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- 21 January 2004
My name was Beryl Elsie Hedges, I was born in 1934 and my brother was born in 1944, and at about the age of six, I was evacuated to the Rhondda Valley in South Wales.
I remember crying all the way to Wales, as being an only child for 10 years, I had 18 cousins and they were evacuated all over Wales. At the time, I was billeted at Treherbert in South Wales. The first thing I found was that the toilet was down the bottom of the garden. As a very small child, I was afraid of the dark and spiders and there were lots of them. We all lived on the top of the hill with cobbled stone roads. The school was right under the big black hills, which was very dark and gloomy (I have been told that it’s all gone now - the school and the road which I lived in). I did try and find the people I was billeted with, but with no luck. It was an end house with a kitchen on the side of it and a long garden too. I think my bedroom was at the back of the house.
I remember the daughter of the house, her name was Pamela. She was a music teacher and used to play us lots of songs, and we all used to sing to them all. We also went to chapel three times on Sunday and on Monday, the whole house was turned upside down for the big clean up! all fresh papers on the floor - the whole house sparkled like a new pin and used to smell and look lovely and clean for every one to see. Pamela’s father used to give me his sugar for my breakfast. Boy did I think that was wonderful! They used to be very good to me. I used to feel Pamela, the daughter, did not like me being there as she had been the only girl in their house until I came along - but I could have been wrong, I just felt it.
I also remember ‘Aunty’, Pamela’s mother, mixing all the fats together in a big dish, then it was spread on the bread. There was also another room where I think ‘Aunty’ did the washing for all of us in the summer, I sometimes had my bath there and I remember the dark bath salts that went into the water - did that stuff sting! I suppose it was to stop me scratching my skin. Well I am still doing it so I think its because I still have dry skin.
Colin must have been a relation to Aunty, Uncle and Pamela. Poor Colin had to take me around with him nearly everywhere and I did feel sorry for him then, and still do. I remember other children making fun of me and Colin used to tell them off because he always tried to protect me. I bet Colin was glad to see the back of me when I want back to North London.
I did get a shock when I saw the state of our road, when I returned to London. There were no windows or walls, they were all blown out. When I went into the front door, I didn’t
even need to go through it, I just went through the wall. I did this all over the house, which was four storeys high. I had the time of my life, I had no idea what mum and Gran had to put up with, it was all a game to me. I did miss my mum and dad very much.
I also remember when I came home from Wales, my grandma, aunty and mum used to send me into the outhouse, and I had to say in Welsh “where’s the towel mummy?” over and over again Then my granny would send us all out to play while she cleaned the house, and cooked the meal, while our mothers were out at work. I had seven cousins who were all boys Well I had lovely adventures, and many narrow escapes with them its a wonder I am here to tell the tale. When I went out with them, I had a very nice dress on with ribbons in my hair and white socks on my feet When we all got around the corner there was all hell let loose. Everything I had on was turned inside out, so if I got very dirty, no one would have seen me We used to play war games and pretend to be Hitler with the Germans and English fighting and when we came back home I was like Cinderella again. And get this, they all spat on their dirty bits of rags and washed me clean again, also tied my ribbons on again. I didn’t look too bad till my mother used to sit me in the sink and leave me to soak. She would say to my granny, “how come her clothes are dirty inside?” It took them ages to work that one out, as I was sworn to secrecy.
As a small child, with long blonde ringlets and not very nice to look at, I am glad to say I got through it all. I am now nearly 70 years old with five smashing sons and one lovely daughter, twelve grand children and four ex husbands. I was only 2lb 4 ounces in weight when I was born. I was one of a twin and unfortunately my sister didn’t make it. I must be stronger than I think I am to have survived. I am totally deaf in one ear and had another ear operation when I was 48 years old. I now wear a hearing aid as there is very little sound in the other one but I have still got most of the other parts of my body in tact!
God has been truly good to me. Always looked after me then, now and forever, so it can be a great life if you don’t give in.
Keep going girl, I tell myself often, love you all.
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