Chicago Victory Gardens: Yesterday & Tomorrow

Chicago Victory Gardens: Yesterday & Tomorrow

We had a blast today at the Chicago Dank-Haus! About 80 participants joined us for “Chicago Victory Gardens: Yesterday and Tomorrow”.

We had said it would be part-performance, part-lecture and it turned out to be just that. In Part 1 (Yesterday) six talented actors from Chicago portrayed people originally involved in the WW2 Victory Garden movement (left to right).

Jeff Rogers played C.E. Hewitt – Park Horticulturalist and Chairman of Office of Civilian Defense (OCD) Division 6

Noah Simon played Edgar Metzger – Park employee on the plowing team

John Zinn played Fred G. Heuchling – Assistant Director, Victory Garden Department, Chicago Metropolitan OCD

Corrie Feuerstein played Miss Margerite Flershem – Principal of Brennan School

Allison Cain played Mrs. J.P. Sterling – Community Chair District 11 (Lincoln Square), Division 6 OCD

Gloria Athanis played Marie Melberg – Community Chair District 4 (South Lawndale), Division 4 OCD

Using historical documents, music, photographs and other related material, this dynamic cast told the story of how Chicago lead the nation in Victory Garden organization and production during WW2.

EATING HISTORY: The “Ladies Baking Auxiliary for Victory” created treats from original WW2 recipes. Some of the audience members were slightly peeved and others amused when we told them there was no coffee being served because coffee was rationed during WW2 and the “authentic” beverage – apple juice – was being served instead.

Spring Beauty Cupcakes

Spring Beauty Cupcakes

Molasses Sweetened Oatmeal Cookies

Molasses Sweetened Oatmeal Cookies

The recipe for the Spring Beauty cake/cupcakes can be found HERE. The recipe for the Molasses Sweetened Oatmeal Cookies can be found HERE.

FOOD PRESERVATION: We had a display of canned goods, original canning instructions from WW2 and some food preservation posters. I would love to talk more about the role of food preservation that went hand-in-hand with Victory Gardens but we didn’t have time – too much to cover – so I hope this small display got the point across.

Canned goods from The Yarden

Canned goods from The Yarden

SEEDS: A last-minute idea turned out to be a big hit – we brought extra seeds and invited people to take some for their gardens… with the caveat, of course, that they save some and share next season. Some were from The Yarden (Christmas Lima and Scarlet Runner beans) and some were just extras that we were ready to share. People seemed to really enjoy the “shopping”!



TOMORROW: After a 15 minute intermission, I gave my talk on the future of urban food production in Chicago and how, like those Chicagoans long ago, we can lead the nation again! I was so excited I forgot to ask if there were any questions but many people came up afterwards to ask anyway!

My mother was a Rosie the Riveter!

My mother was a Rosie!

(GARDEN) HISTORY REPEATING ITSELF: At the close of the lecture we announced our efforts with the 40th Ward Alderman, Pat O’Conner, to recreate a community garden on an empty lot that was part of an original Victory Garden in WW2.

We hope to hear about the viability of that project in the next few weeks so keep your fingers crossed!

Note the billboard past the trees and the street - that's the corner of Campbell and Peterson

Note the billboard to the right just past the trees… that’s the corner of Campbell and Peterson.

Campbell and Peterson today...

Campbell and Peterson today…

It was a great day! If you attended, we’d love it if you can share your comments here. And I’m looking forward to talking more over the coming weeks and months about how Chicago lead the nation in the 1940′s and can do it again! Check out the ABOUT page for upcoming speaking engagements and events.

We want to persuade everyone we meet to grow their own food… seriously! And spreading the word about how Chicago has done it before is a great place to start…

Happy gardening!

(We video taped the presentations and will have available online soon!)


  1. I’m sorry I missed it. I didn’t roll out of bed until 2pm and by that time it was too late. I hope you’ll get to start that community garden in that spot because it would be cool to return the spot to what it was like in those days.

    Good luck!

  2. We missed you! I’ll keep you posted on the “new” Victory Garden as things unfold… have a great week and thanks for the comment.

  3. That sounds so cool. Good luck and recreating the community garden. I wish I lived in Chicago, because I’d be all over this project.

  4. Well, we can get support and inspiration from afar! The audience really seemed into the idea. I think the historical twist makes it fun.

    Also, got the seeds you sent – THANK YOU!

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