Most of my teenage years were spent in Kilmacolm and life went on as normal: Annabel and I went to school, Dad went to work and Mum took care of us all. So it was for most families. We still spent a lot of time at the Toll meeting up with other members of the family, and similarly at George Square. But lurking always in the background was ‘The War’. While we were never in any danger of starving, there were many items soon off the menu and others were scarce. Scrambled egg wasn’t quite the same when made with powdered eggs instead of real ones. We missed bananas and oranges and other imported fruit. Mothers had to work hard to make attractive meals out of small amounts of meat and other foodstuffs. However, we were all healthy and no doubt better for having fewer sweets, chocolate, cakes and sugar. In our house Dad had the sweetest tooth! There were meals provided in the Kidston Hall by an organisation the name of which escapes me. Occasionally Mum would send me there with Annabel, and we would have an adequate meal for less than 2/- (2 shillings), about 10 pence. A Theatre Company also came to the same Hall occasionally. The play, I remember, was An Inspector Calls. In my memory the Inspector was Alastair Sim, but it might just have been someone who resembled him.
At school the senior pupils learned about ‘Current Affairs’ regularly and were encouraged to read the newspaper and listen to the wireless bulletins. Young men just a few years older than I was, and some fathers, joined the Forces and appeared in uniforms. Our Dad was in a reserved occupation. At least nine of our cousins were in uniform in various parts of the world. I would have been called up when I became 18 but the Bank was a reserved occupation and I was more useful there. To begin with it was quite exciting and not very real but, once the opposing armies were moving westwards and the bulletins told of casualties, it dawned on this 13-year-old that war was a nasty, degrading business. Whoever won, all would be losers because of the death and destruction that ruined or changed for ever many people’s lives. Even now as I write this people are dying in various parts of the world mainly for reasons of greed and desire for power.
The war period has been written about by people much more knowledgeable than I am. To be honest, I have trouble remembering much about these teen years. Soldiers were billeted in Kilmacolm and there were dances in the school hall. Quite a few of my friends went, but Mum wouldn’t let me go! I wasn’t all that bothered – I liked to read, sew, collect stamps, look after Annabel sometimes and go bicycle rides. But I never did learn to dance! Except for some Scottish country stuff, St. Bernard’s Waltz and the like. One of my friends, Rena, met an American sailor at the dancing, married him and sailed off to Connecticut when she was 18. We kept in touch for years.
Annabel was six and starting her second year at school. Although she had wee pals at school, we still spent a lot of time together in the evenings. I didn’t consider myself too old to play with her! Paper dolls were fun as were jigsaw and card games. The doll’s house was papered I remember. Dad got us a wall paper sample book from somewhere, and the square pages were just the thing. We made new furniture after saving lots of match boxes. Four made a lovely arm-chair and six made a settee. Chests of drawers took four for singles and eight for doubles. Little chairs were made with corks. Four pins pushed in the narrow end for legs, four pins at the wider end half way round. Then we interlaced the pins with scraps of wool to make the chair backs. We made bedclothes, cushions and silver paper mirrors and hung pictures from magazines. There was no end to our ingenuity! Mum spent a lot of time knitting soft toys which we helped to stuff with kapok. These were for a war charity. She had done the same in the first war when she was a teenager, although then it was socks and scarves for servicemen mainly.
The dark winter evenings didn’t seem so long when we were busy. There was always school homework to be done before games and handiwork. Once Dad went off to work, we seldom went out at night in the dark except for the dog’s wee walk along the lane with our torches. Sometimes the siren would sound which was a bit alarming at first. After quite a long time of getting up, eventually we stopped hearing it most of the time – although Mum probably did and would have wakened us if there had been any bangs! I’ve already written about the Greenock Blitz. We were thankful to see Dad on the mornings after these raids. The Factory must have been a prime target but it survived without harm for which we were thankful.