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Rise and Shine Sleepy Head
There are Bargains to be Had

August 21, 2002

Almanac Transcript

Rise and shine "sleepy-head" there are bargains to be had this week on the Oklahoma Audio Almanac.

Hello, Iím Steven Knoche Kite.

It was on August 18 of 1919 that many thousands of Oklahoma woke up extra early and headed down to their local post offices to stand in line. From Boise City to Broken Bow, residents began waiting sometimes hours before the post offices were supposed to open. It wasn't tax time, and they didn't have Hallmark cards in their hands, these people were hoping to take advantage of Uncle Samís surplus. When World War I ended in November of 1918, the US government found itself with a surplus of food. In an act of great generosity, it was decided to sell this food to the people, who actually paid for the items in the first place, at mere pennies on the dollar.

People interested in taking part had to wait in line, fill out their order forms and pay for the items. The food would then be delivered to the various houses a week or so later. Among the food being offered was canned corn, beans, bacon, corned beef hash, peas, baked beans and flour. Canned corn was the number one item of choice with flour being last. Despite the bargains to be had, there were grumbles in the crowds as some people thought that the food was going to be available that day, and others came under the misconception that soap was going to be on the list of surplus items.

Local grocers, unable to buy groceries as cheaply as the government was selling them, quit stocking those items sold through the post office for the duration of the event. To prevent over ordering, each postal facility had a maximum number of orders they were allowed to take. When the smaller offices around the state failed to reach their allowed quota, the excess supplies were then allocated to the larger metropolitan areas of Oklahoma City and Tulsa where demand was much greater.

At the main post office in Oklahoma City hundreds of people were in line before 7:30 am, and according to reporters there were no less than one hundred people in line the entire day. Witnesses to the event reported that it was mainly old men, children, newlyweds and bachelors making up the bulk of the participants.

Cheap groceries going fast, this week on the Almanac.

The Oklahoma Audio Almanac is a joint production of the Oklahoma State University Library and Oklahoma's Public Radio.

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