Life In The Forties

Life In The Forties

Life in the forties in New Zealand was still governed by ration books and shortages in many areas even after the war ended.  The fifth series of ration books was issued 15th October 1945, just two weeks before my parents married.

This exert is from an article entitled “Growing up in NZ” ( and fitted so well with some comments my mother had written.

Each person was allowed 26 coupons for clothing every six months, with set numbers of coupons for particular items of clothing. A full length coat, usually of wool gabardine or herringbone tweed, took twelve coupons, a gym frock four, a blouse four. The coupons also had to be used for household linen.

Merville’s journal continues:

“When we got married it was impossible to buy curtain net for the windows or quilts for the beds so I made the curtains out of georgette and put frills on them. I made quilts out of print cotton material and stained the bedroom floors as floor covering was hard to get. As the children were born I did continue to sew and make their clothes even their overcoats. I knitted jerseys and hats. I often worked late at night after everyone was in bed as it was easier having no interruptions. Any old woolen material which couldn’t be reused for clothing, I cut into strips and crocheted into rag mats for the floors.”

I remember these! Mum would cut up old socks into strips about 3 or 4 centimetres wide. She used a huge wooden crochet hook to make oblong mats. They were thick and very warm on a frosty morning. She never appeared to worry about colours. They always finished in an interesting pattern.

This is the closest image I could find

This is the closest image I could find

“At the time there was a child allowance for each child. Although only a few shillings I used to spend it on material and wool.”

Why did I never ask Mum specifically about rationing? I knew many things were hard to come by during this period. I regret never finding out how this affected her. But I bet she just accepted the inevitability of it all and got on with living.

When doing a little research I’m surprised to see how long after the war some items were rationed.

New Zealand Rationing Over:


  • 1946 – June. Petrol rationing ends;
  • 1947 – September 28: Meat ration price allowance increased to 1s. 11d. – 2s. 2d (which still purchased about 2 1/7th pound — the increase in ration value was to take into account the elimination of subsidies on meat, which caused the price to go up);
  • 1948 – May 31: Tea rationing ends;
  • 1948 – August 27: Sugar rationing ends;
  • 1948 – September: Meat rationing ends;
  • 1949 – October: Butter ration raised back up to 8 oz per person per week;
  • 1950 – June. Butter rationing ends.

Did this rationing make it difficult for Mum to jiggle everyday life? Or had her upbringing prepared her to do without not only the luxuries of life, but many of the things we consider essential today?I’m sure she managed admirably.


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