Posts Tagged ‘rationing’

What a laugh! A lady koala reading my book (NO she is NOT Edna Everage)

June 8, 2010
koala reads Red Boxes

Australian Lady, Janny Inkletter, reads Red Boxes — delighted!

And what does charming Mrs Janny Inkletter say about it? (No, this beautiful lady is not related to Edna Savage. She is the wife of that extraordinary ruler of Phools Paradise — Payton L Inkletter, writer and philosopher, king of wit)

RED BOXES: Easy yet moving to read real stories, innocent yet powerful memories of growing up and living in England through 1939-80
I had been anticipating reading this account of Gladys Hobson’s life, for not the least reason that she hails from England, my birthplace.
I was raised on stories of the British Depression era, War time, and post War era till the early sixties, told me by my parents. We emigrated to Australia in 1964 when I was barely 7 years of age, and I was always fascinated by the experiences my parents shared with me and my younger brother.
‘When Phones Were Immobile and Lived in RED BOXES’ was very easy to read, it made me laugh, it made me cry, it made think of my deceased mother very much, who I’ve missed greatly these past twenty one years. A lot of Ms Hobson’s experiences were very much like my mother’s, and I was especially struck by accounts of the fashion industry, because my mother’s work, before she married my father, was in the retail side of fashion. Despite war time rationing being over, it was a struggle for her to find the materials for her wedding outfit; however, one of the tailors that Mum used to deal with hand made her a beautiful tweed suit and lace blouse as her wedding present – it was a worth a small fortune. This made Ms Hobson’s account of her early career in the industry resonate with me rather nostalgically.
Thinking of the times when Ms Hobson was carving out her vocation in the fashion world, she would have needed to be quite a courageous woman; she, it should be noted, was raising her new family as well.
Even though poverty was a constant in the early part of her life, Ms Hobson’s tenacious spirit saw her overcome the struggles that a lot of her fellow countrymen shared with her.
I would warmly recommend this book to anyone wanting to have an insight into this era in Britain, and the making of our current senior generation. There is a lot to admire about how they came through the challenges of their times; things that younger people today would not understand, and maybe not cope with should – let’s hope not – such hard times return.
Janny Inkletter

Thank you, Janny for that thoughtful review.
The (enlarged) Second Edition of When Phones Were Immobile and Lived in Red Boxes — 1939 — 1980 (£7.50) can be ordered from any good bookshop, Amazon etc or directly (post free in the UK) from Magpies Nest Publishing.
(Please note, The smaller first edition is out of print and cannot be ordered from the publisher, but second hand books are sometimes available on Amazon)

Fashion and Dress Design

July 7, 2009

I find it interesting, as well as surprising, that my posts on dress design and post-war fashion are visited not only with regularity but have become ‘top of the pops’, viewings even exceeding those of Sex and the Over Sixties — and other sex related postings. Who searches them out?

Post-war Britain was an interesting time for those keen to be dress designers. Wartime (and just after) restrictions (where all clothing bore a utility label, and ‘make do and mend’ was just as much a war cry as ‘dig for victory’) were being lifted, more fabric could be used and thought given to the body beautiful. Brassieres that shaped as well as uplifted, and girdles that nipped in the waist all helped to achieve an ‘hour-glass’ figure perfect for the New Look in women’s clothing. Extravagant flaring skirts reaching below the calf gave a new elegance, and soft dropped shoulder lines were a necessary casting off of uniform dullness that we had lived with for so long.

When the New Look was introduced in Paris I was just a young teenager with my heart set on being a dress designer. I was in my second year of a two year course at a secondary art school. I remember there was a lot of buzz as to whether using so much fabric was practical and desirable. I guess we had long been brainwashed into thinking about economy and practicability. I did well at the art school and was allowed to go on to take a design course at the Nottingham Art College. I loved it. We were taught not only about design of all types of garments but also pattern cutting and making up. No silly clothes in those days. Dresses had to fit the figure, and fit perfectly. Elegance and style were important. Local manufacturers looked for clothing they could sell. No cheap clothes you could just discard in those days, and few people had money to spare for frivolity.

Unfortunately, I had to leave the course during the second term when my dad, after years of struggle with a creeping paralysis, could no longer go out to work. In those days benefits were abysmal and grants in short supply. I got a job at a ladies’ outfitters for thirty shillings a week. I hated it there. The girls sniggered when I asked a young lady if she would like to try on a suspender belt as she was not sure about the size. Corsets were tried on but no one had ever suggested anything of lesser value.

When a consignment of nylons arrived, a queue formed reaching outside into the street. My pencil disappeared as I was about to write out a receipt. The boss’s wife refused to lend me hers or replace it. I was stuck with a waiting queue — my face getting redder and redder. She eventually relented (bad for business?) and told me to let that be a lesson not to lose anything.

Imagine my joy when an acquaintance of the family, who was secretary to the manager of the outwear department of a very large clothing manufacturer, suggested she ask her boss if he would consider taking me on as a trainee designer.

I was indeed taken on, initially to assist the chief designer and to help on the cutting benches, but, within a fairly short time I too was designing for the firm. (The factory is more or less as I have used for one of the settings in ;Awakening Love where June is the young designer).

More in the next post…

My Dad

August 20, 2008

I loved my dad but I was also scared of him. He ruled the home. My mother, bless her, was a doormat just like her mother had been, and we girls had a doormat upbringing. We would not dare to argue with my dad. Voicing an opinion? Good heavens, no!
My dad provided me with pocket money: sixpence a week until I reached my teens then it was half a crown. You could do a lot with two shillings and sixpence if you spent wisely. To give you some idea, sixpence would buy a bottle of pop with tuppence back when you returned the bottle. I had to earn my sixpence by cleaning my dad’s boots each week. I worked hard at getting them shiny, and I went the extra mile by scraping the sweaty gunge from the inside by using a fingernail. As much as getting the sixpence, I enjoyed the praise of a good job done. My doormat training was really good. I recall a rainy Sunday night, walking miles to various pubs to find him and give him the raincoat he’d left behind. Of course, my mum had sent me and my sister. Males always came first in our house.
My dad suffered an accident at work when a lorry backed into him and he was gassed on another occasion but there was no compensation that I know of. I’m sure he tried. He suffered from bronchitis and later became disabled with a kind of creeping paralysis. He struggled to work on his sticks for quite a while but eventually couldn’t make it.
Then the fun began! Trying to earn a living making leather bags and purses, doing up old prams and making them look new, repairing motors and cleaners, you name it, he tried it. Mother running all over to get everything he needed, my sister assisting with motors, me sewing aprons for the prams. Dad shouting and swearing when things went wrong, and they often did! Him screaming with pain at night, and we girls queuing up for hours to get him fish and chips to help him feel better. We hated to see our dad brought so low.
Eventually dad did up an old mechanical invalid carriage and that got him about a bit. He started an association of others with similar vehicles when the government began to provide them. Dad repaired the local ones. He set up his business in an old garage and took on a partner. He worked damn hard but made little money. At least it kept him occupied and gave my mother a bit of a rest, although she still had to clean the cinema across the road, and clean for a well off family a mile away. Money was always short, but my dad had restored his self-respect.
I had my dad’s in-growing toenail to look after. It was first soaked then I had the job of clearing all the stuff away from under the nail. His leg nerve would cause his leg to jerk and it sure did make me sweat! I cut his hair too. I rather liked doing that. It brought me close to him.
But I don’t ever remember laughing and playing with my dad.
I sometimes had a laugh with my mother. I did her hair for her and gently massaged her head and face. Later I made her clothes. We were quite close, although there always remained a certain parent-child distance.
(Of course a large chunk of my childhood took place in the wartime years of 1939-45 and everything was in short supply. So going without was quite common. I never knew anyone who went off on holidays, had a telephone or electrical goods we take fore granted. People travelled by bike, bus or train. Few people had cars and petrol, like everything else, was rationed. All this is written about in my illustrated book of childhood memories “When Phones Were Immobile and Lived in Red Boxes”. You can read the first two chapters by going to Magpies Nest Publishing.)