Friday, 20 April 2018

A Competition for Wounded Soldiers

From Woman’s Weekly, April 20th 1918.

Tell Your Beads for Tommy.

A Suggestion for the Girl with a Small Purse and a Big Heart.

"PIP, dear!" 
I looked up suspiciously.  Pip is Noreen's pet name for me, and it usually heralds a request.  Noreen isn't Irish for nothing; her smile and coaxing voice could wheedle butter out of an empty churn.  So, being a mere Saxon, I was on my guard.
"What do you want?" I asked bluntly.  "I've not a sou left after interviewing our Tank.  You took last month what I had put by for a new hat, so as to send ‘smokes’ to—well, I forget which regiment holds your heart at the moment," I added spitefully.
Noreen laughed.
"Don't be horrid, Pip," she retorted.  "No, I have a splendid idea, and I don't want your pennies—unless, of course, you've a few you don't know what-to do with," she added, hopefully.

I SHOOK my head. firmly. She continued:
"You know the hospital for wounded soldiers at Letton Green?  Well, I've got two days a week there, and some of the cases are bed cases, and time does hang so heavily on their hands, poor lambs.  So I've been racking my brains for something to amuse them and occupy them, and this is what I've evolved.  A necklace competition!  Don't grin in that stupid way; I don't mean the men will wear the necklaces, silly girl; they will make them.  And the best will get prizes, and then the necklaces will be sold, and the money given—" 
"Yes, I know," I interrupted, "hospital funds." 
"No, you don't, Miss Wiseacre," said Noreen teasingly.  "My notions are never ‘stuffy’ ones like that.  The money will go to a fund for entertainments for the dear, patient men themselves. And what I want you to do—"
"I can't sing or play or do any sort of parlour tricks whatever, and you know it," I remarked hurriedly.  One never knows with Noreen where one will be landed.
"Don't want you to," she said, placidly; "all I ask you to do is to ‘tell your beads for Tommy’; that is, rout out every little old bead of any sort, shape, or size, and give it to me for the necklaces.  Now, do you see, you dear old Piplet?" 
Of course I did.  As it happens, I had strings of beads; it used to be a mania of mine to wear beads, and my friends remembered it on birthdays.  Really, I hardly knew how many I owned—lovely iridescent Venetian ones, gaudy Eastern strings, odd corals, stray scraps of amber— now so precious—and endless varieties of British manufacture.  Noreen's eyes glistened, and she allowed me no time for repentance; I don't own a single string now, beyond my amber necklet of childish days. 
I got the bead fever myself after that; I could not pass a shop where beads were displayed, and I persecuted my friends till in sheer desperation they gave me something or other. 
And I felt no shame when I saw the lovely work that the crippled heroes turned out, and heard of the big sums the sales brought in — "all to be spent on nice frivols," as Noreen said.
That, somehow or other, there was a consolation prize for every worker only added to our pleasure; any trifle did for a prize, by the way.

AND things did not stop here; Noreen’s ideas inspired my slower wits, and I devised my modestly famous quilt competition for the same hospital.
What wonderful quilts we achieved; one of the favourite devices being to cut out (using an illustration as pattern) a horse or other creature, and appliqué it in coloured materials on to the quilt foundation of unbleached calico, as a border.  In the centre would be a large device, usually heraldic, worked in the same way.  As materials are now expensive, we used to suggest that the quilts should be a child's cot size only, or suitable for perambulator covers.  Besides, a sick man tires of holding a heavy bit of work, you know, and is apt to weary of the task itself if prolonged.
One man loved to trace humorous pictures through thin white material, such as lawn, and work them up in India ink.  He made a delightful set of dessert d'oyleys from an old Alice in Wonderland; yet he had no knowledge of art, and only possessed skilful fingers.  These mats found a ready sale.  If tracing-paper is used, the pattern can be transferred to jean or some such thicker stuff.
But, as I say, once on the track of these things, you will find your wits grow inventive enough; all you need to remember is to spend nothing on materials if possible, to see that the work is light to handle, and that it is quickly done—long concentration is not good for wounded men; and if an element of fun can be introduced, so much the better—mirth is a splendid tonic.

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