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Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Backyard industry during WWII

My father with his sister and baby brother.
This is an excerpt from my father's memoir. This section of the memoir, which was completed in 2002, details backyard industry during WWII when my father was a boy. The picture shows my father as a slightly older young man, after the war had finished. I am posting this part of his memoir because it shows what can be done in regular suburban backyards when there is a perceived need for such industry.

In response to a government mobilizing for war, suburban home-owners were entreated to grow food on every available square inch, [and my mother, Phyllis] was determined to do her share. Father would have nothing to do with that, "…ground is too gravelly. Nothing will grow…etc" was father's response, so Mum and the kids started digging and planting and making a big mess as she had no experience or knowledge of gardening or farming.

Eventually, after many arguments and acrimonious refusals father got involved and eventually took over the garden. In time he turned the property into a glorious, miniature self-supporting kitchen garden estate.

Early in the war rationing coupons were required for shop-purchased items and our garden became an important food supply. Mum started a chook yard by buying day-old chicks which were cared for in a box in the kitchen. The population of fowls grew and a chicken run arranged at the Western end of the back yard with a coop at each end so it could be divided into two: [one] for layers and [one for] birds for the table. We sold eggs, boilers and roasters, chickens plucked and ready-for-the-pot. We acquired the first of many fine, strong young roosters so that we could grow our own day-old chicks. We incubated fertilized eggs and [nurtured] the chicks, all of which endeavour took place in the [warm] kitchen-family-room.

Father also grew flowers [and] planted an orchard, and mother sowed the seeds of herbs and vegetables, then thinned and planted to get optimum production. We always grew more than we needed so we sold fruit and vegetables, fresh and bottled, salted and preserved, jam and chutney. She and Sally also knitted and crocheted jumpers and baby clothes, gloves and mittens, socks and scarves, tops and skirts and even full dresses.

Because ration coupons went further if garments were hand-made the Brighton gentry would provide the wool and the pattern and the da Silva women would knit, make-up, attend fittings etc, and charge accordingly. They were much in demand and always had a waiting list. These were the days of cash-only - credit cards didn't exist - it was a cottage industry and as we had no telephone there was much walking, running and biking around to complete transactions, ask and answer written notes, questions and answers, and making appointments for fittings. Sometimes there would be several customers calling at once, especially at weekends and after school when Sally would be at home, [and] much tea was drunk.

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