The Great Depression and Canning for Victory

The Great Depression of the 1920s hit everyone, but some of us in South Florida were fortunate. My husband, a native born Pompano man, and I were living on Pompano Beach at that time. We had plenty of fish, Florida lobster, oysters, clams, and sea turtle steaks for meat and hearts of palm and fresh vegetables of all kinds from the farms.

We moved to Fort Lauderdale in 1935. In 1938, I joined the Fort Lauderdale Home Demonstration Club. A short time later, a canning kitchen was opened on South Andrews Avenue. It was sponsored by the Broward County Commission and the Home Demonstration Agent for the purpose of teaching the housewives how to can. The ladies got vegetables from the fields after the farmers were through harvesting. We started a very small production using glass jars.

Then came World War II. Food got really scarce and had to be rationed. Canning got into high gear. The County built a larger kitchen next to the old one so the housewives could can food to supplement their food stamps which were allotted to each family.

I was one of the supervisors who taught the ladies how to can. We got so busy that we were running three shifts a day, starting at 8 am and finishing at 1 am the next morning. This was really a lively time with some excitement thrown in when we would have air raid practice in town. Sometimes on the night shift, we would have all the pressure cookers going, when along would come an air raid alert and we would have to douse all the lights and turn out all of the fires until the “All Clear” came. Then we would start all over again.

We were canning as much as 1500 cans a day. Everything was canned, from soup to nuts . . . literally! We canned tomatoes and tomato juice, grapefruit and grapefruit juice, green beans, shell beans, lima beans, sauerkraut, pickles, coconut, pears and pineapples. Some of the women went to the fields and got their own vegetables and many of the farmers brought their produce into the cannery for those who did not have transportation to the fields. The latter were canned on shares, the farmer got half and the canner got half. Meat was very scarce, but we could get marrow bones from the meat markets which made delicious stock for the various soups we canned. The ladies sealed many things in cans to send to their husbands and sons overseas, such as candy, nuts, cookies, ink, lighter fluid and flints. I even sent some fried clams to a friend in the Pacific War Zone.

The canning center got so popular that people continued using its facilities for a couple of years after the World War II was over.

by Mrs. Louis R. Hamilton (Cecil)
Resident of Broward County since 1925