Bread and OXO for dinner.
Stepgate’s School, 1941. The school is very overcrowded, extra classrooms have been added since the evacuees came from London.
There had been a lull in the early part of the war and many evacuees had returned to London, but as soon as the bombers came over in great numbers later in 1940, they came back to Chertsey. Some, though, didn’t return, rumours went around saying that they may have been caught up in the Blitz.
I liked the boys from London, they knew so many jokes—some of them were very rude! One boy who was billeted in Pound Road next to Mr Redrup, was called Chown or Chowney. I never knew his first name. He was like a comedian that was on the wireless, he knew some very naughty jokes.
The old Hawker Hart fighter plane that was in the playing fields has been taken away to make room for the new classrooms, and as it was made mostly of aluminium it had to go, sadly.
Mum told us of a family in Barker road, who hardly had anything to eat some days and the children would be seen scavenging in dust bins. It seems that the father spent all his wages before he got home. She said we should think ourselves lucky that it never would happen to us.
We would hear a lot of stories like this, I wonder sometimes if they are made up. But I did know a family that drank their tea from jam jars, they had no cups! Perhaps they kept breaking them and couldn’t afford to buy new ones.
The same family would sometimes have an OXO in hot water and some bread for their Sunday dinner, luckily they had their school dinners during the week, but I wondered how they fed themselves in the holidays.
Mum told us of another family who were so poor that the girls did not have proper knickers, just a safety pin to hold their vest together. I saw something like this for myself when I was working on a farm to help the war effort. The work was mostly weeding, a gang of about twenty kids in a huge field of carrots, it was back-breaking. We were rewarded with a star if we finished a row before any-one else. At the end of the week each star was worth a penny, it soon mounted up if you were quick.
Up till then, I had never really thought about my clothes, I had what most of the other kids had. This was when I first saw Monika, a girl from the Addlestone school, it made me realise that some girls were also poorly dressed. She was a bit older than me but very thin, and to be honest a bit dirty. Her dress was too small for her and was simply held together underneath with a safety pin. This is what caused some nasty teasing by the older boys.
It was quite a few weeks later that my mate Tony, told me that her name wasn’t Monica Nodraws, but that was what the boys were shouting, because of her lack of knickers.
It was OK for me and my mates not to be wearing pants, but a girl, that was too bad. The poor girl’s family were just too hard-up to afford them, I suppose.