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Frank Morris
Frank Morris. 19 April 2023

Anzac Day: Australia is at war – What it’s like shopping in times like this?


Sorry - ‘no waste in the kitchen’! Business gets more serious every day

Australian housewives are hoping to hear from the Government that some of the wartime delivery restrictions can be eased, said The Women’s Weekly at the time. “Suburban shoppers from four of our capital cites give some idea of the burdens housewives carry two or three times a week.”

No one can resist a bargain. But many people can’t tell a bargain even when it’s under their noses.

The essence of a bargain is not getting something at a low price but getting something valuable at a low price. They mean good appetising dishes with a saving of money, fuel and time, to say nothing of doctors and dentists bills.

If you see stale bread for sale, don’t knock it back. Any kind of stew, meat stew, vegetable stew or hot pot, fish stew gets that “hearty” taste you like so much, if you add a chunk of stale bread to it when you start cooking it.

                                       AUSTRALIAN ANZAC DAY CELEBRATION SPECIAL!

Main: Many stores around Australia were literally packed to the rafters with consumers. This feat lasted until several years after the war. 

Any sauce, gravy or vegetable dish -- even a soup -- can be thickened much easier and quicker with breadcrumbs. But, again, food is made so much tastier by this simple method in the high art of cooking.

Across in the Food Hall half a dozen for people are queued for bread.

Even in times like these, it will astonish you to know just what the war has done to the big stores.

A tour of the Store from the top floor to street-level will give you a solid idea of what has been taking place. Before the war, this large multi-storey family store held the world’s record for  summer-day sales figures (based on per capita of population).

This December morning on the fifth year of the war, it’s hard enough to buy fruit, vegetable and other cookery items.

All the storeys are still open, but whole departments have been interfered with by the War Department. They have commandeered thousands of square feet of pre-war floor space.

Busiest place in the store is the hosiery counter. Stockings are the biggest coupon-puller, too. All day long, even in the lunch-hour, three saleswomen behind the counter grapple with 18 to 20 women in front of it.

In five minutes, 40 pairs of stockings are sold.

There are two weights of rayon – fine and service. Colours are three – flesh, a fairly deep tan and a greyish brown.

Hauling logs.

It is midday. Of the 18 lifts only six are now in use, and 3 are shut off at 4pm, and another 9 to save further fuel.

Of the 4500 men and women who have been called up, 2000 have been replaced by temporary employees – some are even men over 70.

Today, they all want straw hats to keep the sun at bay.

Through to the China department, where there are a few women buying the odd Utility cups of Longton China at 2/6 each. 

It’s just before Christmas and there is not a single tea-service in the department. There is one Cauldon dinner service. It cost over ninety pounds.

One of the ‘mecca’ of all holdups turned out to be the Rail and Steamship Tickets office.

Now, down to the ground floor we arrive at the Men’s Shop. There are customers, women and men, buying socks, ties and handkerchiefs.

Over in the second-hand furniture sales are pretty steady – the great demand is for divans and small three-piece lounge suites, comprising a couple of easy chairs and a two-seat sofa in the least busy department in the store.

The counter, which before the war was the mecca of most of the store customers, was the Rail and Steamship Tickets.

<< Adapted by Frank Morris from The Australia Women’s Weekly, June 9, 1945; The Daily Mirror, 1940; The Daily Mail, 1944. 

Australia at War: Women told to man the ‘home front’

Main: A shovel, a tractor and three girls. Having a ball.

Society assumed that this is what they would do.

When the First World War ended the women who had stepped into men’s roles, or entered the workforce, went back to their traditional function as wives and mothers.

The number of women in the workforce altered little as a result of the War.

In the Second World War, women played a much greater task as they were not prepared to sit back and simply knit socks and mittens. Society assumed that this is what they would do – they had households to run and mouths to feed.

The threat to Australia intensified, and many women wanted to play a more significant part in the war effort. Women aged between 18 and 50, who were not from rural families or already employed on the land, were eligible to join.

There were three main areas women could become involved in the war effort, the first being serving in the armed forces.

The only women who were at the Front were nurses and others mostly in medical roles. Most women worked in other positions in the armed forces on the home front.

Secondly, you could work in industry. Thirdly, you could join-up with a voluntary organisation.

A woman at work. Not easy in times like this. 

At first the Government was reluctant to allow women to take on roles outside their traditional place in the home. 

However, the Japanese threatened to increase their manpower involvement against Australia so women were certainly allowed to take a more active part in the war effort.

But it wasn’t to the same extent as the men and they did not receive the same financial rewards. Over 600,000 women joined-up for the ‘home front’ during the war.

<< Adapted by Frank Morris. Australian Home Front, Murray David Publishing, Davidson, NSW, Australia; Australia Remembers 1945-1995, Dept of Veterans’ Affairs, Canberra; 1994.

Australia At War: The ‘home front’ girls

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