Interview with Joan Raettig


Interview with Joan Raettig


Joan Raettig (nee McGuire) was born in Hull and at the age of fourteen was evacuated to Scarborough, the day before war broke out. She experienced the bombing of Hull and spent nearly two years sleeping in an air raid shelter because they were fed up of getting up and down every night, due to the frequency of the bombing. She describes her life during this time, houses being flattened, shops that were bombed in the city relocating into museums and store rooms, her family’s experience of food and clothing rationing and how they managed during the war. At sixteen she studied horticulture and food production, before moving to Ascombe Bryan, and then returning to Hull. She met her husband in 1948, who was RAF ground personnel, they married in 1952 and settled and raised their family in Hull.








00:56:28 audio recording

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PL: Okay my name is Pam Locker and I am in the home of Mrs. Joan Raettig of *** and if I can just start by saying an enormous thank you on behalf of Bomber Command for agreeing to have a conversation I know you feel a little nervous about this but er it just means all the more that you are prepared to give us your er interview. So if we start can you just tell me a little bit about your family and you know where you lived and the sort of the start before the war?
JR: Well I lived in Hull well I was going to say all my life until the war I was at school when the war broke out I was evacuated I believe it was the day before war broke out it hadn’t actually been declared when we were all evacuated.
PL: So what school did you go to in Hull?
JR: I went to The Boulevard I was evacuated from The Boulevard and at the beginning of the war Kingston High School opened and when I came back from being an evacuee I started at Kingston High School which was a brand new school.
PL: So how old were you at the start of the war?
JR: Just fourteen.
PL: And did you have brothers and sisters?
JR: I had one brother who was four years younger than me we lived in Anlaby Park.
PL: And did you was he evacuated as well to Scarborough?
JR: He was evacuated with a friend to a grandmother’s who lived in Bridlington just for a short while, he came home again as everybody did because nothing happened.
PL: So is in fact the phoney war at the very start?
JR: Yes the phoney war when they thought we were all going to be bombed and everything and nothing happened so I can remember being in a crocodile at the station with a label round my neck, my gas mask on my shoulder, a carrier bag full of tins of bully beef and food, a suitcase which I can’t remember what it was but it would be just an ordinary suitcase with our clothes in, with my school friends and I suppose two thirds of our class.
PL: Can you remember how you felt you know were you frightened?
JR: Well it was just strange that’s all I can say I was with my friends we didn’t know where we were going we finished up at Scarborough and we went to I suppose you would call it more or less a boarding house it was a small hotel and I think it was near Valley Bridge and I think they called the area Grosvenor Crescent and it was just my class one teacher and I think there were two of the mothers, and when we arrived the residents were still there, I went into a little room with a friend with a three quarter bed and we stayed in that because the residents were in the process of signing out it must have been the weekend mm.
PL: Do you know how many of your class went?
JR: Ah may be twenty twenty of us.
PL: Eighteen?
JR: Eighteen.
PL: And can you remember what it was called the place you went to?
JR: No I can’t I‘m sorry, and then we eventually um got organised with school and we went to school part time at the Scarborough Boys Grammar School which was under Valley Bridge, I can’t remember whether we went mornings or they went mornings but we did half a day each at the Grammar School.
PL: So what did you do with the other half day?
JR: Ooh went into Scarborough went on the beach wandered about I don’t remember doing anything very organised, and then after may be a couple of months we moved er a lot of the children had gone back home and we all moved all the girls from the school moved into the Astoria Hotel on the south side over the Italian Gardens and all the boys from the school went into the Adelphi which was one or two doors away and the same place and we all went to the Boys Grammar School part time, er I can vaguely remember some of the food it wasn’t too bad but um it wasn’t very inspiring [laughs], and I can remember the winter because it was soo cold, I don’t know where we got a toboggan from but we went tobogganing down the Italian Gardens there was a statue of Eros in the pond part way down and I know that wore a school cap and scarf, the bathing pool which was down below was empty and we went roller skating in that but during that really I don’t we went home at Christmas and then we came back in the snow the train got stuck outside the station and eventually we got into the station and got back to the hotel and there was about eight or nine inches of snow everywhere and then the pipes in the hotel froze and burst we had no heating, no hot water, and we were soo cold we went to bed with all our clothes and our coats on [laughs], I can’t remember how long that lasted eventually it warmed up [laughs].
PL: So was this [coughs] was this 1940?
JR: Yes it would be after Christmas it was the beginning of 1940.
PL: So everybody snuggled up together?
JR: Yesss we just piled everything on top of us and that and we went to bed with our coats on cos it well you can you imagine snow here yes I remember that mm.
PL: So how did you get to school when it was so snowy did you have to trudge through the snow?
JR: Well you walked it was life you didn’t get taken to school in the car you went on your bike of we walked we walked I suppose we walked in crocodile mm that was virtually my life then I presume it was but I don’t remember very much about I know we used to go to the castle we used to walk for miles and we used to go and spend our pocket money I used to buy a Fry’s chocolate cream in Woolworths every Saturday, and just occasionally our parents came over at a weekend and they used to take us to Rowntrees I think it was Café I think it was in Westborough.
PL: What sort of things were you given to eat what was your diet like?
JR: Perpetual stews the only thing I can remember having for my tea was bread and jam and er one of those cheese triangles.
PL: What wrapped up in foil?
JR: Yeah one of those and bread and jam and I think we had porridge for breakfast but I don’t I do know that when I got home I wouldn’t eat cauliflower so we must have had cauliflower every meal I can’t remember much about the food, but I do remember when we were in the first hotel that our teacher went to the chip shop for us [laughs] one night and she went for how every many twenty separate penneths of chips, apart from that I can’t remember a lot, oh there was no petrol much to be had and I had a friend whose father was an undertaker Robinsons Undertakers at the corner of Boothferry Road they were there and another friend whose father had er a grocery and beer off store at the corner of Delapole Avenue Prettys don’t suppose you’ve ever heard we three were friends for years and petrol was short so Mr. Robinson sent his funeral car [laughs] to pick us up to take us to the station after Christmas so that’s how we got to the station to go back I don’t remember coming home at all I do remember our air raid shelter they came before the war started to dig out holes in everybody’s garden round us and shelters we were on a clay basin all the holes filled with water so we couldn’t have them, we had a shed attached to the back of our house there was the kitchen, the coal house toilet, and then a shed built on and my father got the shed reinforced with a concrete roof, sandbags which we filled they’d been barley bags and when it rained all the barley grew so we had a green wall um.
PL: Now whereabouts was this in Hull where did you actually live?
JR: Anlaby Park Woodland End.
PL: So you did ever spend anytime in the air raid shelter?
JR: Too much eventually we go so fed up getting up and down every night sometimes two or three times a night they put bunk beds in the air raid shelter for us and I think we slept in there every night for oh maybe nearly two years and if the all clear went after midnight we didn’t have to go to school next morning and my mother hung a calendar on the wall and we didn’t have to go to school she turned it the other way round so we knew whether we had to get up or not in the morning [laughs] I think we had a little electric fire in there we had a kettle and we had my parents had chairs and my grandma used to come down to our house every night because she was on her own she only lived at the other end of the road she didn’t have a shelter so she came to us and that was you know just life you went to school during the day.
PL: So it would have been your mum and dad your brother and yourself and your granny?
JR: Yes
PL: All in the shed?
JR: All in the shelter well it was I don’t know it was enlarged it wasn’t that tiny we got bunks along the side.
PL: So was this when you came home for sort of ?
JR: When I came home from Scarborough that’s how I lived.
PL: Right.
JR: Originally we got in and out of bed every night until we were sick of it and then we slept in the shelter I think we were sleeping in the shelter before the blitz because the sirens used to go every time any bombers came over to go to the other side of the country and went again when they came back sometimes they threw spare bombs out on us on the way back sometimes it was a particular raid on us you never knew.
PL: So did you experience a raid when you were in the shelter?
JR: The air raid shelter yes we had four Ack Ack Guns in Costello Playing Fields [?] just over the other side of the road to us and before the end of the war they put for more there but they never really went into action they tested them well they came round and said they were going to test the guns open all your doors and windows and to report any damage but the four original ones used to go into action.
PL: So was there any damage your house to your family house?
JR: Not really we got a bit of ceiling down but we were very very lucky, my father used to do fire watch and he was also in the Home Guard he used to go onto the Ack Ack Guns at Hedon once a week and he worked in the Engineers Department in the Guild Hall and he used to be on what they call Centre Control I think he did that about once a week where they organised the rescue parties after each raid and he was on duty one night and he got a report through to say a land mine had dropped in Anlaby Park and in actual fact mother was doing fire watch that night because he was in Centre Control they dropped a load of incendiaries just inside Costello Playing Fields and they had to bend back railings to get through to put the incendiaries out well a friend who was he’d been a skipper he was on a minesweepers he was home on leave and he managed to bend the railings and get through and then she came dashing back into the air raid shelter and said ‘cover your heads’ she’d seen a land mine drifting across the park which of course there were no obstacles do you know the area? It winds across Anlaby Park Road just cleared the houses in Anlaby Park Road and dropped in Ropeby Park and it didn’t do a great deal of damage it fell in a field but me dad didn’t know that you know he was having a fit he thought it had dropped in the middle of our area.
PL: So was this day time or night time?
JR: That was night time she’d seen the shadow this box drifting across I can remember they dropped a stick of bombs a couple of streets from us and I was in the shelter and we were counting them because we were told you never heard the one that hit you so we were counting ‘one, two, three, four’ and that’s it, a lot of this was fun do you realise [laughs] because we were much younger at that age then they all know too much now they’ve grown up before there born.
PL: So how old were you when you came back from Scarborough?
JR: Fourteen I was just fourteen when we went.
PL: So so how long were you there sort of six months?
JR: Well only probably six months because we went September well the blitz was in May wasn’t it and I was back for that I mean I can’t remember what order these things happened in I can remember when was I going then I don’t know do you know Plantation Drive Anlaby Road well one night a bomb dropped right at the end of Plantation Drive on Anlaby Road I don’t think it was a double carriage way then but it dropped right in the middle Plantation Drive had trees down the middle and it went so deep it burst the mains and everything like we usually had you know no gas no electricity but this had thrown the clay up and everything so high that the people there was a bungalow at one side and houses the other they couldn’t get out of their gates and there was a row of shops opposite it broke one window in these shops but it did untold damage down below [laughs] there were all sorts of different types of bombs we had to clamber over all this, I don’t know how the buses ran but somehow they did they got things going again so you weren’t stuck in an inch of snow or anything I mean things just got going I mean in those days the trains had snowploughs on the front they were steam trains.
PL: So when you lost your electricity and your water?
JR: Well you just waited for it to come on again.
PL: There was also a sort of faith that it would?
JR: Everybody helped each other out if gas was off if you’d got electricity you helped your neighbours and of course we had black out some of our windows were permanently blacked out the bay windows at the front all the little ones all the transoms were permanently blacked out and er I think two of the big ones were blacked out permanently and then me father made shutters with bits of lino and wood that fitted In the others, I keep forgetting about all these you said it would come back, and I can remember one day my brother was in the garden we’d come home from school it was apart half past four five o’clock teatime and he suddenly said to my mother ‘oh that’s a Dornier up there’ and she said ‘don’t be daft’ and then Ack Ack Guns went off and there was no air raid warning I think I don’t know what happened it was quite low you could tell what it was I saw it I didn’t know it was a Dornier but he did.
PL: So it was a strange thing because it sounds like when there was no raids you were sent away you were evacuated?
JR: And then we came back.
PL: So how did how that how did that happen why did it happen like that do you know do you remember?
JR: Well I mean some people stayed away the whole war evacuated but we just didn’t a lot came back what else we had big air raid shelters round the school field and I can remember going in one night when it was nearly time to go home we had to all go into the air raid shelters and forms along the side great long brick surface shelters we were back there we had allotments behind the school and we got so fed up we gradually filtered out of the door and went home I don’t know how long it was before the teachers around there were no children in the school in the shelter [laughs] but we just went home we just got on our bikes and went home.
PL: Did you get into trouble for that?
JR: I don’t remember, we had a barrage balloon on the school field, I’m getting lost I don’t know.
PL: So so moving time on a little bit as you are going through your teenage years during the war what did you do for fun what did you do for with your friends what sort of things did you do?
JR: Well we just sort of played I mean we were children then weren’t like the teenagers today we used to play cricket in the street we had a bogie we’d made and you could go up and down the street on it.
PL: You had a what made?
JR: A bogie, you know four wheels with a plank and we put a sail on it my brother would probably make that and we used to go to the pictures.
PL: Where would you go where was local to you?
JR: Anywhere we used to go into Hull was a bit older then used to go to the Carlton sometimes you just lived life you didn’t stop you went shopping in what shops were there Thornton Barleys [? ] finished up in Albion Street Museum and the dresses were on the mm I don’t know some of the exhibits that were still left although most of them were put in storage somewhere and then that was bombed and they moved into the what eventually was the Gas Showrooms at the corner of Storey Street, Hammonds was bombed their shop was the store room in West Street.
PL: So I guess you’d go in to do shopping and you weren’t quite sure what was going to meet you when you went?
JR: Well no not always I mean you got used to seeing houses flattened and walls gone and bedroom curtains flapping about in it was just life.
PL: Tell me a little bit about rationing?
JR: Well I didn’t have the worry of it we ate reasonably well we they dug up all the spare bits of ground there were tennis courts in Anlaby Park which were all dug up and my father had an allotment there so we had plenty of veg we had three chickens you gave up your egg ration to have your own chickens and we always had a stewpot of chicken food on our coke boiler in the kitchen we used to do quite well with eggs from our three hens they had names Jane, Tilly and Beth.
PL: So they did live on the allotment or did they live in your garden?
JR: No in the garden my father had kept birds before the war so we had we kept these three hens in the bottom of the aviary and then my brother started keeping rabbits with his pal they bred rabbits he had I don’t know what make Chinchillas or something and Rex say it were Rex and his pal had a Flemish Giant and they used to breed them and they were only about ten years old at that time and we used to kill them to eat and the meat was jolly good and one Christmas somebody knocked at our door to see if we could let them have a rabbit because they’d nothing for Christmas dinner I think I seem to remember going up to Swanland to a farm for a goose one year for our Christmas dinner and my brother and his pal had a tandem that they’d bought between them and he and I went on this tandem he must have been a bit older then and we had to ride up Tramby Lane to Swanland and it was foggy and of course there were no lights and coming home he turned round to me and said ‘can you remember where the road bends’.
PL: And who was carrying the goose?
JR: Me I suppose I was on the back, it wasn’t great fun being around in the black out.
PL: So did everything stop at night and everything happened inside and nobody went outy?
JR: No it didn’t stop at night you could go to the pictures in the winter but I mean there were no headlights on anything no streetlights you had what you call a pencil torch with a tiny little thing like that on it that you shone on the floor if it wasn’t moonlight or starlight and I don’t know what else [laughs].
PL: What about things like you know clothes and?
JR: Well you made do I knitted so many striped jumpers I lost count you pulled all the old ones out and kept all the good wool washed it wound into hanks and washed it and then wound it into balls and knitted it up again and I can remember knitting a jumper with about two rows of each colour you had to knit the back and the front together to match them we could get an abwool [?] which was seaboot wool[?] because we were a port the fisherman always had these thick abwool jumpers, socks and you could buy one ply, two ply, three ply and we could get that without coupons and it was oily but when you washed it was lovely and soft and warm some poor children had to wear vests of it which were really itchy I had a cardigan made of it and later on much later on at the end of the war I made a rug with abwool three ply clipped on canvas and when it was washed it was like sheepskin I had that for years after we were married I still had that.
PL: And what about shoes I mean was it sort of handing shoes around?
JR: Sorry.
PL: Shoes you know you were growing and you know children growing?
JR: Well we managed to get enough shoes I never went without shoes I won’t say we had any choice probably lace ups and sandals and that was your lot welly boots ‘cos of course I worked on the land after the first two or three years of the war I trained in horticulture and then I had to stay on the land I wasn’t in the Land Army.
PL: So how old were you then when you went to train for horticulture?
JR: I went to Waterperry I think it was in the end of 1942 for two years I’ve got some photographs of that if you want to look at them they’re here.
PL: So what sort of things did you?
JR: It was a practical place so we did all the hard work and we were on food production as well, I’ll show you the photographs [looks for photographs] so this is 1944.
PL: So that’s Waterperry House?
JR: Yes that’s where we all lived the students it’s still on the go now but not at it’s attached to some research.
PL: And whereabouts is it?
JR: Outside Oxford in a village called Waterperry this is the grounds and that’s my friend [showing photographs] that’s how we cut the grass [laughs] one pulling and one pushing didn’t have any petrol mowers.
PL: So it’s like the cutters of the mower with one person pushing and one person pulling?
JR: Yeah that border it’s still on the go there you are we worked in a walled garden with the coldframes there’s some of us in the greenhouse there [showing photographs] only were about ten students there and that is the girl I met last year at my ninetieth birthday and I haven’t seen her for seventy two years.
PL: Goodness what’s her name?
JR: Mary Spiller she’d been on television on Gardeners World and unbeknown to me Susan got in touch with her again because I don’t know if you are interested in gardening did you watch the Christine Walkden programmes taken from the air and she landed at the different gardens well she landed at Waterperry because it is still a very well known garden and Mary Spiller was the oh dear what do they call them not the curator the.
PL: The head gardener?
JR: No no no she was far too old for that she was ninety mm custodian sorry my brain is slow she was the custodian and Christine Walkden have you seen her one of the gardeners I think she’s a Yorkshire girl very blunt and she interviewed Mary there, Mary did go back and work there for a time mm then I think she left but she was virtually head gardener and she developed it up quite a lot after the war and she’s just done another programme Susan my daughter had been in touch with her something I think it’s going to be Inside Out or Outside In or whatever they call the programme eventually.
PL: So your job here then was to?
JR: We were practical students but we did get a certificate at the end of our two years we did a certain amount of academic work as well but it was a mainly practical course as you can see that’s Mary doing celery trenches can you imagine doing that now I mean this was the old way of gardening.
PL: So looking at the photograph with the lady with her spade digging an enormously deep trench?
JR: That’s a celery trench earthing celery up and you had to be so precise everything had to be spade deep and be in dead straight rows can you see in the distance there all the [unclear] fruit trees along that wall and there were fan peaches we ate quite well there because every misshaped fruit that couldn’t be sold in the shop we had a shop in the marketplace I think it opened two or three times a week we got so we ate well.
PL: So guessing the plan here was that had the war continued you would have then become a land girl?
JR: No I never went in the Land Army there was no need I just had to stay on food production.
PL: So it was all about food production?
JR: There were land girls working here as well I was here
PL: What’s the difference between land girls and food production were they more like farmers?
JR: Yes they could be I didn’t do farming when I left Waterperry I went to Bishop Burton which was another college it’s still there now and we took over the I went into the orchard oh this is still that’s in the vineries turning grapes that’s Mary again, that’s me in the tomato house, she lived in Hessle Jo Cockins she was in charge of fruits, I think that’s me planting out something there, and that was the principal on the tractor we had that we had can you see the mowing all this and that was a mini tractor, now that was another girl Valerie Finison she went on there’s several plants now named after her she raised Alpines I didn’t stick to it I got married and now these are getting further on now, that’s Ascombe Bryan in the fruit trees they had a trial orchard there at Ascombe Bryan and I was the only non-land girl oh no I think the foreman’s daughter was there we didn’t keep up the trials with the fruit but we had to grow the fruit and spray it and do everything and the land girl I lived with eventually in the village we lived in the coachman’s cottage attached to the hall which was just a sort of one room downstairs and you went up a little staircase through a door and there was a bedroom upstairs open to all the haylofts and we lived I lived there for two or three years cooked on a primus stove when the and we had a coke stove that heated it had a tap at the side that heated the water and if it was cold we could put a stew on the top of that and leave it all day so it was there when we came home there was one bus a week to the village everywhere else we had to walk right down the lane from the village to the main York Tadcaster Road.
PL: So how far was that?
JR: Don’t know can’t remember a mile probably quite a long road not very good at distances and if I’d been home at the weekend and had to get the bus back I had to try to find a white gate in the hedge so that threw any light that was showing from it to know that was where I got off the bus and I had to walk down this country lane.
PL: So when you when you decided that you wanted to did you decide yourself you wanted to go into food production were there choices that you were given?
JR: Oh no there was no choice I would have had to go in the forces.
PL: So literally from sort of sixteen how old would you have been then?
JR: I left I think it was 1942 Mary and I were talking when I went so I was there two years so York 1946 so I was still at York then but I think I went did I say that was 1944 when I was at Waterperry so I must have been there 42 to 44 and then I stayed at York at Ascombe Bryan well I was there on VE Day I don’t know whether I was there on VJ Day I think I was.
PL: So four teenagers then you’re looking at groups of young men or young women the choice would be food production?
JR: Well they were conscientious objectors the men who worked at York.
PL: Right.
JR: And the foreman he was older but the men were conscientious objectors or women and we got village women out to pick fruit there was only a few of us worked there quite a big area and the land girl and I we put on an exhibition of apples in the Mortimer Museum in Hull English apples were brought to through to Hull to show people what English apples were and they didn’t believe us we stayed here a week with them this big display in the Mortimer Museum and then we took it to Leeds she came from Leeds so she lived at with my mum you know at home here so when we were in Hull and when we went to Leeds we lived there.
PL: So the Mortimer Museum what sort of a museum was that can you remember?
JR: No I can’t remember because I mean it wasn’t there it was all put in storage somewhere it was City Hall I think I don’t remember what the exhibits were there because it was just an empty space to us when we put this big exhibition up I mean she and I didn’t do it on our own we had a crowd of us did it.
PL: So moving on to the end of the war and being told that the end of the war did you celebrate you must have been?
JR: I went home for VE Day and I can remember our old gang who weren’t still in the forces me brother was too young he did his National Service after we all joined forces and we walked down Hessle Road and all the terraces had bonfires in I can’t remember doing anything particular at home but we walked all around to see the celebrations at night with all these bonfires I think there was a big bonfire at the back of us ‘cos there used to be an area between Pickering Road and Plantation Drive Woodland End there had been a brick pond and it had been filled in with black sand from radiator works and I think we had a big bonfire on there and then we just went back to York Ascombe Bryan.
PL: So was it a big sort of overnight celebration?
JR: Err yes just a one off but I mean loads of our pals were still in the forces.
PL: So did you go into town did you go into Hull?
JR: No
PL: You stayed on the Hessle Road?
JR: No we just went round Hessle Road area and then walked round and came back but I mean most of that area had been flattened, I can remember going into Hull after the blitz I mean I was in the air raid shelter all the blitz so we didn’t know much about it so we could hear walls crashing and pumps going and it was all on fire we put our heads out of the shelter it was one big red mass and my grandmother lived in Brid and she could see it from there and of course they could see it from Holland and they asked for volunteers I was at the school then ‘cos they asked us for volunteers for children to go messages if we had bikes and report to the Guild Hall I think I got as far as what was the Cecil Corner then and you couldn’t get any further everywhere was rubble, hosepipes, fire engines, and I never got any further, but you somehow or other just went on to say it was life I was very very lucky that none of us were killed a lot of our school pals just went from school to the forces I don’t know my husband was working by then but he went in at eighteen he did six years in the RAF I didn’t ‘cos I didn’t know him until 1948 so I can’t really say much about him.
PL: So what tell me briefly what happened after the war so did you stay down in Oxford or did you come back, what did you do, how did you meet your husband?
JR: Oddly enough at the printers in Hull, I gave up horticulture I did work in horticulture for a while but it wasn’t like it is now there was nothing doing they were no garden centres or they were only market gardens if I’d done it now it would have been a totally different thing but I never liked being indoors but I finished up working at Harlands Printers and he was leaving to start his own business as I was as I went into the office and that was it we just met and I think it was that was 1948 we got married in June 1952.
PL: So he was in the Air Force you say?
JR: Yes he was in Bomber Command ground crew he was at Lissett a lot of the time Rufforth he started in Driff and one of his first postings was in Driffield I don’t know where he was he was down south some of the time but he finished up at Lissett he was there for a few years.
PL: So did you your family presumably stayed in Hull then?
JR: Yes.
PL: Lived in Hull and then when you got married did you come back and live in Hull what happened?
JR: Well I was in Hull then I was living at home again by then ‘cos you lived at home you didn’t go get a flat there was nowhere to live there were no houses when we got married we lived off we lived on Queens Road behind the cobblers shop I don’t know how we managed to get it we rented this place there was a range in the kitchen well you well I suppose what you would call a kitchen it wasn’t much bigger than that toilet and lobby there you went through from the kitchen where the range was and the range had a water boiler and an oven on it the water boiler leaked and I kept firewood in it and the oven I had nappies in it when I got my first when I got Susan my daughter [laughs] those iron fireplaces gave out the most wonderful heat the bars came out we had those iron fireplaces with bars in the what was the dining room and we had the room over the shop but we didn’t use it lot I mean we had no bathroom if we wanted a bath we went to our parents the toilet was in the backyard with the coalhouse.
PL: So whereabouts was it in Hull?
JR: Pardon.
PL: Where was the house?
JR: Queens Road it’s now a parking lot with bins on it at the corner of Elves Street [laughs] well it was a terrible old place that we lived in I mean we finished up with a bucket in the bedroom to catch the water coming through the roof we were so lucky to get a place on our own you can’t appreciate do you realise that over ninety percent of the houses in Hull were either damaged or demolished there was no leaving home and getting somewhere to live so we lived there for a year or two and then we moved into Walmsley Street.
PL: Do you remember how it’s interesting to hear how buildings sort of virtually started you know with ninety percent of the buildings gone I mean was it temporary accommodation?
JR: Well they were all patched up but not like today when everybody wants their own space you lived at home my husband lived with his parents till he got married they were away all the war his parents he never saw them because his father was a sea captain he finished up in the Suez he was on Shell Tankers and he was ferrying water to the troops up and down the Suez with him being a captain his mother was able to go on trips with him and they’d had a family inquest just before the war started when it was we didn’t think it would materialise should she go on this trip to Malta with him or shouldn’t she and they decided yes go and she never came back couldn’t get back.
PL: It must have been a terrible time?
JR: Yes well she experienced a few dos I think she finished up in South Africa and he was in the Suez and then I don’t know what it was after the war when they came home the boys got my husband had two brothers one of them was stationed down south he was up here the other brother was in the Navy and they got telegrams from both parents they were both landing in England on the same day one at Liverpool and one at Southampton so the brother down south met his dad I think it was [unclear] and my husband met his mother, and you mentioned rations now they came back and had to get ration cards and things ‘cos I mean they hadn’t lived here for the whole of the war and they said to the kids ‘don’t know what you are moaning about we’ve got plenty to eat’ so what had they done they had eaten a month’s ration in a week [laughs] had to go back on hands and knees to ask for another ration card ‘cos they’d no food left that was one of our funny stories ‘what you are moaning about we’ve got plenty’.
PL: So what did you get for a month?
JR: I know we had our own resources with our butter rationing and so much marg and mother took so much out for cooking and we had a flag in with our names on and there was also grandma’s saucer she had a flag on they were all in the sideboard and every meal these came out and dried bread was put on the table you had to make it last and we used to sit and look at grandma and she’d say ‘oh all right just one piece’ and my father wasn’t allowed any sugar in he had to have saccharin’s because mother said ‘no you are not having the sugar’ she needed it for odd bits of baking she could do or she made she made pastry with liquid paraffin once, oh you’ve no idea, that dried egg was revolting.
PL: How was the liquid paraffin pastry?
JR: Oh we never knew we just ate what we got given we weren’t bothered I don’t know she used all liquid paraffin she probably made the fat I just don’t know I know she told me she’d put some in.
PL: And what about meat?
JR: Oh we didn’t get much meat sausages were nearly all bread and if mother used to go shopping on her bike and she saw a van which she knew had sausages on it she followed it to get in the queue at the beginning to get some.
PL: So how did she know it had sausages on it?
JR: Well you got to know where they were delivering to they were all little vans they weren’t great big container things like this they were just little vans that used to go to the shops and you had to register with your butcher I mean I was rationed when we got married I registered with the butcher and I registered with the maypole that was on the go then I can’t remember how much I had it’s no good I just can’t remember but er I say we had.
PL: So was there a bit of a black market?
JR: Oh yes but my father wouldn’t entertain it so if mother got anything ‘don’t say anything to your father’ don’t and that was another thing I don’t know how she managed it but the butcher got her some sheets and she said ‘don’t tell your dad’ ‘cos they were off coupons and sheets were on coupons we had sheets that were turned sides to middle pillowcases from edges of sheets everything was used.
PL: So it was recycling?
JR: Until there was nothing left and I mean I made up all our clothes anyway I made them after we were married I made all the children’s clothes.
PL: So after the war finished it must have felt like the war might have been finished and people were coming home and there was still enormous hardship?
JR: Yes there was still big hard big shortages of everything I mean we never saw a banana and oranges were reserved for the babies there was orange juice for babies and rosehip syrup what I remember and dried milk national dried milk but I mean you just forget it I can’t remember it all.
PL: Well that was fascinating thank you so much for sharing your memories with us, is there anything else at all that you would like to be recorded?
JR: Well I don’t know what you want to know [laughs] I I just can’t think of anymore I’ve jumped about a bit.
PL: Thank you very very much indeed.
JR: Is it of any interest then?
PL: Absolutely.



Pam Locker, “Interview with Joan Raettig,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed March 4, 2024,

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