Wartime Rations – Day Twelve

Life just suddenly seems to have got busy, so I’ve been relying on leftovers and familiar recipes today. Next week I really must get more focused and do a bit more experimenting with my rations.

appleBreakfast and lunch were the usual. Dinner was leftover sausages from last night, and for dessert I made a baked apple. So simple, yet really delicious and just the thing my sweet tooth was craving. (Under non-rationing circumstances it tastes even better with cream or ice cream on the side.)

It’s dead easy and very quick. Clean your apple and core it. Place it on a dish with just enough water to cover the bottom of the dish. Mix some raisins with a teaspoon of syrup/honey or sugar and stuff the apple.  Bake at 180C for 20-30 minutes, and Bob’s your uncle!

On to The Calgary Herald (14 pages) for October 17th, 1944.

There was lots of war news: The Russians had begun their drive into East Prussia with Berlin admitting the Russians were now on ‘sacred soil’;The Japanese had lowered the age of conscription from 19 to 17 years-of-age, and Rommel’s death had been confirmed.

But I have to admit, it’s the news from the Home Front that I find the most fascinating. The war news you can find in the history books, but the news in the papers is pure gold. (At least to the history geek in me!)

The Women’s Minimum Wage in Canada was set at $15 per week for a 30+ hour work week. Currently it was $12.50 – $14 for 48+hours.

Apple juice would be available to civilians this coming winter. During the past few years it had been reserved for the military.

Canadian Wren Mildred Honey found herself having problems. Custom dictated she be called by her last name, which caused puns and a lot of laughter on the base.

Alberta seemed to have a lot of problems with escaping POWs. I mentioned one yesterday, but in today’s paper was the report that: German POW Joseph Haub, 30, who’d escaped from his work at the Madalia Potteries on September 13th, was captured by RCMP and Medicine Hat City Police at 1am this morning in a house occupied by two women. Although it was unclear how long he’d been in the house, the two women were not charged with harbouring him.

And then there was this angry letter to the editor from ‘A Veteran’.
Returning to this country after spending three-and-a-half years overseas with the army, I received my discharge. After reading and hearing so much about the shortage of manpower, I thought it would be a simple matter to get a job, but I certainly found out my mistake when I tried.
At most of the places I was sent to by the Selective Service I was told I was too old. Since when was a man of 40 too old to work? And where is the rehabilitation program we hear so much about, or is the government keeping it for its much-beloved Zombie Army? How is it the business people of Calgary expect men to go to war and fight for them but will not give them work when they return? It was the same thing after the last war. They seem to have no use for an ex-serviceman here.
I suppose they will expect us to invest in the Victory Loan that opens soon. Any country that can afford to keep a Zombie Army of 72,000 men hanging around doing nothing does not need any help at all. (Zombie Army?)

There was a prediction that ‘Within 90 days after the collapse of Germany, the market will be flooded with nylon stockings. They’ll be in colours and designs never before conceived. They will sell at a price range between 79c and $1.25c.’

And finally this great story! Five hundred miles from the nearest land, an exhausted homing pigeon recently alighted on the bridge of HMCS St Lambert in the Atlantic and stayed with the corvette for four weeks, thus becoming one of the most unusual mascots in the history of the Royal Canadian Navy.

 

Wartime Rations – Day Eleven

When I was looking through Marguerite Patten‘s recipe book We’ll Eat Again yesterday for sandwich fillings, I noted a recipe for Potato Rarebit.

Rarebit

Potato Rarebit. Recipe from We’ll Eat Again by Marguerite Patten.

(Use mashed potatoes as a basis for a rarebit. Beat the potatoes until soft and smooth; add a little milk if too stiff. The potatoes should be like thick cream. Put in as much grated cheese as you can spare, with seasoning to taste. Spread on hot toast and brown under the grill.)

I had some mashed potatoes (with chopped bacon and leek) left over from a couple of days ago, so I thought I’d give it a try. Surprisingly, it was very good, and with some homemade coleslaw on the side, very filling.

steweed

Stewed Sausages with carrots and leek.

For dinner tonight, I had a favourite from when I was growing up – stewed sausages – accompanied by the rest of the leftover mashed potatoes and brussels sprouts. It’s a really easy meal to make. Fry the sausages in a little fat, add leeks and carrots, add some stock (or cider if you’d prefer), cover and simmer until veggies are cooked.

Checking out what was making news in The Calgary Herald for October 16th, 1944, (15 pages today) I found the following:

Field Marshall Edwin Rommel (The Desert Fox) had ‘Died of Wounds’ the German newspapers reported. Hitler had ordered a state funeral for him.  (In fact, we now know the wounds he died of were from his forced suicide. Rommel had been injured on July 17th, 1944 when the RAF strafed his car. However it was his ‘defeatist’ attitude that angered Hitler and he was forced to commit suicide.)

Canadian Veterans were being offered post-war opportunities either in vocational training or educational opportunities. Fees would be paid, and $60 per month given to a single man/woman, or $80 per month to a man with a wife. Additional allowances were available if the couple had children. The programme was available for ‘period of service to a maximum of one year – but can be extended’. Disabled vets received special consideration, their right to training being ‘continuous’.

In New York on Saturday night, Frank Sinatra was hit by an egg as he sang ‘I Don’t Know Why‘ at the Paramount Theatre.

According to Gallup, with the US Presidential election only 3 weeks ago, Roosevelt had 51% of the poll while Dewey had 49% – with an error of 3-4%.

The Personal section was fascinating, operating as a kind of 40s Facebook, with notification of various members of the public returning home from holiday or weekends in Camrose, Banff and Brooks, and of members of the forces coming home on leave. For example: Miss Lucille Allen left this morning for Denver, Colorado, to visit her parents.

An advertisement for Safeway itemised the following foods which people living under rationing Britain could only dream out:
MacKintosh Red apples: 5lbs – 23c: 35lb bag – $1.59
Tomatoes: 19 c per lb
Grapes: 17c per lb
Grapefruit: 21c per 2lbs
Jam: 31c per 2 lb jar
Sirloin steak: 38c per lb
Chickens: 32c per lb

Max Telling, 40, a German POW, escaped from a German POW farm project near Namaka by stealing a truck which was recovered in Calgary. Telling, 5’6″ tall, fair, with wavy hair was wearing a blue/grey suit and blue shirt. He left a thank-you note in the truck thanking the owner for its use. (!!)

An eyewitness account of the gassing and cremation of 4,000 Jewish children in the German concentration camp at Birkenau was given today in a London dispatch. It quoted the letter of a Polish woman imprisoned in the camp for 7 months who was later transferred to a Warsaw prison from which the letter was smuggled out.

Wartime Rations – Day Ten

31LntU63M+L._AA160_It seems I’m doing a lot of ‘Eating At The Savoy’ this week, so dinner is taken care of tonight. That leaves lunch. With cheese being so heavily rationed for my lunchtime sandwich, I’ve turned to Marguerite Patten’s book We’ll Eat Again for some different ideas. What do you think of her suggestions?

1) Shredded cheese and chutney or cooked beetroot.
2) Cooked mashed potato, yeast extract and chopped parsley.
3) Chopped grilled bacon and lettuce.
4) Mashed sardines, pilchards, herring or haddock, mixed with shredded fresh carrot.
5) Minced crisply cooked bacon rinds and toasted oatmeal.
6) Fish paste and chopped parsley.
7) Brawn, shredded swede and chutney.
8) Vegetable or meat extract and mustard and cress.
9) Chopped cold meat and mashed cooked vegetables with seasoning.
10) American sausage meats and watercress.

I’m going to hedge my bets and have a cold sausage sandwich with my soup today.

October 15th, 1944 was a Sunday, so I can’t find any links to any newspapers for that day. Instead, I checked out this great site which has a lot of information on Rationing in Canada during World War Two. Here are some of the main points from the article.

Food was seen as a ‘weapon of war’ so, as in Britain, the Canadian government took control of:

1) Rationing.
2) Promotion of ‘Patriotic Food’.
3) The launch of an unprecedented national nutritional campaign.
4) Controls on the price, production and distribution of everyday foods.

Coupon rationing of sugar in Canada began in April 1942, followed by tea and coffee in August, butter in December, and meat in March 1943. Meat was limited to 2lbs per person per week. (Compare that to the half-pound of meat per person per week in the UK!)

Restaurants offered meatless Tuesday and Friday menus.

Petrol/gasoline was rationed in April 1942.

Alcohol was also rationed – but I couldn’t find a start date or amount for that.

Two hundred cookbooks were published during the war years, and Canadians ate more, and better, than they had for over a decade. (The Great Depression.) Members of the RCAF received approximately 3,900 calories per day.

What were the ‘Patriotic Foods’? Apples and lobster. Lobster! Canadians were encouraged to eat Lobster cocktail, Lobster a la King and Lobster sandwiches.

After the Fall of France in May 1940, Canadian food exports became an essential lifeline to Britain. By the end of the war, Canadian exports accounted for 57% wheat and flour consumption in the UK, 39% of their bacon, 15% eggs, 24% cheese and 11% of their evaporated milk.

Canadian housewives were encouraged to save fat and were reminded that one pound of fat supplied enough glycerine to fire 150 bullets from a Bren Gun. Two pounds supplied a burst of 20 cannon shells from a Spitfire or 10 anti-aircraft shells.

Another great movie set on the Homefront in Canada (Alberta) during World War Two is Bye Bye Blues. Based on the true life experiences of the director’s mother during the war (she found work as a pianist/singer with a dance band to pay the bills when her husband was taken as a POW by the Japanese) it’s extremely hard to find, but well worth it!

Research

My main area of historical interest is World War Two. I’m fascinated by it – perhaps because there were still air raid shelters around to play in when I was growing up in Glasgow. And I can still clearly remember my Dad pulling on his old army overalls and beret before climbing underneath Mum’s car when it needed fixed.

So when I heard about a two-day symposium on The Great War being offered at the Military Museum here in Calgary, I hummed and hawed before deciding to sign up. It’s not ‘my’ time period.

But I’m glad I did.

Here’s what I learned.

1) Two days and 25 papers later, I probably know more about Alberta in WWI than most of my native-born Albertan/Canadian friends.

2) As a writer, ANYTHING you learn is invaluable. Everything can be adapted to add depth, texture and veracity to your writing.

3) More importantly, if you write anything inaccurate in your novel, someone somewhere will pick up on it. And when they do, it will pull them out of the story. From then on they will question everything else you say. Pull a reader out of your story and you’ve lost them.

No matter what you’re writing about, please – please – make sure your facts are sound.

 

Alberta In The Great War

Although I learned about The First World War in secondary school, I don’t remember much about it beyond the Schlieffen Plan and trench warfare. Somehow it never captured my imagination in the same way as The Second World War.

However, I’ve recently been soaking up all the recent TV programmes and documentaries which have been made to mark the 100th anniversary since the The Great War’s outbreak. And the more I learn, the more I want to learn. So when I discovered the Military Museum here in Calgary was offering a lecture to introduce their temporary exhibition, Albertans in The Great War, I was in there like a dirty shirt.

Here are a few tidbits I learned.

alberta map for blogIn 1914, Alberta, as a province in Canadian Confederation, was only 9 years old with a population of 470,000. (Canada’s total population was 7.9million.) During the war, Alberta sent 49,000 men, between the ages of 18-34, to serve overseas. Only Ontario and Manitoba sent more in sheer numbers, but the proportion of men Alberta sent was the highest in Canada.

The majority of Albertan men served in the infantry on The Western Front, but a few joined the navy or the RFC serving at sea (obviously!) or in Palestine, Siberia and at Gallipoli. Supporting units included Artillery Batteries, Cyclist(!), Tunnelling and Railways companies. Medical, engineering, veterinary, supply, forestry and machine gun personnel. (The aim of the bicycle units had been to get the infantry up to the front fast, but were essentially useless in the chewed up battlefields of The Western Front. They did come into their own at the end of 1918 when the front line moved to areas where the roads remained intact.)

During the war, Alberta became the largest exporter of wheat and timber, the 3rd largest exporter of beef, and sent over ½ million horses overseas. The province also raised $42million ($1 billion in 2014 dollars) to war relief efforts such as The Red Cross, The Canadian Patriotic Fund, The Belgium Relief Fund and the YMCA amongst others.

Sam Steele, a hero of The March West, The Riel Rebellion and The Boer War, volunteered to serve, but was officially too old for the armed forces.  However he received special dispensation to help train the men here in Alberta and accompany them to Britain. Once there, the men received further training under Steele, but Steele then had to relinquish command when the troops were sent to the Western Front. His forage cap is part of the current exhibition.

The lecturer told a great story of pilots in the RFC who, after they had destroyed a target (eg ammunition dump/ train) would then land their planes beside the target, collect a souvenir (eg empty shell casing/letter from the engine) then take off again. Apparently one pilot returned with a sack full of mementoes.

And what do you do if you’re caught in a chlorine gas attack and have no gas mask to hand? Urinate into your handkerchief and hold it against your face.

These are just a fraction of the stories told during the current exhibition. It’s on until December 15th.  If you live in Alberta and have an interest in our province’s role during the conflict, I highly recommend you check it out.

 

Calgary Stampede

cowboy hatThe annual Calgary Stampede – The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth – kicked off last Friday morning with a three-hour parade through downtown. This year’s parade marshall was Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner, but in the past it’s been led by actors such as Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Christopher Reeve and Jack Palance, politicians, sports stars and other dignitaries such as Chris Hadfield, Prince Charles, Ken Taylor, Rick Hansen and Walt Disney.

The first stampede – although not called that – was organised in 1912 by Guy Weadick, an American cowboy and veteran of travelling Wild West Shows. Back then, Calgary was a relatively young city; the North West Mounted Police had arrived in 1875 and founded a fort by the Bow and Elbow rivers. In 1884, Calgary, with a population of only 500 people, was incorporated as town.

CHUCKS

Photo: girltrieslife.com

In 1912, with financial backing provided by four very successful cattlemen – Pat Burns, George Lane, AE Cross and AJ MacLean – Guy Weadick produced what was called the Frontier Days and Cowboy Championship. It was supposed to be a one-off and while there was a suggestion it should be repeated in 1913, money wasn’t forthcoming. After World War One, the idea was resurrected and in 1919 The Victory Stampede was held.  Since then, it’s gone from strength to strength.

GROUNDS

Photo: girltrieslife.com

Beginning on the 1st Friday in July and continuing for ten days until the following Sunday, it’s a time when the city comes alive with the spirit of the Old West.  Down at the Stampede grounds you’ll find an afternoon rodeo, evening chuck wagon races and show, a midway, agricultural and craft exhibition, market, native village and nighttime firework display.


Western ShirtsDuring the ten days of Stampede, the city itself is festooned with banners,  rodeo scenes are painted onto the windows of shops and office buildings, and you can find plenty of pancake breakfasts and stampede parties to suit everyone’s taste. Banks are transformed into Wild West corrals, and young and old deck themselves out in jeans, cowboy shirt, hat and boots.

Come visit us!

How Yaktrax Changed My Life

mountainI’m not sure anything can prepare a new immigrant for their first Canadian winter.

Example.

Mid-October, our first year here, some friends came round for Sunday brunch. As they were leaving, one of them sniffed the air and said, “I can smell snow.”

I laughed.

Two weeks later my wee boy had to wear a snow suit to go out trick or treating.

iceBut the snow couldn’t last forever, could it? So we bought our son a tricycle for Christmas. The first time he got to ride it outside? Easter Sunday, at a park downtown where all the paths had been cleared.

Come our second winter, I thought I was prepared.

Wrong.

On my way to a job interview, I slipped, fell, and broke my wrist. Bye-bye job. Hello phobia of snowy sidewalks.

I’d still go out walking in winter, but the fear that my bones wouldn’t make it through till spring intact lurked constantly in the back of my head. And at least once every winter, I’d do a serious nose plant. It got to the point where I couldn’t see the beauty of Calgary’s clear blue skies, bright sunshine and magnificent vista of the Rockies and would gladly have swapped it for rain, damp and drizzle.

yaktraxThen, after almost thirty years here, I discovered Yaktrax. It’s no exaggeration to say they have changed my life. Yaktrax (and similar brands) cost about $30 from Mountain Equipment Co-op, slip over your shoes, and grip the ground like nothing on earth.

Now, as long it’s not colder than -10C (with no wind) you’ll find me out walking the dog, taking in that glorious blue sky, sunshine and scenery.

Winter? I love it!

Welcome to Canada!