Rationing of food and clothing was introduced to Australians in May 1942, though petrol had been rationed for nearly a year before that.
Market gardeners in Cockburn had strongly protested against the amount of petrol they were allowed: it both prevented them from getting around their own properties, and also from driving their produce to market.
In some respects, market gardeners were lucky in that they had space and resources to grow vegetables to feed themselves as well as to sell; though vegetables were not rationed, most of the population had to rely on an unstable market that fluctuated with petrol, electricity, water, and manpower supplies, and could no longer be supplemented as steadily with imports.
Clothing, tea and sugar all went on the ration in 1942, with butter following in 1943 and meat in 1944. All stayed on ration until 1947 at the earliest, and in some cases until 1950.
In the Cockburn district, ration books for food and clothing were issued at official centres over a weekend in June at Bibra Lake State School, Coogee State School, Jandakot State School, Spearwood State School, and South Coogee Agricultural Hall.
Sharing the coupons
Rations were often shared amongst families depending on needs and wants: one family with a husband who cooked for the RAAF and brought home illicit goods on weekends did not need their tea rations, and as they had a cow they were amply supplied with butter. But with ten children, their clothing rations were wildly insufficient, and so another family, an elderly mother and son in Jandakot who loved their tea and butter but needed very few clothes, arranged to swap their ration tickets to the satisfaction of everyone.
Rations for storekeepers
Local stores were provided with rationed supplies based on a percentage of their turnover. The Lazenby’s store on Rockingham Road in Hamilton Hill was a small concern, but as Cecilia Lazenby recalls, they were also savvy.
Before rationing was brought in, they had partnered with the Hamilton Hill Memorial Hall’s weekly cinema night to sell chocolates, sweets, and cigarettes to moviegoers. As a result, their recorded sales were much higher than other grocery stores in the area, and consequently once rationing was brought in they were well supplied.
They also delivered groceries to remote Jandakot and Bibra Lake families whose husbands and fathers were away at war, and so were allowed a larger petrol ration than many others.
Soldiers in the stores
The Lazenby’s store was also in-bounds for two military camps in the Cockburn area, and was open until 10pm most nights to cater for the soldiers. These men took their boundaries very seriously, and kept a firm hand on anyone who might threaten them: on on occasion - when a drunken colleague broke open a tin of biscuits without intending to buy - every other soldier in the store leapt on him and forced him to pay, in case the shopkeepers complained to the military headquarters and got their shop made out-of-bounds.