York Department Store Makes Sure Customers Get Stockings During World War II
The Bon-Ton, Market & Beaver, York, c. 1945
The first priority during World War II was supplying the armed forces.. Silk, and then the fairly new fiber, nylon, were needed for parachutes and other uses. That made women’s stocking hard to get.
Some women used leg makeup to get that tanned look, but that didn’t keep your legs warm in the winter. See below for how York’s Bon-Ton Department Store made sure their customers didn’t have to bare their legs to the elements.
(For many more World War I, World War II, Korean War and Viet Nam War stories from home and abroad, stop in and see York County Heritage Trust’s exhibit From Front Porch to Front Lines: York County Goes to War.)
According to the 1998 book Doing a Good Business: 100 Years at the Bon-Ton, the store had a system. The narrative reads:
Runs on Stockings
Among the hardships of World War II was the rationing of all manner of goods–from foodstuffs to the silk that the military used to weave into parachutes. The Bon-Ton made certain that its customers received their fair share of the limited stock–graciously.
“We didn’t want a rush on the department, with women fighting over the hosiery,” says Jeanne Schwartzer.” So all shipments of the precious commodity were delivered to Jeanne in the corporate office. Using the sales clerks’ clientele books, Jeanne notified each hosiery customer by postcard, specifying what stockings she was entitled to. “The girls in the hosiery department always kept great records of who their customers were and what they wore,” Jeanne says. “I ran the hosiery shop out of my office, and the ladies had to come in with their cards and line up. It was like it is today when the toys come out at Christmas.”
Bon-Ton Main Sales Floor, c. 1945
(The Bon-Ton photos are from the c.1945 book The Story of a Dynamic Community: York, Pennsylvania by Betty Peckham and published by the York Chamber of Commerce.)