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Christmas, Worlds Aparticon for Recommended story

by Frank Mee Researcher 241911

Contributed by 
Frank Mee Researcher 241911
People in story: 
Frank Mee
Location of story: 
Norton, Stockton on Tees
Background to story: 
Civilian
Article ID: 
A2132029
Contributed on: 
14 December 2003

Place: Our Bungalow.
Date: First Saturday in December, 2003.
The cast: Dogs, our kids plus additions, their kids (our grandchildren) and one great-grandchild - in order of the noise they are making.

Mother is cooking up a storm of home-made cakes with trifles all ready, and enough salad and sandwiches to feed an army, as we sit talking about the arrangements for Christmas day. Turkey, duck and ham have to be ordered and collected - and all the other things that go towards the Christmas dinner.

Dad gets to choose the pudding and is in charge of the proper steaming of it, plus the brandy butter, white sauce or creams, none of this microwave rubbish. My daughters are working out menus, arranging for food to be cooked in various kitchens and carried in hot boxes to my daughter Margaret's house, the biggest with the longest room, so that 15 of us can sit down at 13:30 hours and enjoy the meal and the company. The present giving will be after the meal and then we wend our well-filled selves back home to flake out watching the old faithfuls on TV.

Questions: Granddad, what was it like at Christmas in the war? Well! Our Christmas always started with my father and I killing the geese, ducks and cockerels, then my mother with her hand up inside them pulling out unmentionable bits and pieces. 'Oh granddad, please, we are going to have our tea!' I looked at their faces and knew they had no idea even how we lived, never mind what it was like living during the war, and my mind went back.

December 1939

What they called the Phoney War was in full swing. It was not a phoney war to the sailors of Courageous or Royal Oak, sunk by U-boats. It would not have been much fun for the Fins who had been attacked by Russia and the Fins had won a battle in December of that year.

We had all been made aware that if you struck a match at night you were giving the enemy aid by showing light, the wardens cracked down with a mighty hand. They, with my dad, were sickened to be called dart-playing warriors by a government minister who thought wardens, firewatchers and other lookouts would be better employed elsewhere, even though they all did daytime jobs as well.

As was normal at that time of year, I released the birds one at a time, sending them down to dad who had to kill them with tears streaming down his face. All his birds and animals were his friends until their time came. He did not like it but it had to be done. They were hung on the wash house wall until mother could pluck them - this included removing their insides, an operation I watched with interest, two months off being 11 and wanting to know, it was nothing to me after watching the pigs and other animals slaughtered on a routine basis.

The pudding had been made as a community effort at my grandmother's house in North Ormesby. The whole family gathered for the occasion and us kids all had a stir and watched the silver three penny bits go in. The puddings went into bowls and we each took our pudding home to be cooked for eight hours, then stored until the day. Mother made several Christmas cakes as dried fruit was in abundance for some reason. Like today we then counted down, everything being home made and stored in the deep pantry which was colder than modern fridges. All the vegetables came out of our garden or the storage pies where dad kept the root vegetables and potatoes.

Christmas Day

My sister and I woke up on Christmas day to find our stockings on the end of the bed. They were stuffed with fruit and toys, with even some wrapped toffees. As all our sweets at that time were served to us loose in brown bags, wrapped toffees were super luxury and yes, there were still some sweets that early in the war but not for long.

I got a Dinky toy model of the Battleship Hood, a couple of destroyers and two submarines. I did not realise what part the Hood would play in our family later. (See the story Mum, I have been Posted to a Battleship). There were other things to discover and we played on the bedroom floor until Mum called us to wash and breakfast. We then helped Mum - or got under her feet, whichever view you took - and when the meal was ready, the table laid and the candles lit, we sat and ate. A normal family Christmas to all intents and purposes, apart from the fact that there was a war on somewhere.

After the meal and pudding which, surprise, always managed to produce a three penny bit for my sister and I, we cleared the table and got the washing up out of the way. Dad went out and brought in our big presents. I can remember standing there totally frozen as a beautiful new bicycle came through the door. It was a Hercules with straight handle bars and gleaming wheels, exactly what I had wanted but thought I would not get. £4/19/6, it had cost a small fortune at that time.

The blocks were already fitted on the pedals as the frame was slightly large for me to grow into. We wheeled it out on the road and I took off round the Green with quite a few other lads trying out their bikes. We did not realise it but our parents must have thought this will be the last good Christmas for a while, they had heard all this, 'The war will be over by Christmas' rubbish before.

I saw some of my relatives walking up the Green with more presents so went home flushed and happy to another meal and the company of relatives bearing gifts for my sister and I.

After tea, Uncle Peter played the piano for a sing-song while the adults had a drink. The women drank Green Goddess cocktails, a horrible concoction that gave you a headache (I had tried it once when Mum was out). Dad had a whisky, the only drink he had all year and they all sang 'Run Rabbit', 'Its a lovely day tomorrow', 'Roll out the barrel' and others, while Peter hammered the piano flat with his huge ham-like hands. I had to play my party piece, 'One day when we were young' and 'Alice blue gown', which was Dad's favourite, and we all sang it, Peter saying all the while, 'Thump it Sonny! You have to be heard when playing in a pub'. Dad whispered, 'Yes, and the piano tuner must live there' - funny my dad.

They would all leave wearing something white to be seen in the blackout as hundreds had been killed in accidents whereas at that time only a couple had been killed on the front line. A different world indeed, but I remember that and other Christmas days that were not so much different from 1939 for us. I know now we had privileges others did not. My present of the bike was the memorable thing as I now had freedom to go further afield, something we could do safely in those days. We had a week of visits and then another big meal for New Year, after which we were sent to bed while the adults partied.

You see girls, I said, finishing the story, we had such a different lifestyle you cannot picture it, but we did all the same things. The war was there all around us but you had to have some normality and we carried on with life as we knew it. One of them looked at me and said, 'But granddad how could you eat the goose after seeing it killed and what great grandma did to it?' My reply, 'Easy, we were used to that kind of life' - it was how we lived and thought that was the only normal way.

In 1939 it was all done by our parents, everything made in the house. In 2003 it comes from a supermarket, something we knew nothing of - the Co-op store was our big shop at that time. It all still needs the same organising and planning to bring us to the same happy family day, so maybe not too much has changed really.

It was happy in 1939 and I know, surrounded by our children, grandchildren and great-grandchild, we will enjoy this year just as much - but will I get another bike, I wonder.

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These messages were added to this story by site members between June 2003 and January 2006. It is no longer possible to leave messages here. Find out more about the site contributors.

Message 1 - Christmas worlds apart.

Posted on: 14 December 2003 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

I could almost hear that piano, slightly out of tune, banging away. With the old paper decorations from each corner of the ceiling to the light in the middle, and the mistletoe in the doorway.

By the way Frank, £4.19.6d is £201.87 in today's values.

Peter

 

Message 2 - Christmas worlds apart.

Posted on: 15 December 2003 by Frank Mee Researcher 241911

Peter,
You were there peeping round the corner. That was dead right we spent hours putting long streamers together and twisting them, unfolding paper christmas trees and hanging them plus the real christmas tree standing in the corner with glass balls and candles which were only lit for an hour on the day.
That old piano was payment for Dad moving someone they could not pay cash so it was kind. I dont know what its worth would be but two years ago I bought my new Yamaha Eletronic piano for £2000 the only thing being it still plays "Alice Blue Gown" and "Lilly Marlene" some things never change.
I will probably be off air for a couple of weeks now Peter so take this opportunity of wishing you all the best for the coming season and new year. Best regards,
Frank. :)

 

Message 3 - Christmas worlds apart.

Posted on: 16 December 2003 by Carey - WW2 Site Helper

Hallo!

Did you know that the newest colloborative project is about Christmas recollections? It would be lovely if you wished to repost your Christmas story there -- the url is

A2136340

and Helen's got some questions listed there, too, if there is anything you would like to add to your story!

cheers,
Carey

 

Message 4 - Christmas worlds apart.

Posted on: 16 December 2003 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

Thanks for the tip, Carey.

I've just posted one of my more memorable Christmases there.

Kind regards,

Peter

 

Message 5 - Christmas worlds apart.

Posted on: 17 December 2003 by Carey - WW2 Site Helper

Hallo, Peter!

That's super -- thank you very much!

cheers,
Carey

 

Message 6 - Christmas worlds apart.

Posted on: 17 December 2003 by Frank Mee Researcher 241911

Hello Carey,
No I had not seen the collaborative article, yes if Helen wants to edit it and post this story to that forum it is OK by me.
Helen has sorted a couple of my tales and does a good job so alter away with my blessing.
No good asking me I dont know how to shift it without a re-write.
Frank Mee.

 

Message 7 - Christmas worlds apart.

Posted on: 17 December 2003 by Carey - WW2 Site Helper

Dear Mr Mee,

Hallo! You know to be honest, I'm not sure how to move things about on the site at this point, either! I've been meaning to ask Helen about that...

You ought to be able to copy and paste from your entry on the site and repost it under the Christmas link -- I think if I do it, it would appear under my name. I have no problems moving it over there for you, and would of course attribute the story to you. I don't think this would be out of the ordinary as some stories that I've come across on the editorial desk were posted by people other than the authors.

Will have a go at switching it over if you like!

cheers,
Carey

 

Message 8 - Christmas worlds apart.

Posted on: 17 December 2003 by Frank Mee Researcher 241911

Mr Mee,what is with that,
Listen buddy the name is Frank by name and nature.
Hello Carey,
I dont mind how you do it but having tried once before and found myself in Siberia somewhere left it all to Helen. I do not object to you moving it if you can by any means. At 74 it strikes me I am lucky in getting the story's to you, you can teach an old dog some new tricks, I will practice them before moving on to the more exciting efforts.
Read your story and your page by the way, a very busy Lady, I dont sew but the piano would probably be a common link, I would provide the ear plugs for you. My Daughter in California says it is cold how are things in Virginia.
Regards Frank. :)

 

Message 9 - Christmas worlds apart.

Posted on: 17 December 2003 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

Hi Carey

That all seems a bit cumbersome to me. The Internet was devised as a web of interlinks.

All you need do is give it a title at the collaborative project page (Frank's is fine) with the simple text 'Click here A2132029 to read this story'.

If you copy and paste you will lose the thread.

Peter

 

Message 10 - Christmas worlds apart.

Posted on: 17 December 2003 by Carey - WW2 Site Helper

Hallo, Peter -- thank you for the info -- am still learning my way about all of this myself! Will give it a bash; now everyone don't giggle, as be fair I read mediaeval history, although I am not a technophobe (crikey almost typed technophone; ought to quit whilst ahead.)

Right then, Frank, will see if I can get your story shifted properly.

I've got a piano in my room here, horribly out of tune, so I think that means with my awful playing perhaps it will cancel out the bad tuning and sound all right...no one stays in the room long enough to tell me, as they all have immediate needs to be elsewhere when I sit down.

Here in VA it is chilly, and very muddy -- it never quite gets cold enough to snow, so we have ice (in fact had a loss of electricity for a few days cos of an ice storm), and it is warm enuogh for everything to melt, but not warm enough to dry up the mud. So things are a bit damp until the springtime.

Right, off I go here, hang on...

cheers,
carey

 

Message 11 - Christmas worlds apart.

Posted on: 17 December 2003 by Carey - WW2 Site Helper

Right! Done and done...

Now off to feed the sheep...

cheers,
Carey

 

Message 12 - Christmas worlds apart.

Posted on: 18 December 2003 by Frank Mee Researcher 241911

Thanks Carey,
Saw that well done. Never knock an out of tune piano, when people are in their cups they will sing to what they imagine you are playing. Believe that from some one whose fingers still bear the scars of doing battle with Naffi and Mess pianos in many strange places.
"Oh and never mention sheep on this site" people have strange behavioral patterns and it rises like sap at the mere thought of sheep. Be warned.
Frank

Message 1 - Modern Day Monty!

Posted on: 15 December 2003 by Salamundo

I have never (touch wood) had to live through a period of 'Total War' during my thirty years and have always wondered if 'then was now' do you think my generation would be able to defeat such a well equiped, fanatical army as our Grandparents generation did?

I would appreciate your views

 

Message 2 - Modern Day Monty!

Posted on: 15 December 2003 by Frank Mee Researcher 241911

Hello Salamundo,
Big question but the short answer is yes.
If you had lived through those days leading up to and during the war you would have seen, disorganisation, appeasement and downright cowardice as we handed Czechoslovakia to Germany on a plate even though we had a pact with them. Poland crushed between Russia and Germany demanding living room had no chance.
France sitting behind its Maginot line had no intentions of doing anything but defend itself and was complaining about us not sending enough troops in the first months.
We had not sent enough troops because due to disarmament and the lack of funding for the forces we did not have an army to send or enough weapons to send with them.
In the dark days of 1940 we found ourselves alone and cut off but like a butterfly the British come out of their Chrysalis. Churchill took over and his rousing words uplifted the nation, we showed our teeth and from that moment on I do not think a person in the land ever thought we could not win. The jokes after bombing raids the things said as we lost battle after battle never once took into account "hey we could lose this you know" we shook out heads climbed back in the ring and started the next round. The Graf Spey being sunk by the navy gave us all a jumpstart then the Battle of Britain boosted our will even more and from then on it was "up and at em lads and lasses" the bulldog spirit took over.
You are old enough to remember the Falklands war, the same politicol apathy and the usual disorganisation in sending an army into the field. The wrong weapons and equipment boots that leaked and it came down to the mud plugger with his rifle and bayonet as in every war.
Remember the wave of patriotism that swept the land how we all sat glued to radio and Tv, how you all felt when the boys did the job and came home victorious. Same with the first Gulf war and the second. Nothing had changed, bad equipment but the boys still did the job. We Brits have something in our genes that suddenly comes alive in times of danger and we go out to do the job never thinking of the oddds. Back to the question, could your age group do it, Yes without doubt it is your age group in Iraq now so there is your answer.
Regards Frank. :)

 

Message 3 - Modern Day Monty!

Posted on: 15 December 2003 by Salamundo

Thanks for your reply Frank!

You have finally answered a question I have often pondered upon and it bolsters my belief that it takes tough times to bring out the best in people!!

As far as the comparison with Falklands war and The Gulf Conflicts,in your opinion, in 1939 if the war was likely to have little effect on 'The Home Front', would people have been as motivated?

I would be interested in your answer.

Thanks
Salamundo

 

Message 4 - Modern Day Monty!

Posted on: 15 December 2003 by Frank Mee Researcher 241911

Hello again,
I cannot answer that one only give you an idea of how it would have been.
There was still a large proportion of the upper class and top business people wanting peace at any price or appeasement.
From September until April it was called the phony war, there would be peace by Christmas so we were told. Our relatives who had been through the first world war thought differently, they said Germany had to be put down for good this time so we had a difference in thinking between the social groups.
When Hitler invaded Denmark in the April and we were defeated in Norway, the top echelon thought we must seek peace with HItler but then he went into Holland and that was it.
We expected to be invaded at any moment during the next year and the preperations to fight a gueurilla war were put in place.
Some would have put up the white flag and some fought to the death but we will never know the truth will we.
I only heard my Mother say if they did come she did not want My sister and I taken alive. Dramatic maybe but that is how people felt in our area.
Regards Frank :)

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