In the 1940s Runwell didn’t have a school, any doctors or dentists, fire station or police station. All these essentials were in Wickford and still are. At that time there was one dentist and two doctors all in Wickford High Street, but they were within walking distance of Runwell or you waited for the bus. You didn’t need to make an appointment to see the doctor, you just arrived during surgery hours and waited your turn or the doctor would come and see you, day or night, no matter what the problem. Of course you had to pay for their care and attention and any medicine you needed. No National Health Service then. I think the nearest hospital would have probably been St. Andrew’s Billericay.
Because not many people had cars and petrol was rationed, Runwell residents would have walked or cycled into Wickford to do their shopping, and during the war you couldn’t go to any grocery shop or butchers (no supermarkets then). If the item you wanted was rationed you had to produce your ration book and be registered with certain shops, e.g. perhaps the Co-op in Wickford Broadway, and go there all the time, so no shopping around. It is hard to believe but Wickford was quite a pretty village with a mixture of houses with front gardens with trees and shrubs, and shops. Mr.Cochram the dentist had a house and surgery where Iceland is now. Dr. Frew’s house and surgery were where Dorothy Perkins is now and Dr. Campbell was on the corner of Nevendon Road and London Road . It is still there but buildings have been added. The fire station was in London Road opposite the now Police station and the Police station was in a house in the Southend Road . The house is still there.
Now back to Runwell. We actually had a library. It was in an outbuilding in the grounds of Runwell Rectory. You would go through the gate in the wall and I remember going to it to get books. It was run by Mrs. Brymont, then it moved to the Y.M.C.A. hall in Church End Lane , but that was knocked down a few years ago and houses built on this site. So now we haven’t a library or a Y.M.C.A. hall.
As a small boy I lived with my family in Waverley Crescent and that at the outbreak of war, in 1939, my Dad joined the Army. I cannot recall seeing him again until 1944 when he came home the day before D-Day to see my mother. I hadn’t seen him for 5 years and you can imagine what I thought when this complete stranger walked up our path and started kissing her. Apart from my Grandfather I was the only boy and I considered myself the man of the house, looking after my mother, sister, grandmother and grandfather (who were not as old as I thought they were). I set onto my Dad with fists flailing. It must have looked funny at the time, but I was going to protect my Mum. Looking back I never really did bond with my Dad. It must have happened to a lot of children whose Dads were sent overseas or became Prisoners of War. Perhaps we should all have had counselling but that sort of thing was unheard of, you just had to get on with it. I found out later that my Dad had been brought back home especially for D-Day and had gone AWOL to see us and had been arrested by MPs at Liverpool Street Station when he got off the train. I found out later that my Dad had been in the 8th Army, 11th Armoured Division, Tank Recovery, and was what was known as a Desert Rat. He had fought in the Desert and Europe and when he eventually came home he brought me a clockwork train set from Germany.
There was great rejoicing when the War eventually ended, with bonfires, fireworks and street parties. I don’t know where the fireworks came from because once the war had started there was no more Guy Fawkes Bonfire Night, and as for the street parties, I think the mums had been saving food for just that event.