Mimi’s Lamp Article

My Aunt Mimi went to Europe just before the end of WWII with the USO to draw pictures of wounded GIs for them to send home.  I knew that a year or two later she went back, hired by Standard Oil to paint for an article about the effects of the postwar shortage of oil that was going to be in their company magazine The Lamp. I don’t remember ever seeing what she did, except this one that was on the cover. My mom had saved a copy! This was the cover illustration:

Cover illustration of Jan 1948 The Lamp, Mimi Korach; Place Ste Germaine Des Pres, Paris
M. Korach ’47 Place Ste Germain Des Prés Paris

Mimi wrote a wonderful memoir in 2012 including a detailed story of how the article came to be. In it she says that the magazine received more requests for copies of that picture than any other cover picture they had used. Although the memoir includes delightful descriptions of how she hung out in the cockpit of the plane going to Europe sketching the pilot and co-pilot and how the luxury dining room on the ocean liner Queen Elizabeth gradually emptied out as the sea became rougher from one day to the next on the way home, it does not have all the pictures from the magazine. Here they are, with her captions.

“His gasoline ration exhausted, the doctor makes his rounds by bicycle.”
“On the farm the penury of fuel is deeply felt, and many farmers must fall back on the old horse-drawn plowshare to till their soil while the bright red tractor, often of American manufacture, remains idle in the barn. The farmer protested, when I asked him to move one of his tractors into the courtyard for the sketch, that no Frenchman would be stupid enough to leave a tractor out when it is not in use.”
“Milk is rationed to assure the children getting as much as possible. There is no shortage at the farms but it is impossible to transport enough to the large towns and cities. Due to lack of gasoline, a horse-drawn cart replaces the more efficient Diesel or gasoline truck. Average rations are half a liter (about a pint) for children under ten; quarter-liter for ten-year-olds; there is nothing for those over twelve.”
“The Place De L’Etoile in Paris presents this familiar scene every evening. The people line up for blocks in orderly fashion and wait their turn for the busses into the outskirts. Lowering of the gasoline allowance has reduced the circulation of private cars and listed the number of busses on normal service. As a result, a great deal of patience is needed for the journey home after the day’s work is done.”
“These pensioners owned a pretty cottage that was destroyed during the war. They live now in one miserable room; no water, no gas, no electricity. Bits of driftwood are the only fuel for warmth.”
“In the big towns one can often see, early in the morning, the ‘No Milk’ sign in front of the dairyman’s shop. On such days the meager distribution of milk to children and sick people is suspended.”
“St. Lo is a city of cellars and caves. In this little hut four people live. There is only rain water to drink and wash with. For light, there is a ration of half a liter of kerosene a month for a family.” [If you look closely over the door, you can see the name of the house, “El Rancho Grande” — DeanB]
“Today I found a queue waiting to buy materials for warm clothing, wool to guard against the bitter cold of the Paris winter. Whenever the cloth arrives (it is rationed) lines of patient people form.”
“This is the depot of a hauling and trucking company in Le Havre. The owner has fifty trucks which would be usable but for the lack of motive force. Twenty-three trucks are now idle. Reconstruction of the harbor and piers, sorely needed for the import of necessary cargoes, has been halted for lack of oil. It is shocking to see the sunken ships and ruined waterfront of such a perfect harbor.” [and if you didn’t know, Mimi grew up a block from Long Island Sound in Milford, Connecticut, which had a harbor with a small fishing fleet as well as pleasure boats]
“Tragedy hits you hard in Le Havre. I found it to be a most terrible, indescribably dead city, as are most of the destroyed towns of Normandy. The fact that people can live and laugh in these places is a great wonder to me. On the site of great devastation, construction was started of many permanent buildings — the new Le Havre. But now work has been slowed down because of lack of fuel.”
“Most Breton fishing vessels burn oil. Because fish are an essential food, the fishing fleets rate a high priority in the allocation of the available supplies of oil. But despite priorities, the boats are sometimes laid up for lack of the oil to run them, as is shown in this sketch of the idle sardine fleet in Concarneau Harbor near the Atlantic tip of Brittany. Such lay-ups have a direct effect on the food supply ashore.”

— to see how things have changed, Google Map “Concarneau, France”. If you stroll along Quai Peneroff in street view you can believe it’s the same place, but seventy years have made a difference.

Published by deanb

male born 1944 mathematician by training, software engineer by profession; retired since Labor Day 2013 birder, cyclist, unicyclist, eraser carver, knitter when possible