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Through a Toddlers eyes

by cornwallcsv

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Fredick Charles Lay, Rachel Rendall, Anne Lay
Location of story: 
Doncaster Yorks
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
11 June 2005

This story was submitted to the People's War website by Sue Sutton on behalf of Prudence Osborne, the author and has been added to the site with her permission. The author fully understands the site's terms and conditions.

I was still very small when war was declared, and knew nothing of pre-war. During my formative years I retained many vivid memories, and when I talk today with people of the same era, I have sudden flashes of people and events.

I was born in Doncaster, Yorkshire. It was a mining area and a railhead, being not far from Sheffield and the steel works. We were treated as nightly "flyovers" as the enemy sought a target. I used to stand on my sister's bed, watching the searchlights, criss-crossing in the sky. This was not frightening - it was ballet.

My father was the headmaster of the Grammar School. I never really understood why he did not go away like other fathers of friends. maybe it was his pedagogic duties, his age, and the fact that he fought in the 1914-1918 war. He did however do fire watching and air raid duties. I shall never forget the safe, warm feeling of "Everyone is home" when he came in after a meeting or a stint of duty.

When the siren went, I was put into my "Siren Suit" (just like the one Churchill wears we were all told), then carried down to our cellar. My family say that with so many false alarms from the "flyovers", they would have left me to sleep. I was, however, up in my cot or out of bed with the first drone of a siren.

Our neighbours would join us from surrounding houses to sit out the time until the ALL CLEAR sounded. I had two elder sisters and it must have been an ordeal for both sides when their headmistress, a singing teacher, and sometimes two or three other staff joined us. With their neat, not to say severe, hair-dos of the day, in scraggy plaits and the smart school marms in flannel nighties made from ex-services blankets.

As the privations of war began to bite and rationing became a way of life, we were all asked to economise in every aspect of life. Radio programmes such as Kitchen Front, Elsie and Doris Waters as Gert and Daisy, exhorted housewives and gardeners to make the most of the meagre allowance of meat, eggs, fats and sugar by use of home produced fruit and root vegetables.

King George VI put out a message asking us all to save on fuel and coalminers' lives and efforts by limiting the depth of our bath water. To this end the King had a RED LINE painted round his bath at 5 inches. On hearing this, "Little Me" at 3 years old announced to a room full of neighbours "We have got a Black Line round our bath!" (it was a mining area, and we all got very grimy every day.)

The sweet ration came harder to the older children than to me, having known nothing else, but my mother used to occasionally conjure up a delight made with syrup, dried milk and a little fat and peppermint flavouring. This was rolled into a long sausage and cut with the kitchen scissors to make a treat called Peppermint Lumps, an accompaniment to Children's Hour, or for the grown ups Saturday Night Theatre.

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