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Page No:81

The Ivy Benson Band

Then Ivy took over the band; it was the same band, the same girls, with one or two new girls. One of them was a very young girl called Norma Cameron. She was our first alto sax player and a wonderful musician. She lived in Chatham. Her father was a dockyard worker and of course he was stuck there during the war, he wasn't allowed to leave, and he ran a little band that played for dances at the factory. He taught Norma to play and she played with his band. She heard the Ivy Benson Band on the radio now and again and thought, 'That's what I want to do. I don't want to stop here in Chatham in an office.' She was bored stiff with that, and she wrote to Ivy in London and asked if Ivy would give her an audition, which she did. Ivy said 'I'd like you to come in my band. If I had my way, I'd have you in tomorrow, but I can't do that because you're working in a reserved occupation. I'd be in terrible trouble if I did. But I'll do what I can to get you out of that office you're working in.' So Ivy and Jack Hylton got her out on medical grounds - well, there was nothing wrong with the girl, but we all kept that quiet.

In 1939, after the war had started, we were asked if we would do occasional weeks for ENSA (the Entertainment's National Service Association) at military camps in this country.

At the beginning of the war, everyone was issued with ration books. Because we were travelling around, we couldn't be registered with a shop, a butcher or a grocer, and you had to be registered at a particular shop for all the foods that were rationed. So we had to go to the Food Office every month and say we were members of the Ivy Benson Band and collect our ration cards for the next month. They used to cut the pages out of the ration books; there were little tiny squares, as big as my little fingernail - one for cheese, one for butter,



Elsie (right) singing with Ivy's band.

one for sugar - and we had to give the books to the landlady so she could cut out these little squares. It must have been awful for the landladies having to give those in. Half the time they'd cut a whole series of them out instead of having to bother with the little teeny weenie squares. The landlady could then go and collect our rations. We eat a whole week's ration of cheese in just one sandwich now. Sugar didn't bother me very much because I didn't take sugar in my tea - hardly anybody did; you saved your sugar for something else.
Perhaps we were in Manchester one week and in Scarborough the next week, and we'd give the landladies our ration books. One day, a landlady said 'You've no bacon and you've no sugar in your ration books', and we said 'Oh, why haven't we got any of those? They should be there.' We soon found out that the landlady the week before had taken them out and we hadn't noticed. She'd cut out the squares and had a double ration off us. It was too far for us to go back