- Contributed by
- Leicestershire Library Services - Earl Shilton Library
- People in story:
- Norman Startin
- Location of story:
- Earl Shilton, Hinckley, Leicestershire
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 30 November 2004
This story was submitted to the People's War site by Holly Fuller of Leicestershire Library Services on behalf of Mr Norman Startin and has been added to the site with her permission. The author fully understands the site's terms and conditions.
I was twelve years of age when war broke out. At the time of Mr Chamberlain’s announcement, I was visiting my Grandma, and we heard it on the radio. The effects were gradual at our age; it seemed exciting, wondering what was going to happen. At the time, I was attending Hinckley Grammar School. Cycling to Hinckley and back each day.
At school, air raid shelters were dug on the far side of the playing field. Every so often, the alarm would sound, and off we would troop across the grass carrying our gas masks.
When the blitz got under way, the pupils of Saltley Grammar School were evacuated from Birmingham, and we had to share premises with them. This meant that we did alternate shifts with them attending one in the morning, and the other in the afternoon. Fire watching was organised, and some of us in the senior classes were paid a small sum to sleep on the site and patrol in case incendiary bombs came our way (luckily none did).
A few were found in the rugby pitch on Leicester Road, but the only bomb damage I saw, was when cycling to school one morning, I saw several houses on the Leicester Road had been blown apart. There was a rule that if an air raid lasted more than an hour we were allowed to start school one hour later. As we mostly slept heavily, sometimes we’d get to school and learn that an air raid had taken place, and then we’d disappear for an hour.
From the age of nine, I had a job as a butcher boy, collecting orders from customers and delivering the meat, several days each week, and helping in the shop on Saturday mornings between delivering the joints — all for the princely sum of 2/6d (12.5p) per week.
What a change when meat was rationed! Customers who had previously grumbled when their Sunday joint weighed in a penny or some more than 2/6d order, now tried their best to persuade the butcher to give a little extra. Rationing came for all foods. Prior to this, word would spread quickly if a certain shop had sugar, sweets, or other items, and queues would soon form at the shop.
When I was old enough, I took on a Sunday Paper round. This was one of the better-paid jobs for a boy earning 7/6d for the morning. I also was given a tip by one of the local manufacturers, who ordered three papers. They cost 2d each, and each week, he’d give me a shilling and I’d offer him 6d change. Every time he told me to keep it. One week the presses had been bombed and I was short of my quota of papers. I only delivered two papers to hi. I explained that if he had three someone else would have to go without. That’s it! I thought, but to my surprise, he still said ‘Keep the change’. Most folk will be surprised to know that was C. Toon as he had a bit of a reputation for being firm.
I kept the round until I went to work at Desford Aerodrome where I’d be working most Sundays until I joined the Army (But that’s another story).
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