Wartime rationing didn’t stop the fun

AS 2012 draws to a close, we can reflect upon an eventful year, the highlights undoubtedly being the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The Jubilee acknowledged Her Majesty’s 60-year reign since she acceded to the throne but, of course, accession happened the moment her father, George VI, died: the coronation ceremony was the following year, 1953, but I have seen no mention of it being commemorated in 2013.

I do not know what residents of Cobholm did a few months ago when the nation joined together in the Diamond Jubilee knees-up, although presumably they followed the national pattern with parties and special events, but they certainly marked the Queen’s accession in 1952.

The nation was still recovering from war-time austerity and deprivation, money was very tight, and some commodities remained “on the ration.” Three years after the war ended in 1945, the start of de-rationing began with flour, but it was yonks before everything was again freely available in our shops.

Clothes came off the ration in 1949, coupons no longer required to buy them. Today’s generation surely cannot envisage a time when the purchase of clothes was restricted and stores’ rails and shelves were not crammed as they are nowadays.

De-rationing took place in dribs and drabs. For instance, in 1950 rationing ended for canned and dried fruit, chocolate biscuits, treacle, syrup, jellies, mincemeat and soap. When the Queen came to the throne, tea was still rationed, remaining so till October 1952.

Within five months, sweet and sugar restrictions were axed, but it took another 18 months before food rationing was finally ended.

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Although she now lives in Winterton, Sandra Laws is a Cobholm girl born and bred, daughter of butcher Gordon Moss and his wife Mildred (employed in Platten’s department store) who were prominent in that community. When she read in the Mercury that St Luke’s Church had to close this summer because of structural safety fears, she searched out some old photographs of happier times there.

This was the Coronation Day party in 1953 in the church hall which has now become the community centre.

Although Sandra Moss, as she was then, was only a toddler she does recall: “At the party I vaguely remember being up on the stage - I am the little girl on stage in one of the pictures and would have been about two years and four months old.

“I have a vague recollection of being given something, but what and why I do not know. I can recognise only a few faces in the photographs taken at the party.

“When the party ended, many of those present boarded a blue Yarmouth Corporation bus to go to the Royal Aquarium on the sea-front where we watched the Coronation Day parade.”

It poured with rain throughout the procession but spirits were not dampened.

Sandra reminds us that at the time of the 1952 coronation festivities, “Cobholm - like many parts of the town - was still recovering from the January 31 floods”.

She continues: “We lived with my Great Aunt Dora (Dodo) Buxton at in High Mill Road. When we were flooded, several families stayed in our home for two nights before being evacuated, first by rowing boat then by an amphibious DUKW along Southtown Road.

“I can remember playing upstairs with the Wright and Munday boys. I am still in touch with Adrian and Stephen Wright, and Adrian remembers much more as he is six years older.”

Another ex-pupil of Cobholm School is octogenarian Danny Daniels, a resident in Canada for more than half a century but a frequent correspondent. My feature this summer about renowned local photographers Alfred and Sidney Yallop, illustrated by some of their motor-cycles and side-cars dating back many decades, prompted more Danny reflections.

His family’s main mode of transport was a motor-cycle with side-car. He recalls: “My father put in a �5 bid on a surplus Post Office maintenance vehicle, then built a plywood and celluloid-windowed top to go on the side-car; my mother sat in front and I squeezed into the back.

“We went all over the place in that – although our favourite Sunday outing was to Blythburgh Common, complete with sandwiches and a little Primus stove for boiling up water for a ‘cuppa’.

“In August 1939, we went to visit a relative in Liverpool; my sister Barbara, nine years older than me, rode on the pillion seat behind my father. We stopped overnight on the way back in a B&B over a fish shop in Leicester.

“It was there, on Sunday morning, September 3, that we listened to the wireless broadcast by Neville Chamberlin announcing the outbreak of war. Later that day, owing to a miscalculation by my father, we ran out of petrol near King’s Lynn, and had to push the machine for about three miles to the next petrol station.”

During the war, with the threat of a Nazi invasion looming, the motor-cycle had to be disabled, as were all civilian vehicles, he says. His father dismantled his motor-bike, wrapping engine parts like pistons in oiled paper, hanging them in parcels from beams in the garden shed.

“After the war, he somehow reassembled the whole machine – although my father was no mechanic, believe me - with only a few parts left over that didn’t seem to fit anywhere.

“Nevertheless, it ran as right as rain, and we had more excursions. However, after a few mishaps - including one coming out of Norwich in which my father ran into the back of a policeman’s outstretched hand (‘Sorry, Constable - the clutch slipped!’) - my mother insisted that it be sold, which he did - for �25!

“Less than a month later he saw the new owner standing disconsolately at the side of the road by the stalled smoking machine, having failed to realise that it needed to have oil added to it regularly about every ten days!”