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I said that we would return to the British Welcome Clubs, and here we are with the continuing story of the WVS’s entertainment of our American cousins in Leamington Spa.
After the slightly disastrous opening night of the welcome club, the situation did not seem to get much better; in fact the club lurched from one disappointment to the next.
The biggest issue at the beginning seems to have been the very poor attendance at the club by the American forces, which inevitably left the local girls who had turned up rather disappointed! The club was open two nights per week, and had a varied programme of games, dancing and other entertainments. It soon became clear that the preferred entertainment was dancing and much of the programme came to reflect this, but obtaining a suitable Master of Ceremonies (MC) was a continual issue.
Engaging bands to play was also a challenge and on many occasions, a gramophone had to be hired in. The majority of the records seem to have been loaned from the private collections of the committee members, but there seems to have been a preponderance of classical music discs, and so funds had to be spent on procuring new dance records. When a band was engaged the fee was usually three Guineas!
After about six months things started to get better, attendance was up and they had to start refusing new members (a subscription was payable), though inevitably there were some members who were late with their subscriptions and were being chased for payment.
As with all clubs involving young soldiers some trouble was inevitable. The club hall was next to the NAAFI Bar and there were problems later in the evenings with some men being a little worse for wear trying to get into the club. The military Police were asked to ‘give the club a once over’ each evening.
By far the biggest problem seems to have been finding committee members to take on responsibility. Inevitably it was left to a few individuals to carry the majority of the burden, which at one point led to mass resignations and the disbandment and reforming of the managing committee, and the regular WVS being asked to fill the gaps in helping to organise club nights.
This is not the end of the story. We shall return for the end of the war and the winding up of the club another week.
Posted by Matthew McMurray, Royal Voluntary Service Archivist at 09:00
Monday, 23 November 2015.
The other day we got an enquiry about the types of food which were served by WVS canteens during World War Two, a question which proved somewhat more difficult to answer than you might think.
While we have in the collection many booklets on food and feeding published by the WVS they are mainly about emergency feeding for large numbers of people in rest centres or in the field, and of these, many seem to concentrate on the practical arrangements such as the erection of field cooking equipment rather than the food itself.
None of the emergency feeding booklets contain recipes, but some contain sample menus, for example the 1960 Emergency Feeding Civil Defence Handbook offers a three day plan.
Main courses were:
Meat and Vegetable Stew
Boiled Fruit Pudding
Prunes and Custard
This didn’t help though with our wartime question.
Delving a little deeper we found two information sheets from a 1940 canteen workers’ training scheme that show illustrative menus and give an idea of the kind of meals the members were trained to cook and serve in the mobile and station units.
Main courses were:
Steak and kidney pudding or pie
Toad in the Hole
Roast Shoulder of Mutton
Liver and Bacon
Stewed prunes and custard
Steamed Fig Pudding
Jam Roly Poly
Fruit tart and custard
Milk jelly with fruit
Baked bread pudding
However, in practice it seems that few mobile and station canteens cooked their own food, other than preparing sandwiches and rolls; instead they were provided with food by other agencies, such as the British Restaurants, factory canteens, or large bakeries.
The canteens were very busy indeed, and a domestic kitchen could not have coped with the quantities required. Also, during food rationing, it was much easier to make bulk off-ration purchases from such wholesale suppliers, rather than serving home cooked meals.
A day book we have from the Glasgow mobile canteens as well as a balance sheet for a wartime station canteen in Newport, and a small selection of quarterly narrative reports from canteen managers, do though give a good impression of the kind of food and drinks that were actually served.
The canteens served tea, cocoa, coffee (Twinings prepared a special coffee for WVS canteens, but the Glasgow canteen only served Camp Coffee), assorted mineral drinks, a selection of hot and cold meals (mince and potatoes are specifically mentioned), sandwiches and rolls (jam and cheese), soup, pies, sausage rolls, cakes (sugar cream cakes and “tea-bread” cakes). These were supplemented by sales of Cadburys chocolates, large tins of assorted and chocolate biscuits (bought from local factories) and cigarettes.
The canteen food was not free, and as the soldiers and workers paid for it; inevitably some items were more popular than others! Chocolates, pies and sausage rolls usually sold well; soup and sandwiches did not. Sandwiches particularly went out of favour when the weather was cold and the bread went hard!
Posted by Matthew McMurray, Archvisit and Sheridan Parsons, volunteer at 00:00
Monday, 16 November 2015.
Emergency Feeding ,
Jam Roly poly,
Steak and Kidney Pudding,
Liver and Bacon,
This month’s reports from everywhere are all on the topic of Darby and Joan clubs.
Copy of a letter from a Darby and Joan Club member: “Dear W.V.S., Thank you very much for my birthday card received September 3rd from the No. 1 Darby and Joan Club. It is very nice to think you are not forgotten. I have not been able to come to the Club for over twelve months. I have been very ill, but I am very pleased to say I am much better, but am not allowed by the Doctor to go into any crowded places, so I don’t go anywhere on my own these days. I miss my Friday meetings very much. All you folks made me feel so much at home with you all. You made me feel you really wanted us all there, not just putting up with us. Good luck to the Club and God bless all the W.V.S. that work there, also all the others that make it a success.”
The Gostrey Club was recently opened. This is a scheme upon which we have been working for over a year. The Club provides a hot lunch, chiropody and library services and tea to people over 60 years of age. The Council have been most helpful in agreeing to let the old Civic Restaurant to us at a low price, and gifts have been received from a number of sources. W.V.S. members worked hard cleaning, putting up curtains and making all the preparations. The opening was attended by 18 old people and many visitors, since which the membership has increased to 45. It was pleasant to hear an old lady saying to a friend, “Yes, I’ve just been to my Club. Oh, it’s like heaven. The chairs are so comfortable and we sit with our feet on a carpet!”
The following letter of thanks has been received from one of the old people to whom we deliver meals-on-wheels : “I am writing a few words of thanks to you and all the kind and willing helpers for their grateful service for we old people and the pleasant faces and the bit of pudding and dinner. Hoping you will not be offended at my writing but you deserve a word of praise for your kindness.”
The one hundredth Darby and Joan Club in Kent was opened on October 5th at Boughton Monchelsea. To commemorate the occasion a silver cup is being given to the Club by the Regional Old People’s Welfare Specialist.
An amusing story comes from Goring Darby and Joan Club. One of our members plays chess regularly with one of the old men. They continued their game during tea, and the Darby became so excited that his opponent suddenly saw he was trying to eat a chessman instead of his cake!
Posted by Matthew McMurray, Royal Voluntary Service Archivist at 00:00
Monday, 09 November 2015.
Darby and Joan,