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This week’s diary of a Centre Organiser comes from April 1951.
If it wasn’t that Miss Rime can type like an angel, and has the most perfect memory for the smallest detail of everything that ever happens in the office, we sometimes feel we couldn’t bear with her another minute. She is a Samuel Johnson “ fan ” and quotes from his writings on every possible (and impossible) occasion—especially when asked to do any job on which she is not particularly keen. We are all very tired of her oft-repeated :
“ Catch, then, O catch the transient hour ;
Improve each moment as it flies ;
Life’s a short summer—man a flower—
He dies—alas!—how soon he dies! ”
—followed by a deeply heaved sigh and a look of martyrdom. Today, however, we felt a new respect for her—and for Samuel Johnson. A woman caller had pestered her with questions : about sickness benefit (“ I really cannot answer that—you should go to the National Insurance Office ”) ; financial assistance (“ The National Assistance Board may be able to help you ”), and so on, until the visitor, seeing she would get nothing from us, said sneeringly : “You don’t seem to know how to help a poor body, do you ? Pushing it all on to somebody else! ” Quick as a flash came Miss Rime’s retort : “ Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it! ”
Spring colds have laid low several of our more experienced members and the office has been manned recently by some of the newer ones. Felt an “ atmosphere ” when I arrived this morning to find our well-loved District Nurse obviously “ parked ” on a hard chair—awaiting my arrival. Knowing how precious every minute of her day is to her, I enquired anxiously: “ Couldn’t Miss Newcome help you? ” Before Nurse had time to answer I felt an urgent tug at my sleeve, and a fierce whisper warned me : “ She came to ask for a pull-over for one of her children who has had measles . . . and she says her name is Miss Jones. Don’t you think we ought to get on to the Moral Welfare Officer------? ” Had quite a job explaining (after due introductions had been made, and Nurse had departed with a pull-over) that she refers to all her cases in the same manner : “ One of my mothers,” “ one of my husbands,” and so on. Miss Newcome—in whom we have been unable, as yet, to discover any trace of a sense of humour— was only partially mollified. “ I do feel,” she said rather primly, “ that this method of expression is more than a trifle misleading.”
Had a letter today from a W.V.S. friend in Surrey whose village has hitherto lagged behind in recruitment for the Civil Defence Corps. Knowing that the one subject guaranteed to lure people from their homes is “ Local Rights of Way and Footpaths ” (about which feeling has run extremely high), a Public Meeting was advertised in the local Press . . . “ at which Civil Defence will also be discussed ”— and over 70 people attended. Having well and truly dealt with Rights of Way the audience, now thoroughly roused, responded with enthusiasm to the suggestion that there was equal urgency to join Civil Defence, and enrolment forms were handed round, completed and signed forthwith! “ Of course,” my friend admitted in a postscript, “ my being Chairman of the Parish Council helped a great deal in bringing about the meeting.”
Steamed Suet Pudding
In these days of short meat ration, make the most of any fat the butcher gives you. There is nothing to beat a good Steamed Suet Pudding, sweet or savoury and excellent for young and old.
Basic Recipe :
1 cup Breadcrumbs. 1/2 teasp. Salt.
1 cup Chopped Suet. 1/2 teasp. Baking Powder.
Water to mix.
Mix dry ingredients and mix to a stiff paste with the water. Roll out and use as desired. Steam for 1 1/2 hours but see that water is always boiling and never add water that is not boiling. When bowl is taken from water let it stand a few minutes before turning out the pudding.
Sugarless Sauce to serve with the above :
1 tablesp. Sweetened Condensed Milk.
1/2 pint water, thickened with wetted cornflour. Vary by adding chopped nuts, cherries, ginger or some wine.
Hints : Serve Vitamin D by way of using Cod Liver Oil instead of fat for all fish sauces.
If you want your meringues to look professional, include some Icing Sugar with the castor sugar.
Our Narrative Reports and correspondence files are strewn with the whimsy of some of the more creative of the WVS centre organisers over the years. And one of their favourite past times was including with their letters or little poems. These ranged in skill from the sublime to the downright awful, but below, for your delight is one of the most charming we have come across.
WVS – The Army Hitler Forgot
Has the question ever been put to you
Can you tell me what the WVS do?
Oh yes! Of course, they drive a car
Serve cups of tea from a canteen Bar
With such duties light, in a gentle way
They easily pass the livelong day.
No, no! They are wrong, and must be told
Of the different story we now unfold.
We Camouflage, “Make do and Mend”
Knit, Sew and Wedding Dresses lend
Rest Centres, Information and CAB
Red Cross messages, Salvage and VCP
Overseas Gifts for those “Bombed Out”
A boon to our country without a doubt
Meals for the Land Army, and Home Guard as well
National Savings the Exchequer to swell
Billeting, Hospitality, the Child’s Clothing Exchange
Are some of the activities within our range.
Take out school meals, rose hips collect
Try hard to fill in “Returns” correct.
Reports, Statistics, Forms One, Two and Three
Besides the Canteens and Cups of Tea.
Welfare for the forces is in daily request
Furnishing, Libraries, Mending socks and vests.
Whatever they ask we try to provide
To perform a “Miracle” is the WVS pride.
The housewives section do jobs without end
In lulls and Emergencies are the Warden’s Friend
With Demonstrations, Meetings and Exercises too
They are known to all by the cards “Red” and “Blue”.
In all Emergencies the WVS are there
Looking after the Homeless with Tender care.
We feed, we clothe and the Frightened Soothe
And being “Basically Trained” can trouble remove.
Our days are full with routine work
And the dullest job we never shirk
Yes, with willing hearts in the Isle of Wight
We “Stankonovite” from morn till night
And if our efforts can shorten the war
By just one day, well that’s worth working for
And if we are tired and weary, we don’t care a jot
For we are part of the “Army that Hitler Forgot”.
By Mrs S C Needham, county organiser for the Isle of Wight, October 1943
Posted by Matthew McMurray, Royal Voluntary Service Archivist at 09:00
Tuesday, 26 May 2015.
Land Army ,
Make do and mend,