I returned home from St Dominic’s, in July 1944, and carried on at Stepgates School. I had lost almost a year of education, and never really caught up with my friends and spent the rest of my time at school in the lowest stream. I found that my sister Chrissy was away, having joined the land army, my brother Bernard was in the Royal Armoured Core and fighting in France after the D Day landings. My sister Deidre had married Gordon and was living in Scotland—he was in the Royal Air Force.
Now money was short again, my brother Donald, aged 13, though still at school, was working as a delivery boy, he worked after school and Saturdays, for a Grocer opposite St Peters Church, he was paid twelve shillings and six pence a week. (65p). I remember watching the man in this shop slicing bacon on his new red Berkel slicing machine, it was like magic. Don told me the long pork pies that had an egg in the middle and were sold in this shop and another grocers called Bushes just round the corner, that the eggs that were very long, were laid by special chickens. He must have thought I was silly to believe such a thing, although I have to admit it seemed quite feasible for a few weeks.
My brother David was still in a home in Essex, he had been there for several years, he had TB. My sister Sylvia was also in a home in Surrey but was due to come home. Apart from David, I think the reason Sylvia and I were kept in these homes, was that Fred had been ill with TB, a very infectious disease. Fred had died a month earlier and it was then deemed safe for us to come home. That left Iris my sister, as the only real breadwinner.
I started my first job almost as soon as I arrived home; also, as a delivery boy, for The Bargain Centre, I was twelve. The manager and a customer in the shop were saying, that on this day, the 28th of July 1914, the Great War had started.
I worked Thursday and Friday after school for two hours, and on Saturday for about six hours, I was paid eight shillings and sixpence, (45p).
I paid my mum six shillings and kept the rest, I spent most of my wages on model aircraft kits that I bought from a news agents shop on the opposite side of the road. And the rest in Pippenell Izzi’s ice cream shop; it was the best ice cream in Chertsey. Her shop was just a few doors away from our house, she was very kind to our family after my father died. I think she was like this because of the hardship she had endured before she fled Italy.
We had a lot of Italian families in Chertsey, they came over in the twenties, after some unrest in Italy, most of my mates were from Italian families, Zubiena, Pucci, Arpino, Ballerino and Placito. Seeing Chertsey Town Football Club playing was like watching the Italian national team, they all seemed very good at football.
One girl, Josephine Izzi, a cousin of the ice cream family, would walk to school with me; she was a lovely girl, but had some problem with her weight. We both had a bit teasing, me for being so tall and skinny and she for being a bit overweight.
The boy who had been doing this job before me, was showing me all the houses and roads where I would be delivering the groceries. I was walking along with him while he was on the bike, and as we were passing the Carpenters Arms, I found a roll of pound notes wrapped tightly with an elastic band. I showed him what I had found, and he said we will have to hand it in to the Police Station. He told me to wait outside while he took the money in. He came out smiling and gave me a half-crown. He said it was a reward for being so honest. I had the feeling he kept the money for himself, but I couldn’t say anything.
The manager of The Bargain Centre was Mr Perring, he was very kind to me—Actually when I think about it, everyone was nice to me, I think I must have looked like some kid who needed looking after! He never told me off when I delivered a box of groceries to the wrong house, he just told me to go and put it right—it was usually the house next door and by the time I got there it had been sorted out.