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Tommy's story

Teatime for Tommy - home from school in 1942

Photograph of young Tommy with his mother It's the year 1942 and I'm 9 years old, walking the familiar half-mile from school to my home in South-west London. Today was an ordinary day - I had my free bottle of milk at playtime and still had time to go out and play 'Spitfires and Messerschmidts' with my mates afterwards. It wasn't a day when I had to line up for a spoonful of VIROL - a sticky extract of malt we have to swallow once a week (which some of us like but which makes Billy Fletcher feel sick, but I think he's just a weedy type).

As I walk past the fruit and vegetable barrows in the High Street, I check to see if there are any orange boxes hidden under the barrows. My Mum heard a rumour that a ship had arrived at Liverpool with a cargo of oranges, and because of my baby sister we've got a Green Ration Book, which means we might get one or two if there are any -- but there aren't. Maybe the ship that was bringing them got caught by U-boats in the Atlantic.

Once home I tuck into my usual tea of bread-and-marge. Not like the margerine we have nowadays though - this stuff has very little colour and tastes more like grease, and not at all like butter! I know there's some butter in the cupboard (ordinary people don't have a refrigerator, only Americans and rich people have those) but that's special. I would really really like some dripping on my bread (that's the fat that collects in the roasting pan when we have meat. It goes hard and you spread it on your bread and it's absolutely wizard!) but my Mum's saving up the dripping.

The jam ration is nearly gone so I have to spread it on my bread-and-marge very thinly - just the merest smear. There's a pot of Parsnip Jam we got 'off-ration' but it isn't very nice and I prefer to eat what I've got. Bread isn't rationed so I eat about six slices. That will keep me going until 8, when I get a snack of cheese on toast with a cup of hot oxo.

Photograph of Tom drinking tea at the Pump Rooms Tomorrow we'll have one of our favourite meals... Roast potatoes (that's why I'm not allowed the dripping) and boiled cabbage with a 'knuckle' of bacon boiled with the cabbage. I may even get a slice of bacon too!

Yes, on the whole we're OK. We don't live like the King and Queen and Princess Elizabeth in the Palace, but we're healthy and alive and maybe on Saturday I'll get an extra boiled egg! (one a week for grown-ups but two for a Green Ration Book).

Tom Holloway
31st March, 1997

Tom has answered some questions about his childhood :

Tom is a member of the MEMORIES Panel of Elders. You can click here to write to him.


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