CARE packages: “What a morale boost they were”

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CARE
1946 holiday snap taken by my father in Blackpool, England: left to right, Uncle Bill, Aunt Beatrice (mum’s sister), cousin Christopher, Mum, me, and Eveline. (Note the school blazers worn by Eveline and me as we had no other suitable clothing due to war-time shortages!)

James Christie shares his memories of receiving CARE food parcels after the war:

I was born in 1937 and lived in Dundee, Scotland, with mum, dad and my sister Eveline (born in 1932).

Dad was a post office sorting clerk in civilian life, and he served with the army Royal Engineers Postal Section from May 1940 to December 1945. We seldom saw dad at this time, especially after D-Day when he was in France, Holland, Belgium and Germany.

Both my grannies died during the war. Both granddads and families lived far away. We were alone with no relatives to help and nobody we knew had a telephone, certainly we didn’t.

Everything was rationed at the time food, fuel, clothes, and even after the war rationing continued. I was eight or nine years old before I knew what a banana tasted like.

Sweets were scarce and we were warned not to eat the sweets we may find, as they would be poisoned by spies called 5th columnists or dropped by German planes (we never did find any sweets).

I remember the CARE food parcels arriving, perhaps two a year. We appreciated them very much. What a morale boost they were.

It was via these parcels I enjoyed items such as nougat and chewing gum for the first time which was quite an adventure. Once mum found a pair of ladies’ stockings hidden inside a packet of custard powder and she burst into tears of joy to receive such a scarce item deemed a luxury.

It is interesting that you are called CARE because it is precisely the fact that somebody cared so much about us, to send these gifts, which was the heart-warming thing about them.

The sender was my dad’s cousin Mary Sinclair Young (born 1914) who was eight years younger than dad. She left Scotland at age eight to go to Chicago, USA. Mary and her husband John settled in Chicago Heights, Illinois. My dad started correspondence at an early age. My mum died in 1982 age 70 and dad died in 1985 aged 78, and my sister Eveline and I have kept in touch with both Mary’s daughters and family since then.

We have received visits by three generations of our USA family but my wife Betty and I are the only ones to visit them.

This was in 1995 and to me it was like a pilgrimage to visit Mary, her family and the house she lived in for so long. I still know the address from memory. 

It was also the place where Eveline and I were to be seavacuated (evacuated by ship overseas). Our mum had nobody to consult over such a difficult decision. However her mind was made up when our doctor Dr Lawson told her the cost of innoculations – there was no NHS in those days.

We never sailed which was fortunate as I was told after the war that one of the ships was torpedoed, killing many children.

However, this showed how loving Mary was to open her home as a young recently married woman to look after two young children.

Share your story

If you or your family or someone you know received a CARE package, please get in touch to tell us your story:

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We’re very happy for you to just share a few memories or your full story – as much or as little as you want to share. And if you have any photos or other memorabilia to go with your story, please let us know. We’ve created an online home for memories about the original CARE packages (and we feature longer stories on our website too). We think it’s important that the stories aren’t forgotten and that future generations can share them.

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News and stories are provided by CARE staff working to support our emergency responses and long-term development programmes.