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Reports from Everywhere - July 1964

In an expansion of our series of blogs from the WVS Bulletin we’ll be bringing you some REPORTS FROM EVERYWHERE from the WVS Bulletin in the current month, 70, 60 and 50 years ago.

Our first is from July 1964.

Draught-free wards
The Door for the Pantomime Ward which WVS is paying for out of profits from the trolley, which it runs for the War Memorial Outpatients Canteen, Wrexham consists of opaque white plastic overlapping flaps which do not need to be opened. You just push the trolleys through and they close quietly afterwards; this does away with screens and keeps the ward draught free. The canteen operates six days a week.

Putting rhythm into life
Our ‘Beat’ nights at the local mentally handicapped hospital are much enjoyed by audience and Golborne WVS members. We now have a splendid rota of members going weekly to sing, play and talk to inmates.

Unusual service
The ancient Parish Church of East Farleigh, Kent, was filled to capacity on Whit Sunday morning for the monthly family service. But this was a very special family service, for it was also a clothing gift service. The Vicar, the Rev C J Caley, had appealed for children’s clothing for the WVS, and what a wonderful response he had. The children arrived with bulging parcels of all shapes and sizes, many of them containing half a dozen or more garments. During the singing of the second hymn the children walked in a procession round the aisles and handed their parcels to the Vicar at the chancel steps. WVS members in uniform were kept very busy stacking them into the Lady Chapel. It is difficult to estimate just how many garments were handed in, but it was at least 700, probably nearer 1000.

Putting them up
One Saturday night at the end of May, Lymington Police rang up the WVS Centre Organiser to say that a coach load of 41 old age pensioners from Eccles on their way to a holiday at Sandown, Isle of Wight, had missed the last ferry. Where could they spend the night?
Lymington is lucky in having a famous community centre, and the Warden readily gave permission for it to be used and came with his daughter to help the caretaker and her son to prepare for the party. Blankets were urgently needed and the local hospital came to the rescue. Two WVS members went to the centre to see the old age pensioners settled. After a meal in a restaurant they were soon fixed up in ten beds and 31 armchairs, in five different rooms. The Deputy Warden spent the night there and at 6:30 WVS were back to make tea before the party set off again.

Effort for WVS

WVS were most impressed when one of the mothers in Banstead brought in a large bag of wool which she had unravelled and washed from garments the children had outgrown and were not good enough to hand on. She thought WVS were helping her and it was just something she could do to help them. It was very welcome for squares as stocks were getting low.

The WVS/WRVS serve at Wimbledon

With the start of the famous tennis tournament today at Wimbledon, we thought it would be good to explore our association with the All England Club.

‘When do you think it is going to stop raining?’

‘Where is the nearest laundrette?’

‘Can you sew on my trouser buttons?’

Believe it or not theses were some of the questions asked at the Wimbledon Tennis Tournament information desks, run by WVS/WRVS between 1947 and 2004.

The All England Club allowed the organisation to hold its own annual Lawn Tennis Competition on the courts as a reward for manning the information desks. As well as answering questions on a range of subjects there were many other situations to deal with including reuniting lost children with their parents and even managers with tennis players. Volunteers also had the opportunity to watch matches on Centre Court and Court One during their breaks though they rarely watched a whole match as a volunteer wrote, ‘work must come first’.

During the 1980s one volunteer kept a record of her experiences of a week at Wimbledon. She wrote about a whole range of things including what she ate, there seems to have been a lot of avocado! On Tuesday 2nd June 1985 she wrote:

‘Panic at 6.50 when Leconte’s Manager came asking where he could get hold of Leconte’s coach who was somewhere within the rabbit warren, being interviewed by French Radio … after much phoning he eventually got hold of him’.

At the beginning of May I went to talk to Maureen Jones as part of Voices of Volunteering who was a WRVS volunteer on the Wimbledon Information Desks between 1982 and 1992. You can listen to a clip about one of her experiences at Wimbledon below.

Voices of Volunteering: 75 Years of Citizenship is an exciting new project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund which is collecting the memories and stories of long serving WVS/WRVS volunteers. Our volunteers are also involved, collecting oral histories in their local areas from WVS/WRVS volunteers. We hope to use these stories to inspire younger generations to volunteer through schools resources on volunteering and citizenship.

Posted by Jennifer Hunt at 00:00 Monday, 23 June 2014.

Labels: Wimbledon, WVS, WRVS, Tennis, Voices of Volunteering

Spinach and Beet - Part 2

This month’s extract form the diary of a centre organiser comes from the WVS Bulletin, May 1950

Monday

Almost incoherent ’phone call from Miss Bernard at 10 a.m. to say that in spite of more-or-less living in a mustard bath over the week-end she still had a streaming cold and would be unable to pay her usual visit to old Mrs. Draper this afternoon. Decided to do the job myself. Was soon made to feel I was an extremely poor substitute. After doing my best for a very “ sticky ” ten minutes I got up to go. “ Needles,” Mrs. Draper reprimanded me sharply. “ Didn’t Miss Bernard tell you ? No ? She always threads me two dozen or so with different coloured cottons—to keep me going until she comes again.” Fumbled nervously with needles that pricked me, and cottons that assumed the proportions of the proverbial camels for quite twenty minutes ! (All the same, this needle-threading idea is a good one.)

Recipe – from the WVS Bulletin November 1948

Coffee Shortbread Fingers

4 oz. Self Raising Flour. 2 oz. Semolina.
2 oz. Peanut Butter. 1 oz. Margarine.
1 oz. Cornflour. 2 oz. Sugar.

1 tablesp. Coffee Essence. 3 tablesp. Water.

Mix dry ingredients thoroughly. Add coffee essence and water to make a stiff paste. Roll out and cut into fingers with a straight fluted-edged cutter. Bake in a moderate oven for 20 mins. until golden brown and fairly firm to the touch. Cool on a wire tray.

Posted by Matthew McMurray at 00:00 Monday, 16 June 2014.

Labels: Coffee ShortBread Fingers, WVS, Bulletin, Visiting, Camel, needles, good neighbours

Remembering Dame Mary Soames

It is with great sadness that we heard of the passing of Dame Mary Soames at the weekend, last surviving daughter of Winston Churchill, she was 91.

It is widely known that Mary was a member of the ATS during the World War Two, but what many won’t know is that she started her wartime volunteering as a member of the WVS, before she resigned to join the more glamorous ATS.

She was a volunteer at Stoke Mandeville hospital, near Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire, where she helped run the library. The hospital is only a short distance from the Prime Minister’s country residence at Chequers.

How do we know this? Because about five years ago a parcel of documents arrived in the archive which had been found in the loft of an old volunteer. They were what remained of the papers of the Aylesbury centre. In amongst these was the below letter of resignation from Mary Churchill, from her post at Stoke Mandeville Hospital.

Dame Mary would returned to WRVS in 1988 to give the address at the 50th anniversary service in Westminster Abbey.


Posted by Matthew McMurray at 00:00 Monday, 02 June 2014.

Labels: WVS, Hospital, library, Stoke Mandeville, WWII

WVS and The Chelsea Flower Show

As the Chelsea Flower Show is here again, brightening our screens with beautiful and creative exhibits and tempting us in to the garden to have a go ourselves, we thought it would be nice if this month’s blog focused on the WVS involvement with the Chelsea Flower Show. 

The WVS exhibited between 1947-1955 seeing the show as an opportunity, not only to get creative, but to raise awareness of its Garden Gift scheme. The scheme, established in April 1946, involved collecting any surplus plants from established gardens and distributing them to those in need, such as would-be struggling gardeners living in prefabricated houses and institutions such as hospitals. As demand always exceeded the available supply WVS decided to exhibit in an attempt to raise awareness and gain support.

Each year the WVS displays would include rockeries, kitchen gardens and ‘Pre-fab’ houses. The pre-fab garden exhibits would include a replica pre-fab house concocted from felt and stucco, and the average amount of land usually allotted to a temporary or small house. The exhibits aimed to demonstrate to the crowds the best way to gain the most from the small amount of space, whilst showing how the gardens could be used as a means of self-sufficiency. The gardens would be planted with all manner of flowers such as ‘fuchsias, petunias and cherry-pie, lilacs and guelder-roses’ along with a vegetable patch which included a collections of herbs which, during the times of rationing, really drew interest and acclamations from the crowds.

Here at the archive, not only do we have the hand drawn plans of the WVS exhibits, we also have the medals they were awarded: a silver medal for 1947, a silver gilt medal for 1948 and a silver medal in 1950. Each exhibit proved to be a great success in terms of raising awareness, with WVS members attending the show to answer queries and provide information. Owners of pre-fab houses were encouraged by the exhibits and many gardeners were delighted to be informed of a scheme which could find worthy homes for their surplus seedlings. Once the show finished the entire contents of the gardens would be lifted and whirled off to those in need of plants, who, having been warned of their arrival, were waiting with their trowels at the ready.  

Below this blog you will find a video of King George VI, Queen Elizabeth (later Queen Mother) and Queen Mary visiting exhibits at the Chelsea Flower Show in 1950.  If you watch carefully 24 seconds in you can see Queen Mary and Lady Reading looking at the WVS display: http://ow.ly/x5Gwg

Posted by Hannah Tinkler at 00:00 Wednesday, 21 May 2014.

Spinach and Beet - Part 1

Here at the archive we are busy digitising copies of the WVS Bulletin, the organisation’s newsletter for volunteers between 1938-1974. Occasionally as the scanned pages flash before our eyes we pick up on some amusing, interesting or just charming stories which have been published in its pages over the years. In a series of blog posts over the coming months we thought we’d share some of them with you, and perhaps even some recipes! heritage bulletin

The following is an extract from the “Spinach and Beet” column, the diary of a Centre Organiser, from March 1951:

MONDAY

The Knitting Party has behaved rather mysteriously since Christmas, and I have noticed (although pretending not to) that work has been covered up hastily on my approach. This afternoon, however, I was invited to view " A Special Display " : and I advanced towards the laid-out garments with eager anticipation. For a few moments I was at a complete loss for words. Before me lay a boy's jersey which had only one arm; there were two socks made of the same coloured wool, but one was four times larger than the other; there was a " pair " of gloves, the right hand of which had only three fingers . What had the usually superefficient Knitting Party been up to? " They're for the Cripples' Home," Miss MacFee prompted me in a whisper. "Garments made to measure." "The children are thrilled at the idea," another member told me after I had congratulated the workers on their skill. "Ready-made clothes are of little use to some of them-and they are feeling so important at being measured and at having something made especially for them."

Recipe - from the WVS Bulletin April 1944

Chinese Omelette

Ingredients : 3 oz. finely chopped American luncheon meat sausage meat, 2 oz. raw carrot or parsnip, 2 reconstituted dried eggs, 1 oz. finely chopped chicory, 1 small minced onion. Salt and pepper to taste.

Method : Mix the ingredients and drop in spoonfuls into hot fat. Fry until brown on both sides. Serve with boiled rice and thick brown gravy.

Posted by Matthew McMurray at 00:00 Thursday, 15 May 2014.

Labels: Chinese Omelette, Bulletin, WVS, Clothing, Children,