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Evacuation 3.9.39 - the day that changed my life

by shropshirelibraries

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Betty, Ken and Mary James
Location of story: 
Liverpool and Bangor, North Wales
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
26 November 2005

That day would be the watershed of my life. Nothing would ever be the same again. My sister, brother and I went to school. Not as usual for normally we were at home on Sunday. Mother also came to school. On arrival we all had labels tied on to our coats and ordered to join the line.

We left school and walked to Lime Street Station - I remember seeing the silver grey barrage balloons gently swaying in the sky high above. We said our goodbyes at the station - stay together Mother instructed and we did. So many children milling around. My sister 13 was to be in charge of myself 9 and my brother 10. Clinging to my siblings we all boarded the train, going we knew not where. The train was so crowded but everyone finally found a seat and we were off to a great adventure - we thought

Liverpool was soon left behind. Small streets and dense housing were replaced by villages with green fields and homes with large gardens. Soon hills came into view - where were we going? The journey seemed to take forever and our packed sandwiches had long since been devoured. The train eventually came to a halt and my brother happened to be first to alight. A fairly rotund man sporting a chain of office over his black suit came forward to greet him and welcome all to Bangor, North Wales. His face was very solemn when he told us that war had been declared.

Once again we formed a crocodile walking along a main road. Very wide compared to the roads at home, tree lined and very lovely buildings - I later found they were part of the University. Everything seemed so green, flower beds so colourful. Eventually we crossed this main road and turned into school premises. We were all taken to the hall of the school. It must have been used for gym for the sports equipment was in view. Inside the hall were quite a number of ladies. I can't remember seeing any men.

Then the ordeal started! Would you like to come and live with me a lady asked - when I told her I had a brother and sister she hastily drew away. This question was asked of us frequently. One child could go but not three. Four hours later we were still there with one other group, a family of five. I never did find out how they had fared. The hall seemed bigger than ever and I just wanted to go home. Two ladies were talking to my sister. They were friends and lived opposite each other. One lady would have the boy and the second would take the two sisters. My sister accepted and then we had to go to the far end of the hall and receive a brown paper carrier bag. We passed a counter and items were dropped into the bag. Tea, sugar, tin of corned beef, a huge block of chocolate, or so it appeared to me, a tin of condensed milk. I am not sure if we had cheese and butter, the bag was quite heavy. We had to return to the lady and give her the food.

We left the school together and walked, not very far, to our new home. Not like home at all and that first night I couldn't sleep. Apart from all the anxieties of the day, I wondered what would happen to us when we had consumed the contents of the carrier bag. Mr and Mrs Jones were a childless couple. Both very thin, gaunt almost. Mrs Jones was very strict and extremely houseproud. The house was very small but everywhere sparkled. Penrhyn slate was used extensively in the area. Mrs Jones was very proud of her slate window sills and door step, burnished brightly. We were instructed, when we returned to the house, to jump over the doorstep and never to stand on it. Having landed on the carpet, you had to step out of your shoes before walking on it. I used to over balance for you couldn't steady yourself by touching the wall. Mrs Jones was very strict and we always had to be quiet. I think Mr Jones would have been more friendly if he could. His meal was served separately on return from work and he always drank something very dark with it. Was it guinness I now wonder? Our meals were very frugal with bread and jam for breakfast whilst our brother living opposite had bacon, egg and toast - this was 1939. We used to see him from our bedroom window and make faces at him - he used to grin and continue to enjoy himself. His house was far more relaxed with one child in the family, a little girl about 10 who played the violin. I remember she had beautiful auburn curly hair and blue eyes but I can't remember her name.

The next hurdle was school but this proved to be a picnic as we went to school in the morning and the local children in the afternoon. On the first day we returned for lunch after school. Mrs Jones was not happy when she saw us. You were supposed to have lunch at school. My sister explained we couldn't have our meal in school. To be fair, Mrs Jones did provide cheese sandwiches with ill grace and suggested we go out until teatime. We enjoyed this new freedom, explored the town and the mountain and generally had fun out of doors. Teatime was to be less than we had enjoyed at home, a boiled egg. I missed my mother very much. After two weeks of this spartan regime, we had a visitor. Mother had come to see us in response to a letter from Mrs Jones. Our mid-day meals were not convenient and Mrs Jones felt she should not provide them. Regarding our laundry, Mrs Jones found this very difficult and suggested that she should post it to Mum who would launder the same and post it back! Needless to say, Mum was horrified and came to investigate. We would return to Liverpool - war or no war. Mother was prevailed upon to leave us in Wales. She returned a week later having left our home in Liverpool under wraps for the duration. The house was to be bombed in 1941. A happy reunited family again, we started a new life and many adventures were to follow.

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