Early Days, 1954 Part Two – Rationing, Bananas and a First Car

I first started this blog in November 2009 and I called it ‘The Age of Innocence’ and I intended it to be a look back over the first twenty years or so of my life by examining some of the key events of the years that were making the big news.

The blog was a slow starter, in the first month the statistics show six views increasing to nine in December.  On the basis of these figures it is fair to assume then that not many people have read my early posts so I have decided that ten years since first publication I will go back and review them and repost:

1954 Banana Rationing

“Yes, we have no bananas
We have-a no bananas today
We’ve string beans, and onions
Cabashes, and scallions,
And all sorts of fruit and say
We have an old fashioned tomato
A Long Island potato But yes, we have no bananas
We have no bananas today”

This seems difficult to believe now but it was only in 1954, the year that I was born, that war time rationing in Britain was officially ended.

It began during World-War-Two in January 1940 when due to severe food shortages and heavy convoy losses in the North Atlantic, bacon, butter and sugar were rationed and this was followed soon after by meat, tea, jam, biscuits, breakfast cereals, cheese, eggs, milk and canned fruit.  As the Second-World-War progressed, most kinds of food came to be rationed along with clothing and petrol.

My parents were issued with a ration card for me but never had to use it because it all stopped three weeks after I was born on 4th July. It might have gone on longer but for the work of Gwilym Lloyd George, the son of David Lloyd George, who was the Minister of Food from 1951 to 1954 and insisted that the Government prioritise the end of rationing.

The very last food item to be released from the shackles of rationing was bananas, which for me was quite a significant event.

My Dad loved bananas and I could never quite understand why but I suppose he was only twenty-two in 1954 and hadn’t had the pleasure of the bendy yellow fruit for fifteen years or so.  He had been only thirteen when the war finished and in fact it is entirely possible I suppose that he had never had a banana before in his life.  In war time Britain people could grow fruit and vegetables in the back garden while they were ‘digging for victory’ but there was absolutely no chance of course of growing tropical bananas.

1954 Bananas

Except, and this is interesting, between 1943 and 1958 bananas were grown for export in Iceland in giant greenhouses powered by geothermal power.  Interesting because bananas grow best about 15° north and south of the equator and Iceland is 60° north and despite the benefit of geothermal power the reduced levels of sunlight meant that the fruit took two years to ripen.

The return of the banana in England was hailed as a watershed moment in history heralding an end to austerity and to the curse of the ration book.  The Labour government even instigated a national banana day.

My Dad liked all sorts of strange banana combinations, weirdest of all being banana sandwiches on brown bread with sugar, but he was also very fond of chopped bananas with custard.  Personally I’ve never been that keen on bananas at all (I don’t like the smell or the horrid mushy texture) and I try and avoid anywhere that serves banana split for sweet course, but this rationing fact explains a lot about my Dad’s unusual dietary preferences.

1954 Banana Sandwich

Once a week we all had to have bananas for a sweet until one day when I was about fifteen or so and maybe after listening to a Bob Dylan protest song, or maybe Donovan, I could take it no longer and I refused to eat them.  Dad was a good natured person of unnatural even temperament but on this occasion he became a crazy man and this was the only time I can remember him getting really upset with me but I stood my ground and after he had severely chastised me and refused to let me leave the table I think he ate them up for me because he liked them so much.  That was a win-win situation!

At about the same time Dad used to turn his nose up at a chip-butty and found this quite unacceptable and banned the practice at the dinner table as though it was something equivalent to snorting heroin, which for a man who would slap a banana between two slices of bread was always a mystery to me.

1954 chip butty

Interesting Banana facts:

Bananas are the most popular fruit in the UK with Britons eating an average of between 25 and 30lbs of fruit each year; more than double the amount consumed 15 years ago. Annual UK sales are at a record £750m, representing more than a quarter of all fruit sales.

There are about 120 calories in an average banana, they are an important source of potassium and are one of the healthiest fruits. Vitamins and minerals in a single banana are A and a full range of B vitamins with Thiamine, Riboflavin, Niacin, vitamin B6, and of Folic Acid.  There is also vitamin C, with minerals Calcium, Magnesium, with trace amounts of iron and zinc.

In an average year we (in the UK) now buy three and a half billion bananas, relegating the native apple into a poor second place.

By one measure we apparently spend more money on bananas than any other supermarket item apart from petrol and lottery tickets, and more than 95% of UK households buy them every week.

Since 1954 the British Government has had occasion to issue ration coupons one final time.  This was in 1973 in response to the oil crisis when OPEC proclaimed an embargo and there was a real possibility of supplies running short.  Fortunately this never happened but the tokens were issued all the same.

1954 Rations

It didn’t bother me at that time, I didn’t get my first car until three years later.

1954 First Car

A flame red Hillman Avenger, top specification GL, 1500cc, registration WRW 366J, which featured four round headlights internal bonnet release, two-speed wipers, brushed nylon seat trim (previously never used on British cars), reclining front seats (very important), hockey stick rear light cluster and a round dial dashboard with a rev counter.

In this car I did hundreds of pounds worth of damage to other people’s vehicles because it had an inconveniently high back window which made reversing a bit of a challenge for a short person like me.

Hillman Avenger

 

46 responses to “Early Days, 1954 Part Two – Rationing, Bananas and a First Car

  1. The important thing to know about bananas is that they have a clearly delineated optimal alimentary window before and after which they are — essentially — inedible.

    . . . except Apple Bananas. Living in Hawaii has forever ruined “regular” bananas for me. Compared to Apple Bananas, regular bananas are flavorless tubes of cardboard. Plus, Apple Bananas can be eaten quite ripe (with a blackened peel) and they are still firm and flavorful.

    . . . I do miss them so, the Apple Bananas. I’ve had a few regular bananas while traveling and my soul cries out in anguish . . . or, it would if I had one. Soul, that is.

    I like bananas in my cereal, as a snack, with ice cream, in smoothies. But, again, I don’t know what I’m going to do while away from Apple Bananas.

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  2. My first car was a 1965 Chevrolet Impala (used) . . . but I most cherish the memory of the car I learned to drive in . . .

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is some car, love the tail fins. When I was a boy I had a collection of model cars, first they were British made Dinky Toys which were rather basic and then along came Corgi with feature interiors, opening bonnets and a replica engine inside. There was a full range of US cars and I know for certain that I had a Chevrolet Impala, but my favourite was the Highway Patrol Chevrolet Bel Air.

      Thanks for adding this memory to the post.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Good grief, I clearly remember banana sandwiches with sugar on and ……. sometimes with condensed milk spread on them! Condensed milk, what the heck is that! I love chip butties too, but yours look rather disheveled with haphazard chips quite unregimented. Straight lines please! I remember ration books too! My first car was a Morris Traveller, wooden bits on it, dark green, no synchromesh on first gear which had me stalling many a time going up 1 in 3 Lake District hills. Interesting post, memories worth having.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I remember the Morris Traveller, it was a good looking car.

      Your version of the banana sandwich sounds terrible.

      A speciality in Hull is a pattie, served in every fish and chip shop, which is deep fried mashed potato in a bread bun, I have never tried one and doubt that I ever will.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I agree with you on bananas. I was an adult before I could handle the texture, especially those ripe enough to have any flavor.

    There was a really funny film about rationing in England after WWII, perhaps you’ve seen it; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Private_Function

    My first car was a beat-up three-year-old 1970 VW Beetle. It must had little power, but was lots of fun to drive. When I was a teenager, I had a chance to have my grandmother’s 1940 Chrysler Windsor coupe, a battleship of a car. I turned it down because it was old and (I thought) ugly. Now, I wish I’d taken
    it!

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  5. Teehee, I remember banana sandwiches a student friend was partial to! As for me, I’m partial to bananas baked with orange juice, and no trace of sugar- the bananas are sweet enough

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    • No, it doesn’t tempt me. If I never have another banana it won’t bother me at all. I have the banana in the same category as brussel sprouts and snails!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Well, you’re the loser! Snails are great if there’s plenty of garlic, Brussels sprouts if they are small and are cooked properly, and bananas shouldn’t be allowed to get too ripe with black spots unless they are to be baked….it’s all a case of selection, Andrew!!😳

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I had apple bananas when younger and indeed better than regular bananas, but I went thru periods of rationing myself living in left and right wing dictatorships!

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  7. Banana sandwiches? Yes please!! With peanut butter, double yes please! Mashed bananas with top of the milk… I loved it as a child but no thanks… And banana custard… gosh that really does take me back! I have a feeling we had it for school dinners as well! Chips didn’t really feature on the menu at home, fried left over potato I remember but never chips; we occasionally had them from the chippie on the way home from swimming, I have a feeling dad bought us a thrupenny bag… but maybe I’m just imagining that!!
    Great post Andrew – I must go back and find part one!

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  8. I enjoyed this article – looking forward to more of your reposts.

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  9. I love bananas, normal, deep fried, on toast with honey.. A banana a day.. 😉

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  10. I like bananas with my cereal and I like a peanut butter and banana sandwich, but they have to be just right: neither under- nor over-ripe. Our first family car was a Ford Anglia 823 LPP, then a Morris Traveller KVK 275D. Can hardly remember my current reg number though! I didn’t learn to drive until after we were married so had never had a car of my own. The first one John and I had was a Vauxhall Chevette which I regularly stalled at roundabouts.

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  11. Are you sure your dad was 22 in 1954 and 13 when the war started?

    Like the Avenger, I could only run to an Escort. I did have a similar set of flares though!

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  12. We were never allowed chip butties either, height of bad manners but we were allowed banana sandwiches. My Canadian partner enjoys peanut butter and banana sandwiches, I’ve never had one. The other day when he was telling me that he was about to eat one, I had an urge to try one but also fancied adding caramel spread, unfortunately, I didn’t have any of the ingredients in the house.

    My first car was a blue mini that was falling to bits it was swiftly followed by a two tone grey Wolseley Hornet. I passed my test in blue Triumph Herald.

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  13. What a delightfully hilarious and informative post. I particularly enjoy reading the words in a Britishy man voice and learning of new UK-isms such as whatever chip butties are (looks like fries on buttered bread), as well as hearing memories from another time.

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  14. I still have a fondness for bananas. Bought a couple this morning while Mick was playing tennis. 🙂 🙂 Don’t have your Dad’s excuse though. Mine was recommended to eat them because he had low potassium. The things we know now!

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  15. No idea what ‘butties’ are? My first car was a 1964 white VW bug. I drove it clear across the USA several times. Got to see quite a few National Parks. I loved that car and the places I went in it, except for the heater which struggled for warmth in New England winters.

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    • A butty is simply a sandwich. It is commonly used in the UK especially in the north of England. As well as chip (French fry) butties it is quite usual to have a bacon butty but we like our bacon cooked quite differently to you.

      Thanks for adding the ‘first car’ memory.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Nothing weird about a banana sandwich, I still enjoy one now and then, sometime I even add some jam, plum or strawberry.
    During the war we did get the occasional banana, I think they were only available on childrens ration books, I remember them well they all had a sticker on them with the name Fyffes, My memory and taste buds tell me that they were a much better banana than what we get here in Oz. I think all our good stuff gets exported.
    I’m also a maker of banana custard, have to be careful not to make it when my son in law comes, he’d scoff the whole damned lot.
    Your Dear Old dad wasn’t odd Andrew YOU ARE 😈

    I think he was just a couple of years or so older than me Andrew I’m 1935 he was 31 I think you said somewhere once before

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