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E M Sommers Part 5

by ActionBristol

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Molly sommers
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
27 July 2005

This was submitted on behalf of Molly sommers by CSV volunteer at BBC Radio Bristol

This story has been added on behalf of Molly Summers by a C.S.V. volunteer in Bristol.

After the Armistice was signed with Italy, the Italian P.O.Ws were allowed considerable freedom and were allowed out during the evenings.
Some attended our Chapel, and having got to know some, my Dad asked them to come and help on the farm in the summer evenings.
I remember one evening having to provide supper for them and could only think of plums and custard, possibly bread and something, too. They or some others were so taken with having home made jam that I offered to give them some in exchange for sugar, which transaction duly took place the next evening. I had a friend who was ‘Nannying’ at a farm a few miles away. and I was invited to visit her.
I found there a farm household with a resident Italian called Luigi, who lived as a family, but, poor fellow, had to sleep in one of the out houses;
I do not know made the rule, but he seemed to be happy there, and taught them how to make real coffee. And, talking of Italians, when my sisters third baby was due, her eldest child, a girl, came to stay with us and attended the local school, but, one afternoon, a neighbour appeared with her, saying she had found her walking down the road towards school with an Italian; I’m not sure how that happened as the Italians were all supposed to be going out to work. Naturally my little niece was told NEVER to talk to Italian’s, and when I saw an Italian ice cream vendor in the town she got in a real state and would not let me go and buy one.
Ice creams were an unheard of luxury then. She was baffled by the whole affair and asked, ‘If your Daddy was an Italian could you speak to him?’ and if so why not others? Well what is the right answer for a six year old?
In what my Dad always referred to as the ‘Old Farmhouse’ was (or were) a family of a Mother who was Italian, and three girls and a boy called Sammy. At our Christmas Sunday school party one year Sammy was running about in an uncontrolled manner, calling to my Dad and saying, ‘Look Mr D… I am drunk.’ In fact he was not drunk at all but was in the early stages meningitis from which he later died. When during the year after I had left school the Mother was taken ill and went to hospital, the Father being in the army, my Dad suggested we had the two younger girls to live with us. The older girls went to relatives a few miles away.
They came with almost no clothes, and the neighbours rallied around and helped out a swell as they could, but I remembered that in my old school, clothes were still being collected for evacuees who were sometimes in a similar position, so I phoned the Headmistress and asked if the school could help out. She told me to go to the half dreaded Domestic Science room and see the teacher.
Fortunately, although my cooking was appalling, my sewing was fairly good, and she seemed pleased to see me. As the elder girl was not well, my Dad suspecting T.B. he had the Specialist to come and see her, I took her and got a few clothes to keep them going for a time.
I remember in particular two matching blue taffeta dresses which we kept for best. Unfortunately, while they were staying with us their Mother died, and I did not know how to tell them, and neither was my Dad willing, and they heard it eventually from a neighbour.
That was terrible and I look back on that episode with embarrassment and shame. One day I had been out somewhere and when I came home my Dad told me the girls had gone. The Fathers relatives and come to fetch them, and I did not have time to say goodbye to them.
At some stage the relieving officer had come to see us, to see if it was a fit household to care for children I think! At first they had refused many sorts of food, saying they did not like it, meaning they had never had it.
Their main diet consisted of potatoes. We heard a few years later that a relative in Egypt had died and left each girl £14,000, a massive amount, and it seemed that the Mother was probably from a wealthy family where she had never had to cook or do any housekeeping.
Had brother Sammy lived he would have received the same legacy.
As the year passed into Autumn there were apples, then the frantic saving of sugar to make the Christmas cake and puddings. We were so fortunate to have milk and eggs and pig products, and I have no idea how people coped with the rations in the towns.
We sold skimmed milk to neighbours at half penny a pint as far as I remember, and many people kept hens, and we all had good gardens. Christmas was a time when we had a lot of activity in the Sunday school and bought two presents for each child, to be taken from the tree by Father Christmas and given to the named child. I remember one boy saying he wanted a ‘spiv’ tie one year; Although younger than me by many years, the last I heard of him was living in an old people’s Council bungalow;

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