Wartime

Almost grown up

Almost grown up

Apart from Granny’s illness, the biggest event of 1939 for us was the trouble in Europe and the start of the War. The Air Raid sirens sounded right away, the horrid up/down wailing of the warning and the straight screech of the all clear. So we knew what they meant. We heard them quite often in the years that followed, but the bombs that fell on Kilmacolm made craters on farm land and hurt nobody. Life went on as usual except that it was both exciting and scary. We all had our ‘war work’, for instance I had an area which I went round weekly selling Savings Stamps which were 6d (sixpence) each. Once someone filled their book with stamps they could put it in a Savings Account. Meantime their money helped the war effort. We collected old saucepans and other metal stuff to help build aeroplanes! Nothing was ever wasted or thrown away.

Once rationing got going in 1940 we became a nation of make-do-and-menders. In spite of the food rationing we were healthy, and mothers did a great job at making good meals with dried egg. Mum remembered having dried eggs called ‘Cooks Farm Eggs’ in the first war. Each person was allowed per week: 2oz tea, 8oz sugar, 4oz jam, 3oz sweets, 2oz lard, 2oz butter, 2oz margarine, 4oz cheese, 4oz bacon, ¾ lb meat and one egg (sometimes!) Think of your weekly shopping now and compare! Eventually fuel and clothes were also rationed.

Everyone had a torch for going out in the ‘blackout’. The summer time extra hour was made permanent, so in Scotland in the depths of winter it was dark soon after 3pm until about 10am. Housewives made blackout curtains and woe betide anyone who was careless and allowed light to show! The wardens would bang on their door. We had to carry our gas masks everywhere, but never had to use them except to practice how to do it quickly. The barrage balloons were in the sky over towns and cities. The News Broadcasts on the radio were listened to every day and we began to hear about the blitz and so many people being killed. But we children were quite sure we would be the victors.

Many children were evacuated to the country areas, some soon went home and others spent the war with strangers who soon became their friends and deputy parents. Kilmacolm had quite a number of evacuees. Some teachers accompanied them and helped out at the village school. There were queues for everything. Just a whisper that the baker or butcher had something you didn’t need coupons for and it went round like wildfire and a queue would form! People started digging a hole in their gardens to make an Anderson Shelter for air raids. Mum, Annabel and I went under the kitchen table with blankets draped round to keep the draughts out. Eventually we just stayed in bed. The Springer Spaniel we had hated the sirens and the noisy planes and barked and whined so much the neighbours complained about it. So Dandy had to go. Although Annabel and I were very upset he was sent to a farmer across the Clyde who wanted a Springer to train to the gun.

In London, hundreds of people spent the nights in Underground stations with sleeping bags and flasks of tea etc. Dad was on permanent night-shift soon after the war began. On the nights he was at home he took turns with our neighbours being the Warden with a tin helmet and a stirrup pump ready to douse fire bombs. He had to use the pump several times. We listened to the planes and could recognise the German ones passing over us. They did terrible damage in Greenock but never managed to get the RNT Factory. For us, life went on as usual, a lot of it spent at the Toll. Grandaddy dug up the green and planted potatoes, leeks etc. so they always had plenty Golden Wonders and the makings for broth. And Annie battled to keep their fire burning!

Miss Law's class. Annabel is standing on the teacher's left

Miss Law’s class. Annabel is standing on the teacher’s left

In 1941 Annabel became 8 years old and I left school at 14. Although I had been top of the Qualifying Exam I had been adamant that I didn’t want to go to a big school. Mr. Steel, the headmaster, spoke to my parents and said I ought to continue my education. However, they let me have my way for better or worse. In later years I thought I might have made more of myself but I’ve enjoyed all my life so much I never really regretted it.

To be continued…     

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One thought on “Wartime

  1. Dear Chris,
    Finally got caught up with your last blog,now I can read..The more I read about your childhood..the more my childhood compares…I too loved my grandmother,she used to give my sister & I ….3p.(three pence) each, every Saturday..We used to go to the mattinee,at the cinema,with mam,s consent, if she thought the film would be ok for us to see.This cost us 2p,so we had 1p for sweets..Usually there was a serial shown,you had to go back next week to see the next instalment…Like you, I adored my dad,he too never did a thing about the house,or help mam,this was usual in those days..BUT he really loved his children,used to carry us up to bed,every night,read us a story.. or tell us stories about his life,in India,also in the Middle East where he served during the war..He was one of “The Desert Rats”One thing he always did.was paper,& decorate the house,He was a master hand doing the papering,never a join showed..At Christmas he made us a “Mistletoe” which consisted of crepe paper.wound round two hoops from a barrel..which he hung up decorated with little ornaments..Usually there would be a sugar pig or two.. & chocolate mice,wrapped up in greaseproof paper to keep the dust off…He loved fishing & gardening,always taking us with him..He was a lover of nature,pointing out the wild flowers & trees.I remember one time he showed me a hornets nest..another time we watched a rabbit chase away a stoat or a weasel,..Dad told us “If you live to be 100..you will never see that again”This was because stoats Hypnotise rabbits,they are motionless then the stoat kills them..In this instant dad said “Look.see why the rabbit chased the stoat” When we looked we saw the rabbits babies playing around.. He never went fishing in the Tees,but always came home with lovely trout,for dinner/tea..He loved growing Sweet Peas,& Sweet Williams,which were his favourite flowers..I can still taste the lovely peas,& potatoes freshly dug from the garden..nothing tastes quite like them..He also loved giving produce away, to all the old.or poorer people..Every body those days were in the same boat so they all helped each other..My sister & I spent Saturday mornings, running around with fruit & veg,from my dad,to all those in need,while mam invited some of the old folk, in for supper every Sunday night..I wish there was more of this neibourliness around today..Life then was good..We didnt have much money,but lots of love,We were brought up to know right from wrong .& the way to live our lives..Sorry about the long comments I get carried away sometimes..Much love to you both..along with my prayers,Marion xx

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