If March’s weather were to be personified, its characteristics could include free-spirited, ambivalent, and one to “sit on the fence,” what with its high and low temperatures, and alternating snow and rain. Conversely, when traversing the inner roadways beyond the fence at Deer Haven Park while winter meets spring, numerous other perspectives emerge in hindsight of the history of this vast acreage, perspectives that prove to be just the opposite of this transitionary month’s mantra.

As abandoned munitions igloos stand staunchly preserved — cold, snow swept and hollow — realizations surface of what life was like for the average family back in 1942, when the military was experiencing its first March since the completion of the Seneca Ordnance Depot. It was a time when the cold March breeze that hastened over this same landscape was wrought with apprehension and uncertainty, yet would boast an era of collaboration, adaptability, and resilience.

It also was a time when scrap metal and rubber suddenly became much-needed recyclable commodities used to manufacture weapons. To preserve rubber, gas ration vouchers of 3 gallons per week were instituted — the less travel, the less wear on tires. The average gallon of gas cost anywhere from 15-20 cents (roughly $3.45 in today’s market).

Government vouchers, or ration stamps also were issued to purchase sugar and coffee. German U-boats were sinking merchant ships, and countries that supplied such products were being invaded. In like manner, due to the lack of tin (also an imported material), canned goods were scarce, sometimes disappearing from store shelves altogether, as were butter, beef, and pork.

If you were fortunate enough to own your own home, the average price was around $3,775. A new automobile would empty one’s pocket of $920. Eggs were better obtained from local farmers and averaged 48 cents a dozen, much more than a half-gallon of milk which included glass container delivery for 30 cents.

If the average household didn’t bake its own bread (many housewives sought work outside the home while the men of the family were at war), it could be purchased for 9 cents a loaf. With the average monthly income of $157, or roughly $39 per week, after mortgage and car payments, groceries and utilities, there must have been large sacrifices for what was considered a comfortable daily lifestyle.

Having said that, the camaraderie and ingenuity of the American people rose to the occasion. Collaborators invented instant coffee to help offset the coffee bean gap. Families purchased war bonds to help the government secure product needed for weapons and machinery. More companies began producing store available sliced bread, which gained in popularity, as did prefab frozen foods (later to become incorporated into the TV dinner). Campbell Soup developed condensed soup test kitchens the year prior which soon presented easy go-to recipes, all to help working housewives get timely dinners on the table.

Household’s canning in glass bottles became the norm as families planted more vegetables and grew their own fruit bushes and trees, preserving these harvests as well for off season indulgences.

U.S. automobile manufacturers ceased all new car production and focused their sights on producing war materials. New car manufacturing would not resume until 1945.

Columbia Records produced vinyl phonograph albums to help keep folks uplifted as radio stations played popular hits such as “Jingle, Jangle, Jingle” and later in the year, Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas.” As well, movie companies continued to produce for those who could save the 30 cents needed for admission and treat themselves to Humphrey Bogart in “Casablanca” or Walt Disney’s “Bambi.”

Collaboration, adaptability, resilience. Touring the preserved and once covert military history at Deer Haven Park brings new perspective and appreciation for who we are, where we’ve been, and how past meets future right here, right now, beyond the fence.

Dee Calvasina is a freelance writer and monthly columnist who supports the conservation of nature and all wildlife at Deer Haven Park LLC. To keep abreast of touring options and events, visit deerhavenpark.org, like them on FB, or call 8-DEER-TOURS (833-378-6877).