Merle's Story - an Australian child in WWII 

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Merle was only seven years old when World War Two ended. She was one of five children living with their parents in south east Queensland. 

She remembers blackouts, rationing, air raid shelters at school and the American tanks driving through town on their way to the local air base.

These are Merle's words...

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The Blackouts

Air raid wardens used to patrol the streets at night to make sure we had no light showing from our houses. I remember my brother and I pulling the strings which hung down, no light switches in those days! Mum used to race in and say that the police would be here thinking we were signalling the Japanese! We had brown paper on the windows, covered I think by sugar bags, to keep us in the dark.


                         
Rations
We needed ration coupons to buy butter, sugar and clothing. You had to take the food coupon to the local shop  even though the shop owner knew us. One nice old shopkeeper had a soft spot for us kids, as he would always keep a small tin of baked beans and a Violet Crumble Bar for us. I will never forget seeing my Mum, dishing out a teaspoonful of baked beans to us kids or cutting up a small chocolate bar into 5 pieces and then licking her finger along the crumbs to have a taste for herself. Clothes were hand-me downs from older sisters and neighbours, and it was a real treat to have much at all. I can still remember my Dad outside with his shoe anvil repairing our shoes, mine were always hand me downs from brothers as well. There was rarely any leather available and Dad used to cut out hard cardboard for the soles of our shoes. Our very flash undies were made from flour sacks, that had been boiled and boiled until soft enough to make bloomers, many of them still had the flour brand written on them, but I was not alone as most of the kids at school wore the same. Lucky Mum had an old Singer treadle sewing machine.


Air Raid Shelters
Our school had slit trenches around the fence perimeter and we had practice a couple of times a week, I think the teachers rang a bell and we would all form lines and go down into trenches. One of my friend's father had made her knee pads from leather in case she had to kneel down. We were issued with identity tags with our names on, too. The only time I ever remember being scared was  one day in town with Mum when the air raid siren went off and we were all rushed into big cement shelters in Limestone Street. All I remember of that was darkness, people's knees in my face, holding on to my mum's hand very tightly, and being sure I was going to be squashed to death. The all clear siren went but Im pretty sure we had to wait for a second one to go before we were let out. It was a false alarm. Our dad had made a dugout shelter in the backyard with corrugated iron over the top for a roof, and if it rained, it turned very muddy.

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American Soldiers
It was pretty exciting watching the big convoys coming down the hill from Brisbane Street out to Amberley. The trucks and tanks seemed huge to us little kids, and the soldiers were all waving and throwing lollies and chocolate and pennies to us. I went in a rail motor with Mum and Dad to Laidley one weekend, and two soldiers gave me the biggest block of chocolate I had ever seen - just a normal size nowadays I suppose. The Americans were pretty lonely and were really happy to make friends with the Aussie people, many were taken in by local families - they loved to visit and play cards and I guess they missed their families too.

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