Thursday, April 27, 2006

The poor are getting poorer or...

..the worst [your pet peeve here] since the Great Depression.

Yes, I know, I frequently link to Jim Miller on Politics. That's because I often find things there that, figuratively speaking, stop me in my tracks. Such was the case a moment ago. In his post, Americans Are Getting Bigger, (which I almost didn't read 'cause, well, it didn't strike me as interesting), Jim drops this little bombshell he found in An Army At Dawn: The War In Africa, 1942-43

...a description of the standards the draftees had to meet in 1940, which shows just how much bigger we've gotten:
Physical standards remained fairly rigorous; soon enough, the day would come when new recruits claimed the army no longer examined eyes, just counted them. A conscript had to stand at least five feet tall and weigh 105 pounds; possess twelve or more of his natural thirty-two teeth; and be free of flat feet, venereal disease, and hernias. More than forty of every hundred men were rejected, a grim testament to the toll taken on the nation's health in the Great Depression. (p. 9)
105 pounds! When was the last time you even saw a man who weighed that little? If the men in those old World War II photos looks small, that's because many of them were.)
Emphasis added by me. Forty percent of the American men who were drafted could not meet those standards even by 1940? I am unfamiliar with Rick Atkinson's work and have no idea if this paltry level of size and general health can be laid directly on the effects of the Great Depression. For all I know half of the 40% who couldn't meet those standards ran out and got a dose or some teeth extracted the moment their draft notice showed up in the mailbox, but I doubt it.

The next time I hear some local moonbat chant the "worst since the Great Depression" mantra I'm gonna be sorely tempted to slap the idiot. With a little luck I'll control myself and merely say, "You're too stupid for words. Please just STFU."


terrye said...

When my Dad was drafted into WW2 he was 5'7" tall and weighed 137 lbs. When my grandmother saw him next he was 6'3" tall and weighed 185 lbs. He said that when she saw him she said, "My baby, my baby, what have they done to my baby?"

He always swore it was the homogenized milk. On the farm they had fresh milk and it was warm and had globs of cream in it and Daddy did not like that. But when he went in the US Navy he discovered cold homoginized milk and they let him have all he wanted.

I don't know why he got bigger but it is true that people are bigger today, not only here but all over the world. It started with the feet. The baby boomers had larger feet and now their children are bigger than they were.

Is is evolution, improved prenadal care, better medical care in general or more food?

Or all of the above?

Some people say it is the additives and hormones in food. But I do not think so.

MeaninglessHotAir said...


I think it's nearly impossible for us to understand the past because the changes in just those 60-odd years have been so tremendous that the past is now a foreign country where we don't speak the language. I wrote some thoughts about this in the comments to this post about the movie Notorious.

Ed onWestSlope said...

I have always considered the change in diet to be the major factor. In my 57 years, I have noticed a distinct in crease in height and body weight of orientals.

At least in my own mind, I am normal sized (5'-10"). My children are significantly taller. I am convinced I fed them too well. They don't share my belief. I am tired of my daughter patting me on my head. Her inheritance is at risk.

Knucklehead said...

Size increases, within reason, as are having more than 12 teeth remaining in one's mouth while one is still within draftable age range, is surely a matter of far better nutrition.

Not having flat feet as a common malady it probably a matter of people having shoes and not walking and working as much in their early years.

The teeth thing, and not having hernias is probably a matter of medical/dental care - people get their problems fixed.

The quality of life for an ordinary American (and for that matter large chunks of the world) has improved so radically that it just escapes people's ability to recognize.

And it isn't just health. My mom and two of her sisters-in-law were once having a chat with my daughters about all that had changed for females over the time since they were young girls, their daughters were girls, and now their grandaughters were girls. My daughters were mesmerized but so was I.

When they were young girls of school age the reality was that if you were a bright and ambitious woman and willing to get the necessary education, nursing and teaching in primary schools were the big "careers" open to you. Of course there were exceptions but just enough to prove the big rules. By the time my sisters were young girls there were possibley more career choices available to them, presuming sufficient skills and education, than were closed to them. My daughters are hard pressed to even imagine some some non-physical career choice unavailable to them simply because they are female. They can, but the list is short and takes some thinking to build. By the time they present me grandaughters (Gaia willing) and they grow to HS age, we will long since have seen most of whatever is on my daughters' list long since erased.

And yet the doomsayers drone on like malcontented energizer bunnies.

And when you ask them,
"How much should they have?"
The only answer is,
"More, More, More!"
It ain't me, it ain't me,
I know I'm a fortunate one."

chuck said...

a grim testament to the toll taken on the nation's health in the Great Depression.

I recall accounts of American troops arriving in France during WWI and how strikingly vigorous and healthy they seemed to observers. Come WWII and Orwell wrote that the American troops he saw were physically unimpressive. OK, it's hard to compare impressions across generations and circumstance, but I found the different impressions interesting.

My dad was about 5'10" and maybe 130 lbs when he joined the army in the summer of 1941. He claims he put on 25 lbs during training because of the food. It wasn't like he grew up without working, just without a lot of high quality food.

chuck said...

...nursing and teaching in primary schools were the big "careers" open to you.

I sometimes think the opening up of career choices for women is part of the reason for the decline of education. The schools no longer get the best and brightest of half the population as teachers.

David Thomson said...

I own a copy of David Gelertner’s “1939 The Lost World of the Fair.” He mentions that full time workers often went without adequate nutrition. A young lady is cited spending 65 cents a week on cigarettes. She explained that “It keeps me from being hungry when I smoke before a meal.”

A typical adult in our modern era can easily survive nutritionally on $2.00 a day. This represents a small fraction of their financial earnings. Will they enjoy gourmet food on this small amount of money? Of course not, but they will not be threatened with starvation.

MeaninglessHotAir said...

Ed onWestSlope,

In my 57 years, I have noticed a distinct in crease in height and body weight of orientals.

This isn't just your observation. This had already been carefully documented by American Military authorities in Japan during the '50's--there was considerable increase in height in Japan once they started getting on a more American diet.


I sometimes think the opening up of career choices for women is part of the reason for the decline of education.

I had long ago taken that for a certainty.

Rick Ballard said...

"Her inheritance is at risk."

Now Ed, that's just terrible. I would never consider such a thing. I intend to die in debt in order to avoid having to make such a decision.

I think Terrye is right concerning homogenized milk - pulling out the butterfat sweetened it up and kids voluntarily drink a lot more of it well past the age when raw milk would be abandoned. Lots of extra protein, fat and a bit more calcium - not much mystery to people getting bigger.

People really did go hungry in the Depression and 18 year old draftees reflected that fact. We're very blessed to be able to forget what hunger is.