How We Lived Then 

How we lived then Mrs C S Peel 
The reappearance of the sugar-basin in the teashops will not be recorded in the histories of the war, but in our own lives it marks the end of the chapter.

One realises that want to the chronology which will give the lesser as well as the greater dates of the war years.

On what date did the sugar-basin disappear?

When was the last penny egg sold?

Which was the first night of darkened windows?

What was the day of the issue of the first Treasury Note?

For how long was the banana unprocurable in London?

What were the dates of the discontinuance, and restoration, of the newspaper posters?


Before the war we lived guided to a considerable extent by tradition, and classes were more sharply divided than is the case today. p1
Maid wages doubled towards the end of the war and after the Armistice.
Before the war the poor lived under vile conditions.
The assassination of the Austrian Archduke Ferdinand and his wife on June 28, 1914 seemed to the general public a matter of far less interest that the Irish question, the doings the suffragettes, the making of holiday plans. p10
The doings of the suffragettes interested, amused or infuriated us. Heated arguments took place as to the fitness of women to exercise political power.

As the silly season approached, the papers published articles bearing such titles as:

Can women understand politics?

Is it feminine to vote?

What will women do with the vote?

And all the while there were the rival attractions of sea, country and abroad as the scene of a summer holiday to discuss and the everyday affairs of life to which to attend. p11
By July 29 we know that Austria has declared war on Serbia, and the headlines of our favourite papers are highly disquieting. Europe an armed camp – may England be involved? Fall of prices on stock exchange – financial condition grave. p12
Saturday, 1st August 1914

Germany yacht withdrawn from Cowes. The price of wheat has risen again. Next week the price of bread with advance by half a penny. p13
On Monday, 3rd August 1914

Bank holiday.

The news is eagerly discussed by parties sitting on the beach, watching the children paddling and building castles, on tennis courts and cricket grounds.

There is a rush for newspapers.

In one village miles away from everywhere a young man bicycles into town to buy a late paper, and old George, the leader of local opinion, sits in his wheelback chair on the Green and by the light of the bicycle lamp squeeze out the latest tidings. p14-15
From the moment that war was declared the nation set its mind to win the war, first with excited enthusiasm, afterwards with grim and dreary obstinacy. p20
Military requirements disorganised the railway services – which were at once taken over by the government – and made travelling difficult for the crowds on holiday. p21
Wives left alone were in many cases obliged to cut down their expenses, to find ways of living more cheaply. That was the beginning of life in other peoples houses, to which women of the better off classes have been unaccustomed, and which, as food became more expensive than the housing shortage developed, cost so much bodily discomfort and mental strain. p22
JV : The commentary of Mrs CSPeel is as valid as listening to woman’s hour on BBC Radio 4 today commenting on the war situation in Syria – it gives an important and more balanced perspective to reports that are otherwise by men and largely of men’s deeds – a perspective society rarely acknowledged.
An appeal was made to return all gold to banks, and from then onwards the sovereign and a half sovereign became rarities replaced by £1.10 shilling notes.p23
When did the suffragettes circularise the f500 societies and ask that all political activities should be suspended and that energy is devoted to helping the nation in the crate crisis? p25
On October 12 the press recorded that 10,000 Belgian refugees had arrived in the course of two days, mostly in a terrible condition. p32

Of the many rumours circulating one had been that aluminium advertisements in Belgium had been used the German spies to give notes of army positions therefore in Britain there is a run on screwdrivers to detach similar advertising hoardings to check that the new German spy messages on the reverse side.P41
By the autumn of 1914 about 500 of those who bought for names have changed them for: Bernstein became Curzon, Stanley neck became Stanley, stale Vassar the Kents go – even that British soldiers who were fighting but you had German names change them. Business firms found it advisable to get rid of German partners of the firm had a German name to change it. p43
JV In Lewes how many people with German names change their names? how many business establishments with German names were attacked or had to change their name?
JV Pages 48 onwards – investigate the tunes behind all the popular songs in the early years of the First World War.
In the chapter on our rapidly changing lives
We learn that skirts were then quite long and drawn in rather tightly around the feet, and it was correct to wear a flared-out basque or tunic. Waists were in the normal position, and boots had not been replaced by the smart shoes which every woman wears today, no matter what the weather. Silk stockings were still the wear only of the rich, and hats, many of them large and fanciful, were perched on the top of the head, not worn in such a way as to disclose but one eye, The end of the nose, a mouth and chin.p51
By the middle of August 1914 the Daily Mail had given up its fashion page for one entitled ‘what women can do’. There were many things which women could do, but considerable doubt in the minds of many of the better off whether or no they should do anything, for fear of taking work from others. p53
JV Unexpected consequences.

Luxury foods fell in price owing to the lack of entertaining.
There was something approaching a collapse in the wine trade – and in luxury trades in general. The ruin of the one-man business when the man who owned it was called up. p54
JV Curiosities. Page 56.
I also remember my doctor telling me that there was a marked decrease in illness and operations amongst the civilian population – they haven’t time to be ill! Neither had doctors and nurses time to attend them. Also it is extremely expensive to be ill, for the prices of drugs rose to appalling heights.
Page 59. Amongst all that suffering it is pleasant to recall that a fund was subscribed to be spent on the care of pet animals belonging to then who had been called up.
The amusement trade suffered. By now many people were in mourning (dress shops showed little but black and white material) and income tax was doubled. Patriotically citizens wish to support the many admirable schemes which are being brought into being trouble you do you distress of one kind or another rather than to spend money on amusements.
In consequence musicians and theatrical folk will reduce to serious traits, and those Manchester help and organised concerts, to which we went accompanied by on knitting.
And those 30 years of war dose of salt knitting needles and war mastered amassed fortunes.

We knitted socks (some of an unusual shape), waistcoat, helmets, confidence, mitts, body belts. We knitted in theatres, trains, in trams in parks and partners, in the intervals of eating in restaurants, serving in canteens. Men knitted, children knitted …

P68 this style of dancing altered during these years, and jazz bands multiplied in florist. In all classes of war brought about a loosening of social conventions, but as time went on, and girl took never before earned money being free of chaperonage found themselves independent, the elder sometimes your horrified by their behaviour.
P72. The unhappiness and restlessness caused by war also lead to a desire to consult fortunetellers. Palmists, crystal gazers, thought readers reaped a considerable harvest. The less reputable of these people were said to act as agents for blackmailers and as decoy ducks for keepers of disreputable houses and gambling hells. p71.
P71-72: The almost complete cessation of social life, the dislike of sitting at home in an insufficiently warmed room and the general restlessness, together with some desire for knowledge and passionate desire to help to win the war, lead to a mania for meetings. There were recruiting meetings, meetings at which all sorts of charity schemes we discussed, food meetings war savings meetings.


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