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Schoolgirl wartime memories of Turvey, Bedfordshire

by bedfordmuseum

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Contributed by 
People in story: 
Mrs. Nancy Water (nee) Dix
Location of story: 
Turvey and Harrold, Bedfordshire
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Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
05 November 2005

Schoolgirl wartime memories of Turvey

Evacuees in Turvey
“A lot of people had evacuees who hadn’t children of their own and didn’t know how to look after them. We had two girls, June and Janice. Old Miss Hind, she had had the two girls. She never had had children and so she didn’t know what to do, she didn’t take an interest in them. The lady (connected with the welfare of evacuees) came round to see my mum and asked her if she would look after them and they came to us. They were quite happy, they had to tow the line and do jobs. Their mother came to see us. Their dad worked on the Railway, same as my dad.

We were given our gas masks here at the school in Turvey. Because my sister Angela was the smallest she was given what was called a Mickey Mouse mask. I remember we had to take them all back to school because they taped an extra bit on the end, another filter. We had to take them to school, we had to try them on and we had ten minute sessions of wearing them once a week at school.

Wartime schooldays at Harrold Priory School, Harrold
There was the main passageway and the Hall and five classrooms on the left hand side. First segment off was the kitchen and dining room, central section was the Main Hall, Gallery. The far section was the art room, woodwork and metalwork. That’s all, four or five classrooms. Only about 120 pupils at the most. The children came from Turvey, Carlton, Harrold, Wymington and Podington.

We used to have to do allotments, not only our schoolwork, but we worked in kitchens and gardens. Everybody had a plot of ground or two. A plot of ground the length of the Village Hall and about ten feet wide. Each year you were allocated to grow parsnips on that, or onions or potatoes. You had to look after it, that was your responsibility. Then the following year you had to grow a different crop. If they wanted anything off your plot you’d have to dig it, cut it or pick it, whatever, for the kitchen. If they decided to have parsnips for dinner you had to go and dig the parsnips, or if you had cabbage or brussels, you had to go and pick them. It didn’t matter what the weather was! It was all part of our learning. It was very good really. Once a month there used to be sacks of potatoes to peel. We used to grow them. That would be used for feeding the children at lunchtime, they used to be lovely dinners. We had to pay for dinners but it wasn’t very much. The school was basically self sufficient. Mrs Watson, the Headmasters wife, was in charge of the kitchens. Quite strict, but she was very fair. Some of the girls would go in there for cookery lessons in the afternoon - some of the food they made would be for the following day. We had very good dinners.

I went to Harrold Priory school for the last twelve months of my schooling. I left school at fourteen. I was so disappointed as I left the school at the Easter and the next year the school leaving age went up to fifteen!”

Self sufficiency in the countryside
Dad used to go to Dick Brown’s farm to get a rabbit we used to have one most weeks. Mum used to cook it in various ways but I think the nicest way I liked it was roasted with vegetables around it. I wanted to have a go at skinning a rabbit, it quite easy. Dad used to keep hens, after two years of laying he would have the new ones coming on, we used to boil the old hens. We would glean corn for the chickens and we used to bring home the little pieces of straw for the pigs.

We used to have to keep pigs during the war. We used to have a pig killed every year and I used to help Dad put it in the salt, he had it in big trays. There were some great big hooks up our staircase and also wooden racks and that’s where the sides of bacon and hams used to hang. When Mum wanted some bacon if Dad was there he’d do it, but if he wasn’t we used to lift them down and we cut off some slices. It was nothing really.

You gave up a ration book for a year after you’d killed it. You’d already fed it all the scraps and everything. You fed them in those days the scraps. All the little potatoes you didn’t want yourself, we had a brick copper up the garden where you put them. Dad used to grow mangle worzels on part of the allotment. We’d chop those up and all the peelings and everything and boil it up. It used to smell quite nice really. He made some grids on sticks where you crushed everything up. So much of that had to go in each mix of food. We used old saucepans as measures - we had so many scoops of bran. Dad made a sort of shoot so that we could pour the stuff into the mixer. The dinner waste from school was all collected up for pigswill. People used to collect it. It was all boiled up with the rest of it. I’m sure it was more healthy to eat the food then, there was nothing put in, in those days, it was all just natural food.

All the food scraps were saved. Mum didn’t put washing up liquid into the washing up water, because the water had to go into the bucket (of scraps) it had to be very hot especially if it had been lamb, to get the grease off the plates. Anything was put into the bucket. We put fresh bedding down and brushed their backs, oh they were lovely. We had about six at a time in the sty in the yard. We kept the pigs at the top of the garden - we had a huge garden at the back of that house. The orchard was were the houses are built, down to the river, dad’s friend, Mr Smith, owned it and they built some pig stys between them. I found pigs to be lovely animals.

Offal wasn’t rationed - sometimes you’d be able to get a bit of pork liver and occasionally Mr Bailey used to say, ”Would you ask your mum if she would like a bullock’s heart?” That was ever so nice, mum used to cut all the pipes out of it and stuff it with lovely stuffing and sew it up. She had a big iron pot, the stuffed heart was quite big, it was solid meat, no fat. She would put it in this iron pot and it would be boiling all morning. There would be more than enough for all of us and sometimes I would have stuffed heart sandwiches for work the next day. They are probably put into pet food today. We used to get shin beef for beef puddings. Brawn, that was made out of anything that was left, all the bits and pieces, the top end of the pigs tail was edible, it was put into brawn. It was all cooked and mum used to put in into these big tins, cover it with greased proof paper and when she wanted any she just had to turn it over and cut some off.

We used to gather basketsful of blackberries from the hedgerows, we had lovely blackberry puddings with suet. You would ask for suet from the butchers and we would grate it. Lard cake, Mum would use lard in cakes and there is nothing nicer than homemade lard on bread with a little bit of salt. It didn’t do us any harm. We lived on suet puddings, jam roly polys, suet rolls.

Celebrating VE Day
We had some people from Kettering staying with us and we went back and dad got a piece of rope and hung a flag from our bedroom window. Everywhere was decorated. We were given mugs, I’ve still got mine.”

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