- Contributed by
- Gwen Millward
- People in story:
- The Atkins Family
- Location of story:
- Leamington Spa
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 21 June 2004
Me - or Little Gwennie Atkins
The only uniform I wore during the war was a Brownie uniform.
I joined the Brownie pack at St Albans , a church that has long been demolished. My strongest memory of the Borwnies is shivering in mt brown cotton uniform while we stood for the minute's silence on Armistice Day church parade,on which we were joined by the Girl Guides, Cubs, Scouts and Sea Cadets.
I did the usual Brownie things.I worked for my badges.learnt knots and promised to "Do my duty to God and the king, and to help other people at all times".
Woodbine Street was a street where most people got on well together.
On VJ day we had a street party just like thousands of others in this country.Every household chipped in with something,be it a trifle,cakes or sandwiches,gallons of pop for us children and something stronger for the grown-ups,who carried their celbrations into the evening, even dancing in the street to records on someone's gramaphone.
I was put to bed by then.In fact my mother put me to bed early all the time,about 7 -7.30pm
When I complained that other kids were playing out in the street,she used to say"Yes, and that's why they don't do as well as you at school,they are too tired".
I can say with some pride I ususally came second in my class in end of term exams.Top girl,but there was always this boy I couldn't get the better of.Perhas it was because I didn't get very good marks for history and geography.Those two subjects always let me down,even though I was top in arithmatic and english.
It was hard to concentrate on history lessons - Mr Parker's trousers were far more fascination.He never wore a belt ot braces and I would gaze spell bound as his trousers slid lower and lower over his hips as he paced back anf forth in front of the class enthusing over the Bronze Age ,Vikings,1066 or whatever.Then all of a sudden he would put his hands in his pockets and hoist his trousers and all would eb well for a short time,until they started descending again.
Going to bed early might have made me brainier if I had gone to sleep straight away.
When I slept in the top bedroom at the front,I used to hang out of the window talking to Mickey and the others and dart back into bed when I heard my mother come upstairs.She had seen and heard them shouting to me.
We were all really for it one summer's evening.As usual I had been put to bed early and not long after Mickey and the others returned from scrumping plums.Thye threw some up to me at the window.I caught a couple and then one went wizzing past me and went splat on the wall.
You can imagine what my mother said when she came upsatirs to tell me to get back into bed and saw ripe plum stuck on the wallpaper.
I got the full brunt of her fury because as soon as the others realised what had happened they legged it off home.
At the top of the street,on the corner with Church Hill, a brick airraid shelter had been built.It was quite long and had no light in it.We used to dare each other to go in on our own and walk not run,through the dark snd out the other end.I used to hate that but I did it.It was not only darkbut smelly.
Looking back on those years I might just as well have been an only child.There were ten years between Bob and me.He was interested in girls but not in his little sister
that's why I was out playing in the dtreet and reading.
I had a bookcase in my bedroom that Bob had made at school.Three whole shelves were full of my books.Of course there were all the film annuals,there were adventure books,and a lot of books that had been handed down to me from my mother,including What Katy Did,Little Women and Christie's Old Organ.I was lost to the world when I was reading.I would suddenly come to ,to hear my mother say "You haven't heard a word I 've said.You've got your head in that book again"
I have often thought about Frank,Mollie and Bob being born so close together,and then me tagging along later.When I grew up I said to my mum,"I wasn't a planned baby was I mum?",and she replied with a wry grin "No you weren't,you were an awful shock".
She seemed to have got over it though.We were talking about the war one day and she said that I cheered her up during those years.The war didn;t seem to touch me much and I had chattered away to her about other things, and what with my singing and dancing sessions in 'the room',it seemed I was the proverbial little ray of sunshine.
Mollie has since told me that she got a bit fed up with me when I was very small.She said that whenever she was off out with her firends,mum would say "Take Gwen with you".One of my earliest memories is of Mollie and her friends riding on my pram(with me in it)down a hill on the way to the Victoria Park.
I am like Bob in looks.I started off with golden curls and was auburn by the time I started school.
When I was little ,people used to say I looked" a proper little Shirley Temple".It must have been the golden curls and pretty dresses my mother made me.
My mother was a great knitter.Mrs.Gossling,my friend Christine's mother,was a tailoress.So Christine used to get pretty dresses knitted by my mother and I remember Mrs Gossling tailored me a grey coat.One just like the two young princesses,Elizabeth and Margaret Rose wore.
My mother taught me to knit and I was very good at it.All the girls at school who could were allowed to knit for the war effort during classes, as long as their work didn't suffer.I loved thia and turned out khaki gloves,balaclavas,scarves and socks by the dozen.What I loved knitting most of all sere seaboot stockings for the sailors.They were kitted on big wooden needles in thick white waterproof wool.Even though they were nearly the length of a mans leg,I could knit one pair in no time at all.All the wool was provided by the school.
I remember our school adopted a ship.W eused to write to the men on it and they wrote back.
In one letter I told how our dog,Rover,had to be put down because of old age and his back legs had gone.I had a lovely letter from a sailor saying how very sorry he was.
I ofetn wonder now what he really thought.There he was out on the high seas,liable to be bombed or torpedoes at any time, and there was I safely at home,worried as to whether Rover had gone to heaven or not.
I fell in love for the first tiem during the war.One of teh films I went to see on Thursday evening was called "The Stage Door Canteen".
It was about a place in America they called a canteen.Servicemen went there to dance and be entertained and to dine.Famous people from stage and screen came here to entertain them.
In the film you followed the fortunes of a group of servicemen who went into this canteen,and I fell in love with one of them,a young recruit.He was so goodlooking-dark eyes and a lovely smile.The others called him "California" because that was where he came from.I have never found out who played him,but I have never forgotten him nor what he looked like.Well,you don't forget your first crush do you?
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