Spivs and hoarders.
Now that we are in the second year of the war, rationing and shortages of just about everything has become normal. But there are still some people who always seem to have what-ever they needed. Stories are doing the rounds of some one who has been caught selling meat, butter or anything that should only have been ‘on the ration’.
For the first time ever large families like ours, were better off than smaller ones, at least as far as the rationing was concerned. Imagine a person living alone trying to manage on one egg or two ounces of butter a week, or even two or three people for that matter.
Sometimes we had as many as ten people on ‘the ration’ in our house, so we could have a reasonable joint of meat or a nice piece of Cheddar and such as that every week. I have said before that I can’t ever remember being hungry, for one thing we were given very good school dinners and even a small bottle of milk in the morning break. Another thing that kept us fed was that the dinner ladies came from Barker Road—Mrs. Frost and Mrs. White, they would give us seconds and even some treacle pudding from the back of the canteen when we were in the playground.
My mother started her working life as a kitchen maid, and learned to be a very good cook. Sunday dinner in our house was nothing short of a banquet. Although there was no proper table cloth, we did have all covered dishes for the vegetables. The joint —usually mutton—would be on a large oval serving dish with the roast potato’s arranged around it. Our pudding would most often be apple pie and custard, although pine apple rings or chunks and evaporated milk were my favourite.
Another thing that was quite common was ‘ration swapping’, for instance if someone didn’t drink tea they could swap their tea ration for cheese or something like that, some even sold their points, especially clothing coupons.
Most people were very honest, but if you had a bit of money there was always someone who could get you what you wanted, these were called ‘Spivs’. We all knew who they were but most people could not afford their prices so we were kept—probably unwillingly—on the right side of the law.
I was unknowingly a ‘runner’ for some of this law breaking, my sister’s husband Gordon—the bookie—was in the RAF and when he came home on leave, I was given a suitcase full of blankets. I had to take them up to a house in Staines Lane, I never got paid so I was probably not breaking the law. But I don’t know what I would have said if I was stopped by the Police, mind you I was only nine.
Besides the ‘Spivs’ there was another group of people who were not very popular, the hoarders, somehow or other these people managed to get their hands on something that was in short supply, instead of sharing their good luck they kept it dark. It would be quite obvious that they had more than they needed, but they would keep it for themselves rather than let anyone else have any.
A bit like Billionaires do today.