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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Pauline Husband
Location of story: 
Cheltenham, Gloucester
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
16 October 2005

This story has been written onto the BBC People's War site by CSV Storygatherer Lucy Thomas on behalf of Pauline Husband. They fully understand the terms and conditions of the site.

Part 3 and 4

One day at school we ran out of coke for the stove, which was the only source of heat. So, with the headmaster in front and the form teacher behind, we were marched round the lanes to keep warm. If it was cold, we were allowed to sit in our coats. Of course, in those days we dressed for the weather (no bare midriffs for us!) I know I wore a woollen vest, fleecy knickers (with a pocket) usually in navy blue, which mother would pull down over my knees and I would hitch back up as soon as she had gone. Then would come the dreaded liberty bodice with its rubber buttons (so they wouldn’t break in the mangle). These were horrible to do up — I hated liberty bodices. On the bottom of this horrible garment were rubber suspenders on which to hitch woolly stockings. I didn’t like these either, so when I had fallen over enough times and made holes in the knees (which mother darned) she gave up and I had long socks which she would pull up to meet the knickers. Needless to say, once out of her sight the socks came down and the knickers went up! Over that lot went the petticoat, skirt and jumper, warm coat and scarf and woollen pixie hat and gloves.

Of course, clothing coupons were soon to come in. Mother often made my clothes and would put on a 4” hem to be let down as I grew. When the hem ran out (and if the garment was still wearable) there would be a plain piece of material sewn on the bottom! Sandals and even sometimes shoes had their toes cut out if you complained they were tight.

As we had no car, we either walked, cycled or caught the bus. Some of the buses had wooden seats and at one time towards the end of the war they brought out utility buses which had long bench seats upstairs with the corridor on the right. I also remember gas buses. These had a balloon like structure either on the roof or in a trailer behind. We hated these as they had a most unpleasant smell.

Speaking of balloons, there were barrage balloons to be seen in the sky, tethered to the ground by wire to stop low — flying aircraft. One day, a balloon got loose and settled on our roof. Mother got the clothes prop and, sitting on the upstairs windowsill, managed to poke it off.

Milk and coal were delivered by horse drawn carts. The milkman had a trap which he could jump on and off. One pony called Kitty would knock the lid off the pig-bin and have a rummage round. There were three pig-bins in the road and people would put any scraps in them to be emptied by the pig farmer. There was also a lady who delivered by bicycle. She had two churns which hung from her handlebars, and her customers would provide a jug into which she would ladle the milk.

The coalman’s big heavy horse was the popular star. Mother would say “The coalman’s coming!” which meant a visit to the shed so that I was all ready should the horse oblige with some dung. Manure for the garden was like gold dust. One day, I was filling my bucket when my friend’s father cycled past. “That for your rhubarb Pauline?” he said. “Yes,” I replied innocently. “0h we have custard on ours,” was his parting shot as he cycled away.

My mother would chat up the local grocer and butcher and would, if they were in a good mood come home with an extra slice of bacon or sliver of cheese or some offal which was not on ration.
Some things we never saw, such as bananas or oranges, but at least in our house, vegetables were
plentiful, and I never remember a time when there wasn’t a good cooked meal on the table due to my mothers good management. Mother said, if we had strawberries or other fruit “have a piece of bread and butter with it.” Even pancakes were accompanied with a bit of bread and butter to help fill up.

In 1942, the Americans came into the war. They had a big base at Brize Norton in Oxfordshire and another at Fairford. On a Saturday they would often come into Cheltenham on buses. Their uniforms were very smart and they had plenty of money, nylons, chocolate and other provisions. They were popular with the girls, and the children. One day I was pushing my doll’s pram along the road, when an American approached me and put something under dolly’s pillow. I ran back to mother with my tale and we found two bars of chocolate there. What a treat!

Part 4

While we were living in comparative safety, many people in the big cities, London, Birmingham, Coventry and Plymouth, to name a few, were living a nightmare. Some of my mother’s family were still in Birmingham and my Grandmother was living with my auntie and her family right next to the Wolseley car factory which by then was turned over to war work. One night, they must have targeted that area. The family was in a shelter of some kind with other people from the street. The bombing became very bad and my aunt decided they couldn’t stay there so they set off to make their way to a cousin who lived about a mile and a half away. They managed to get there eventually, after a terrifying journey dodging shrapnel and incendiary bombs, making their way through rubble and craters in the roads. My aunt said they were often crawling on their hands and knees.
The sad end to this tale is that the shelter had a direct hit and everyone they left behind was killed .

In those days there was no TV, just the radio to keep us up-to-date with the news. We had the news in the morning, at 1pm and 9pm. The newsreader would just give the facts. Everyone gathered round their radios when Mr Churchill spoke. He really pulled the nation together giving the situation as it was but always in an upbeat manner.

I remember when Italy surrendered. I was playing in my friend’s garden.

After the war, we celebrated with a street party organised by Mother and Mrs Jones who lived next door. They collected money each week and people donated jellies, blancmanges, cakes etc. It was held at the Co-op hall and we had a conjurer and lots of games and fun.

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