working hard to get them through the lean winter months.

The year 1862 was a hard year to live on the canal, though. To this point, the Confederacy has stayed south of the canal, but now the Confederate Army intends to go on the offensive and take the war into the north.

Not only are the Fitzgeralds’ lives endangered by the increased activity of warring armies and raiders on the canal, but the Fitzgeralds’ secret activity as a stop along the Underground Railroad only endangers their lives all the more.

Then fate takes Hugh away from his family, leaving his wife, Alice, to hold the family together. With the help of her children; Thomas, George and Elizabeth; Tony, an orphan from Cumberland; and David Windover, a disillusioned Confederate soldier, they will face the dangers presented by the war, nature, and the railroad together.

Download your Kindle copy for FREE until Jan. 20.

From the reviewers:

  • “A powerful, thoughtful and fascinating historical novel, Canawlers documents author James Rada, Jr. as a writer of considerable and deftly expressed storytelling talent.” – Midwest Book Review
  • “James Rada, of Cumberland, has written a historical novel for high-schoolers and adults, which relates the adventures, hardships and ultimate tragedy of a family of boaters on the C&O Canal. … The tale moves quickly and should hold the attention of readers looking for an imaginative adventure set on the canal at a critical time in history.” – Along the Towpath
  • “Mr. Rada presents an interesting slice of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal boatman’s life set against the backdrop of the turbulence and uncertainty of the American Civil War. The use of the canal as a route on the Underground Railroad is also woven into the plot which reveals how hard work, a strong family and difficult times could come together along the canal.” – Rita L. Knox, Park Ranger, C&O Canal NHP

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UntitledIf you’re a fan of Edgar Allan Poe, The Man Who Killed Edgar Allan Poe solves the mystery of the great writer’s murder, and you can get it FREE on Kindle until Jan. 13.

You might be thinking that Poe wasn’t murdered. He died in a hospital. You’re wrong.

While he did die at the Washington Medical Center, before that, he was found delirious on the streets of Baltimore and wearing clothes that were not his own. He was admitted to the hospital where he died without explaining what had happened to himself. One clue to what happened to him was that he shouted the name “Reynolds” before he died.

The hospital and its records were later destroyed in a fire, so we’re left with theory and conjecture about how the Master of the Macabre died. One person knows how the Father of the Modern Mystery died, and that person is …

The Man Who Killed Edgar Allan Poe.

This is his story, although it reads like one of Poe’s horror tales.

Alexander Reynolds has been known by many names in his long life, the most famous of which is Lazarus, the man raised from the dead by Christ. Matthew Cromwell is another resurrected being living an extended life. Eternal life has its cost, though, whether or not Alexander and Matthew want to pay it.

Alexander has already seen Matthew kill Edgar’s mother and he is determined to keep the same fate from befalling Edgar.

From the time of Christ to the modern days of the Poe Toaster, The Man Who Killed Edgar Allan Poe is a sweeping novel of love, terror, and mystery that could have come from the imagination of Edgar Allan Poe himself.

Get Your Copy Here

From the reviewers:

  • “Impressively original, exceptionally well written, absolutely absorbing from beginning to end, ‘The Man Who Killed Edgar Allan Poe’ showcases author J. R. Rada’s outstanding skills as a novelist. ” – Reviewer’s Bookwatch
  • “…this fictional nail-biting account of the two men whose blood feud brought about Edgar’s death. … it’s a great ride through suspense, horror, and mystery – worthy of the writer for whom the novel takes license.” – Allegany Magazine

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dhtWhile the Founding Fathers were working to build a nation in Philadelphia in 1776, in south-central Pennsylvania (Adams County, Pa. wasn’t created until 1800), Rev. Alexander Dobbin and his parishioners were building a house that, just like the United States, is still standing more than two years later.

Though now surrounded by houses, businesses, hotels and monuments in Gettysburg, when the house was built, it was a 300-acre farm.

The Dobbin Family

Alexander Dobbin was born in Ireland in 1742. After studying the classics in Ireland, Dobbin and his wife, Isabella Gamble, left Ireland to settle in America. In America, Dobbin became pastor of the Rock Creek Presbyterian Church, located one mile north of what is now Gettysburg.

In 1774, the Dobbin purchased 300 acres of land in and around what is now the town of Gettysburg. At one point, he was the second-largest landholder in the area behind Gettysburg founder James Getty.

88402ee4e29f2b779fd470e6e8e56f98The original stone structure was home to Dobbin’s wife, 10 children and 9 step children. Isabella died at a young age and Dobbin married Mary Agnew who had 9 children.

The house also served as a Classical School, which was a combined seminary and liberal arts college. “Dobbin’s school was the first of its kind in America west of the Susquehanna River, an academy which enjoyed an excellent reputation for educating many professional men of renown,” according to the Dobbin House brochure.

Dobbin also worked to establish Adams County as separate from York County. Once it happened, he was appointed one of the two commissioners who helped chose Gettysburg as the county seat of the new county.

The house passed out of the Dobbin family in 1834 and began being passed through a series of owners. Conrad Snyder owned the house during the Civil War.

Dobbin House on the Underground Railroad

slave-hideoutDuring the Battle of Gettysburg, Beamer said, “There was substantial fighting nearby. It was amazing that it didn’t take a cannonball hit.”

The house was also used as an Underground Railroad stop. Slaves were hidden in a crawl space between the first and second floors behind a false wall. The space can still be seen today when touring the house.

The Many Uses of the Dobbin House

The house served as a private residence or apartments until the 1950’s. From the 1950’s until 1975, the building was a museum, gift shop and housed a diorama on the second floor.

The current owners purchased the house in 1975 and opened the Springhouse Tavern in May 1978. That evolved over the years growing into a complex that includes the tavern, a fine-dining restaurant in the actual Dobbin House, a banquet room, gift shop and bed and breakfast that serve more than 200,000 guests each year.

“We strive to serve quality food and offer gracious service,” Beamer said.

It’s all done in the setting of an authentic colonial tavern that offers recipes that have been featured in “Bon Appetit” and “Cuisine” magazines.

The Dobbin House is also on the National Register of Historic Places.

For more information, visit the Dobbin House web site.


A mid-afternoon tornado on March 18, 1925, left a killing swath in its wake.

The tornado actually traveled through five Midwest states, but it was three Illinois towns that bore the brunt of the destruction. “Where it did the worst damage the tornado lasted less than five minutes,” reported the Ada (OK) Evening News.

Tornado Arrives

The tornado came out of the Ozark Mountains in mid-afternoon. This is a bad hour for a tornado to hit because schools and businesses are packed with people. This proved to be the case with this tornado as well.

Its main path was measured at around 200 miles long, but this tornado took erratic and deadly detours before returning to the main path. When the distances traveled on the offshoots was added in, the total mileage was around 700 miles.



The destruction of Griffin, IN, after the 1925 tornado swept through.

The Destruction


The Ada Evening News described the destruction in this way: “It flattened heavily constructed school and business buildings with worse results than in lighter dwellings.

“Babies in homes were special sufferers.

“Fires still raging or smouldering and millions of dollars worth of wreckage delayed counts of the larger death lists.

“The hardest hit places were three small-cities in southern Illinois, West Frankfort, Murphysboro and Carbondale.

“Nearly all the  destruction was in the soft coal fields.

“Next to Illinois the worst sufferers were in Indiana and Missouri with fatal results of the tornado reaching Tennessee and Kentucky.”

In DeSoto, IL, the tornado flattened a school with 250 students in it. Only three escaped without injury and 88 were killed. In the entire town, only five buildings were left standing.

“So terrific was the force of the storm that bodies were reported carried a mile while timbers from the wrecked town of DeSoto, Illinois were found in DuQuoin 15 miles away,” reported the Ada Evening News.

In the town of Parrish, IL, only three people in a town of 500 escaped injury.


The tornado traveled through five states – Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Tennessee and Kentucky – and killed people in 26 towns.

The tornado left many fires in its wake, which hampered the efforts of rescuers.

Around 1000 people were killed and 3000 injured. About 10000 were left homeless by the tornado.

The Red Cross moved in following the tornado to offer help. Relief trains were sent and many people sent donations. The day after the tornado the Illinois Legislature authorized $500,000 in relief aid.

“As reports from various sections were gathered today no doubt was left that the disaster is the worst of its kind in the country’s history. The greatest death toll previously taken by a cyclone was in 1908 when five hundred were killed in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama.

“The terrific blow of yesterday was followed today by high winds in Pennsylvania. Michigan and Northern New York,” reported The Sheboygan (WS) Press.

Total damage was estimated at well over $10 million.

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