"So everything was a barter system because there was nothing in the stores. Money was nothing. But cigarettes, they were always in."
I was very fortunate. My wife sent me a box every month and she always numbered them, so I would know… . And I got every one of the boxes. Like see, there was probably little packages of jam and stuff like that and soups, like the Lipton soup that was always in the lead foil pack. And just about anything and she used to send gum, because the kids always [said], you got any gum, chum? And I mentioned it to her one time, so she always sent a carton of gum. And of course, we all got cigarettes; we got cigarettes from everybody in the world, even the town of Amherstburg [Ontario] used to send us monthly cigarettes, 300 in a package for a dollar or something. But these cigarettes were better than money because everything over there was in the barter system.
One family might have been able to find something that they would be able to trade with somebody else and a lot of people, especially in France, they raised rabbits, some had a few chickens and one maybe had a cow, which was very rare but then they would have butter they churned and the other would have eggs. So everything was a barter system because there was nothing in the stores. Money was nothing. But cigarettes, they were always in. And in the Maple Leaf newspaper that was printed for the forces, they used to sometimes have the price of cigarettes listed. Oh, I’ll tell you, but these were things that you just can’t forget.
And you know, those two boys that I was talking about, in Christmas of 1944, we had moved from their little village to Tilburg in Holland, which wasn’t a long ways but it was a way anyway. But we were fortunate enough, myself and one of the other guys, to get two days’ leave at Christmastime. So we went back there. But of course, we scrounged whatever we could to bring with us. And we had our boxes and everything.
So when we got there, I had scrounged a big loaf of bread from the rations. And when we got there, we were going to have a little lunch and I got out my bayonet and I’m cutting the bread. Well, you got – the bread was about this thick at that time and we had… those kids had never seen white bread. And I opened a little tiny jar of jam, so I just sloshed it on there and those kids were standing over in the corner and they were looking. And you could see their eyes was getting like, I don’t know what. So I says, come on. And that was the one thing they always said. No, that’s yours; that’s not ours. Come over here. Well, those kids, when they ate some of that white bread, just bring tears to your eyes, you know?