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U3A Writing: Rationing

Nancie Dyson recalls the stern days of wartime rationing.

Rationing – the memories that word evokes! Those of us growing up between 1940 – 1954 all have our own personal recollections.

During these years there were no overweight adults or children, although Winston Churchill maintained a sturdy outline, or maybe I malign him.

As a family of five we fared better than smaller families. There was less of everything, but we were all receiving the same – no point complaining.

We certainly got plenty of exercise. Four trips to and from school each day plus at least one period of games or exercise kept us fit.

Sweet rationing helped to keep our teeth in good order.

We were all in the same boat as regards feeling hungry, so although we complained, we knew we were all having to put up with the situation.

For some children things improved, as mothers got regular allotments from fathers in the forces instead of having to make do with what was left after Dad’s visit to the boozer.

My younger brother cheered when he was told soap rationing was to start in February 1942 (three ounces of soap per month). He thought he’d escape washing so often. He was quickly disillusioned.

So many words entered into everyday usages, like Span, dried eggs, dried milk, and tinned sausages. But, providing we got something to eat, we didn’t complain. We daren’t!

All girls were taught to knit at a young age, and we knitted socks and balaclavas for sailors, with oily wool which was hard on the hands. Also mittens and scarves, which stood us in good stead, as in June 1941 clothes rationing was introduced. Ten coupons per person per month, two coupons for one yard of material and one coupon for two ounces of wool. I wonder how today’s 15-year-olds would cope with it?

I made myself a skirt out of a pair of my dad’s old trousers. Jumble sales at church yielded jumpers to unravel and blouses to unpick. An old blanket made a dressing gown.

Make-do-and-mend was the order of the day, and if you owned a sewing machine, you were the most popular girl around. My name came up in 1950 at the Singer shop in town. I still have my machine.

I’d always had my clothes made by a dressmaker whom I called Aunty Kitty. When I started at Greenhead she made all my uniform. Worsted was purchased from one of the local mills via someone who worked there, and my gymslip was made with pleats of four-inch thicknesses. That gymslip was still part o fmy wardrobe, masquerading as a pinafore dress 12 years later in 1949. You can’t beat a bit of good worsted.

Incidentally, no pockets or pleats were allowed in clothes and no turn-ups on trousers. These were the utility years.

Utility Clothes, Shoes and Furniture

1945 and I was 19 and longed for a red skirt for going dancing. We searched and searched but no joy. Mum gave Dad three of my coupons to put in his wallet, and he came home from Manchester so proud to have found me the material. But, oh dear, it was coating.

It is 2007, and I never did get that skirt. C’est la vie.
But I did get a Jaeger coat.

1939
September 3rd - Sunday blackout enforced. Sires sounded, false alarm. Gas masks carried at all times.
September 29th – Identify cards issued, cinemas closed (reopened December 17th.

1940
January 8th – Rationing began: four ounces ham or bacon, 12 ounces sugar, four ounces butter
March – Meat 1/10 pence per person (approximately one pound in weight)
July – Tea, margarine, lard two ounces a week

1941
March – Points introduced for jam, etc. eight ounces per month plus points for tinned goods and biscuits.
June 1st – Clothes rationing – 10 coupons per person each month, One coupon for two ounces wool, two coupons for one yard material. Milk and eggs rationed.

1942 – No pockets or pleats allowed in clothes, no turn-ups on trousers. Make do and mend.
February – Soap rationed, three ounces per month.

1943
July – Petrol rationed to doctors and essential workers. Tyres of other cars were removed, and cars stood on bricks.

1944 – Over-70s got extra fuel.

1945 – Whale meat!

1954 – Rationing finished.

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