JANUARY 4, 1946
EN ROUTE TO LONDON, Thursday—Until I heard from the State Department, I had given little more thought to going to England than I would have given to traveling and living in my own country. I have lived in England before in the winter, and the last thing I was going to give much attention to was what would go into my bags for a trip of a few weeks' duration.
Then came the State Department list to remind me of the fact that, though rationing in our country is practically ended, it still is in force in England. While we Americans cannot always buy what we want, still we are not living under conditions of hardship.
The first item on the list of difficulties to expect grows out of the fact that Great Britain's houses never have been as warm as ours in winter. Their climate is not quite as cold as ours in the north, but it is far damper and, in the month of January, I doubt if I will see the sun.
Here is what the State Department tells a traveler going to the British Isles: "Heating facilities never have been up to the standards of this country. These have been gradually reduced during the war until the British are accustomed to temperatures which are painfully low for an American."
Then came these little items among the things the traveler must be sure to take to England.
- "Women's hose—none available."
- "Low-heeled walking shoes—repairing impossible."
- "Clothes hangers."
- "Soap (hand, laundry, shampoo)—none available."
- "Razor blades—none available."
- "Shaving material of all kinds."
- "All cosmetics, creams, perfumes, colognes, nail polish, etc."
- "Bath towels, face towels, wash cloths, any necessary medicines, vitamin tablets, sugar, cigarettes, matches, chocolate candy, fruit juices, flashlight, personal stationery."
Many more things were mentioned but these, I think, give a fairly good picture of a country which is living on an economy of scarcity far beyond anything we have experienced in the United States.
I have been told that, as far as daily living goes, conditions have become less comfortable since the close of the war than they were when I visited London in 1942. Naturally, when a long strain lets up, people let down. Any factory worker in our country who worked to the very limit of his or her capacity during the war knows how difficult it would be to carry on in the same way today.
The reconversion period is a necessity not only in the United States. Every nation involved in the war has to reconvert, and other nations need far more things than we need because they have had less.(One of the questions I am most interested in looking into is the extent to which women are still able to work in England as compared to the war period.)
Not only the factory workers, but also housewives, worked under far more strain than we were obliged to face. For instance, in areas where labor had to be increased, people were billeted with resident families. A woman had to share her kitchen and her house with another family. Or if she only had room for single workers, she had to do the additional cooking, morning and evening, and the cleaning of the rooms.
War conditions reached down into individual lives to a far greater extent than we experienced.