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Stars in Your Eyes

by blauengel

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Malcolm Harper
Location of story: 
Rawdon, Leeds
Background to story: 
Royal Air Force
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
09 November 2003

My very first day at school was on Monday 4th September 1939 - the day after war was declared. After a couple of days we were sent home and told to return in January. I did not know the reason at the time but this was obviously so that air-raid shelters could be built.

My childhood was spent in the blackout, which did not seem strange as we were too young to remember anything different. It was no real problem to us and there was usually enough light from the moon and stars to get about. The only problem was fog in wintertime. Everyone had a coal fire in those days and the smoke from thousands of chimneys would combine with the fog and produce real
"pea-soupers". It was hardly possible to see more than one yard in front of you. Children would often come to school with a bump on their forehead the size of an egg, having inadvertently walked straight into a lamp post on the previous evening.

My lasting memory is of cloudless nights, when the sky was filled from horizon to horizon with millions of stars. Star-gazing was a popular pastime in those days and we would try to find different constellations and formations of stars. If we were lucky, we might see a "shooting star" which would suddenly appear, shoot across the sky and disappear, all in the blink of an eye.

When the war ended, we would play for hours around an old gas street lamp, fascinated by the feeble light given off after years of darkness. As the street lights grew in number and became more powerful, the stars gradually disappeared and now it is not possible, even on the brightest of nights, to see more than about a dozen stars.
The children of today will never be able to marvel at the wondrous sight of countless millions of stars that were the norm in my own childhood.

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