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Time on your hands?

In the early 1970s WRVS were trying new ways to attract younger volunteers within the 20-35 age bracket. A new initiative was setup, Evening Centres, usually run in existing WRVS centres where they led monthly meetings to help attract younger members to take on WRVS services in their spare time after work or study. As it is St Andrew’s Day on Wednesday I thought we would look at the work of these centres in Scotland between 1971 and 1974.

In 1971 London Headquarters established the Evening Members Department and corresponded with the Scottish Headquarters in Edinburgh to establish centres in the Large Burghs such as Dundee, Aberdeen and Adinburgh. Perth and Glasgow were not included in the original correspondence; the Chairman of Scotland presumed the exclusion of Glasgow was an ‘oversight’ but was later informed that Glasgow had already agreed with London to start a centre. Perth even before the centres already carried out evening work had recruited three volunteers aged 25-35 but had to put them in the Saturday Meals on Wheels round. They were very keen to find them evening work although there were very few activities for them.

Once founded Evening Centres in Scotland were a success, take Glasgow for example, in June 1972 a member of the Evening Centres Department in London visited to help set up a centre in the city it started with an organiser (ECO), two assistants and four members. By the end of the year the centre had 56 members with 20-30 turning up to regular monthly meetings and taking on services such as flower arranging, hospital visiting, nurses libraries, good companions and emergencies. Glasgow were also looking to the future of the evening centre wanting to expand into visiting residential homes and taking up public speaking to recruit more members for the endless number of house holders who needed a good companion.

In order to expand all these services more members are required and it seems evident that the ECO will have to take up public speaking! This may or may not be a good thing for WRVS, however, we are willing to try, and to this end have accepted an invitation to speak on ‘the work of the WRVS Evening Centre and the role of the volunteer within it’ to young people interested in the Community Service Section of the Duke of Edinburgh’s (Gold) Award, Start praying!

Glasgow Evening Centre Report 1972

There isn’t much information about the centres after 1974, perhaps a quest for another day is for me to research some of the other regions in Britain to find the answer. Watch this space...

Posted by Jennifer Hunt, Deputy Archivist at 09:00 Monday, 28 November 2016.

Labels: Evening Centre, WRVS, Scotland, Glasgow, Perth, St Andrew's Day

Food news - Thanksgiving Day

November 24th will be the last Thursday in the month which in America means its Thanksgiving. If you don’t know much about this holiday, apart from what you’ve seen in episodes of Friends and The Big Bang Theory, don’t worry Issue No.37 of the Bulletin from November 1942 is here to help, complete with Mock Duck and Mock Goose. If you were looking for a Mock Turkey go to Issue No.49 November 1943

"As we have so many of our American Allies in this country, many of us are likely to celebrate a festival we have never shared in before. The first Thanksgiving Day was held by the Pilgrim Fathers to give thanks for their first harvest, and ever since that time the last Thursday in November has been celebrated in the United States as a national festival and day of thanksgiving. Here is a typical Thanksgiving Day menu:

Soup- Tomato and Croutons. Turkey or Chicken or Goose, Mock Goose, Mock Duck. Cranberry sauce or jelly. Vegetables - Mashed Potatoes; sprouts; chestnut puree or chestnut stuffing; celery (raw); carrot strips (raw); salted nuts. Sweet- Pumpkin pie; mince pie; apple pie; biscuits.

Cream of Tomato Soup or Mock Bisque-2 cups raw, canned or bottled tomatoes; 2 teaspoons sugar; 1/3 tea-spoon bicarbonate of soda ; 1/2 onion, stuck with 6 cloves ; sprig of parsley; bit of bay leaf; 1/2 cup stale bread-crumbs ; 4 cups milk (household); 1/2 tablespoon salt; 1/8 teaspoon pepper ; 1/3 cup margarine. Scald milk with bread crumbs, onion, parsley and bay leaf. Remove seasonings and rub through sieve. Cook tomatoes with sugar 15 minutes (shorter time if canned tomatoes are used). Add soda and rub through sieve. Reheat bread and milk to boiling-point, add tomatoes, butter, salt and pepper. Serve 6 to 8.

Mock Goose (Ministry of Food).-1 lb. liver; 2 lb. potatoes; 2 onions or leeks; 1 apple; 3 oz. fat bacon; 1 dessertspoon chopped parsley; 1/2 teaspoon dried sage ; 1/2 pint water; seasoning. Wash liver and cut into slices. Cut potatoes, onions and apple into slices. Arrange ingredients in layers in a pie-dish or hot-pot dish. Cover with pieces of bacon. Add water. Cover with a greased paper and cook in a moderate oven for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Mock Duck (Ministry of Food) - Cooking time, 1 hour. Ingredients-14lb. potatoes; 2 large cooking apples; 3/4 pint vegetable stock ; 1 tablespoon flour; pepper and salt; 4 oz. grated cheese ; 1/2 teaspoon dried sage. Quantity- 4 helpings.

Method.-Scrub and slice potatoes thinly, slice apples, grate cheese. Grease a fireproof dish, place a layer of potatoes in it, cover with apple and a little sage, season lightly and sprinkle with cheese, repeat layers, leaving potatoes and cheese to cover. Pour in 1/2 pint of the stock, cook in a moderate oven for 3/4 hour. Blend flour with remainder of stock, pour into dish and cook for another 1/4 hour. Serve as a main dish with a green vegetable.

The American “biscuit” is more like a small muffin and is used at breakfast, dinner or supper. A biscuit like our own is known in America as a "cracker." American muffins are like our queen cakes in appearance. American Emergency Biscuits (Ministry of Food)-3/4 lb flour; 2 teaspoons baking powder; 2 oz. margarine; 1/2 teaspoon salt; 3/4 cup milk.

Method-Mix flour, baking powder and salt together, cut in margarine; add milk gradually until a soft dough is formed. Turn out on a floured board and pat out with the hand to about 1 inch thick. Cut into rounds and bake in quick oven for 15 minutes."

I haven’t included all the recipes just a selection if you want to know more visit our online catalogue.

Photo: members of the WVS are providing wartime services for the welfare of American service personnel at a flat in Buckingham Gate, London. In the flat, a number of American service personnel, WVS members and ladies are being entertained by a recital of classical music that is being performed in the flat for them. WRVS/HQ/P/SWH/AMER002 1939-1945.

Posted by Jennifer Hunt, Deputy Archivist at 09:00 Monday, 21 November 2016.

Labels: America, WVS, Bulletin, Archive, 1942, Thanksgiving

Give and take

On Twitter the other day I noticed a tweet from the Royal British Legion saying that Remembrance Day was not just for the fallen but for those who have lived through conflict as well. While Royal Voluntary Service’s blog on 10th November focused on remembering the 245 WVS women who died during the Second World War, this week I thought we’d look at how the WVS fought on the home front to keep everyone safe from harm.

When we think of evacuation we often think of the process from escorting evacuees to the country side to billeting them in the reception areas; we don’t think always think about the effects on the householders and the relationship they had with evacuees. There are always two conflicting view points on how evacuees where received by people in the country side.

Evacuation broke down class barriers and evacuees were received with love affection and treated as one of the family.  

Or

Ideas of class continued and evacuees were seen as dirty or verminous and were mistreated by their hosts and hostesses.

There is truth in both opinions and as our Archives show WVS were ready to smooth out any problems which arose even from arrival they took care of evacuees cleaning them up and providing clothing when needed. They also produced a number of publications which didn’t take sides but advised everyone in the art of diplomacy or allowing for as one leaflet was titled give and take. This was a leaflet designed to inform housewives and visiting mothers on how to behave while relatives are visiting evacuated children. It was a way of advising both parties without taking sides and helping to easy worries and tensions; breaking down class barriers and dispelling myths.

Another example comes from a circular on advising householders on bed wetting stating ‘do not punish the child or do anything to humiliate him and do not let him think he is a "problem" child and of special interest’. Again WVS were trying to change public attitudes before bedwetting was viewed as a dirty habit and the organisation worked towards changing this view wanting people to see it as an effect of being removed from one’s home, a result of a traumatic experience.

All the WVS’s hard work to bring communities together and change opinions of town and country must have had an effect. By the end of the war when it introduced its furniture scheme those areas which had been less affected by the bombing were ready and willing to send tons and tons of household items to blitzed areas. Also WVS was able to pioneer its Children’s Holiday Scheme in Post-war Britain where children who would not have otherwise had a holiday spent a week with a hostess family either by the sea or in the country side.

So do remember while the men were away fighting to stop our society changing for the worse over a million women on the Home Front were working to transform it for the better.

Posted by Jennifer Hunt, Deputy Archivist at 09:00 Monday, 14 November 2016.

Labels: WVS, Evacuation, Evacuee, Reception, Billet, Second World war

The importance of starting an archive

The Archive & Heritage collection was formed in 1958, the year before WVS’s 21st Anniversary as the Archives and Central Records Department. The members of this department’s first purpose was to search through files for important original reports, letters, etc. to find those of historical interest and importance. I truly sympathise with having to assess twenty years’ worth of material and having to take key decisions which would affect future generations understanding of the WVS.

The department started out with a number of part-time works all with different tasks to complete and a Head of Department to oversee them. It is funny how very little changes in 60 years, although a little different with a full time Deputy Archivist and Archives Assistant (working on the Hidden History of a Million Women Project), there is still an Archivist and a team of volunteers who help out with the collection anywhere from two hours to a whole day every week.

We don’t know very much about the thoughts of the women first involved in bringing this invaluable collection together, even though they knew there was ‘a real need for such a department’ in 1958, apart from what is written in the Annual Reports. However occasionally when sorting through the collection something catches your eye; though it wasn’t shinny and it didn’t look particularly interesting while repackaging the collection of General Publications on Friday afternoon I came across WVS/WRVS Archives Notes for Guidance 1973 (there are also copies for 1975 and 1981).

This small booklet with a Green front cover shows how over 15 years the thinking in the Archive was developing and they were getting to grips with the records they held. They were there to collate a complete library of papers concerning policy, operational works and records of WVS/WRVS from 1938 onwards. At the end of the booklet they list all the documents being kept in the Archive including Annual Reports, Bulletin/Magazine, Miscellaneous Memoranda and Narrative Reports which with many more documents, photographs, publications and objects still reside in the collection today. What interested me most about this booklet was what it said about Narrative Reports:

“A complete set of Narrative Reports form all Regions is held in WRVS Headquarters Archives.

No Narrative Reports should be destroyed without consultation, as arrangements for keeping them vary from Region to Region”

This might explain why the number of reports in today’s collection varies so much from region to region.

Posted by Jennifer Hunt, Deputy Archivist at 00:00 Monday, 07 November 2016.

Labels: Archive, Archivist, WVS, WRVS, Narrative Reports