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15 October 2014
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Contributed by 
BBC Southern Counties Radio
People in story: 
Eilen Odom, Miss Smith, Miss Hazeldene, Miss Pickett, Mr Forster
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Contributed on: 
03 August 2005

I was almost 11 when war started in 1939 and was at Davigdor Road, Senior Girls School in Hove for 3 years and a lot of that time was spent in the air raid shelter under the school. I left to start work at Liptons Ltd on the corner of George Street and Blatchington Road. The District Manager came to the school about a month before the end of term and interviewed girls for the vacancies. Three of us were selected, each going to a different branch. I went to Hove.

I started on 28 December 1942, 8.30 sharp. I was kitted out in white coat and a white cap with a green band through it which you held on with 2 hair clips. The staff were all called Miss Smith, Miss Hazeldene, Miss Pickett etc but between ourselves we all had nicknames, Smithy, Pick, Hazel - she is still my friend and Godmother to my children. The Manager was Sir - he had bad eye-sight so was not called up. The only other man we had was Mr Forster. He had eleven children and mainly worked in the cellar, a place where we girls only went in twos. We were all under 18, as women over that age went on government work.

The shop had three departments, grocery, provisions and a place where orders were taken, packed and despatched. Very quickly, I learned what to do - ask for the ration books first, you then knew their name. Ladies, smart or otherwise were addressed as Madam. Few men shopped, but they had to be called Sir. Money was just in a drawer till and you did not take the white £5 notes without first asking the Manager and putting the customer's name and address on the back in pencil.

Everybody at that time was having half a pound of sugar, 2oz tea, 2oz butter, quarter of a pound of marg, 2oz lard, 2oz cheese, 3oz bacon a week, plus 20 points a month which bought a tin of beans, salmon, golden syrup, biscuits etc - also 1lb of jam or marmalade a month. Most families registered all the family at one shop, but a few had 1 or 2 books with a second shop in hopes of getting one or two extra goods which were in short supply like custard powder, Bisto, bottle of coffee, bev or camp and a slab of cake.

Members of the forces on leave had temporary cards, but just the same rations, so in the shop you knew who had a husband at home or somebody else staying.

Bacon came in whole sides with a knuckle on each end, and that bit was not rationed, so when you had been taught to bone and cut with a sharp knife the whole side into lengths suitable to fit onto the hand slicing machine, and it was your turn on the list for the knuckle, you let the knife slip a bit so that your Mother had enough for a main meal.

Rabbits came over from Australia frozen into blocks. People saw the lorry unload and just queued until we could force them apart with a crowbar, pink and bloody - stiff as a board, wild rabbit 10d a lb, and bring your own paper or cloth.

I had worked there for a whole year when Christmas came. It was the rule that everybody worked on the Sunday before Christmas but you did not get paid for it. It was a great day - we plucked chickens and trussed them, only putting back half the giblets. The other half went into a box which the staff shared at the end of the day. The Manager had a list of every registered customer who wanted and could afford a bird at Christmas. He then drew names out of a box and we hung the birds up around the shop with names on for all to see, hoping that your friendly customers would get one! The local pub The George, where the Manager went at lunch times, always sent up some half pint bottles of beer for that day, so it was like a great picnic.

This story was submitted to the People's War site by Melita Dennett on behalf of Eileen Odom. Eileen fully understands the site's terms and conditions.

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