World War I in Lawrence: Douglas County Citizens cut out ‘luxuries’

On the eve of the nationwide Red Cross campaign, a group of Douglas County citizens were reported to have informally agreed to cut out “luxuries” during the week-long fund drive. Under the headline “CUT OUT SHORTCAKE FOR COUNTRY’S SAKE,” the Lawrence Journal-World wrote, “War is no time for the fatted calf. Let him alone until the Kaiser is licked and the American troops come home from Berlin. Meantime if company comes in let them take pot luck with the family, just once. Don’t fix up a lot of extras and try to make company believe that’s the sort of dinner you have every day. You don’t, and company and everybody else knows it.” Local Red Cross organizer Henderson S. Martin told a reporter that the county could give its share to the cause “without giving up any luxuries really worth hanging on to.” Readers were urged to “just make the Sunday dinner simple, eat the strawberries without sugar and without cream. For the sake of your country cut out the shortcake.”

A day later, a Journal-World reader told the editor that other sacrifices could be made that would make a greater impact. There were at that time 1,385 automobiles in Douglas County, according to the records of the county treasurer. Considering the costs of gasoline (then at 19.6 cents per gallon), tires, and other maintenance for the hundreds of those automobiles “used merely as pleasure cars,” the reader calculated that at least $5,000 a week was being spent on these vehicles — money that could benefit the Red Cross campaign in a more noticeable way than sacrifices to the household food budget.