- Contributed by
- John Brownbridge
- People in story:
- Mrs Saunders John Brownbridge
- Location of story:
- Bush Hill Park Enfield
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 27 August 2004
Somewhere you have a number of contributions about food and rationing. Somebody also queried how it was that rationing continued long after it had finished in Germany. That really is a puzzler given the state of Germany after the war. Of course, rationing and Ration Books became almost an institution in this country right from the beginning of the war and certainly once the Uboat campaign got seriously under way. The Black Market and fish and chips were two ways of getting around food shortages coupled with the vigorous Dig Fof Victory campaign. At the end of the war America, Russia, France and Britain must have pouted lots of resources into German who obviously had no military coasts to bear as far as I know. There must have been a number of reasons why Germany ceased rationing. I firmly believe there must have been food shortages, just as here, but without official rationing, money must have been a key in regulating food supplies.
Rationing in one form or another went on for years after the war ended. Somebody wrote wrote in one of your pages about the roles of the British Restaurant as another way of avoiding ration regulations. In 1954 I came to Bristol to interview for a place at a Teacher Training College. There was then still a British Restaurant, a temporary wood building, where I had lunch, operating just off the city centre at the bottom of Park Street.
But that's pretty boring stuff and there's something a bit more special I want to tell you about about that happened to me.
I was 10 when the war ended and the really big food highlight I recall was the first appearances of oranges and lemons in greengrovers' shops. My friends and I used to ride our bikes all over the place in Edmonton and Enfield, our bit of Norf London, looking for shops that had oranges. Some days you'd get an actual orange though more often it was just a lemon which you'd suck slowly while you were riding about not really sure if you were enjoying it.
Bananas? Now that was a totally different story. Well, there was a well known war time song on the wireless, often on Workers' Playtime, that started off with: 'When can I have a Banana again?'
In the late forties I went to Tottenham Grammar School which meant a train ride down to White Harte Lane. Just outside our station was a green grocer's run by an elderly lady, Mrs Saunders - Old Mother Saunders to us kids. My dad got me a job there stacking up potatoes and other vegetables. 'Five for Six' read the notice at that time - that's sixpence in old money - 2 1/2p now for 5 pounds of whites. King Edwards? A bit more.
Anyway, I used to get off the train at Bush Hill Park and work in the shop. That could mean being there till well after dark. But one night Mrs Saunders asked me to lock the shop door and put out the lights. Now she usually did that after I'd gone. But tonight I did it while she got a torch. On this occasion she also brought out a small crow bar.
She called me over to one side and told me to get a long reddish wooden crate that she'd had delivered in her cellar. I dragged it up and we both stood there looking at it. She banged on the lid with the crow bar and we had another look at it. Then she gave me the crow bar and told me to lever off the lid carefully. Well, even a nipper could that but before I had a chance to get the lid off she grabbed me by the arm and told me to leave it be. She gave me her gauntlets which she usually wore in the shop and told me just to push the lid off and then rustle around with the bar inthe straw in the box. She clearly expected something to leap out. 'Might be one of them tranch'lars inside,' she whispered, standing behind me.
We waited a another couple of moments to see what happened. Then she wanted her gloves back. She gingerly poked around the straw and then pulled it all out onto the floor. And there they were. Not tarantulars but bananas joined together on their stem.
'Crikey!' was all I could say in a high pitched voice.
She gave me one or rather pushed one inside my jerkin. 'Now don't you tell nobody nuffin on your way home. Don't you dare say where you got it, mind. Off you go, Jacky, and don't you stop until you gets home.'
Back home I was completely out of breath. I couldn't say a word as I showed my mum, and dad, and my brother what I'd got. 'Blimey!' said my dad. 'Get a knife.' He cut it into four pieces. And when I tasted it I recognised the taste even though I couldn't remember ever seeing a banana.
But it was ages before Mrs Saunders got hold another box and my own whole banana.
© Copyright of content contributed to this Archive rests with the author. Find out how you can use this.