From the Archives, 1942: Victorians issued with ration books

June 12, 2022

First published in The Age on June 15, 1942


Task Smoothly Performed

A ration book and identity card from 1942.Credit:Staff photographer

The Commonwealth Electoral Officer for Victoria (Mr. S. Polglaze) said yesterday that the issue of ration books on Saturday and yesterday had been most efficiently carried out. Although the procedure was entirely new to both officials and public, there was very little difficulty. Practically all of the applicants came with their identity cards and their authorisation forms in order, and there were few crushes.

A government advertisement placed in The Age on June 13, 1942.Credit:The Age Archives

People who did not collect their ration books yesterday or on Saturday may do so by applying to the Divisional Returning Officer for the Commonwealth electoral division in which they live.

Officials of the Rationing Commission said yesterday that applications should be made either – (1) personally; (2) in cases where personal attendance was impracticable, by an agent who should carry the proper authorisation form, obtainable at post offices, and (3) by a request that the ration book be sent by post. Application forms for this purpose were obtainable at post offices.

Belated applications by parents or guardians for the issue of ration books to children under 16 on March 15, 1942, had to be made to divisional returning officers on the parents’ or guardians’ application forms, obtainable at post offices.

Around the Booths

The colossal job of issuing millions of ration coupons to Melbourne citizens was accomplished, on the whole, with astonishing ease — and also with unruffled good temper — for the most part. At most of the issuing booths up and down the city, Saturday morning was the peak period. The public, apparently, had for once taken good heed of the official advice to “come early.” At one Smith Street booth housewives, plus prams filled either with babies or the weekend marketing, jammed the hall to the doors for a hectic couple of hours. Some of them had to wait a very long time, in queues—as much as one hour and a half or two hours in some cases and tempers got a bit strained. But though booths in the shopping centres in most of the suburbs had their Saturday morning queues, after midday the pressure eased, and thereafter the going was comfortably easy. Yesterday men outnumbered the women at most of the centres, and those in church halls had their peak period immediately after church, while many reported a last-minute rush at the end of the day.

At an East Melbourne centre in the heart of the flat district, a small army of people — of all nationalities — presented themselves and their special identity cards, complete with photograph and thumb prints. The Town Hall, which issued 5269 ration books on Saturday, and another couple of thousand yesterday, handled hundreds of Chinese — from the war zones, as well as from Little Bourke Street — and scores of refugees from the Netherlands East Indies, from Malay, Singapore and Darwin. A few of them confided that they possessed little more than they stood up in, and asked if there was any chance of an extra issue of coupons for war victims like themselves.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) and Mrs. Curtin obtained their ration books at the Town Hall on Saturday.

Clothes for Babies

Only in exceptional cases will extra permits be given to a mother who expects the birth of a child before July 15. The Rationing Commission announced on Saturday that it was assumed that all these mothers would have already prepared a layette for the baby. Mothers who expect a birth before July 15 can use their own coupons to cover immediate needs. They will receive a ration book for the child immediately once the birth is registered.

Permits issued to provide a layette for the baby may be used only to purchase rationed articles required for the baby. The special issue will cover the clothing requirements of the child for six months. After that the parent may apply for a further special issue to cover its need until the next general issue of ration books.

Women’s Organisations Satisfied

The president (Mr. Lampe), speaking on behalf of the Master Drapers’ Association, stated that “the Rationing Commission had done an excellent job.” The manner in which the issuing of the books was organised came in for generally favourable comment. The president of the National Council of Women (Mrs. Herbert Brookes), the president of the Housewives’ Association (Mrs. J. Downing) and the president of the Australian Women’s Association (Mrs. A. M. Christopherson) all were of the opinion that the “job had been well done.”

Mrs. Christopherson said that the “strict rationing of essential goods was the only fair method. We deal with the principle and not the detail. It gives the working man the same opportunity as the wealthy man.”

Mrs. Brookes felt that in some instances the number of coupons needed was rather drastic, and there was very little margin. However, she felt the sacrifice entailed was being equally shared, and very little compared with what the men in the services were doing for the country.

Mrs. J. Downing was concerned with the fact that people who had been in the habit of giving some of their clothing away to those less fortunate than themselves would in future perhaps not be able to do so. She also considered the number of coupons required for stockings was a little excessive, as stockings were a considerable item in a woman’s wardrobe.

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