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This week we bring you Reports from Everywhere from 50 years ago this month.
Glasgow’s fairy Godmother
Forget me not
When Mr Rio Stakis opened a new night club in Glasgow, he asked his friend Jimmy Logan to do the cabaret. Jimmy agreed but would not accept payment. The outcome was that Mr Stakis gave Jimmy Logan a cheque for £1,500 which he is distributing to charities. This has meant that within a year Jimmy Logan has presented a second van to Glasgow WVS Centre for use with the Meals on Wheels in the city.
A patient at the Canadian Red Cross Memorial Hospital, Beaconsfield, asked WVS whether our trolley carried a stock of rubber bones, as he wanted to send a present home to her dog. We regretfully had to say that we hadn’t thought of that, but finally the patient bought a rag book, kept it in her bed for a bit so that it would get her scent, and gave it to her husband to take home so that the dog would know she had not forgotten him.
Milkman as go between
On Christmas Day an SOS came to the Centre Organiser of Worthing WVS after an old lady had left a note for her milkman saying that she was very lonely and would he please tell the WVS. The milkman gave the message to the police who told the Centre Organiser who visited her and tried to arrange for her to have tea with a family who had offered hospitality. However, she could not be persuaded to go. She was visited again and it was realised that she was not really fit enough to be on her own. After getting in touch with her relations arrangements were made for her to be moved to a suitable Home where she is having the care she needs.
Posted by Matthew McMurray, Royal Voluntary Service Archivist at 09:00
Monday, 25 January 2016.
Reports from Everywhere ,
meals on Wheels ,
This week’s HB Blog is dedicated to winter warming recipes from The WVS Bulletin 70 years ago this month.
White Vegetable Soup
1 small carrot
1 small onion
1 small turnip
1 stick celery
1 1/2 pt. water
1/2 pt. milk
1 oz. flour
1 oz. fat
1/2 small bay leaf
Melt the fat in saucepan, slice the vegetables and put into fat. Cook the vegetables but do not let them burn. Add the bay leaf and water and cook until vegetables are tender. Mix the flour and milk together, pour into saucepan and boil for a few minutes to cook the flour, stewing carefully. Take out the bay leaf, add the salt and the soup is ready.
1 1/2 lb. potatoes
1 stick celery
a few spring onions
a little leek
2 pt. vegetable water and white stock
2 level tablespoonfuls household milk
2 tablespoonfuls chopped parsley.
Scrub, peel and slice the potatoes. Place them in the boiled salted stock and cook with the lid on till quite soft. Rub through a sieve and mash well with a wooden spoon. Mix the milk to a smooth cream with a little water, re-heat, add parsley and serve immediately.
1/2 lb. lean beef
1/2 pt. cold water
pinch of salt.
Remove all skin and fat from the meat and cut into slices. Stew each slice and soak in a china jug with the cold water and salt for 1/4 hour. Cook in slow oven for 2 hours. Strain and remove fat—season and serve hot with toast.
1 1/2 to 2 oz. cereal
5 level tablespoonfuls household milk
1 pt. water ; 1 level tablespoonful sugar
1/2 oz. margarine.
Reconstitute the dried milk with the water. Wash the cereal and put into a greased pie dish. Pour over the reconstituted milk. Add the sugar. Dot with margarine. Bake in a slow oven for 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
In a sleepless night at the weekend, before I returned to work for the New Year, I was listening to the Film Programme on BBC Radio 4. The episode was about Women in film and included a very interesting conversation with the director Carol Morley, Producer Elizabeth Karlsen and writer/actor Justine Waddell.
Elizabeth Karlsen came out with a phrase that has stuck with me over the past couple of days and one which has led me to much thought. She said that the history of women was a ‘hidden history’, a ‘silent history’ and in searching out and making films about women they were mining silent territory, a lone pickaxe if you will in a vast deserted wilderness.
Our archive deals primarily with the contribution of women to British society in the 20th century so naturally this idea of a concealed past, waiting to be revealed, struck a chord with me. Most have heard of Dad’s Army because of the popular 70s TV show, but few know of the army that Hitler forgot - the “Women in Green”; the Women’s Voluntary Services (WVS).
During the Second World War, the Home Guard, or Dad’s Army as they were known, comprised around one and a half million men, the WVS just over one million members. The WVS was larger than all of the other women’s services combined; the next largest the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) with around 250,000 women.
While Dad’s Army and the other conscripted services ended with the victory of the Allies in 1945, the Women in Green carried on. Around 600,000 women helped us to pioneer the early welfare state, such as developing the modern home care system and fundamentally reshaped British society, and our volunteers continue this legacy in communities across the country today.
The representation of women in film over the past 20 years has admittedly changed substantially, with documentaries covering services such as the Women’s Land Army, the ATS and, the Lumber Jills and WAAF. But, to my knowledge, the WVS has never enjoyed the same treatment. The only WVS centred programme that I know of is Victoria Wood’s wonderful ‘Housewife 49’, a one off drama based on the wartime diaries of WVS member Nella Last. One almost never sees a uniformed WVS member in the background of a period drama, despite one in every ten women in the country belonging to the organisation during WWII.
I sometimes feel a bit like I too am mining that silent territory, shouting to get the remarkable story of those women in green heard. Our archives are full of those wonderful stories of everyday unremarkable heroism which faced down a never ending tide of human misery and hardship created by total war.
Perhaps part of their problem is that their story is unglamorous; dealing with lice infested children, handing out donated clothing to the dispossessed or working in the background sustaining with tea those toiling in the spotlight to put out the fires and clear the rubble created by the Blitzkrieg.
"…our aim is not recognition of success nor are we wishful of public thanks, but we are determined on achievement. No task is so slight that it falls below our notice-no effort so great that it lies beyond our attempt. We fight for our country with unspectacular but unceasing determination."
The success of the organisation and the vision of its founder, Lady Reading, was in using the everyday skills that women already had and mobilising them to make a difference quickly. It was also to use those who were not eligible for conscription, mostly older women over the age of 40, housewives and mothers.
As talking about the war and one's experiences started to become popular in the 1980s and 1990s, most of these women who had given so much to their country had already passed away and the more glamorous and less constrained younger generation for whom the war brought new opportunities were left to tell the wartime story. Our archive is now the last keeper of those forgotten memories.
Over the years I have been approached by several documentary makers about creating a programme about the WVS, but all have sadly come to nothing. To return to Elizabeth Karlsen’s view; commissioners want a hook, and invariably a hook that people already know a little about. We however are mining the silent territory, the hidden history of women.
Posted by Matthew McMurray, Royal Voluntary Service Archivist at 09:00
Monday, 11 January 2016.
Women's Land Army,
Lady Reading always sent WRVS members a Christmas and New Year’s message, this one is a gift from January 1963.
THERE are so many gifts I should like to send you this Christmastide - but they are either beyond my purse or my capacity. And so I send you a thing of great value and seldom found - it is the gift of being able to play a game which is interesting and intriguing in your own mind.
Decide first what line of country you wish to play it in: - memory, construction, imagination, fairy castle - and then make your own rules and go ahead.
Two things must always dominate this game - first once started, it must be carried through, for whatever length of time you assign yourself - and second whilst you are playing it you must stick to that particular subject and not wander off in other directions. If, for instance, you choose “memory” it is necessary if you wish to recall nice happenings, to tie them to time, place, or person, BUT if you want to try and strengthen your memory - then you must try simple exercises of memory - such as at bedtime trying to think how many people wearing spectacles you met during the day.
My present is, I think, an unusual one, but it has given me such endless pleasure throughout my life I hope it may do the same for you. And it comes with affection and good wishes that are so warm I hope you can feel them without being told and I trust they will bring much happiness to you in the year ahead.
Happy New Year.