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15 October 2014
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brenda cowell
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21 November 2003

Rationing by Brenda Cowell

Once rationing was enforced, sweets, of course, were included. Off-ration cough drops, etc, could be bought – but sadly, I never liked them. I can remember queuing up with the 3 ration books at Lyons Staff Stores, near where I kived. One had to register at one shop and their delivers were based on the number of registered customers. Few items were off-ration. Oranges for instance were no longer available. We were lucky and received two food parcels from America. Dried bananas were lovely!. My mother was glad of the dried egg powder – great for cooking. Some people kept rabbits for the table and one enterprising young woman had the skins treated and made herself a long fur coat – off coupons of course.
People grew soft fruit and vegetables, in gardens and on allotments. Some parks had the grass ploughed up for food growing.
When a horse and cart or a police horse came past where we lived (and you could hear the horses hooves echoing as life was a lot quieter) my mother would dash to the road with shovel and dustbin in care there was a chance of manure for the allotment. This behaviour and coping with economies, and the propaganda which most people believed implicitly, were all part of the War Effort. And people became very ingenious – putting a brick in the lavatory cistern to save water, making a line round the bathe to so the same and save fuel, folding newspapers for firelighters, turning sides to middle when sheets got thin, turning collars and cuffs on shirts and blouses. Handles were glued back onto cups, and “pot” menders were used. All scraps of soap were saved, heated and moulded into another tablet.
My mother made damson spread from mashed parsnips and essence – tolerable. Even though we had soft fruit for jam, there wasn’t enough sugar. I enjoyed dripping on bread, but even bread was limited, as were potatoes.

If women heard that stockings were “in”, a queue formed at that shop. Supplies were often exhausted before all the customers were served. Newly weds setting up home for the first time were allowed some extra coupons for bed linen and even for a wedding dress. Styles though were narrower to save material. I believe that men’s trousers lost their turn-ups, flares etc – all to save cloth. Children’s clothes were cut from the better parts of adult clothes; old hand knitted jumpers were unpicked, re the wool washed, rewound and reknitted. to n
Posters were widely distributed, with slogans such as “Careless talk costs lives”, and “Make do and Mend” Leaflets giving various recipes to make the most of rations were handed out at school. British Restaurants, where you could buy off-ration meals, sprang up in Church Halls, etc.

Our front garden railings among with may others were taken for scrap. We later heard that a lot of scrap was never used as the metal was unsuitable for munitions. And of course, National Savings were to encourage contributions to help the economy, and there were various “Drives”, such as a Spitfire Drive – all to raise money.

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