Thursday, February 28, 2008

Kurt Phillip Caminer

World War II, Wales, British Islands, Food shortage, Rationing

I am a Jewish refugee from Germany, eighteen years old, working on a farm in Wales, since this is the only work I am allowed to do. Recently released from an internment camp as an enemy alien, just as the Japanese were dealt with here.

Farm work entails getting up at about 4:30 a.m., milking the cows (no machines yet) mucking out stalls etc., feeding the livestock, other necessary labor, 4:oo p.m. milking cows again. Day in, day out. Seven days a week. Pay: about 5 shillings a week. Just enough for maybe 1 movie and a serving of fish and chips on the rare day off.

One would think that working on a farm, one would have food galore and would not be affected by rationing. However the Welsh lifestyle is just not conducive to this. Most farmers in Wales live on potatoes, fatback and if available some cabbage or turnips from the garden. Bread is home baked and sometimes available at more than two slices.

Food is plentiful and delicious when the neighbors come by to help during thrashing time, once a year. Every farmer's wife competes with each other as to who cooks best and serves the most luscious and nutritious meal. Desserts are served and consumed with vigor, and then back to work.

And the eggs: There are a few chickens in the yard, and their eggs are prized highly since once a week a man comes by and buys them for six shillings a dozen to sell them on the black market.

Now fast forward to what happened in the winter of 1942. Snow has piled up in and on the lane from the farm to the highway and is stopping the farmer from getting his main product, milk, to the road to be picked up by the distributor. For days now, income is lost since there is no way to get our product to the market. We work feverishly shoveling snow from the lane to clear our way to the main road. There is no bulldozer, I suggest that I will work all evening, night and next day, if needed, until we can clear enough to get the horse and buggy through. I suggest that I want an extra shilling or two for my labor and that I would like to have two soft boiled eggs for breakfast in the morning if successful. Eggs for breakfast was unheard of, but under these circumstances it is agreed upon. I work tirelessly until morning, with shaded light, since there is a black-out all over the British Isles. Unbelievably, I manage to get enough snow removed to get the full milk cans to the road. They did not believe that I could possibly be successful by the next morning and was celebrated and praised to high heaven for the endeavor.

But I was never forgiven for having asked for the eggs. It must have been an insult to the farmer's wife. Eggs were a commodity, not food. Our good relationship seemed to be at an end and it was not long before it was time for me to change my place of employment.

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