- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Margaret, and Brigid and Mother Martin
- Location of story:
- Stockport (Heaton Moor)
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 21 November 2004
In 1944 we were living in Heaton Moor, a suburb of Stockport. Some time in spring (I don’t know exactly when, but the War Office could probably tell me) empty houses were requisitioned by the US army, and we woke up one morning to find that five houses in our road were full of Americans, and the place was swarming with children from all over the village. “Any gum, chum?” they were shouting at the soldiers. This seemed to my sister and me to be very rude — we didn’t know what they were looking for, but whatever it was, they shouldn’t be asking strangers for it. We stood behind our closed garden gates, and stared in fascination, (which, come to think of it, was also rude) more at the cheek of the children than at the glamour of the soldiers, whose uniform was much smarter than that of our uncle, who was in the British Army.
A soldier noticed us and came over. “Would you little girls like some gum?” he asked. I did not like being called ‘little’, but I had been nicely brought up, so I said “Thank you very much”, and we took the proferred gum and ate it. It had a nice peppermint taste, but rather a peculiar texture, we thought. Much later we discovered it should have been chewed and not eaten, but it didn’t seem to have any ill effect.
I don’t know how long those young men were there. Was it weeks or months? We got to know some of them quite well, particularly when they discovered we had a fridge and could provide ice for their drinks, and we missed the buzz of their presence when they moved out.
Recently I asked my sister Brigid what she remembered of those days. She was eight at the time, and remembers even less than I do, but she has not forgotten the chewing gum. However, she had asked my mother about it a few years ago. Apparently she remembered other visitors to our road of whom we were unaware. These were ladies who would not normally have plied their trade in our “select” neighbourhood! She also told Brigid that she used to write “letters home” for one or two privates who couldn’t write themselves. “It was so sad”, she said. “They were only boys”.
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