Return to rationing?
As a war baby (WW2, not Vietnam) I remember my mother cutting coupons from ration books before she took me shopping, and then exchanging them individually for sugar, butter, meat, jam and sometimes clothes at tills of various establishments whose shelves were not as laden with goods and produce as we are used to today in supermarkets. I can’t remember if coupons were obligatory for questionable luxuries such as cigarettes or sweets, and they may not have been necessary for camera films… the latter must have been very hard to come by after the war and I know my mother exchanged a coupon or two with the local chemist for the one roll of 8-exposure Ilford Selochrome-Pan he was able to obtain every weekend with no questions asked. Thanks to those ‘under the counter’ deals I have a visual record of growing-up in the late ’40s and early ‘50s… which probably influenced me to eventually become a photographer. Having had a camera poked in my face throughout my childhood and teenage years I’ve found it quite natural to also carry one to this day.
The three non-philatelic images I use here are of French ration coupons issued between 1942 and 1948. The small “Carte de Tabac” was issued every six months for tobacco, presumably cigarettes, for women being inscribed “Ration Féminine”, and could be used only at the end of each month. The other partial sheets of coupons were for weekly or cumulative (on a points system) purchases such as clothing, furniture and other luxuries.
This brings to mind recent scare stories in the British tabloid press about the consequences of a “No Deal” on the day of Brexit - Britain exiting the European Union - on March 29th 2019, thus leaving the four nations of those islands not only geographically but economically isolated. Only now is the reality of “supply” dawning on much of the population as CEOs of enterprises large and small try to explain exactly what, why and how “just in time” importation of foods and materials from many countries abroad is necessary and works smoothly under the current freedom of controls at border crossings. Since more than half of Britain’s foods and medicines - and all of their smoking supplies - are imported, not to mention items such as car parts which are just as necessary for a normal mobile life it seems, perhaps rationing will unexpectedly return to the shores of Albion almost 70 years after it was last used in 1952.
Images + words © Ed Buziak 2018.
@postalhistory #rationing #Brexit #tobacco