My father started to salt his own pig, the shoulder, ham and sides of bacon. I would be sent to Wrights the grocers with a wheelbarrow and return with a block of salt 2 & ½ feet long and a foot wide and high. The cold slab would be deeply covered in salt and the hams etc. rubbed in salt every day and covered in salt. They were kept like that for about six weeks. The ham, the large sciatic nerve and main leg artery was removed and the cavity left was packed with saltpetre.
They would be used over the rest of the year. once when my father cut in to a ham we found that although the meat was all right there were tiny little unusual grubs, maggots, scattered around between the muscles. Dad decided it must not go to waste. The ham was cut in to slices ½ inch thick. He made a brine solution in our bath so thick that salt crystals were suspended in it. The ham slices were kept in it overnight for 12 hours. The brine would have killed anything off, but the following morning he put the slices in a bucket for 6 hours and covered them in strong vinegar. That night I was given the job of washing and drying the ham slices and carefully inspecting each one to make sure there were no maggots, when I wrapped each slice in newspaper. My father took them to the steelworks and sold them to his workmates.
This proved to be very popular. They wanted some more. He bought a ham from a farmer friend cut it in to slices and sold them. The trouble was that his workmates could not keep their mouths shut and bragged about it in the pub. Suddenly hundreds of men were asking for ham slices. Dad went into a panic, imagined ending up in jail and came rushing home from work and took all our salted pork out of the house to one of my uncle’s farm where he hid it in the attic with his own pork.
It is surprising what was sold on the black market. Sugar beet pulp, what was left after the sugar was extracted, was used for cattle food. It was only returned to the farmer if he could claim that he had the cattle to feed it to. Most of my uncles always claimed it. In December each year a sheep farmer from Derbyshire stopped at our house with his lorry. At night an uncle took his wife and family to the pictures and father, the sheep farmer, and I drove to the farm and loaded the lorry with sugar beet pulp. The sheep farmer left the cash with my father and drove the lorry home where the pulp was shared out among his friends. The idea being that if the police ever enquired about it the uncle could claim that it had been stolen.
once the sheep farmer brought a present, a grown lamb ready for slaughter. Those tough guys just could not bring themselves to kill it nor could they persuade any of the farmhands. Worried that they would be caught with a sheep they were not supposed to have, they drove to the Pennines in the middle of the night and let it go.
The only thing we did not manage to get round was clothes rationing but my mother did find a source for fashionable modern lady’s underwear. The police constable who lived in Ealand, was a reluctant policeman and had been drafted into the police when he had been found not fit enough for the services. He left as soon as he could when the war was over and became a successful businessman.
Sweets were rationed our ration worked out at ¼ pound per week. on Friday I always went to Mrs. Hague’s to buy them. one was always a Mars Bar. Later that night in spite of the temptation to cheat a little I always cut the Mars Bar into three equal shares. Later when sweets came of the ration we stopped buying them.
There was no change when the war ended. Hostilities ceased and husbands and fathers came home. Britain had sold all its overseas assets and borrowed millions. Today it would have been billions. All our effort was geared to exports. 1946 matters got worse for the first time bread was rationed. Second hand cars were expensive. If you were lucky enough to get a new car for £ 500 you could sell it for £700 a few months later.
Matters improved very slowly. When I started university in 1951 I had to give my landlady my ration book. When my father took my trunk and me to my new digs, he gave the landlady a chunk of ham, several links of sausage and a massive pork pie. They were gob-smacked; they had not seen that much meat at one time for over ten years. They thought he was the local squire who owned half of Crowle.