December 7, 2020
Written by 
Luke F. McCusker III

Crisis, Loss and Gain: Father Kenny, Ed Gaffney, War Rationing

Our Museum is having its own unique struggles, as we all are. There are moments when we're just not sure what our next step will be, especially in regards to being with each of you...but we press on. Board members, staff, docents and volunteers are finding their own niche of effectiveness...often in a place they couldn't have imagined a few weeks ago.

We do know that our predicament is not an historical anomaly, as each generation has a place of context. Today we remember two generations that endured hardship, sacrifice and loss, and yet they persevered. Generations that followed did not quite know about their sacrifices, and many saw no need to bring up the tough times. As a Museum, we remember and hope you gain a bit of perspective as we marvel about those who came before us.

Elements and Elaboration

Some Gave All

Rev. Thomas J. Kenny, Third Pastor of St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Church

Father Kenny became the Churches’ third Pastor in February, 1912 and made many improvements to the parish buildings. Among these was the placement of floor tiles in the sanctuary (replacing the original wood) and the installation of a beautiful marble altar and rail in 1915. He also led the efforts to build co-ed St. Peter's School, dedicated in 1917. It was the third and final school building on the west side of Poppleton Street.

The Spanish Flu of 1918 devastated Baltimore's young people, and families lost their most vibrant members. Their anguish was tempered a bit by the clergy who attended to their needs. An example of this was the Yeager family, who lost their daughter Theresa at just 20 years old in October, 1918.

She and others had funerals at St. Peter's, and were buried in present day New Cathedral Cemetery during the height of the influenza outbreak.

Pastor Kenny was not immune to the spread of the disease, and caught it himself. Double pneumonia was a complication, and took his life on October 23, 1918. The beloved Pastor was surrounded by family, but only they could be part of his funeral and burial, as Cardinal Gibbons halted public gatherings of the type.

All Gave Some

Damian O'Connor, Museum Docent

This photo from the Hollins neighborhood was taken on May 5, 1942; an iconic image of the difficult days of World War II.

We face some of the same issues today, dealing with the Coronavirus in 2020 with hoarding, long lines and shortages. Many can recall stateside concerns during this earlier era, albeit without social distancing.

The idea was to send supplies over to feed the American troops and help the local populations in Great Britain and the rest of Europe. Americans were encouraged to keep gardens to supply fruits and vegetable for home use. The government restricted many food purchases. Sugar was the first to be regulated as supplies were limited from Japanese attacks in the Pacific and the strong need to feed the troops on both fronts.

This scene from Schroeder and Hollins Street shows a group of residents waiting to sign up for their first sugar ration books. Each member of the household was allotted one pound of sugar every 2 weeks, about half of their pre-war usage.

Residents of Baltimore would find many items on restriction, including food items, tobacco, alcohol, and gasoline. Sugar was necessary for baking bread and desserts as well as for coffee and cereal. The sugar restriction lasted until 1947, although the war ended in 1945.

In the background is a sign for Hendler’s Ice Cream (The Velvet Kind). Merchants were allowed about 70% of their normal usage.

The store clerk would tear out coupons for the product that was being purchased. Often the shoppers had coupons, but at times the product was not available. The ration book was issued for each resident, adult and child, and was good for two weeks at a time. These ration coupons were illegally traded, bought and sold as some people manipulated the system to obtain items that they wanted.

Mothers, who often were dealing with large families and perhaps a wartime job, had to use their imaginations to put food on the table. Wartime Victory Cake, Apple Brown Betty, Poor Man’s Cake, Fruit Turnovers, and custards showed up on many dinner tables during the 40’s, and mothers became quite creative in substituting one ingredient on hand for another that was not.

Another Sacrifice: Unlikely

Edward R. Gaffney, one of the Museum's "High Kings of Baltimore"

Edward graduated 8th grade at St. Peter’s School in 1941, at age 15 (pictured above, second from right). He promptly “borrowed” an older brother’s birth certificate and enlisted in World War II, serving in the South Pacific.

What did Mom think about all this?

He joined his father, and later his son Edward Jr. among the ranks of veterans.

Receive your Baltimore Irish History fix directly to your inbox

Get more ideas on what to do on the
Baltimore Travel Guide.