Friday, 21 October 2011

Ration and Fashion

It’s a Monday morning on the 17th October, and I have talked my friend Eloise Coyle into taking part in the gravy browning stocking challenge (I actually just made that up but I liked the sound of it).
Many of you will be aware that during the 2nd World War just about everything was rationed including materials. Silk and high-grade rayon was needed for parachutes, wool needed for military uniforms, and basically every type of fabric was in short supply worldwide.
In the UK rationing was very strict, the British government introduced a coupon system for clothing that started on Sunday the 1st of June 1941. Rationing continued until 1949, and some forms of rationing didn’t end until mid 1950’s.
I remember my Grandmother talking about how some women would paint their legs with gravy browning when they were unable to get stockings. So it was with this in mind that we went along to the Abingdon Wellbeing and Resource Centre to see how it was actually done.
Eloise like myself had been told stories from various relatives about such improvisations. Eloise like me was interested in finding out just how difficult this process would be.
So like many of the fashion conscious women of the time. Eloise used gravy browning and water to paint her legs with some help from Josie. I would later attempt to use eyeliner pencil to draw a seam up the back of her leg.
Two of the members Mary and Ruby had done this themselves during the rationing. Mary explained to me that she and her friend had painted each other’s legs earlier in the day. They then had gone out only to have the heavens open on them both - it absolutely poured with rain and the gravy browning legs were washed away.
Mary and Ruby told me that ideally you would have help from your friend, and do each other’s legs. I’m pretty certain they wouldn’t have been impressed with my help. I made Eloise look like she had wonky stockings on and when Renee saw what we had done we got the big thumbs down. The line was too think, the gravy not even.
It must have been very difficult to apply such things as gravy or Coco. I’d like to find out if anybody else has tried this more recently and filmed it.
So I would like to set all you ladies the Gravy Browning Leg Challenge. Can you apply gravy or Coco to your legs evenly with the eyeliner running up the back of your legs to simulate the seam? If so please send me the link it would be great to share this and see how other people have got on.
‘Down Memory Lane’ is seeking further funding for this oral history project.
Big thank you to:
Eloise Coyle (gravy browning model)
Jackie Bowler - Resource and Wellbeing Centre
Abigail Brown - Arts Development Officer, Vale of White Horse District Council
Forum Chairs:
Renee Zarecky, Josie Kinduich, Doris Hurley, Janet Churlish and Sylvia Pead

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Taste of Times Gone By

Little Nellies Sweet Shop
It was in 1953 on the 5th February that the sweet rationing came to an end. It was with this in mind that Down Memory Lane turned to the Little Nellies Sweet Shop, 4 Friday Street, Henley of Thames for it’s next fill of nostalgia.
‘Down Memory Lane’ is a reminiscence project, currently in development with the Arts Development Officer from Vale of the White Horse District Council, myself a local Oxfordshire filmmaker and the members of the Abingdon Resource and Wellbeing Centre on Audlett Drive.
I was suddenly seven years old, asking for a 5p mix up - an assortment of chews, Blackjacks, Fruit salads and the Parma Violet sweets. Parma Violets tasted like perfume but I couldn’t resist them anyway.
All this ran through my mind as I walked into ‘Little Nellies Sweet Shop’ on Wednesday the 28th September. Where I met Kay Harman owner and manager of the shop.
I know it’s tough investigating sweets but somebody has to do it!
If the sight of sweets in jars piled high on shelves, filled my thoughts with sweet eating memories. I wondered what they would evoke in the wonderful ladies and gentlemen of the Centre.
Kay was marvellous and very supportive of the project. She informed me that her own mother had cycled miles in 1949 to get a packet of Fizzy’s the only sweets available at the time .
According to the BBC website in 1953 ‘The government and manufacturers had been quick to reassure the public that there would be no repeat of the first attempt to de-ration sweets, in April 1949, when demand far outstripped supply and they were put back on ration after just four months.
Kay Harman weighed out the Barley Sugars, Liquorice and Aniseed Balls. Then packed them away in little brown bags. Finally she placed them in a beautiful, flower patterned sweet box, which I would take to the Abingdon Resource and Wellbeing Centre.
I was very restrained and kept the lid on (well almost) until Monday the 3rd of October. It was then time for me to see what Barbara, Beryl , Gerald (Jan) , Mary, Reg and Betty remembered.
Mary would be the groups box opener and as each packet came out people remembered something different.
Beryl shared with the group her memories of the day the sweet rationing ended. She stood in a very long queue on Broadway in Didcot waiting for the sweets that would no longer be restricted.
Mary passed the Aniseed Balls around and I filmed as the group recalled experiences and exchanged stories. I did sample a couple of sweets myself it would have been impolite not to join in!
‘Down Memory Lane’ is seeking further funding for this oral history project.
With thanks to:
Kay Harman – Little Nellies Sweet Shop
Jackie Bowler - Resource and Wellbeing Centre
Abigail Brown - Arts Development Officer, Vale of White Horse District Council
Forum Chairs:
Renee Zarecky, Josie Kinduich, Doris Hurley, Janet Churlish and Sylvia Pead
Sweet Sampling Group:
Barbara Hodgkins, Beryl Cross, Gerald (Jan) Burnett, Mary Southey, Reg Macdonald and Betty Macdonald
Assistant Sweet Samplers: Sharon Woodward, Christine Sadler and Sarah Holloway