Clipping Coupons

First published

18 January 1944

Now we have meat rationing. It started yester­ day. Another damned coupon to be acquired, observed, clipped, and moaned over. Senator Richard Keane, the Customs Minister, the God who presides over these things, allows us li pounds to 4 pounds a week, according to the type of meat we buy. If you are under nine years old, you get a half-ration.

Poultry, rabbits, bacon, ham, tripe, brains, and pigs' heads are not rationed.

I suppose we will survive, but it is just another agony which supposedly will help us to defeat Adolph Hitler. The first was petrol rationing. That came in October 1940 and the ration tickets give us enough to drive a miserly 16 miles a week. Our family has a gas producer, which runs on charcoal. The car coughs along as if it has a severe case of emphysema.

You have to light the gas producer early in the morning, a frightful business. There's a story about a young female who set out from Adelaide as a platinum blonde and arrived in Melbourne as a brunette. The gas producers are expensive. You'd never get one under £70, then you'd wish you'd never bought it.

Clothes rationing and shoe rationing came in June 1942. Most of us are wearing the Victory suit in honour of Mr John Dedman, the Minister for War Organisation. Frightful thing: two buttons, no cuffs, no waistcoat, no buttons on the sleeves, hardly any lining, and if you go for a Victory job, it costs 38 coupons out of your annual ration of 112 coupons.

He's tough, Mr Dedman. Women are now being advised to paint their legs rather than wear stockings. Tea rationing began in July 1942, but it would be better if they had beer and whisky rationing. At least you could get some then. If you want tobacco or cigarettes you have to love the man at the local kiosk. My aunt claims she has now bought 2000 packets of Life Savers just so the man at the kiosk will keep supplying her with cigarettes.

Sugar rationing came in August 1942. You have a whole book of coupons. Every time you go into a shop you have to cut out the wretched things. Just another item to lose, another thing you have to find in the morning.

Meat rationing, however, is the last straw. The butchers are furious. Amstrong has a lovely cartoon in today's Argus. It shows a butcher and a customer crying in each others arms. 'Coupons is offal' says the butcher. 'And no coupons is offal' says the customer.

A Sydney butcher has put a sign up in his window: 'Wanted - One Thousand Men To Build an Asylum for Mad Butchers'.

This will lead to all sorts of black market activities. All the week-end there was a mad rush to butcher shops to get last supplies. There have been warnings, too. The betting is that there won't be a horse left in Perth, Adelaide, Hobart or Melbourne. Every nag will be slaughtered to go into sausages.

There are suggestions, too, that like the Poms, soon we will be eating whale meat.

From a retrospective series Keith Dunstan wrote for the The Age Newspaper to mark the 1988 Australian bicentenary

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