CARE Then and Now: The cornflakes smelled like magic!

Joseph Briddock with the quilt he and his family received in a CARE package

75 Years of CARE

CARE was set up in the USA in 1945 to send ‘CARE packages’ of food and other essential supplies to people in need in Europe after the end of World War 2. Joseph Briddock was one of the original recipients of these first CARE packages.

Joseph Briddock, now aged 79 and living in Ireland, told us:

Although I was a young boy at the time, I was very aware of the Second World War taking place. My father was away in the army, and my mum looked after me and my sister. We lived in London, on 9 Railway View, Penge East, in a house which has since been demolished.

I remember being in areas that were bombed. I know the exact spot from which I used to watch bomber aircraft flying in, and the terrifying time we were machine gunned by a low-flying German plane which went on to bomb a nearby school.

But after all these years, my strongest memories of that time are the smells.

At night after the sirens warned us of an approaching raid we would go down to the Anderson air raid shelter in the garden, covered with clay and buried a couple of feet into the ground. It was always damp and it’s the smell of the dampness that remains with me.

The sounds also remain with me. In the shelter we would listen to the noise of the V1 rocket engine until it cut out, and then we counted until it hit the ground and exploded. They made a screaming sound as they fell to the earth.

Joseph and motorbike
A photo of Joseph taken circa 1941 next to a motorbike with a wartime blackout beam deflector on the headlamp

Another smell I remember well was from the rubber gas masks we had to wear. Children’s gas masks were made to look like Mickey Mouse, to encourage us to wear them.  

One day a parent brought a banana into school. A relative had brought some back from abroad. We had never seen a banana before. The teacher cut the banana into thin slices and gave them out to us children. The amazing aroma of the banana filled the classroom, and I’ve never forgotten it.  

After the war we received several CARE packages from strangers across the ocean.

I remember that one came from the Methodist ladies of New York, and contained a beautiful patchwork quilt, which I have kept to this day.

Other parcels contained dried egg, and Kellogg’s cornflakes. We had never seen cornflakes here. I remember to this day – they smelled like magic!

I thought all Americans must be millionaires after receiving these parcels.

This story was first published in 2015.

Tell us your story about the kindness of a stranger

To mark CARE’s 75th year we want to share stories that celebrate the power of the kindness of strangers and inspire people to take action today. So if you have a story of how a stranger’s act of kindness, no matter how big or small, has left a mark on your life please get in touch. Email Hannah Richards:

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News and stories are provided by CARE staff working to support our emergency responses and long-term development programmes.