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From War to Knitting

by Back in the Day

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Archive List > Rationing

Contributed by 
Back in the Day
People in story: 
Mrs Martin
Location of story: 
Clarendon Jamaica / Nottingham
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
17 December 2005

A picture of Mrs Martin, taken on the 22nd of December 2005, at a Christmas party at the African Caribbean National Artistic Centre (ACNA) Hungerhill Road, Nottingham.

This story was submitted to the people's war site by Zach Bromberg McCarthy and Jendayi Davis of the Back In the Day project on behalf of Mrs Martin, and has been added to the site with her permission. The author fully understands the sites terms and conditions.

The following extracts were taken from an interview, which was conducted by the above named persons on the 27th of October 2005.

Mrs Martin was born in Clarendon, Jamaica and is the youngest of a large family of 6. Mrs Martin was only a baby when war was declared but she remembers her parents making reference to the war. Mrs Martin recalls: “I heard my parents and my grandfather said that when war is on its very difficult… most things that we wanted in the house we couldn’t obtain in the shop. Such things like Kerosene oil, matches, soap, blue and cooking oil, came from foreign countries.

“When my parents send the bigger ones to the shop… they couldn’t get some of those things and my parents would sit down and says. ` War is on again what they going to do about it?’”

Prices went up on imported goods because they were in short supply but after selling such things as home-grown coffee and ginger it was sometimes possible for Mrs Martins family to buy petrol, kerosene oil, and blue, cooking oil.

“As soon as the war stopped you go to the shops and could get those things to buy.”

Q: Did any of your family go to war?

“None of my family fought in the war.”

Q: What contributions did your island make to the war effort?

“I don’t know if my parents did give anything but the island did export goods.
My parents wouldn’t say that we were fighting with the Germans or the British…but we (Jamaica) got involved in the war because we couldn’t obtain the things we needed.”

Q: What was school like back in the day?

“My school was fantastic because we learn very good lessons and we have school parade…a very nice thing because you have to dress up. Girls didn’t wear trousers, you had to dress in your skirt below your knees, with your school blouse and your nice hat - you have on a nice hat with your badges on it and your shoes. You have to be well dress when going on school parade.

“You didn’t always have to wear school uniform. When you blouse did dirty you did have to wear a frock.”

Q: What did the teacher tell you about the war?

“I can’t remember what teacher said, only heard when I grew up (about the war) through parents.”

Q: Do you remember anything about the news/broadcasting of the war?

“I don’t remember radio broadcast about the war. To me there was no war in Jamaica, but being we were British we had to get the British news...When you go and buy the newspaper you hear everything, but in Jamaica there was no war fighting at that time.”

Q: What was your social life like back then?

"In my spare time I did sewing, crochet and embroidery or else you were working in the field with your parents. We didn’t go to dances…just went to church…all our entertainment was church…went to church all the while.

“I was so bad lucky I didn’t have a boyfriend- up to now I don’t have one.”

In 1965 Mrs Martin moved to the meadows in Nottingham- this was where her finance’ and some of her relatives also lived. Her parents didn’t really want her to travel but because most of the other girls were leaving Jamaica she decided to leave also. She recalls: “When I came the place was alright, I get a job, come back into my house, go to church and I was alright.”

Q: What was your first job?

“The first job I went into was knitting and according to how it went…I begin knitting until I became the best knitter in the country. (We were not sure how true this was)…I can knit with or without pattern and things like that…I could knit what they couldn’t, I could read patterns, I could get a piece of paper and make a pattern."

Mrs Martin remains a creative person even till this day. She shows us some colourful beaded bracelets she made earlier.

“I worked on a lace machine making petty coats until 6am in the morning and the following week until 10pm…shift work. Britain was a lot different then. I didn’t know that wages was so small…when Friday come you only have a couple pence in your hands.”

Q: Was there much difference between home and Britain?

“To me it wasn’t much different only that they were white in England and I was coloured from a coloured background. We had the same training. Brought up the same and everything.

Q: When you arrived Britain did not have as many black citizens as it does today. Did you experience any racism?

“Yes there were some places that you go and there was a colour bar. Some places you go to buy a drink they wouldn’t want to serve you and things like that…but I went to supermarket to buy my food, read my books and kept myself to myself.”

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