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Post Collecting Dr Jones's Tin Foil
Created by John Eipper on 02/17/17 1:33 PM

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Collecting Dr Jones's Tin Foil (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy, 02/17/17 1:33 pm)

Finally I know who the genius was who invented the fake bombers using the shredded tin foil--Dr R. V. Jones. (See Tim Ashby, 16 February.)

After an air raid, we kids in Italy used to go out to see the damage and to collect the shredded tin foil. At that time we were collecting all available metal to give to the authorities in order to "win the war."

Already due to the needs of the war, all the metal fences had been replaced, and in my house the kitchen metal utensils had been reduced to the minimum.

JE comments: Recycling the matériel of death: John Heelan was also a lad during the war, but on the other side. John: did youngsters in the UK collect scrap metal from the German bombing raids?

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  • Recycling War Materiel in UK (John Heelan, -UK 02/18/17 5:54 AM)
    JE asked on 18 February: "Recycling the matériel of death: John Heelan was also a lad during the war, but on the other side [from Eugenio Battaglia in Italy]. John: did youngsters in the UK collect scrap metal from the German bombing raids?"

    Perhaps Eugenio Battaglia's "tin foil" was in fact the product known as "Window" that Allied (and German?) aircraft used to confuse radar detection? As to metal collection--yes. I recall the iron railings surrounding my grandparent's house disappearing one day, "gone to the war." We lived on the the run-up to a factory making aircraft engines that attracted the Luftwaffe like bees to a honeypot--we kids used steel ball-bearing races for toys, skimming them along gutters to make them spark. Every morning, following the nightly air-raid (I have written about this before on WAIS), we kids would go into the streets searching for "shrapnel"--misshaped pieces of bombs and anti-aircraft shells used in the previous night's raid--that we kids would swap among ourselves. I still recall burning my fingers picking up still hot shrapnel!

    Eventually swapping shrapnel pieces was overtaken by our swapping "American comics" that arrived in the UK with US troops; the usual exchange rate was 6 thin UK comics (Beano, Dandy, Hotspur, etc.) for 1 much larger American comic. They were my first literary introduction to the world of US superheroes like Superman, Batman and Dan Dare.

    Much less salubrious than metal collection, "pig bins" were placed the end of each street in which the residents were encouraged to deposit their waste food "to feed pigs as part of the national 'War effort.'" One of my hated morning chores as a kid was to deposit our famiiy's food waste in those horribly smelling bins. Much more salubrious was the government allocation of small parcels of land--"allotments"--on which residents could grow their own fruit, vegetables and sometimes rear livestock like rabbits and chickens, to eke out the UK's dwindling supplies of food imports caused by losses to U-boats in the War of the Atlantic.

    Many "allotment societies" are still survive 70 years later, although many modern partners think they are just a male excuse to escape household chores--the "Man in a Shed" syndrome.

    JE comments: Man in a Shed--is that the UK equivalent of the Man Cave?  I'd like to know more about Beano--was he a British superhero?  The name doesn't sound very heroic to American ears.

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    • The Beano: UK Comic Icon (Paul Preston, -UK 02/19/17 1:52 PM)

      The Beano wasn't a person. It was the name of the comic whose greatest characters were Dennis the Menace and his dog Gnasher, Minnie the Minx, the Bash Street Kids and Lord Snooty (an early version of David Cameron). All kids who behaved as children were not supposed to in those more repressive days.  The Beano's sister comic was The Dandy, whose emblematic figure was Desperate Dan whose favourite meal was cow pie which involved an entire cow. There was also Korky the Cat who could have been the model for the US cartoon series Top Cat that owed so much to Sergeant Bilko.

      JE comments:  How can I have made it this far without having heard of The Beano?  Launched in 1938, it's the longest-running British weekly comic, recently publishing its 3500th issue.  Wikipedia tells us much, except for how the name came into being.

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    • US Homefront Rationing and Recycling (Henry Levin, USA 02/20/17 4:33 AM)

      I still have some ration books from WWII for meat, coffee, sugar, oil, and so on. I remember our running out of heating oil as a child on one freezing winter day. The Mayor of our town of 1,500 came to our house with a policeman to put a measuring stick in the tank to ensure our integrity before authorizing to fill the tank for a two-bedroom house with 7 freezing inhabitants.

      I also remember the "fat can" (an expression that was often used in a different context) on the counter that we would pour the oils and other residual fats into to be collected with the flattened tin cans and cardboard. Talking of cardboard, we had to put that in the windows at night to block out any light that we were using when there were sirens of alarm for tests of the air raid system. The wardens would be pretty unkind of they saw even a pinpoint of light coming from a house.

      Anyway, I am sure that there are other stories of life in the US during this period. My dad was a very proud American with his grandfather fighting for the Union in the American Civil War. He bought so many bonds that his five children (at the time, a sixth came later) were paraded through the little town in a Jeep with a victory sign. We also had a Victory Garden for plants. Our car was mounted on cinder blocks for the duration of the war. We either walked or took the occasional bus.

      We had close relatives in the UK and knew the deprivations that they experienced while they thought that their American cousins were hardly inconvenienced. We didn't feel inconvenienced because we were at war, but we did have a change in lifestyle.

      JE comments:  Can anyone tell us if the blackout was nationwide in the US, or only coastal?  My parents lived in Delaware during the war, and Hank Levin was in New Jersey.  The beaches in both states are still dotted with grim concrete towers, from which sentries watched for German submarines and invasion parties.


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