My mother was a member of the WVS, as it was in those days; later it was upped to the Women’s Royal Voluntary Service; ie WRVS and men were admitted anyway, even if they were only credited as honorary women.
When I was a child, I often went with her to do Meals on Wheels and the Library Round. In the early 1960s, the meals were provided by the canteen at the Fish Market in Lowestoft. You had to have a pass to go there, and the big, flat containers had a layer of, I think, heated charcoal, to keep the tins of food hot while you drove round for a couple of hours to deliver them all.
Lowestoft was split into two delivery rounds: north and south. Each area had two deliveries a week. One was Tuesday and Thursday and I think the other was Wednesday, and Friday. I know that Wednesday was right, anyway. My mother was in charge of the rota and, as there were about 25 houses to deliver to, it made sense to have two people at a time to do the round. She didn’t, usually, she managed alone apart from me – but, looking back, she was very capable of doing the work of two anyway. But it was quite a complicated rota to set up. I’ve done it too, in a much more limited way, in this village. In theory, people are asked to manage their own swap if they’re going on holiday or just can’t manage their day, but they’re actually more likely to shove it back to you at a day’s notice when they suddenly notice they can’t manage it. So my mum and I did a lot of extra cover at short notice.
The meals were very good, actually. They came in tiffin tins, best way of describing them, one for the main course and one for the pudding. There would be meat, potatoes, at least two vegetables and gravy, and the pudding would have custard. It was good – and I do mean good – plain food and I don’t remember any grumbles about the quality.
I knew all the back streets of Lowestoft in those days, though I don’t any more because the new roads have cut through the old ones. I remember some council-built old people’s bungalows near St Margaret’s Church. We delivered to a few people there and their rent included heating, which was centrally controlled and kept at a high temperature. It was not unusual to find all the windows and doors open, because the hardy people of Lowestoft couldn’t cope with the heat that the social services people thought the thermostat should be set at (bad grammar alert there; but who on earth would say ‘ at which the thermostat should be set?).