SOME MEMORIES OF MY CHILDHOOD, STARTING SCHOOL AND DURING THE WAR

I was born on December 29th 1937 and according to my mother lucky to be here. Apparently as I was born I had the cord tight round my neck and only the doctor coming just at the right time and doing what he had to do was I saved. My mother and Father had expected  Christmas baby and were going to call me Mary, but as I was four days late they decided to give that to me as my second name and to call me Pamela. I had a sister two years older than me and always have felt sorry that when I was born, my mother was so run down the doctor sent her with me to a convelecent home fr two weeks and my sister was looked after by a maiden aunt, my fathers sister, who had no experience with young children, so it was no surprise to me as I grew older that my sister was a trifle resentful towards me!



I have such vivid memories of when I was very young. I can remember for instance being pushed in my pram sat up facing my mum and later sitting in a pushchair and mum taking my sister who was two years older than me to start school. I can remember seeing this huge building and being told that when I was a big girl I would be able to go to school. My mother told me that one day I was crying because I wanted to stay and the teacher saying to mum.’ Let her stay and we’ll see how she goes’. Miss Smith her name was, she had short black hair with a fringe and was lovely. Her helper was Mrs Jennings and I told my mum she had a big wobbly bottom! I was three years old. My classroom I can visualise where it was in the hall and where everything was as Miss Smith showed me round. A sandpit in the corner, a Wendy house, a little shop, a see saw with canvas seats and other toys and big mats that were pulled out for us all to sit on, cross legged, to listen to stories and see the pictures. My favourite was Little Black Sambo and The Gingerbread man. Miss Smith had a pile of soft handkerchives on her desk for any child that had a runny nose and no handkerchief! They were made from the bags that flour was sold in that had been boiled.

 I had a hook in the cloakroom with a picture of a dog on it where I hung my coat. At playtime we had the big toys out in the playground and often we played games like ring a Ring of Roses, The Farmers in his Den, In and out the shady Bluebells. I loved it all also singing nursery rhymes while Miss Smith played the piano, dancing with a partner to Wind the Bobbin. Such happy days.

One lovely memory that started at about that time and lasted for year or two until my dad had to go into the army, was the great excitement Friday nights held for us because Friday night in our house was…’Surprise night’. 

My dad was a joiner by trade and worked very hard all his life. Money was never plentiful but we were loved and cared for and never went hungry. Friday night’s dad got his wages, and the first thing that he did on his way home from work was to stop at the newsagents to pay his paper bill. But he also used to buy a few things too! 

My sister and I would wait impatiently for dad to turn into the top of our street; he was walking of course as not many working class people had motor cars in those days. 
We would run out to meet him then mum would make us sit down for our tea which we had altogether sitting round the table. No tray on knees was her rule, not unless we were ill! This of course was after our dad had got washed and changed. All the waiting and anticipation really added to the excitement. Mum always did something special for tea on a Friday nights, often dad’s favourite, sausage, egg and chips. 
In those days we had ‘dinner’ at lunch time and ‘tea’ in the evening. 

After tea came the moment we had been waiting for. Dad would tell us “Now sit down, close your eyes and hold out your hands”. 
Then, with a big smile he would give us our surprise! It was the same ritual every week and did we look forward to it. First there was our weekly comic, I used to get the ‘Chicks Own comic, and my sister the ‘Rainbow’, but then he also he put into our eager hands a little cone bag (2 oz) of sweets, maybe dolly mixtures, liquorice torpedoes, Yorkshire mixtures, humbugs etc. That was the surprise; we never knew what we were getting. 
He also used to buy my mum her favourite Paradise Fruits or chocolates and her magazine Woman’s Companion. He had his evening paper and cigarettes. 
Then with us all sitting comfortably round the fire we would contentedly read with the radio on in the background and I always thought that it was magical, all of us together, cosy and warm. 
I will always remember those happy days of my childhood. I suppose that it would mean nothing to children of today the simple pleasures that we had when I was a little girl. 

As we grew up my dad was the most important person in my life. I well remember the day when he had to leave us to go into the Army. It was World War two and dad went into the Military Police. He was stationed in Southampton and used to drive big army trucks with supplies between there and the London Docks. 
He always saved his sweet ration that he was allowed from the NAFFI and together with chocolate that American soldiers off the boats gave him; he would send us parcels home full of goodies. We were the envy of our friends. 

He came home on leave occasionally and we were allowed time off school in order to spend time with him. When he had to go back I used to polish his tunic buttons for him and his belt and then I would cry for hours after he had gone. I knew his number off by heart.

At school the windows were all papered with something that was to stop any glass falling on us in case of an explosion. We were given Gas masks, mine was a red Micky Mouse one, they were kept in a cardboard box with a handle and we had to take them to school and practice wearing them in case of a gas attack. I remember the first time I heard the sirens so loud wailing and the long all clear at the end, practiced before the raids started. It was so scary,

Before my dad went into the army he white washed the walls of a little ‘pantry cellar, leading off the main cellar under our house, put a mat on the concrete floor, stocked an old cupboard with drink and a tin of biscuits, an old settee with cushions and told my mum we had to go down there as soon as the sirens started. I can remember mum getting us up in the middle of the night, getting us dressed downstairs in the living room and then taking us and some blankets into the cellar where we waited and heard the drone of the German Planes passing overhead and then the relief when the all clear sounded, although often I missed that and would find myself back in bed the next morning. It was so cold down there and as there had been no bombing near us Mum decided to still get us up and dressed but to stay in our living room in front of the fire.
She must have been so frightened on her own with my sister and myself although some nights I seem to remember our next door neighbour coming in too as the sirens started.

Mum had to make blackout curtains for all our windows and make sure that no light shone through at night. Air raid wardens went round and if there was a chink showing anywhere they would shout,
'put that light out.’

I can remember running home from school to listen to Workers Playtime while we had our dinner. It was broadcast from factories where they had shows at dinner time for the workers.

So many memories of the war years, ration books, the endless queues and yet my mum could make a meal out of anything. The amounts we were allowed were so small it takes a bit of believing when you see them now in the museums. I don’t think there were any problems with obesity during the war, although the rich people could, and often did buy from the black market.

I remember Dad coming home on compassionate leave when my brother was born; I was eight years old then. My mum had a difficult labour and she nearly died, and although my sister and I were homesick, as we had to stay with the aunt and were worried and missing our mum. It was so lovely to see him. Shortly after that he was demobbed. 

When he came into the house in his demob suit, trilby and raincoat we hardly recognised him. He always joked that his demob suit he was keeping to wear at mine and my sister’s weddings! 
 

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