Nineteen thirty nine, A Christmas to remember.
Evacuees have started to arrive in Chertsey, we kids looked at them as if they came from another planet, they are dressed in their best clothes and have big labels with their names on, and they probably think that we come another century. They are taken up to the Constitutional Hall and there are lots of ladies with arm bands on, deciding where they will go. It must have been a hard task to find a home for the children before their bedtime, but they managed it. Mum said they were a voluntary group and very well thought of because of the good things they did for us all whenever we needed it.
We had two boys placed in our house, but I think they found our home not up to their standard and they went back to London within a couple of days. We had a mother and a young boy posted to us next, Mrs O’Keefe and her son Dennis—the joke we told everyone was that we had Dennis O’Keefe, the American film star living in our house. They were really from Stepney and they fitted in perfectly.
At school we are given air-raid drill, putting our gas masks on, and walking quickly across the road and into our playing field, but never running to the shelters. One of the teachers got us all to sing when we were in the shelters, it was so loud it made my ears ring.
The boys soon found that when they put the gas masks on and then breathed out very hard a loud raspberry noise could be made, the teachers found it funny at first but when the whole class were doing it, it sort of got out of hand. On another occasion we were all lined up to receive a ‘Horlicks’ tablet, these were sweets made of solid ‘Horlicks’ wrapped in white paper like a sweet. Miss Slaughter told us to form a queue in alphabetic order— with a name starting with ’W’ this is not a very good thing for me, sure enough when it got near to me the sweets ran out—poor Laury Zubiena had no chance.
The London kids fitted in very well, they were a little hard to understand at first as they spoke so quickly. They also had a good selection of jokes, one boy who was living in Pound Lane, could have been a comedian on the wireless, he was funnier than Tommy Trinder—although that wasn’t difficult. Even the teachers would laugh.
Because nothing seemed to happen, apart from air raid practice and fire drill. some of the evacuees went back to London. I don’t blame them; it must have been so boring in Chertsey after living in the Capital City.
Mum was worried about how we were to manage at Christmas, but it turned out alright, Mr Wade brought round a chicken, he hid it a sack telling us not to let anyone know, I think he would be in trouble otherwise. We were all at home plus Mrs O’Keefe and Dennis. Eleven of us plus a young man who had just joined up. He was a Handicraft boy and had nowhere to go. It was such jolly Christmas, Mrs O’Keefe knew all the songs, we didn’t need a piano she was very loud.
Our new friends really liked Chertsey, they said it was so clean! I wonder what it like in London then. They loved St Anne’s Hill; we couldn’t keep them away, it made me realise what a nice place we lived in. On Christmas day, after dinner—lunch for the posh—they wanted to go up the hill for a giant hide and seek, there were dozens of kids taking part, you would never know there was a war on.