When reading a diary or other contemporary primary source, it is important to remember that they take for granted what was commonplace at the time.
In the 1940s and 50s shopping in Britain was dominated by small, independent corner shops. Hazel Wheeler’s father’s shop was in many ways typical of any urban area and provided the mainstay of the local community.
Despite the end of the war, rationing continued for many years.
HAZEL [In her diary]
Not many customers this time of the morning; workers on morning shift at mills mostly, in for their tobacco. 'Five Craven A and a couple of pickled onions, lass, and make it snappy...' Old Mrs. Brook was in early, though, to see what was on offer.
Owt interesting today, Hazel?
Not much new, Mrs. Brook. Deliveries next Tuesday.
I don’t know. It’s worse than the war, this. I’ll just have my Craven A, then, love.
That’ll be one and tuppence.
Ta. My Tommy had his call-up papers last week.
Little Tommy? Is he old enough?
Aye. Old enough, and ugly enough. I wouldn't mind him having a spell abroad, but you never know when the balloon's going to go up these days, do you?
That's a fact
The ongoing rationing of meat meant that alternative sources of protein had to be found. One such source was snoek.
To encourage interest in the popular South African fish the Ministry of Food published various recipes, such as Snoek Piquante.
Other recipes published by the Ministry included Snoek and Potato Pie, and Watercress and Snoek Spread.
However, Snoek was not overly popular with the British public.
Can I get you anything?
I haven’t had a good look yet.
Why not try some snoek.
Snoek. A new fish from South Africa. One and four pence ha’penny a tin and only one point on your book. Some say it’s a bit slimier than cod but then again, it is cheap.
Er...I was actually wondering if your Mother was around…
There’s a free recipe for snoek piquante from the Ministry.
Is your Mam available, though?
You mash it up with salad cream and add a few lettuce leaves. You could throw in one of your black market eggs.
The diary entry for Monday 9th August, 1948 provides a reference to a shopping trip to Leeds to buy a “New Look” dress. Christian Dior’s New Look, with its flamboyant use of fabric, was a welcome break from the wartime utility designs and “make do and mend” mentality.
HAZEL [In her diary]
To Leeds shopping with Sylvia. Pouring with rain. She bought a “New Look” dress and me a hat with velvet, and veiling tying under the chin, which just about uses up my points for the month.
Relaxation of the rationing regulations only began in 1948 and was to prove a slow and gradual process.
Dates of various products being taken "off the ration":
- July 1948 - bread
- March 1949 - clothes
- April 1949 - sweets (sweet rationing was re-introduced again four months later)
- May 1950 - petrol
- September 1950 - soap
- February 1953 - sweet rationing finally ended
- May 1954 - butter
- July 1954 - meat and bacon