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As It Was: Newspaper Urges Wartime Home “Potato Trenches”

In the First World War, Americans eagerly volunteered to support the troops who had been sent abroad.  People gathered scrap metal for war material, children sold bonds and stamps, and women filled vacant jobs in factories and shipyards.

The government also promoted home gardens, an idea the Klamath Falls Evening Herald endorsed in an article on May 10, 1917, under the headline “Loyal citizens will plant gardens.” The text went like this:

“A stirring (government) appeal has been made to all loyal Americans who are not going to the front (lines) to assist in increasing the food supply of the coming year by planting every available space to some edible substance and help avert the dire shortage of food which now threatens this and other countries.

“This town and county have sent a greater proportion of young men to the front, according to population, than any other district in the United States …

“Shall we not also get a grip on the hoe, and make a record in this less spectacular but highly important issue concerning which the government is now so anxious?

“The potato trenches are as necessary as the others. Start today.”

Source: "HISTORY SNAPSHOT:  “Loyal citizens will plant gardens.”  The Midge: Cultural Newsletter of the Klamath Basin 10 May 1917 (originally published in Evening Herald 10 May 1917 [Klamath Falls, Ore.].

Kernan Turner is the Southern Oregon Historical Society’s volunteer editor and coordinator of the As It Was series broadcast daily by Jefferson Public Radio. A University of Oregon journalism graduate, Turner was a reporter for the Coos Bay World and managing editor of the Democrat-Herald in Albany before joining the Associated Press in Portland in 1967. Turner spent 35 years with the AP before retiring in Ashland.