Persistent food shortages during World War II caused many customers in U.S. grocery stores to wield their shopping carts like chariot racers in "Ben Hur." An excerpt from The Post of July 9, 1945:

Everything the Washington housewife thinks about the lack of respect and fair treatment she gets from her grocer these days he can hand back to her doubled. He's a bit more tolerant about it, however, The Post learned when checking on what various local groups were thinking -- rightly or wrongly -- about the current food situation.

"The average person who comes into our stores these days is irritable, contrary, and adamant," declared one of the men who helps run a group of stores which stands above-average high with shoppers. "Men are just as bad as women, and probably worse. They blame us for everything and I don't care how honest we are, they don't seem to believe it. They definitely have lost their manners."

Washington grocers have had baskets of other groceries dumped on the floor by irate housewives who found no meat when they reached the butcher counter. They have had women snatch live chickens from the coop and run, and nearly all of the smaller ones are afraid to put all the meat they have -- lest the news spread through the neighborhood and they will be "mobbed."

They admit that the shoppers have cause for complaint and that their clerks are unmannerly, too. "We've scraped the bottom of the barrel and even gone under it to get workers, but the customer should sometimes realize that we did not create the meat shortage nor do we get up early to put dirty lettuce and small oranges on the counters -- saving out the big, clean stuff for our favorites," another man said.

Getting meat is a major problem with the Washington retailer and although he can get a bit more now his customers are not getting enough to suit them and his job is no lighter.

Just as nearly every customer thinks she is a sucker for putting up with her shopping problems and believes her neighbors are faring much better than she, most of the food handlers to whom The Post talked believes the other fellow may have somehow found a way around the major difficulties.

Most of them think restaurants and hotels have an unfair advantage because these handlers can pay about 20 per cent more for their meats.

This series is available at www.washingtonpost.com