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Grandma's Speech

Barwicker No.42
June 1996

This is the text of a talk given by Mrs Dorothy Hague of The Boyle to the Elmet Ladies about her experiences during World War 11. That it is of importance to all ages is confirmed by the fact that it was typed out on his computer by Mrs Hague's grandson Mark Hague (aged 16), hence the title 'Grandma's Speech'.

"The Post Office and Newsagents shops in the Main Street, Barwick, were built in 1939 which left the Post Office in The Boyle (now No.5 where Mrs Thrippleton lives) vacant. The owner was the Post Master Mr Senior and he rented the shop to my husband in the spring of 1940, for his butcher's business which Ernest began in March 1940 and food was then rationed.

Everyone had an identity card and a ration book with pages of coupons for various commodities, i.c. meat, bacon, sugar, butter, cheese, eggs, etc. (This was the fairest way- not like the first World War when some people bought at high prices and took all the stocks of food thereby leaving poorer people without.

The allowances were very small (only ounces per person) but meat was in money value, so cheap cuts provided more quantity. I think the average weekly moneysworth was 1s 4d. and for some periods part of this amount was in corned beef not fresh meat. Probably 1s. worth of fresh meat and 4d. worth of corned beef - the latter supplied to the butcher in 61b. tins and he had to allow 4d. worth for each ration book. Best steak was 1s.10d. a pound and leg of lamb 1s.6d. a pound. Prices were fixed by the Ministry of Food.

The allocation to the butcher was based on how many customers were registered with him. Coupons had to be sent to the food office by the butcher and a permit was given to him according to the numbers sent in. These coupons were cut from the ration book and it was a fiddly time-consuming exercise to count these each weekend and send them to the food office (at one time we had to send or take them to an office in York). Customers had to buy at the shop where they had registered.

Meat was delivered from the abattoir in Leeds usually on Tuesday or Wednesday. One never knew what it would consist of - beef, lamb, pork, fresh or frozen. As I said, we married in March 1940 and Ernest was conscripted into the army on 7 August 1941, so I was left to run the business. We had a van and more customers were served from the van than the shop. The van round was quite extensive, all the way up Leeds Road and then Scholes, Arthursdale, Thorner, Whinmoor, Seacroft, Garforth Golf Club and some friends in Cross Gates. I helped in the business weighing and serving meat from the van- chops, steak, shin beef sausages and liver, etc, We had a bill book and each customer's order was entered on a hill/ticket with weight and price, etc. Sausages and liver, etc. were not rationed hut were in very limited supply.

On Monday mornings we used to make potted meat and sausages. Monday afternoon was a half day and then I went to Leeds with a friend, Mrs Edith Dickinson, who was the stewardess at Gm-forth Golf Club. We visited the Theatre Royal to enjoy seeing the Court Players and the Repertory Company and afterwards we had tea at Youngmans, enjoying their fish and chips This was my social life together with a dance at Scholes in the company of my sisters in law and their husbands.

Ernest taught me to drive in April 1940 and when he joined the army in 1941, Mr Walker from Scholes (who was then 70 years old and already retired from his own butchers business) came to help and to keep the business going He thought we could keep it going for two years but alas the war in Europe did not end until YE Day, 8 May 1945 and the Far East War in August 1945. Even then the forces personnel had to wait for their demobilisation group before they were back in civvy street which for Ernest was November 1945.

Mr Walker was a very loyal, fair and just man as well as being a good butcher and he had the difficult job of cutting up and serving the correct weight and price for each family according to the number of coupons.

I drove the van and called on each customer with their allocation. Tuesday I was out all day and Wednesday until about 2 pm. Then on Thursday Mr Walker and I were in the shop cutting and placing all the weekend orders; this took all day On Fridays I was out all day in all weathers delivering - I did not have a day off at all until Ernest came back from the Middle East and Italy in March 1945 when he had four weeks leave. On Saturdays customers came to the shop and some orders in the village were delivered by my two Saturday girls, Freda Hannam, (now Hewitt), and Mary Burks (now Farrar). These girls carried a butcher's basket with the orders covered with a white tea towel.

During those last four years I did have two weekends at Blackpool with my friend Mrs Dickinson and Mrs Leighton-Smith, that is Saturday afternoon to Monday morning and occasionally I had a weekend with my sister Bettine and her small daughter Meriel in Harrogate. Beuine's husband was serving in the Far East - India and Burma.

Petrol was rationed and I had to fill in forms and state what mileage I had done for the business and each month drove to Scarcroft where a Mr Pearson voluntarily saw to the petrol rationing for the area, and I collected the petrol coupons to enable me to run the vehicle.

Mr Senior who owned the shop property (previously the post office, dwelling house, warehouse, stables, etc. and garden), wanted to convert the whole of the property into four cottages, so he needed vacant possession of the shop. However, as I was running an essential business, a clerk from the Ministry of Works came to see me and told me that if I did not wish to vacate the premises I need not do so. Ernest was abroad in the Middle East and did not know anything of this.

Then Mr Senior gave me the opportunity to buy from him the post oftice garden, so I bought this and obtained planning permission for a new butcher's shop thereon. Materials were restricted but with great difficulty I had a new shop built with a flat roof. This was almost completed when Ernest arrived back home from Italy in March 1945 and it was a pleasant surprise for him. He was astonished as he had not known anything about this.

The house where I still reside was built five years later in 1950. My grandchildren love to come and they call it 'The Barwick House'. The butcher's shop was converted to an office in 1989."


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