TOPIC: YESTERDAYS CHILD....Chapter 9
YESTERDAYS CHILD....Chapter 9 5 days 4 hours ago #3933307
THE TRAIN JOURNEY
In August of 1944 I left school at the age of 14 to go into printing, I was only there three weeks when there was a shortage of paper.
We had to look busy doing something when the owner did his rounds and unfortunately I had been to the toilet and the boss was just walking in.
He said to me because I was a newcomer and the youngest working there ( I use that phrase loosely ) ,“Well while you are waiting for delivery you can go and clean the toilets out.” I have to say here that by this time I had grown into a cheeky b*****r who would not take any crap from anyone. I think I had caught the ‘speak up for yourself bug’ from my mother.
I remember turning to him with my hands on my hips saying “I came here to learn the printing trade not to clean bloody toilets.” With that I got my coat and went home. I went to the Labour Exchange next day and told them that the job was not much good because we were standing around waiting for deliveries.
I finished up in at Towles hosiery factory transferring the logo on the foot of the socks and lisle stockings. This involved pressing the logo on with a red hot iron without scorching the socks or stockings. I got up to the speed of 180 dozen pairs a day. A dozen to the hosiery trade was 24 socks to one dozen.
That amounted to lifting the iron which was extremely heavy weighing about 4lbs for 4,320 times each day.
We had just ten minutes break in the morning and the same in the afternoon. Hours of work were 7-30am till 12-30pm, half an hour for lunch then back to work from 1pm until 6pm each day.
A ten hour day but with Saturday morning added it was a 55 hour week.
Saturday morning was a must, it wasn’t voluntary. It came into the working week.
It was extremely hard work with minimal pay.
I was there for nearly two years and I had gained muscles on top of muscles with lifting that iron all the thousands of times a week.
During 1945, I met Cliff who was then 17, and although it was NOT love at first sight he seemed to cotton on to me because according to him I was different to other girls.
My first impression of him was of a red haired very fair skinned skinny bloke who reminded me very much of a Swan Vesta match..
He said he had never met a girl who was not frightened of anyone and who spoke her mind.
It did not get serious between us because I knew that I would be going back to London at sometime or other and he would be called up to do his two years National Service.
When he was called up in 1946 we made a vague promise to get together when he had finished his time in the R.A.F.
We did get together while he was still in the forces and after I moved back to London.
It was also in 1946 when my eldest brother was demobbed from the R.A.F. He had been in since 1940 and had been in Burma fighting the Japs. He came back a changed man.
I was staggered when he put all his gratuity money on a horse called Airborne running in the St Leger. It came in first at 66-1.
That was a fortune in those days especially with all his gratuity being put on it.
Unfortunately it was gone by the time we moved back to London with the drinking habit that he had acquired. He wanted to make up for lost years and to wipe the memory of his mates screaming as they died in agony.
I found out a lot of what he went through by the nightmares he had and calling out in his sleep.
It was not a nice thing to hear but he did not know he was doing it.
He had a chip on his shoulder a mile wide when he tried to settle in civvy street.
He was very difficult to live with.
In 1947 my mother had word from the London County Council that they had a house for her to come back to.
My father was already back in London living in one room in a boarding house because if he had not gone back to the docks within a certain time he would have lost the little bit of pension that he had worked hard for all his life.
My mother decided to catch the midnight train so that we could be at the Council Offices to pick up the key to go and have a look at the house. I was told that she wanted me with her. I was working by this time but I had to take time off and lose money although wages then were nowhere near as good as they are today. Even if I did lose two days work I still had to pay my board. It was 15s/- a week then or in today's currency would be 75p.
I only earned £1 10s/- or £1-50p a week so that meant half my wages gone.
I told her if I went with her she would have to pay the train fare. She agreed so I deigned to accompany her.
Before we set out she told me to carry a bag similar to a small holdall and not to let it out of my sight. I assumed it held a flask of tea and some sandwiches of dripping for when we got to our destination.
We arrived at the station at the correct time to be told the train was running late due to the ice and snow on the lines. This was the extremely bad winter of 1947. We have NEVER had one as bad as that winter since then. Snow was falling for weeks and double decker buses were having to be dug out of 30 ft snow drifts.
Electric cut off due to various cables being disabled with the severe weather conditions.
Water was frozen solid and so were the streams.
Folk were queuing up for a bag of coke to keep the fires going and on top of all that we were still on rations.
WHO could forget that winter?
Many folk were waiting for that train. Some were service men and women going for de-mob, others were trying to get home for leave and others were just commuting to London on business I should imagine.
The train duly arrived at 1-10am and we all piled on. I say piled on because it was already full to the brim with passengers.
Oh Boy ! This was going to be some journey. For starters there were NO lights. Folk were sitting in the corridors and if any one wanted the loo it was climbing over people to get to it after finding their way with lighters or matches and torches.
There was no heat in the train, the only heat was from someone's lighter when it was lit. My mother and myself had to sit on the floor in the corridor because there was no where else so we had to make the best of it.
I was guarding the holdall as if it had the Crown Jewels in it.
In a way, to my reckoning at that time of my life, food was my consolation for many things although I was not an overweight person.
The journey should have taken us 3 and a 1/4 hours but with stopping every so often we finally arrived in St Pancras Station at 6-15am.
By this time I was tired and ruddy irritable and badly wanted a cup of tea and a bite to eat.
The platform filled up very quickly with folks wanting to get to their destination as I stood waiting for my mother while she scrabbled in her handbag for something.
By the time she found what she was looking for most of the passengers had gone. We walked towards the exit but we had to pass the train driver’s box. The driver was still in it seeing to his engine and my mother went to him and shouted above the hiss of the steam "Here you are me old cock sparrow. Get yourself a drink on me for getting us here safe and sound!" She handed him half a crown or 2s/6d that would be roughly 25p in today's coinage.
The train driver said "Gawd Bless yer Mrs! I have worked on the railway for 30 years and that's the first time any one has done that."
I stood looking on and I can remember feeling embarrassed but at the same time I felt very proud of her. The half a crown was worth quite a bit of money then and although it may sound piffling to the reader it was hard earned and it could buy quite a bit in those far off days.
When we got out of the station an all night cafe was open and we went in there for a hot cup of tea and a scrambled egg on toast.
I felt in a better mood after that although I felt grubby.
We caught the bus over to Southwark to the council offices and picked up the keys to a house in Peckham.
When we got there and I looked up at the house my heart sank, it was three storeys high.
As I was the one that did most of the housework I was none too pleased at the prospect of more rooms to clean.
Anyway we let ourselves in to look round and found that it had no bathroom which was the norm for those days.
It had a very long passage-way with the front room leading off it and a kitchen, as we called the eating place then, plus a scullery right at the end of the passage.
The stairs led off the passage way to two flights of stairs which led up to four bedrooms.
It was rather similar to the house we had when my mother had the accident with her finger.
It was bitterly cold in the house and my mother was upstairs investigating. I had put the hold-all down in the front room and decided it was time we had a cup of tea in hopes that it was still hot. I opened the bag and I could have screamed at the top of my voice at the sight that I had carted for all those miles.
A bag that contained a lump of coal about 12inches wide by 6inches deep, some dry bread and a packet of salt.
I was SO angry I went to the foot of the stairs and shouted to my mother "What the heck have I carted this coal, bread and salt all this way for? I wanted a drink but this is in the bag instead."
I felt as though I could have brained my mother in that instance.
No wonder my father used to get his hair off with her.
My mother came down the stairs and said nonchalantly, "The coal will mean that we will always have a fire, the bread will mean we will never go hungry and the salt will be sprinkled all over the house to bring us good luck."
I stood agape at her because I knew that she was very superstitious but NOT to this extent.
I thought she was losing her mind and I said, "Well, you could have fooled me because I am freezing cold and starving hungry and don't feel lucky at all"
We finally finished up in the pie and mash shop that was situated at the top of Rye Lane having something to eat. We then went to see my father to say that we had arranged with the gas people to have the gas turned on for a certain date.
After that we made another gruelling journey back home.
I found out afterwards that the house had been bombed but had been built up on the old foundations.
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