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15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

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An Unusual Wartime Hat

by Big Yellow Bus

Contributed by 
Big Yellow Bus
People in story: 
Janet Davidson
Location of story: 
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
05 November 2004

This story has been input by Robbie Meredith of BBC Northern Ireland's 'Big Yellow Bus' on behalf of the author Janet Davidson. The author understands and accepts the terms and conditions of the site.

During the war my father drove a bus which regularly went on a run past the Gallagher's factory in Belfast. It could be cold work in winter. Buses then weren't as well constructed as today, or as comfortable.

On one particularly cold winter's day, my father grabbed a hat before he went out on his run so that his head would be kept warm during the day. My mother used to come down and meet him at the Gallagher's factory during his run later in the day, and when she turned up she noticed that a number of women from the factory were laughing and pointing at my father. She was about to ask them what the joke was when she noticed something unusual.

The cap my father was wearing was lovely, except for the two long foot-shaped holes cut into the cap on each side of his head. Some enterprising person obviously thought that the cap was not used much, so parts of it would make a lovely pair of warm and comfortable insoles for shoes. My father hadn't realised this and had driven around oblivious until my mother told him what he looked like. She never let him forget it.

It was how life was at the time. Things were short, so people were very enterprising about getting good use out of everything they had. Nothing went to waste, although in this instance it seems like a decent hat was ruined, so maybe that's not the best example. Many things were hard to get, however, so you tended to treat anything as useful and precious. I can remember getting sweet coupons until about 1950 and exchanging them for bon-bons. I loved bon-bons anyway, but an added bonus was that they lasted for ages.

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