Nan served cake for Chris and me at our 1965 wedding.
Because of all the clothes rationing in Northern Ireland during World War II Nan’s mother, Annie, would rip apart old clothes and remake them for Nan and her sister Alice. She would even unravel yarn from sweaters and knit a new sweater.
They were only allowed 2 oz. of butter each. Annie would boil parsnips and mash them and add banana flavoring to spread on toast. Alice didn’t even know what a banana looked like until after the war. (A neighbor of a friend of mine said that she moved to the United States from Liverpool after the war so that she could have orange juice.)
One time Nan wrote to her Aunt Lucy in the United States and asked her to send some white flour, as their flour was a dirty gray. Nan received the letter back from the censors. The part about the flour was cut out, as they were not allowed to ask for rationed food. If you traveled by car, bus, or train, there were inspectors that could stop you and search your baggage. They looked for food or other things that were black market items.
Annie carried a small flask of brandy and sugar and also a tablespoon. If someone went into shock you were to give the person a tablespoon of it. She also carried all their important papers with her—marriage certificate, birth certificates, insurance papers, and other important papers.
Nan had two older cousins, Lucy and Annie. They were 19 and 20 years old. They worked at the rope works in Belfast. Their father used to walk them to work when they were on the night shift. They would roll their hair up on metal roller. One night the sirens went off and they were so scared their father told them to take the rollers out of their hair or the planes would see them. That kept them busy so they couldn’t think so much about what was happening.
Every street in Belfast had air raid shelters along one side. They were brick with a thick roof of cement. Trucks came by and took the metal railings and gates they had around their gardens in the front yard of each house. They would be used at the munitions factories. Friends of the family had an underground shelter. The girls and their mom went there one time as the whole street had been hit and all the houses were burning. They had to wait until the fires were out to go and see if their house was still there. It was.
When families lost their houses and all their possessions the neighbors shared what they had with those who had nothing. Even a blanket and a cup would help out.
Nan’s father’s parents, Andrew and Alice, came out of their shelter after a raid and all they had left was the clothes on their backs. Nan’s mother brought them to Portadown. The next day she pleaded with her uncle’s neighbor to take them in. She did. They stayed there until after the war was over in 1945.
During a raid one night the water works was hit. There was a big laundry not far from them so they would take pots and get water from the huge green glass bottles.
After a raid, trucks would come around to pick up the dead, and take the bodies to the wholesale fish market that had been set-aside as a morgue. Annie, a friend of Nan’s mom, couldn’t find her father after a raid. Annie went with her and they found him by his I.D. at the fish market.
Nan remembers seeing a lady pushing a pram with a baby and her other children hanging on to her. They were dressed but she was in her nightgown. She had just enough time to pull on a coat before they had to go to the shelter.
When the victory was declared each family on the street brought out their tables and lined them up end to end. They all cooked whatever they had and shared it in a big potluck. Prayers of thanksgiving were said for God’s grace, mercy, and victory.
It wasn’t until Nan was twenty-six that she moved to the United States. She remembers the hoops she had to jump through to move here and then to become a citizen. She said it was worth doing. When other people come here they should be glad to do what is required because it is worth it.
She met her husband, Ralph, here, and had thirty wonderful years with him. Then she had twenty as a widow. She was a light to the church and community all the days of her life. She prayed that God would keep her in her senses and He did. She was a comfort and help to many people not counting the good food she made for people. (Including feeding our daughter and son when they were attending college in the Spokane area.)
Ralph and Nan would always invite the Spokane Stowells over for Easter dinner. She was able to keep up the tradition until both Nan, and my cousin Janet’s, health failed.
Nan and I agreed-- even when you had nothing else in your life you had Jesus always with you. Although we did share with each other how we liked food, clothing, and shelter! We thanked the Lord every day that He had provided such a great life for each of us!
Nan finished well. I hope and pray that I can do the same.
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