Queuing in The Green
A great many older Southall residents will have very vivid memories of how they used to have to queue up, first in 1915-17 outside the Maypole, for what margarine or tea was available. Hours of waiting would possibly be rewarded with ½ lb. margarine and 1/4 lb. tea. This carried on until food rationing came in officially in february 1918. First it was London only, but it became in force all over the country July 14th 1918. By a strange, but tragic, change of circumstances much larger queues came during the labour slump in 1931/32/33.
Every day ( except Sunday ) men could be seen queueing up at the Labour Exchange at the corner of Church Avenue to sign on as unemployed, which they had to do three times a week. Jobs were hard to get and, should you be lucky enough to be handed a green card to introduce you for a job, you had to have a cast-iron case if you did not obtain it, or it meant your dole money would not be paid. In any case it was not much. Seventeen shillings ( 85p ) a single man, twenty-five shillings ( £1.30 ) married men and two shillings ( 10p ) for each child.
When you had nearly run out of benefit, you were given a form to fill in, on which you had to give all private and personal information. In due course you were summoned to appear before a Means Test Committee who, of course, had your answers before them. Among those on this Committee were Mr. & Mrs. Chard, Mr. Tilbury, Mr. & Mrs. Waddington, Rev. Roberts, Mrs. Jackson, Mr. Harries. The questioning alone made you feel you were asking for charity. Should you have been lucky enough to have anything of value – a house, good furniture or, in one case I know of, two pigs ( Harry Varney ), then you would have to raise money on these and they would reduce your dole money accordingly. You would get a very good wigging if you had to state that another mouth was on the way.
Various methods came into being to help keep up morale, one was the formation of a football team to play other area unemployed; the Rotary Club provided the set of shirts and two footballs.
Things gradually improved and men began to get work. The Labour Exchange has moved from The Green to Alexandra Avenue and is now known as “The Ministry of Employment Job Centres”, and the dole money sent home.