Tag Archives: War Time Rationing

Age of Innocence – 1954 Part Two, Rationing and Bananas

banana shortage

“Yes, we have no bananas
We have-a no bananas today
We’ve string beans, and onions
Cabashes, and scallions,
And all sorts of fruit and say
We have an old fashioned tomato
A Long Island potato But yes, we have no bananas
We have no bananas today”

This seems almost impossible to believe now but it was only in 1954, the year that I was born, that war time rationing in Britain was officially ended.

It began in January 1940 when due to severe food shortages and heavy convoy losses in the North Atlantic, bacon, butter and sugar were rationed and this was followed soon after by meat, tea, jam, biscuits, breakfast cereals, cheese, eggs, milk and canned fruit.  As the Second-World-War progressed, most kinds of food came to be rationed along with clothing and petrol.

My parents were issued with a ration card for me but never had to use it because it all stopped three weeks after I was born on 4th July. It might have gone on longer but for the work of Gwilym Lloyd George, the son of David Lloyd George, who was the Minister of Food from 1951 to 1954 and insisted that the Government prioritise the end of rationing.

The last food item to be released from the shackles of rationing was bananas, which for me is quite a significant fact.  Dad loved bananas and I could never quite understand why but I suppose he was only twenty-two in 1954 and hadn’t had the pleasure of the bendy yellow fruit for fifteen years or so.  He had been only thirteen when the war began and in fact it is entirely possible I suppose that he had never had a banana before in his life.  In war time Britain people could grow fruit and vegetables in the back garden while they were ‘digging for victory’ but there was absolutely no chance of growing tropical bananas.  Except, and this is interesting, between 1943 and 1958 bananas were grown for export in Iceland in giant greenhouses powered by geothermal power.

The return of the banana was hailed as heralding an end to austerity and to the curse of the ration book.  The Labour government even instigated a national banana day.

033

Dad liked all sorts of strange banana combinations, weirdest of all being banana sandwiches on brown bread with sugar, but he was also very fond of chopped bananas with custard.  Personally I’ve never been that keen on bananas at all (I don’t like the smell or the horrid mushy texture) but this rationing fact explains a lot about his unusual dietary preferences.  Once a week we all had to have bananas for a pudding until one day when I was about fifteen I could take it no longer and I refused to eat them.  He was a good natured man of unnatural even temper and this was the only time I can remember him getting really upset with me but I stood my ground and after he had severely chastised me and refused to let me leave the table I think he ate them up for me because he liked them so much.

At about the same time dad used to turn his nose up at a chip butty and found this quite unacceptable and banned the practice at the dinner table, which for a man who would slap a banana between two slices of bread was always a mystery to me.

Interesting Banana facts:

Bananas are the most popular fruit in the UK with Britons eating an average of between 25 and 30lbs of fruit each year; more than double the amount consumed 15 years ago. Annual UK sales are at a record £750m, representing more than a quarter of all fruit sales’

There are about 120 calories in an average banana, they are an important source of potassium and are one of the healthiest fruits. Vitamins and minerals in a single banana are A and a full range of B vitamins with Thiamine, Riboflavin, Niacin, vitamin B6, and of Folic Acid.  There is also vitamin C, with minerals Calcium, Magnesium, with trace amounts of iron and zinc.

In an average year we (in the UK) now buy 3.5 billion bananas, relegating our native apple into a poor second place.

By one measure we apparently spend more money on bananas than any other supermarket item apart from petrol and lottery tickets, and more than 95% of UK households buy them every week.

Since 1954 the British Government has had occasion to issue ration coupons one final time.  In 1973 in response to the oil crisis when OPEC proclaimed an embargo and there was a real possibility of supplies running short.  Fortunately this never happened but the tokens were issued all the same.

Petrol Coupons

Banana Sandwiches or Chip Butties?

This seems almost unreal but it was only in 1954, the year that I was born, that war time food rationing was officially ended on July 4th.  It began in January 1940 when bacon, butter and sugar were rationed and this was followed soon after by meat, tea, jam, biscuits, breakfast cereals, cheese, eggs, milk and canned fruit.  As the Second World War progressed, most kinds of food came to be rationed along with clothing and petrol.  My parents were issued with a ration card for me but never had to use it because it all stopped three weeks after I was born.

The last food item to be released from the shackles of rationing was bananas, which for me is quite a significant fact.  Dad loved bananas and I could never quite understand why but I suppose he was only twenty-two in 1954 and hadn’t had the pleasure for fifteen years and in fact it is quite possible I suppose that he had never had a banana before in his life.  The return of the banana was hailed as heralding an end to austerity and to the curse of the ration book.  The Labour government even instigated a national banana day.

He liked all sorts of strange banana combinations, weirdest of all being banana sandwiches on brown bread with sugar, but he was also very fond of chopped bananas with custard.  Personally I’ve never been that keen on bananas at all but this rationing fact explains a lot about my dad’s unusual dietary preferences.  Once a week we all had to have bananas for a pudding until one day when I was about fifteen I could take it no longer and I refused to eat them.  It was the only time I can remember him getting really upset with me but I stood my ground and after he had severely chastised me and refused to let me leave the table I think he ate them up for me because he liked them so much.

At about the same time dad used to turn his nose up at a chip butty and found this quite unacceptable, which for a man who would slap a banana between two slices of bread was always a mystery to me.

Chip Butty

Interesting Banana facts:

Bananas are now the most popular fruit in the UK with Britons eating an average of between 25 and 30lbs of fruit each year; more than double the amount consumed 15 years ago. Annual UK sales are at a record £750m, representing more than a quarter of all fruit sales

In an average year we now buy 3.5 billion pieces of the tropical fruit, relegating our native apple into a poor second place.

By one measure we apparently spend more money on bananas than any other supermarket item apart from petrol and lottery tickets, and more than 95% of UK households buy them every week.

A Life in a Year – 4th July, Banana Sandwiches or Chip Butties

This seems almost unreal but it was only in 1954, the year that I was born, that war time food rationing was officially ended on July 4th.  It began in January 1940 when bacon, butter and sugar were rationed and this was followed soon after by meat, tea, jam, biscuits, breakfast cereals, cheese, eggs, milk and canned fruit.  As the Second World War progressed, most kinds of food came to be rationed along with clothing and petrol.  My parents were issued with a ration card for me but never had to use it because it all stopped three weeks after I was born. 

The last food item to be released from the shackles of rationing was bananas, which for me is quite a significant fact.  Dad loved bananas and I could never quite understand why but I suppose he was only twenty-two in 1954 and hadn’t had the pleasure for fifteen years and in fact it is quite possible I suppose that he had never had a banana before in his life.  The return of the banana was hailed as heralding an end to austerity and to the curse of the ration book.  The Labour government even instigated a national banana day.

He liked all sorts of strange banana combinations, weirdest of all being banana sandwiches on brown bread with sugar, but he was also very fond of chopped bananas with custard.  Personally I’ve never been that keen on bananas at all but this rationing fact explains a lot about my dad’s unusual dietary preferences.  Once a week we all had to have bananas for a pudding until one day when I was about fifteen I could take it no longer and I refused to eat them.  It was the only time I can remember him getting really upset with me but I stood my ground and after he had severely chastised me and refused to let me leave the table I think he ate them up for me because he liked them so much.

At about the same time dad used to turn his nose up at a chip butty and found this quite unacceptable, which for a man who would slap a banana between two slices of bread was always a mystery to me.

Interesting Banana facts:

Bananas are now the most popular fruit in the UK with Britons eating an average of between 25 and 30lbs of fruit each year; more than double the amount consumed 15 years ago. Annual UK sales are at a record £750m, representing more than a quarter of all fruit sales

In an average year we now buy 3.5 billion pieces of the tropical fruit, forcing our native apple into a poor second place.

We spend more money on bananas than any other supermarket item apart from petrol and lottery tickets, and more than 95 per cent of UK households buy them every week.

A Life in a Year – 8th January, the Introduction of War Time Rationing

This seems almost impossible to believe but it was only in 1954, the year that I was born that war time food rationing was officially ended.

It began in January 1940 when bacon, butter and sugar were rationed and this was followed soon after by meat, tea, jam, biscuits, breakfast cereals, cheese, eggs, milk and canned fruit.  As the Second World War progressed, most kinds of food came to be rationed along with clothing and petrol.  My parents were issued with a ration card for me but never had to use it because it all stopped three weeks after I was born.

The very last food item to be released from the shackles of rationing was bananas, which for me is quite a significant fact.  Dad loved bananas and I could never quite understand why but I suppose he was only twenty-two in 1954 and hadn’t had the pleasure for fifteen years and in fact it is quite possible I suppose that he had never had a banana before in his life.

Bunch of Bananas

He liked all sorts of strange banana combinations, weirdest of all being banana sandwiches on brown bread with sugar, but he was also very fond of chopped bananas with custard.  Personally I’ve never been that keen on bananas at all but this rationing fact explains a lot about my dad’s unusual dietary preferences.  Once a week we all had to have bananas for a sweet until one day when I was about fifteen and at the height of my rebellious period I could take it no longer and I refused to eat them.  It was the only time I can remember him getting really upset with me but I stood my ground and after he had severely chastised me and refused to let me leave the table I think he ate them up for me.  Win/Win!

For Mum preparing food when things were not as available as they are today took up a lot of every day because there were no convenience meals and everything had to be prepared from scratch.

There was complete certainty about the menu because we generally had the same thing at the same time on the same day every week, there were no foreign foods, no pasta or curries and rice was only ever used in puddings.  The main meal of the week was Sunday dinner which was usually roast beef, pork or lamb (chicken was a rare treat and a turkey was only for Christmas) served with roast potatoes, Yorkshire puddings, which for some reason mum always called batter puddings, and strictly only seasonal vegetables because runner beans weren’t flown in from Kenya all year round as they are today.

We had never heard of chicken tandoori, paella or lasagne and the week had a predictable routine; Monday was the best of the left over meat served cold with potatoes and on Tuesday the tough bits were boiled up in a stew (we would call that bouef bourguignon now) and on Wednesday what was left was minced and cooked with onions and served with mash and in this way one good joint of meat provided four main meals with absolutely no waste.

Icelandic Fisherman

Thursday was my personal favourite, fried egg and chips and Friday was my nightmare day with liver or kidneys or sometimes faggots because I liked none of these (and still don’t!)  I complained so much about this that later I was allowed the concession of substituting sausage for liver but I was still obliged to have the gravy (which I didn’t care for much either) on the basis that ‘it was good for me!’

If we had been Catholics then we would have had fish I suppose but we didn’t have things out of the sea very often except for fish fingers (and most of which was in a fish finger had never been near the ocean) which were first introduced by Birds-eye in 1955.

On Saturday we would have something like a home made meat pie or pudding or very occasionally a special treat and dad would fetch fish and chips from the chip shop, wrapped in yesterday’s newspaper and covered in salt and vinegar.  Later on I used to have chips on a Wednesday night as well when David Newman’s dad picked us up after Wolf Cubs and took us home in the back of his battered blue van which I seem to remember smelt permanently of stale batter.

After main course there was always a second course which was usually something stodgy like a treacle pudding with golden syrup, spotted dick (suet pudding), bread and butter pudding or jam roll.

There was always lots of jam in our house because my Nan worked at the Robertson’s factory in Catford in London and I think she was either paid in jars of jam or bought it at a discount, I never knew which.

A Life in a Year

In the second week of January I will explain the significance of war time food rationing, the resignation of the Prime Minister Sir Anthony Eden and underground railways.  Following that I will tell you about my memories of school milk, the importance of Sven, the symbolic Greek Flag and the Henry Ford assembly line.  All will be revealed…

1954 – Rationing, Atomic Bombs and the Bikini

Look Magazine 15 June 1954

I was born on Tuesday 15th June 1954 on the same day as the actor James Belushi and also on that day the Union of European Football, or EUFA, was founded with its headquarters in Switzerland.  I’ve never particularly liked James Belushi but I have always been rather fond of football.

This seems almost unreal but it was only in 1954 that war time rationing was officially ended.  It began in January 1940 when bacon, butter and sugar were rationed and this was followed soon after by meat, tea, jam, biscuits, breakfast cereals, cheese, eggs, milk and canned fruit.  As the Second-World-War progressed, most kinds of food came to be rationed along with clothing and petrol.  My parents were issued with a ration card for me but never had to use it because it all stopped three weeks after I was born.

The last food item to be released from the shackles of rationing was bananas which for me is quite a significant fact.  Dad loved bananas and I could never quite understand why but I suppose he was only twenty-two in 1954 and hadn’t had the pleasure for fifteen years and in fact it is quite possible I suppose that he had never had a banana before in his life.   He liked all sorts of strange banana combinations, weirdest of all being banana sandwiches on brown bread with sugar, but he was also very fond of chopped bananas with custard.  Personally I’ve never been that keen on bananas but this rationing fact explains a lot about my dad’s unusual dietary preferences.  Once a week we all had to have bananas for a pudding until one day when I was about fifteen I could take it no longer and I refused to eat them.  It was the only time I can remember him getting really upset with me but I stood my ground and after he had severely chastised me I think he ate them up for me.

Another interesting fact is that it was only in 1954 that Germany and Finland finally made peace and declared the end of the war.  I find that amazing, the Second-World-War was still going on during my lifetime!  OK there were no hostilities or gun-fire but I still find that a chilling fact.

Also in 1954 the United States began serious nuclear testing in the Pacific Ocean on the island of Bikini Atoll and they carried out the detonation of a massive bomb codenamed Castle Bravo, which was the first test of a practical hydrogen bomb and the largest nuclear explosion ever set off by the United States.  In fact, a bit like a ten year old with a box of fireworks, they really had little idea what they were doing and when it was detonated it proved much more powerful than predicted, and created widespread radioactive contamination which has prevented people from ever returning to the island.

With a yield of fifteen Megatons, Castle Bravo was the most powerful nuclear device ever detonated by the United States . That yield, far exceeding the expected yield of four to six megatons, combined with other factors, led to the most significant accidental radiological contamination ever caused by the United States. In terms of TNT tonnage equivalence, Castle Bravo was about 1,200 times more powerful than each of the atomic bombs which were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II.

This event was important for two reasons, firstly it signified the state of tension in the world called the cold war that was around for the next thirty years or so but secondly and much more importantly it inspired the introduction of the bikini swimsuit and I’ve always been grateful for that.  According to the official version a French engineer called Louis Réard and the fashion designer Jacques Heim invented the swimsuit that was a little more than a provocative brassiere front with a tiny g-string back.  It was allegedly named after Bikini Atoll, the site of nuclear weapon tests on the reasoning that the burst of excitement it would cause on the beach or at the lido would be like a nuclear explosion.  Plenty of fallout and very hot!

Nuclear testing was a big thing in the 1950s as the US and the USSR prepared enthusiastically for wiping each other of the face of the earth.  The fact that a major explosion even on the side of the world might have serious consequences for both sides and everyone else in between just didn’t seem to occur to them.  Years later I visited the US and although I didn’t know this at the time travelled along a road in Nevada that was only a hundred kilometres or so southwest of the Nevada Test Site that is a United States Department of Energy reservation which was established in January 1951 for the testing of nuclear weapons.  The location is infamous for receiving the highest amount of concentrated nuclear detonated weapons in North America.

The Nevada Test Site was the primary testing location of American nuclear devices during the Cold War and began here with a one kiloton bomb on January 27, 1951.  From then until 1992, there were nine hundred and twenty eight announced nuclear tests at the site, which is far more than at any other test site in the World, and seismic data has indicated there may have been many unannounced underground tests as well.  During the 1950s the familiar deadly mushroom cloud from these tests could be seen for almost a hundred miles in either direction, including the city of Las Vegas, where the tests instantly became tourist attractions as Americans headed for the City to witness the spectacle that could be seen from the downtown hotels.  Even more recklessly many others would thoughtlessly drive the family to the boundary of the test site for a day out and a picnic to view the free entertainment.  In doing so they unsuspectingly acquired an instant suntan and their own personal lethal dose of radioactive iodine 131, which the American National Cancer Institute, in a report released in 1997, estimated was responsible for thousands of cases of thyroid cancer in subsequent years.

Continuing the nuclear theme, the world’s first atomic power station was opened near Moscow in Russia and knowing now how careless the Russians were with anything nuclear this was probably something that world needed to worry about.  Just look what happened at the Chernobyl nuclear plant in the Ukraine in 1986 when a reactor accident at a nuclear power plant resulted in the worst nuclear power plant accident in history and the only incident ever to record level seven on the International Nuclear Event Scale (and on a scale of zero to seven, believe me, that’s pretty serious!) resulting in a severe nuclear meltdown and sending a plume of highly radioactive fallout into the atmosphere and over an extensive geographical area to the extent that it remains uninhabitable today and for many more years to come as well.

Mind you, we British could also arrange a nasty little nuclear disaster and on 10th  October 1957 the graphite core of a nuclear reactor at Windscale in Cumberland caught fire, releasing substantial amounts of radioactive contamination into the surrounding area. The event, known as the Windscale fire, was considered the world’s worst reactor accident until Three Mile Island in 1979 before both incidents were dwarfed by the Chernobyl disaster.

 Here are the results of the Cold War: USA 1 (Bikini Atoll) – USSR 1 (Chernobyl) two own goals by the way!

Thinking about news coverage, which is what has stimulated these thoughts in the first place, it is significant that the very first television news first bulletin was shown in 1954 on BBC TV, which is obvious of course because there was no ITV until 1955, and presented by Richard Baker, who was also by coincidence born on 15th June.  He was required to give off screen narration while still pictures were put in front of the camera, this was because, and I really find this hard to believe, television producers were concerned that a newsreader with facial movements would distract the viewer from the story. On screen newsreaders were only introduced a year later, in 1955, and Kenneth Kendall was the first to appear on screen.

Visit this web site to see what else was going on in 1954 – I think you will find it amusing:

http://vintagescans.blogspot.com/search/label/1954

1947 – Ivan Petcher

1947 was a very important year for me because this was the year that my mum and dad met and began a romance that has led ultimately to this journal.

From the way dad used to talk about being a teenager I have always imagined the post war years to be an almost idyllic existence, Enid Blyton sort of days with long hot summers, blue skies, bike rides and picnics, where young people were polite and had good manners and didn’t spend their evenings hanging around Tesco Express with a bottle of cider, frightening the old folk and no one had heard of anti-social behaviour orders.

These were surely days of optimism with a country led by a Labour Government that had been elected in the summer of 1945 with a landslide majority and a promise to make everything better and which had embarked on a radical programme of nationalisation including coalmining, electricity supply and railways.  These were the days of the new National Health Service and the Welfare State all based on the optimistic principles of socialism.  And to add to all this good news the United States announced the Marshall Plan to pay for the reconstruction of Europe and that meant over three billion dollars was on the way to the United Kingdom to rebuild its cities and its economy.  This was the year of the inauguration of the United Nations which meant peace for ever more and the year that Princess Elizabeth married Prince Mountbatten.

The only thing that let 1947 down was the weather and the Britain experienced the worst winter of the century.  After the Second World War Britain was bombed out, bankrupt, exhausted and desperately short of fuel and the winter of 1947 sank the country to a new level of deprivation.

The winter began deceptively, with just a brief cold snap before Christmas 1946.  Snow lay thick on the ground when, in the middle of January, temperatures soared so high that it felt as if spring had arrived early.  The snow thawed so rapidly that it set off floods, just as hurricane-force winds brought down roofs, trees and even houses and the real winter arrived soon afterwards as the country was gripped in an Arctic freeze that lasted for two months, with snow whipped into monstrous drifts that buried roads and railways.

It became the coldest February ever recorded and there was virtually no sunshine for almost the whole month.  The freeze paralysed coalmines, with coal stocks often stuck at the collieries by railways and roads buried in snow.  A week after the freeze began the Government ordered electricity supplies to be cut to industry, and domestic electricity supplies to be turned off for five hours each day, to conserve coal stocks.  Television was closed down, radio output reduced, newspapers cut in size and magazines ordered to stop publishing.

Food supplies shrank alarmingly and rations were cut even lower than they had been during the war.  Farms were frozen or snowed under, and vegetables were in such short supply that pneumatic drills were used to dig up parsnips from frozen fields.  For the first time, potatoes were rationed after seventy-thousand tons were destroyed by the cold.  The Government tried a deeply unpopular campaign to encourage everyone to eat a cheap South African fish called snoek, and millions of tins of it were imported, but it tasted disgusting and was used eventually as cat food.

March turned out even worse than February and on the 5th there was the worst blizzard of the 20th  century.  Supplies of food shrank so low that in some places the police asked for authority to break open stranded lorries carrying food cargoes.  Eventually, on March 10th a thaw set in and triggered another spectacular disaster.  After weeks of deep frost, the ground was so hard that the melting snow ran off into raging torrents of floodwater and, to make things worse, a huge storm dropped heavy rain.  Indeed, it was the wettest March on record in England and Wales.

Less than two years after winning the war, the nation was left freezing cold, plunged into darkness and on the brink of starvation and for many people it showed that national planning and socialism did not work.  The Government was inevitably blamed for the disaster  and was turned out of office in a landslide defeat at the next general election in 1950.

Life was especially grim in the big cities and after the experience of the winter I suppose it was nice to have a holiday and that summer mum left London for a few days with a friend in Rushden in Northamptonshire and at some point during that week she met my dad.  He was sixteen but looked younger, he hadn’t finished growing so was still quite small, his nickname was Pid as in little piddy widdy, and he he had boyish face and an impish grin with piercing cobalt blue eyes and a distinctive hairstyle with a fringe that flopped over his forehead in a Hugh Grant sort of way.  He obviously made an immediate impact on the young girl visiting from London and they spent the rest of their lives together.

Not straight away of course because mum had to go back to London to finish school and here is something else that I find absolutely charming.  These were days before mobile phones and instant messenging, even before regular telephones so the only way they had of keeping in touch and keeping the romance going was by sending each other letters and photographs.  They kept this up for three years before dad was called up for national service in the RAF and he moved to London where he stayed until they married in 1953.

In 1948 dad left school and went to work for his father in the family business, a grocery store in Rushden, but they sold that sometime at the end of the decade and they all moved to Leicester and dad got his first proper job at Jessops.  I don’t know how much he earned, it couldn’t have been a lot, but from photoraphs it would seem that he spent quite a lot of it on clothes and he was always a smart, well turned out young man with an impressive wardrobe.

During the war most kinds of food came to be rationed, as were clothing and petrol.  Clothing was rationed on a points system.  Initially the allowance was for approximately one new outfit per year but as the war progressed the points were reduced to the point where the purchase of a coat constituted almost an entire year’s clothing.  By the end of the war the clothing ration was thirty-six points a year.   This didn’t go very far, it was two points for a pair of knickers, five points for a man’s shirt, five points for a pair of shoes, seven points for a dress and twenty-six points for a man’s suit.  Clothing rationing points could be used for wool, cotton and household textiles.  People had extra points for work clothes, such as overalls for factory work.  No points were required for second-hand clothing and fur coats, but their prices were fixed and before rationing lace and frills were popular on knickers but these were soon banned so material could be saved.

Rationing continued after the end of the war and in fact it became even stricter after the war ended.  Bread, which was not rationed during the war, was rationed beginning in 1946 and potato rationing began in 1947.  Sweet rationing didn’t end until February 1953, and sugar rationing ended in September of that year.  The final end of all rationing did not come until July 1954, after I was born, with the end of it on meat and bacon.

The picture at the top was taken in 1947 and his clothes look a bit shabby and worn through and they are in total contrast to the one below taken two years later on holiday in Skegness.  It’s a bit of a surprise because I don’t remember him being particularly interested in clothes and he would make most things last much longer than they could be reasonably expected to but for a couple of years in the late 1940s he obviously cared about his clothes and his appearance.  Or perhaps, judging by how much he had grown in two years, replacement clothes were a regular necessity during that time.

I like this picture, dad was eighteen and looks smart, self assured and full of confidence, mum was sixteen and looks really happy to be with this really special man.