Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

More About World War II Victory Gardens in Pelham

On November 7, 2005 I published to the Historic Pelham Blog a posting entitled "World War II Victory Gardens in Pelham". In it I described efforts by patriotic residents of the Town of Pelham to create, tend and harvest Victory Gardens designed to make the town as self-supporting as possible during the early years of World War II. Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog will provide additional information about the Victory Garden program and the volunteers who administered it.

Victory Garden Poster Printed During World War II

Like so many communities throughout the nation, by 1943 Pelham had developed a sophisticated and extensive civilian defense program that included, among many other initiatives, a Victory Gardens program. Much of Pelham's civilian defense program was managed by the Town's War Council.

The War Council was organized into committees. One such committee was the Victory Garden Committee. In 1942, Mrs. Francis H. Ludington chaired the Victory Garden Committee. The following year, William B. Shaw chaired the committee.

The committee designed a Victory Garden program on a grand scale. Following a model developed by the Parent Teachers Association for its fund raising campaigns, the Committee divided the Town into districts and the districts into zones. A volunteer "supervisor" oversaw each zone. Supervisors oversaw the creation and administration of community gardens and provided assistance for private Victory Gardens.

By mid-1943, there were 84 community gardens and 98 private gardens registered with the Victory Garden Committee. According to one report, these gardens were in addition to the large number of gardens grown by "those who have always cultivated gardens and did not feel the need of registering."

The Victory Garden Committee provided critical services to support Victory Gardens in Pelham. It purchased a station wagon for $15 and turned it over to the Pelham Manor Fire Department. The firemen repaired and outfitted the station wagon as a vehicle "for delivering fertilizer and transporting equipment, with the aid of volunteer drivers".

The committee arranged for one paid assistant and charged a minimal fee of sixty cents per 100 feet of garden plot to provide basic services to community and private gardens such as plowing, fertilizing, weeding and the like. Apparently ahead of its time, the committee eschewed chemical fertilizers and, instead, applied an organic fertilizer to the gardens it serviced.

An objective of the Victory Garden Committee was to ensure that all land possible within Pelham should be cultivated to make the Town "self-supporting . . . so far as the production of vegetables goes". By mid-1943, the Committee had nearly achieved its objective.

To learn more about the Victory Garden Committee and its patriotic work, see 182 Victory Gardens Listed With War Council, Wm. B. Shaw Tells Lions Club As Members Eat Lunch From Gardens, The Pelham Sun, Vol. 33, No. 16, Jul. 22, 1943, p. 1, col. 7.

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