A big help when we were short of money

"My mother Vera Howell, Keith my brother, and the very grumpy little girl was me, Hilary Lewis"

My name is Hilary Lewis (nee Howell) and my brother Keith and I remember clearly receiving CARE parcels from Margaret and James K Lowe (Jimmy) who lived in New York.

Our memories are very similar, although mine are from a younger point of view – enjoying all the sweets and not thinking of the help to my Mum from the subsistence point of view.  

My mother was Vera Howell who lived in Witham, Essex, and was left a widow when I was one year old in 1944. She knew Margaret before she went to America.  

We were very excited to receive the parcels and would run down the road to tell Mum it had arrived when she cycled home from work.

The labels were missing on some tins so we weren’t sure what was in them, which I suppose made it all the more exciting, and we enjoyed them just the same. I remember some contained tinned fruit. There were always sweets (lifesavers), chocolate and peanut butter which I had not tasted before, but loved from that moment on (and still do!).

Margaret and James, and Margaret and Hilary
Margaret and James (Jimmy) Lowe on their wedding day in England; and Margaret and Hilary

The really special moment for me was having a new dress! I had no idea that they might be second hand and it certainly didn’t matter if they were. To me they were beautiful and of course, in Witham, a small country town, completely unique. My brother remembers receiving a fountain pen.     

I didn’t realise the large amount of help the foodstuffs were to my mother when we were very short of money, and how hard some food was to come by.

Keith adds:

I can clearly remember walking down the road from our home to meet our mother and seeing her as she reached the top of the hill in Highfields Road... then rushing to her to tell her the ‘parcel from America’ had arrived.

We were not in great shape financially and of course many of the things we take for granted today were just not available then in the days of rationing.

It is an indication of how we managed our foodstuffs that when we had an orange it was made to last several days by having a segment each day.

I was not aware at the time that these parcels were part of a much wider distribution of food from the USA. I always thought that they were a special gift from the Lowes who had always been very kind to us from the time that we first met James.

In memory of Hilary Lewis, who passed away September 2015

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