- Contributed by
- Huddersfield Local Studies Library
- People in story:
- Kathleen Bean
- Location of story:
- Holmfirth, Yorkshire
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 11 November 2004
This story was submitted to the People's War website by Pam Riding of Kirklees Libraries on behalf of Mrs Bean and has been added to the site with her permission. The author fully understands the site's terms and conditions.
We kept hens and if they were not laying very well, my sister, who had had polio would get the egg. My aunt would come every week and sometimes we managed to give her three or four and if one of these hens was not laying it would have its neck wrung. You didn't think about it in those days. I was three when the war started and the lady next door, she had a big Chow (a dog) and a budgie in a cage and I can't remember where her husband was.
When the siren went, she used to come to our house because our cellar was bigger- it had an arch over and a big stone, and she used to come with her budgie, her dog and a blue eiderdown and dressing gown and you all used to go into the cellar and I mean, we wouldn't have got out of this cellar. One of my sisters would never go to the cellar, she used to just stay in bed and then blackout man used to come round and say, "put that light out" if there was a gap through the curtains. My father was in the Home Guard. My father had been in the First World War , so now he was in the Home Guard- he would be 44 then, and they used to practice round our house on a Sunday and you would be going round and you would come across someone with a piece of wood made up like a rifle. But there were definitely no oranges. We had a lot of pear trees and apple trees. Friends used to come in September and knock all this fruit down and then you used to bottle it in Kilner jars (glass preserving jars). They had to be sterilized-they had to go in a boiler, everybody had boilers-set pots. They were sterilized, bottled up and then it would see you through the winter. They made you clothes (coats) from adult coats. You could have two colours of fabric in a gored skirt. You used to wash wool, hank it and put it outside to dry in the sun.
I remember there weren't any sweets. Somebody would perhaps give me sixpence. There was a sweet shop on the corner. In those days you could go along the pavement on your own at three-there was hardly any traffic. She said you can't have any unless you have brought your coupon. Well, I didn't know what coupons were. So I didn't bother and I didn't really eat sweets at all. I wasn't really keen on sweets or chocolate, because you had to queue.
I can remember queuing for some toffees once in Huddersfield- there was a snaking queue for these sweets, but they were gritty! I don't know what they had been made of-they were horrendous. If you went in a queue, everybody joined it. You had to queue for everything.
My dad worked at the Co-op in Holmfirth. Dad would bring the ration books home to be stamped and Charlie Parrott, who was the Minister of Food, came along and he used to have the stamp to stamp the ration books. They used to stamp these books to say that you were registered with the Co-op. We had to do this on a Sunday morning. You had a number and if tinned fruit was on offer you could choose something. I had an aunt move from New Mill to Honley in 1939 and she had a tin of salmon and she took this with her and she kept it in her cellar till the end of the war. I remember seeing it in these alcoves there right through the war and it was fine. It was Alaskan Canadian salmon. I remember the dried egg.
The Americans sent wellingtons at the end of the war. You had to go again and register in Holmfirth (at the food office) and if you were between a certain age you got a pair of wellingtons, and they were jolly good wellingtons. I think they were actually free and I can
remember the ridge soles. All the ones we had had passed down were very flat and shiny and you skidded in the snow.
We used to take gas masks to school. They were in a cardboard case and if you were more well off you had a box which was better than the cardboard. When we went to town on a Saturday, my mother would have a basket and if there were two of us with her, it was full of gas masks-that was before you bought anything else! They were horrible things and the ones you put babies in, they were horrid. We didn't have an air raid shelter (just the cellar) but I had an auntie in Waterloo in Huddersfield and they dug into the banking and had an Anderson shelter. The water would drain into it and it was all wet and you would have to climb down into this dank smelly thing surrounded by grass. It was horrible-I wouldn't have wanted to go in there.
I remember my sisters who were older than me-there was only one telephone in the house and it was in the garage or the house up the road. She used to ring her husband up who was in the RAF.She would go to their house and she came back very quickly one night because they had just had a phone call to say that their only son had been killed and I don't think his mother every fully recovered. Everybody knew everybody else's business. There were no streetlights and if you went out at night you had to have a hood on the torch because the light only had to shine on the ground.
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