A child’s view of food
I was five when the war broke out. We lived in Wheathampstead.
Marford Road was then called Hatfield Road.
For breakfast we usually had porridge made with water, so it was quite
runny. We had sugar and milk on it, sometimes for a treat golden syrup.
For Sunday breakfast there were often fritters. Occasionally Spam
fritters, delicious. My mother usually made a Sunday roast with
Bisto gravy and vegetables, potatoes and peas out of the garden, in season.
This meat was served cold on Mondays (Washday) and spread through the rest of
the week as stew. For Sunday dessert (afters) it was a pudding,
Spotted Dick with sultanas or dates and custard. Other times we had steamed jam
pudding, treacle tart, or fruit tart when fruit was in season. There was
also junket. We kept chickens so we had an egg each for breakfast at
times. When a hen was past laying eggs we had it boiled. Every scrap
of food had to be eaten up. Meat had fat and gristle. Pork fat was lovely
but beef fat was horrid. Mum made bacon suet roll for Dinner sometimes.
We drank tea. At five o’clock we had afternoon tea. We ate
jam or paste (meat or fish) sandwiches. On Sundays Mum made jam tarts
(very hard through lack of fat) or biscuits and sometimes a cake. Biscuits
from the shop were similar to digestive but less tasty, cake was plain like
Madeira. At night we had cocoa made with water, milk and sugar
added. When we ran out of sugar we had saccharine.
When we were hungry, during the day, if they were available, we would
have sugar or condensed milk sandwiches, also lard or dripping with salt
sandwiches. We could not have both butter and jam on the same piece of
bread. At our friend’s birthday parties, or ours the fare was paste or
jam sandwiches, biscuits, jelly and a birthday cake. For us a fruitcake
was better than plain.
Christmas, Mum made the Christmas pudding at the beginning of
December. We helped stir it. She used real suet from Mr Ball, the
butcher and amongst the dried fruit, there were plenty of grated carrots.
We always had chicken for Christmas dinner, usually one of our own
cockerels. (Then cold the next day then stew for several days – delicious)
Tinned fruit was rare but Gran always managed to get a tin of peaches for her
party. This was served with evaporated milk.
At Easter, Mum made marzipan from Soya flour, sugar and cocoa, so that
we had Easter Eggs. It did not taste all that good but we appreciated her
School dinners were often mince, just plain no herbs. Cabbage
was a dark green and flat. Potatoes at the end of the season had black
‘eyes’ in them, which we had to eat. Desserts were milk puddings,
semolina, sago and tapioca. (I did not like any of them). We could bring
in ‘Corona’ (these were brightly coloured sugary fizzy drinks) and share
them with our friends. The favourite and most expensive was Tizer.
These were on sale in the village.
Early Wartime Memories
I started at the village school when I was four and a half. I was just
over five when War broke out. The order of events at that time is unclear.
My father joined the RAF during the summer of 1939. He wanted to be a
volunteer rather than a conscript.
We were sitting in the “Babies” i.e. Reception Class, when we all were given
gas masks. We were told that we had to carry these at all times.
They were in cardboard boxes, which had a cord (?) that went across us. We
tried them on. They smelt horrible, a nasty rubbery smell and you could
hardly breathe in them. My sister had a black one like me. My brother
being two years old had a "Mickey Mouse” one. His was much more
fun. It was red and when breathing in it, you could make raspberry noises.
When my baby sister was born, my mother was told that if there was gas she was
to put the baby in a drawer. Eventually there was this ugly cradle gas
mask for the baby.
The first time I knew of air-raid warnings at school, we had to sit in
the Infants cloakroom. This was a gloomy, narrow room with a window at the
far end. We were told by our teacher to stay away from the windows,
because if a bomb dropped, the blast would shatter the glass all over us.
At that time, at home, my mother and other Mums got together and made
blackout curtains. Also she was sticking paper crosses on each
windowpane against shattering glass. Mum soon got fed up with this and we
went back to clear panes. At the beginning, Dad started to dig an air-raid
shelter at the top of our garden. He got down about a foot and Mum came up
and said she would not go in it. So he filled it in again.
My Granddad dug a shelter and when my sister and I were staying with
him and Grandma, we had to get up in the middle of the night and go down these
damp steps in the pitch-dark into this hole in the ground. You must not show a
light. It was not pleasant.
Our village was only five miles from de Havillands and other aircraft
factories, so at the beginning bombs were dropped in our area.
At home, when the first sirens went at night, Mum would usher us
under the stairs. Over time, we then went into the hallway (one small
window). Later still, she left us all sleeping and lay worrying herself as
to which one of us she would grab first if the bombs fell.
EVACUEES (page 1)
Notes from School Logbooks:
1939 September 1
6.30 pm 231 children and 15 staff of the Argyle Senior, Mixed Infants
from King’s Cross arrived at St Helens. Headmaster Mr Barnes.
Mr Housden, Headmaster Miss Young and Miss Warren (Staff) were there. Also
Tea was provided and billets arranged.
9 am Convoy of mothers and children under school age arrived.
Schools again used. Much work done by aforementioned staff
12.30pm Two bus loads of expectant mothers arrived without notice.
Increased efforts to find accommodation
6 pm All evacuees billeted. Working mornings only
Full-time school commenced. 8.55 – 12, 1.25 – 3.45.
1940 May 10th
The German Invasion of Holland and Belgium.
May 17th Gas mask inspection