Things Partly Remembered.
I am often told that I am good at recalling my childhood. I have no control of this. My memory is triggered by the slightest thing. Sometimes the memory is of the complete scene, with detail that really was not important enough to store in my memory. For instance, why would a boy of seven need to have remembered the price of soap! And why would an old man, not be able to remember a password? It’s a mystery! Sometimes, a smell or a few notes of a popular song of that time, more than eighty years ago, is enough to bring a memory to mind. The human brain is such an amazing thing. We are told that we only use about 25% of it. What other memories are hidden just under the surface, waiting for a trigger?
This brings me to my sister, Iris. I realised that when we were talking about the time just before and during the war. There were things that were sharp in her mind and scant in mine. I began by asking if she had any recall of the events that I have just a glimpse of. Surprisingly, most of the time she was able to fill in the lost detail.
The first thing I needed to know, was were on earth did we all sleep? I worked out that there were sometimes fourteen people living together and It was only a three bedroomed house! She winced and said. “Because of all the evacuee’s coming to Chertsey, the first few days of the war starting were terrible, people were being placed where ever the council could put them. We had four of them, making eleven people sleeping in our house at one time. But just before the war, there were only seven of us; Fred was in and out of hospital and young David would be in a sanatorium for several more years. The three girls slept n the same bedroom and you three boys were in another, and mum was in the third room. When-ever Fred was sent home for a few weeks, he had to sleep alone in the kitchen”.
When the war started, I remembered Mrs O’Keefe and her son Dennis, and that they lived in the front room at first. Then she said something that I did have the slightest memory of. “We had two more evacuees’, brother’s from London, they only stayed for a couple of hours, there was nowhere for them to sleep. and then they went home. Things were so chaotic, people were coming and going all day”. My faint memory of that day, was that one of the boy’s name was George Turner, the same my uncle. And of mum being very concerned about them going back to London, as they were only in their teens. She went round to the council to tell them what these boys were going to do, but they couldn’t stop them.
I asked her about a young Irish woman and her little girl that stayed with us. “Yes, she wasn’t an evacuee, but was homeless and mother took her in, she and her daughter slept in mum’s room. She was only here for a couple of weeks and seemed to move from house to house. The poor woman was so desperate, most of the spare rooms were taken by all the evacuees. I think she ended up in the Lodging House, near Mr Garrett’s”.
I then asked her about our Grand-father, George Conrad. I have only the very slightest memory of him, but more of his bike, it had a very big basket on the front, like a ladies’ bike. Iris took a deep breath. “Well, I don’t think he was all there, he came over on his bike, dressed up like Sherlock Holmes, he had knee breeches on and ‘Deer Stalker’ hat. He could have been successful with his model making, he had several patents, and made beautiful model yachts. He and Dad had no love for each other, because of his other family in Shepperton. Even his brother, Walter, couldn’t stand him. They both inherited enough money to live on private means, but George simply frittered it all a way. Walter was quite successful, and used his inheritance to start up a firm making assembly tracks for factories’ s. He went to Australia, where he carried on with his firm”.