Marsden's Home Front
Food, rationing and a couple of shaggy pig stories
On the 8th January, 1940 food rationing came into force in Britain. Everyone was issued with ration books containing coupons that were used, along with money, when purchasing food. Trades people removed the coupons before the goods were given to the customer. Because of increasing food shortages many shops in Britain only opened for two or three days a week. It is said that people would have to queue outside shops in order to get food whether or not it was on ration. The Ministry of Health obtained Spam, dried eggs and dried milk from America to supplement food rations. Many people recall how they were able to make tasty meals from the dried egg powder. Food shortages continued throughout and after the war. Rationing finally ended in 1953.
We didn't have a lot of meat. The week before my uncle was called up to the Air Force, we went into town and had a meal at a pub, The Fleece. I can remember it was steak and chips. Uncle said to me, "Did you enjoy your meal?" '"Yes, I did, the steak was lovely." My uncle said, "You've eaten horse." Horsemeat wasn't rationed, you see.
One evening, someone delivered a pig at our shop ready for cutting up. Daddy was a bit frightened and put it in the cellar. Different people came the following night and the pig was cut up and distributed.
I kept hens for a kick off and then I kept rabbits. So we didn't go hungry. I had 140 rabbits. I sold my rabbits to Arnold Staples, the butcher, on Waterside. I think I got 1/6 for them. Then I packed in the rabbits - and I just kept hens, up at Dirker. The hens were well fed - they had all the scraps. I bought two ducks too, but I never thought about the ducklings and rats had 'em.
I'll not mention any names but I was talking to one of the butchers (in Huddersfield) and he said, "If you want any meat anytime, Nellie, pop down." So I went down, and went into the shop. There were him and his wife and I thought, "Oh my goodness, what am I going to say? I haven't got a ration book." And he said, "It's all right, I'll deal with Nellie." And I'm stood there - and a Bobby came in. And he said, "What kind of meat would you like, Nellie?" And I said, "Could I have some pork?" So I got some pork and paid him and went out. When he came to work in the afternoon, I said, "I didn't know what to do when that Bobby came in, and he said, "What do you think he were doing?"
There was a biscuit, resembling something between a Ryvita and a cream cracker, which I got to like and we called them 'iron rations'.
At Marsden Co-op they were selling nylons, and they wouldn't start selling them until 5 o'clock as they were waiting for all the mill people to finish work. And one lady was saying, "We ran down Fall Lane as fast as we could and joined this queue". There was an old lady and she were bow-legged (it was a right surly man who was serving them, no sense of humour) and she said, "Have you got a pair of stockings, have you got a pair that have got bent legs?" He said, "I'm sorry, we've only got these". She says, "Right, I'll get 'em then and I'll bend 'em myself".
We had a friend in the merchant Navy and he used to call up once a year and he came this particular day, he'd been to America, and he brought two pairs of nylons. They were just like gold, sheer silk, if they had a ladder in you wouldn't throw 'em away, you'd mend 'em, get the right thread and mend 'em.
I do remember a local farmer killing a pig. That was a big, but secret event, they were not really supposed to do that in the war years because of the shortages. There was some kind of legislation and record keeping to do with pigs (and probably other farm animals). My father was involved in some way with this event because he actually delivered the meat. There were roasts, chops, bacon, etc. Can you imagine the luxury of such things in wartime? You must bear in mind that meat was also on ration. So, clearly it was in very short supply. My father hid the meat in the bottom of my brother Carl's pram in order to deliver it to their 'customers'. I mean this was a bit like the 'black market' - in fact, I suppose it was 'black market' - it was certainly not really legal. During his deliveries, my father actually stood talking to the local Bobby, with all of this illegal pork in the pram right next to him!