You’ll probably just throw away those bacon residuals simmering in your frying pan tomorrow morning.
That stuff was once a hot item worth cold cash in Brookings and across the land.
It helped save lives.
During World War II, Brookings housewives were urged to save and then sell bacon and other kitchen fats. They didn’t do it for the money, however. It was an act of patriotism.
In 1942, more than a ton of the grease was dropped off at Brookings butcher shops and sold for four cents a pound. The butcher then sold it to the government for five cents a pound.
The kitchen lard was used to make glycerin, which was handy in making ammunition, gun recoil mechanisms, propellants and other articles of war. It was also useful in the production of the Plexiglas in aircraft gun turrets and cockpits.
During a one-month period when most every home in the county had a grease tin can near the stove to hold the lard until there was enough for the butcher, meticulous records were kept. During one week of that July 1942, county housewives turned in 802 pounds of the stuff, all properly strained to remove meat particles and other foreign objects.
Housewives in the Bruce area set out to be the best lard collectors in the county. They succeeded.
The girls of Bruce were the per-housewife Brooking County Champion Fat Savers. A handful of Bruce cooks turned in 111 pounds that week. That was sufficient, county fat collector organizers said, to make enough glycerin to fire 260 anti-tank shells.
First week records also showed that Brookings, with far more bacon and beef eaters than Bruce, turned in 674 pounds of grease; Volga housewives were far behind with just 12 pounds; and White gathered just five pounds.
But together, that 802 pounds provided glycerin enough to fire off more than 400 rounds of anti-tank shells. Surely one or two of those Brookings County fat pounds provided the power to drive a missile into the thick side of a German Tiger or a rumbling Japanese Shi-Ki somewhere in the world.
As the drive continued through the summer, farm wife Mrs. T.V. Gudehus of northern Brookings County became the county’s fat collecting champ. She turned in 104 pounds of it, crediting her victory to the fact that the drive coincided with butchering at the Gudehus farm.
For the entire state, the War Production Board set a kitchen fat goal for each month during 1942 of 85 tons.
As the quest for kitchen fats continued through the year, an unexpected problem arose.
There was a shortage of tin cans in which to put the grease because almost weekly some group, Boy or Girl Scouts, the Brookings Jaycees, a church group or someone, sponsored a tin can drive. And local movie theaters often offered free Saturday afternoon admission to kids who brought along empty, clean and clanging tin cans needed for the war effort.
Brookings cans were bought by local scrape dealers and sent east to be melted down. It took 500 pounds of tin cans to make one .50 caliber machine gun.
So along with everything else in Brookings County, even empty tin cans to hold the grease were becoming scarce.
Some housewives just turned the can and its grease content over to the butcher. Others borrowed a knife from the butcher, scraped out their coagulation, and took the can back home for another go-round.
Eventually, even the county’s butchers were hard pressed for cans.
But in the end it all worked out for the good, and Brookings County’s four-cent-a-pound grease helped win the war.
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