Not being in school on VE Day meant that I did not know if schools or parents took part in any celebrations. I do remember the day the end of war was announced on radio, of skipping and dancing down the front garden path and then realizing with horror that with the return to “normality” I would have to start school. I was more worried about that than the war, which I had presumed was the normal way of life, as I had not known anything else.
However, I do have a good reason for remembering one “returning hero”.
At the top of our road (Carlton Road), the left hand of the T junction went towards the Barn Hall and the right went towards the fields. On the left side of that was a family with two handsome fair-haired sons and a lovely daughter. The elder son, Reginald, on coming out of the services, bought a beautiful new heavyweight Norton motorcycle, the tank was silver with the word Norton with a black line round it.
To get from the main road, Swan Lane, Brock Hill, he would ride the Norton along a cinder path on our side of the road, the road being unmade was all mud and long grass. The residents had to buy clinker, a kind of dry coke, and lay a path, three feet wide, beside the road, with narrower paths going across to bungalows on the other side.
When the bike was heard approaching – it was JJJ 148 – alone or with friends, I would rush to our six-foot-high wrought iron gate with horizontal bars across the middle, climb up and lean over to get a better view of this exciting hero of the times. Our dog was able to alert us in advance due to his acute hearing.
I have good reason for remembering the Coronation; I stayed with father in the Fulham flat so he could take me to see the decorations, delaying our departure for Wickford by chatting to his brother Jack. We arrived at Liverpool Street Station to find that the last train for Wickford had just left. “No problem, we can get one to Shenfield and then walk” said father. I had no idea how far was. It took all night, as I had to keep stopping for a rest; it was ten miles. Getting to within a couple of miles of Carlton Road we took a short cut across fields with thigh high crops, without realizing how much dew there would be, and mother was horrified at the sight of our water drenched figures staggering home in the early morning.
Although children were all as thin as matchsticks, due to food rationing, and playing out in our spare time, skipping and jumping over ropes, taking pensioner dogs for walk, we were very tough with a lot of stamina. I walked to the cinema in Billericay, over six miles there, 6 miles to Basildon and Pitsea, and to Chelmsford and back, nearly 20 miles. We often walked to Battlesbridge, which was only 3 miles there, but exciting and exhausting as we had climb in and out of a huge long pit, a war time tank trap dug beside the railway line to prevent invading tanks from getting further inland. Mother walked 8 miles a day to and from school during my early years, and we both worked in our large garden, pushing the lawn mower and the heavy roller, cutting edges with shears, digging and planting.
I remember the pre-fabs at Nevendon Road corner, as a girl at St George’s School lived there.
Father worked for a while at the Co-Op in Chelmsford, as an operator on the sole sewing machine. When the machine broke down he brought the shoes home, where we had two huge Stitcher and Blake sewing machines in the garden shed, and, as we had no electricity, mother and I would work a treadle attached to a generator to work them.
In l954 I left school and we all went back to Fulham flat. Father later sold the bungalow and land to a builder.
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