A Season for Marbles
page 11

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Easy Eileen

I was born in 1912 and remember the end of the Great War. Every schoolchild was given a medal with a picture of Liberty on it, and we all had a ticket to go to the cinema to see Charlie Chaplin. You had to give up a coupon for a firework show and that was the end of the 1st World War!

My mother-in-law was with me the day the Second World War was declared. We were told we were going to be gassed and bombed. She said "Go - at least you've got the little boy. Preserve his life." First of all we went down the shelter then when the all-clear sounded I got on a bus to Tring with my 2 year old boy. We all thought London would be bombed straight away. I remember a bag of napkins on my back for my little one! We got to Tring and we all lined up and the villagers came out and said, "I'll have her, I'll have her." During this time I learnt to pick potatoes because we had to work. And a month later we all came back. Later on we were evacuated to Blackburn and we went to Blackpool for the day. It was the first time the children ever had ice cream. My son's still got his ration book. During the war women worked in factories and wore trousers. Before that they never wore trousers and no married woman was employable, but afterwards everything was different. Which was a good thing.

I lived round the corner from the Great West Rd and worked in Sperry's, a Spitfire Parts factory. We worked from 8.00 - 6.00 making parts. When we finished our day's work they were always waiting to collect the parts because there were so many aeroplanes being shot down. One day during the Battle of Britain we spent the day in the shelter playing cards. You only downed tools and went to the shelter when the siren changed its tone. We used to walk down the middle of the road going home for fear of flying glass and dropping shrapnel. As soon as you got home from work you'd go down into the Anderson shelter. Take your dinner, long for the loo, take your tin and go up, then the siren would go off, and you'd run down the garden, not bother to sort yourself out and go back down again. Indoors you had a Morrison which you could use as a dining table. At one time I had two children with measles sleeping in a Morrison shelter. When your baby wanted a wee you had to move the metal partition and get your potty and you'd bang your head. Anderson's outside, Morrison's inside.

My daughter was born in an Anderson shelter in 1941.I had her whilst the fire-bombing was going on. My mother-in-law held my leg up, and the midwife was there doing her bit. She held the baby out of the door of the shelter and all the people came out to look at it. We called her Sheila Ann - after Anderson.

When she was 4 the doctor said she should go away because she was so weak and skinny. My husband had TB, so we had a good connection with the doctor who sent her to a children's home in Exmouth. We went up to London - Victoria station - handed her over to a lady and said goodbye, and that was it. We didn't know when we'd see her again.

Sheila - I was too small to write. I remember there were lots of other weak children. I wasn't old enough to go to school, so they left me in a room with about 20 rocking horses. I can still see them now. There was no communication with mother.

6 months' later we went back to collect her. When we got her back we just sat and looked at one another.

Sheila - I can remember grass growing out of sand dunes.

Sheila married a German. In Germany all schoolchildren have to go to Auschwitz to learn what was done. I've been to Germany many times and found them to be a lovely lot, very, very house-proud. They have a phrase for women "Kinder, Kirche und Kuchen." Children, Church and Cooking! I have a grandson who likes English history. He thinks Beachy Head is the loveliest place in the world!

Future wars? My tip. Put marshmallows in the guns then they wouldn't be able to do any harm!

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