Having just been to see the film Monuments Men this afternoon, I’m back in WW2 mode! But this time with a little bit of a twist.
During my research for my month of eating rations in January, I came across these two books.
The interesting twist on both these books is that not only do they give you a sense of what life was like for women during WW2, but they also bring it up to date: How to be a wartime woman in the 21st Century.
Please check them out.
The Ministry of Food and Wartime Housewife.
Also, here are two great websites. The first concentrates mostly on wartime recipes, the second (which I only discovered last week) examines women’s lives in the 30s and 40s with an interesting emphasis on the Australian experience.
I highly recommend both of them.
The 1940s Experiment
The Wartime Woman
Dinner tonight was two very simple courses.
Main course: Mince slices, from a recipe in We’ll Eat Again, using the last of the mince I cooked the other day. Mix together the mince (or any cooked meat) with mashed potatoes and breadcrumbs, turn onto a floured board, cut into slices and either fry or grill for about 8 minutes. Comfort food on a cold day.
Dessert: Fresh pear.
What was it like being evacuated to a new school and then going back to your ‘old’ one?
For the first few months I went to the Kippen village school and sat the ‘Qualifying’ exam. It was fun, though the poor headmaster didn’t know what had hit him with all these new pupils that he could hardly accommodate. No wonder he appeared so distracted. Then he got another blow: pupils MUST have PE twice a week. He couldn’t accommodate that either and told us it would have to take place in the playground – weather permitting. As for gym shoes – “Dinna’ bother. Any old bachles will do.” I can still hear his voice.
As you already know, I almost hated Hillhead School and found Balfron with its many teachers from Hyndland much easier going, and I did well there. Back in Glasgow, it was back to Hillhead but this time the Secondary School which was just as bad as the Junior one. Then my parents gave me a choice: two more years at Hillhead or one year at the Glasgow and West of Scotland Commercial College in Pitt Street. Of course I opted for a year at the College – so here you see a woman with no school certificates whatever – not even the Lower Leaving one. (Partly because I’d had to repeat a year in junior school because illness had kept me away for nearly 4 or 5 months.) Still, I got by.
Breakfast and lunch were the usual. Although I’m using quick oats for breakfast, I’m still finding that soaking them overnight – as in the ‘olden’ days – really helps make the porridge much thicker and creamier.
Dinner was ‘only’ two courses this evening; fish pie, with pear and sultana crumble to follow. (My husband, who hates fish, had the leftover casserole.) I’m loving these wee pudding ramekins. I made a full measure of crumble (stored the rest in fridge for the next few evenings) and shared one pear between us. Having something sweet at the end of the meal is such a treat and I’m finally starting to lose my craving for chocolate. Long may it continue.
Getting back to Anne’s memories of wartime cinemas… When war was first declared, all public places – theatres, cinemas etc – were closed for fear of mass casualties in bombing raids. But the ban didn’t last long and they were quickly re-opened. So I wondered if they continued to have Saturday morning films for the children and, if so, what kinds of treats were available to eat?
Yes, there were Saturday morning films at the Grosvenor but I only went a couple of times I think – not particularly to my taste. There were a few cartoons, not very good though I loved Donald Duck, and Goofy too but saw nothing funny in Mickey himself. There was often a cowboy film (Cowboys and Indians was the main game of boys still) and some slapstick of the Laurel and Hardy type – Charlie Chaplin was disappearing from screens, again not my type – even as a child I couldn’t bear the humiliation he, or Laurel and Hardy were suffering before my eyes, even if they finally came out on top.
As for treats… Not a lot if you hadn’t any sweetie coupons. Fruit and other foods were not forbidden but they were discouraged. I was OK – I went on to the Black Market and sold my sweet coupons so I could buy a cold scotch pie* or sausage roll munch through – disgusting, I was.
*’Scotch’ pies were originally called ‘mutton’ pies; minced mutton was the filling – though what they put in any wartime ones (few and far between) goodness only knows. It was only when lamb and not mutton was offered by butchers and lamb became much more expensive that ‘Scotch’ pies were filled with minced beef. You’ll never know what a real Scotch pie tasted like!
No photos today as everything I’ve eaten, apart from my morning porridge and toast, has been ‘leftovers’ – cauliflower soup and casserole. In fact, when my husband heard that dinner would be a choice between leftovers or fish pie, he very suddenly remembered he had an evening business dinner that he ‘had’ to attend.
So, I’ll go to straight to Anne’s memories. Staying on the cinema theme, I asked her the following: What do you remember of the cinema in those times? Did the ushers always wear uniforms?
They were a world I wanted to live in. Remember I was alone by now with my mum and dad, the others busy with babies or fighting, so home life was for me a bit dull – until *Clydebank, when the countryside and its freedom hit me like a nice kind of bombshell. Until then, the cinema was my escape and it was easy (if I had enough pennies) because of the Grosvenor and the little ‘Hillhead‘ cinema just around the corner near the top of Byres Road – it was 1/3d, 3d more expensive than the Grosvenor, but if I managed to save 5/- I could buy a book of 6 tickets which worked out at 10d a time.
Yes, the ushers did wear uniforms: a self-colour shirt-type dress or a skirt and white blouse; in the interval an apron was added if there was any ice-cream or drinks to sell. And torches of course to guide you to a seat – not welcomed in the back row!
*Clydebank refers to the Clydebank Blitz, after which Anne, my mother and brother were evacuated into the countryside.
In searching – unsuccessfully – for some video footage of Glasgow cinemas during the 1940s, I came upon this homemade video showing modern day Byres Road, a popular street in the West End of Glasgow. If you check the footage at 0.28 you’ll see the Hillhead Cinema Anne refers to above, at 1.14 the flat where Anne and my grandparents lived during the war and at 1.30 the bar where my mum used to go and buy a jug of beer for my grandfather.
Anyone who knows me knows I have a fascination with stories of women’s experiences in the wars of the 20th Century. My husband has an interest in naval history, so this means that most trips back to London involve a visit to the Imperial War Museum in Lambeth or the National Army Museum in Chelsea to see their latest exhibitions. And having planned to visit Belgium this December, we’d also looked forward to visiting Vimy (France) and some private military museums en route.
So, can we replicate that in Calgary?
Damn straight we can!
Part of the ‘rules’ we created for ourselves with this challenge was that we could only visit a museum we’d previously visited if there was a new exhibition… or if we hadn’t been there in the past decade!
This afternoon found us at the The Military Museums in Calgary – we hadn’t been there since they’d opened their Air Force display, so it met the rules – and I learned a whole load of things. For example, why is the RAF uniform blue? Because it reflects the blue of the sky, right? Wrong! When the RAF was formed on April 1st 1918 they needed uniforms, but after four years of war, cloth supply in the UK was in short supply. So they turned to Russia and bought material which had been earmarked for the Russian Cavalry until the Tsar was deposed and Russia signed a peace treaty with Germany in 1917. And what colour was that material? You guessed it. Blue! And blue it has remained ever since.
Having visited the Air Force Museum I have to confess that we wandered into the Naval Museum. As a former QA, I’m always curious about the nursing uniforms of other services, and I have to say that I think the Canadian Navy Nurses of WW2 had the most beautiful of them all. You can’t see it properly in the photograph, but the dress is a deep burgundy with a navy blue cloak lined with gold satin. Stunning! (The blue uniform to the side is the WRCNS summer dress.) Needless to say, I picked up a few books at the museum’s gift shop!)
(Oh, and it turns out the museum has the most amazing archives. The librarian was extremely helpful and I made a huge leap forward in my History Mystery with my aboriginal soldier in Glasgow – but I’ll save that for a later post.)
But a holiday isn’t a holiday without different food, is it? I’ve struggled to find many Belgian restaurants in Calgary, but there is a Dutch Pancake House close to the museum, so we went there and had the-most-delicious potato/cheese/bacon pancake!