- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Margaret Waterhouse
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- Contributed on:
- 17 May 2005
I was just four when the war started. I went to a church school in Stalybridge and when the sirens went off we used to cross the boys playground to get to the air raid shelter. I remember we sat on wooden benches and we learnt to knit there - we made purses to go over our shoulders. Also we used to do bobbin work to make table mats and make cushions using dish cloths. We also enjoyed making handbags from raffia and milk bottle tops. We used to go down to the cellar at home when the air raid sirens went off as the walls were two foot thick — we only went to the shelter when we were at school. We had a tin bath, an arm chair and a camp bed down there so we were quite comfortable. I remember during blackouts when my aunt came to visit she had torch without the glass and they made a hole in the middle of the dark paper so that there was a pinprick of light which we could use.
At school we collected magazines, papers and other goods for the war effort. We would stick pictures of air force wings on our own piece of paper to reward us for the amount of things we had brought in. Another reward for our help I remember was that they brought an aeroplane to the market place and we got to go inside it!
There was a garden in the local vicarage and we grew vegetables as food was rationed. I bought a cabbage and was so proud that I had helped to grow it! My mother had four ration books at Stalybridge grocers and three at the Co-op. I remember for toffee you could have quarter with one point but there were some other points where you could only have an ounce. At one time my mother would make her own bread as that was on ration too. I learnt to cook at about ten as my mother had a leg ulcer and I had to stay off school and look after her and my brothers and sisters. My father was in the national fire service. He had served as a soldier in WWI so he was able to work in the fire service this time round. I remember I went to the fire station when my dad was working there and got to go down the fireman’s pole! They used to get water out of the canal nearby for the fire engines and we helped to open gates on the lock when barges came.
Coal was rationed so we used to go to the gas works and we used to get rides on ‘bogies’ which were planks of wood with wheels used to transport the coal. We used to open up the coal hole in the street outside our house and slide down to the cellar when we were little!
I remember one day I was ill and was walking home early from school. An aeroplane flew very low by the river. I saw the pilot but wasn’t sure whether it was one of ours or one of the Germans. I don’t remember being scared — I just waved because we always used to wave at the train drivers!
I remember seeing the bonfires and beacons lit for VE-Day in 1945 I was ten years old. We were meant to have a street party but it was raining so we had it in Nuttals garage further up the street from where I lived. We had Union Jacks flags everywhere. It was miraculous. There was food everywhere — cakes, jellies, tinned fruit and potted beef — food we hadn’t been able to have before. But when people didn’t come back we realised it was more serious than we thought. One day after the war the queen and king came to Stalybridge. We stood outside the library and post office and waved our flags in celebration.
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