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Seventy-five Years Ago Today....

ChrisM

Super Moderator
Staff member
Still Thursday, 16th August 1945, later.

Well, that was a REAL party! Never been to anything like if before. It was in the open air, for a start. And in an orchard! Any children's party I have ever been to before has been in a hall - like the Home Guard Christmas parties - or in somebody's home where if you are lucky and the weather is OK you can sometimes go out and play in their garden, before tea. Football, provided you are careful with the flower borders. Or tick, or Hide and Seek. But all this was very, very different.

I'll tell you where it was. The very first picture I showed you of the cottage was taken from down the road. This one is as well. It's not very clear but you can see it's been taken from by a gateway, on the opposite side of the lane. You can just about see the gate, on the right-hand edge, if you look carefully enough.

BeesonFromGate.jpg

If you go through that gate it leads into a field and orchard, behind all the cottage gardens. And that's where the party happened.

There was a long table with chairs down each side. I know they sometimes say in books that a table is groaning with food. I've never heard a table groan. And I didn't hear this one, either. But if it could have groaned, it probably would! It was absolutely loaded with food. Everything. Sandwiches of cucumber and crab and cheese and tomato and jam. Cakes. Jam tarts. Scones with raspberry jam and Devonshire cream. Lemonade. We sat down on the chairs and tucked in. And ate and ate. The grown-ups stood around and watched us. They looked just as pleased and happy as we were. And yet they weren't eating, themselves. Grown-ups are funny people.

We did our very best but in the end we were just too full to eat any more. We were happy to hand the rest of the grub over to the local wasps which were getting busier and busier. Then the grown-ups started to organise games for us. I'll just tell you about one because I have never played a game like it before. The idea was that you sat on one of the chairs which were arranged in a long line, you were given a very dry cream cracker and were told that once you had chewed and swallowed it completely, you had to run to the hedge at the far end of the orchard and then run back again to a finishing line. Ready, get set, go! We were so full already but we munched and munched. There came a point when I decided that I had, just about, followed the rules sufficiently and I got up, ran as fast as I could to the far end and back again. Across the line. A clear winner. Congratulations all round. I was very pleased. I don't often win running races.

But then, to my great shock, one of my fellow competitors, who I had soundly beaten, stood in front of one of the grown-ups judging the race, pointed at me and shouted:

"He's still chewing!"

I should have been insulted by this. Very rude and rotten sportsmanship, really. It's the sort of thing which makes grown-ups usually say: "Pick yourself up, forget your disappointment, be a good sport and just get on with it". But I wasn't cross with him, to be honest. It was more that I was feeling a bit uncomfortable. I could feel a few bits still in my mouth and I was having difficulty in stopping myself moving my jaw to deal with them. They were only very tiny bits, really. I put on a blank expression and awaited events.

But whether or not the lad's sportsmanship was not very good, what was certain was that his judgement was terrible. The person he had chosen to make his complaint to was - my dad. I don't know what was said but it was probably "forget your disappointment, be a good sport and just get on with it". He seemed willing to do that. A bit reluctantly, perhaps. But then he and the rest of us got on with the next game. While I got rid of the final bits of cream cracker. It didn't take me too long to stop feeling a tiny bit guilty about it. And it certainly didn't spoil the rest of the party for me. You get over these things.

And so, after a few more games and grabbing a final slab of cake, we helped this tiny village bring its celebrations to an end. The second day of the V-J Day holiday is now just about over and, with it, the Second World War. And, for me, History is now over, as well. Nothing REALLY important is ever going to happen again, probably for as long as I live.

There is a future, of course, but it will be nothing like the times we have lived through - and especially our parents and aunts and uncles and grandparents. And our elder brothers and sisters, if we have them. It's been much harder for them than for me. At the moment, the future for me is another day's holiday and then, on Saturday morning, back into the car, the long, long drive north, back towards Birmingham, a couple of weeks more school holiday and then back to school for all the usual stuff, day in, day out. The same for Dad and Mum, I suppose. It's enough to make you feel a bit flat and fed up.

But then, when I think about it, I've got friends at home. It will be nice to see my sister again. My brother might be coming home on leave and I haven't seen him for nearly two-and-a-half years, ever since we waved him good-bye as he walked down our front drive in Streetly in March 1943 (on his way to North Africa although we didn't know it then). I've got toys and books and a bike and other stuff at home which I shall enjoy again as well. The journey home won't be as exciting as the one we did to get here. But it will still be very interesting and I am looking forward to it. And Dad and Mum say they want to come back here next summer. Yippee!

And I still have another full day here. I think Mary will be taking me on her errand tomorrow. We'll set out over the fields with her carrying a little basket covered in a cloth. It's probably full of food for her grandma and grandpa. Pastry her mother has baked, vegetables from the garden. We'll go through farm gates and over stiles, on dusty paths down the side of cornfields, over pastures full of cows. And perhaps, just once, up a cart track which is hardly ever used. Where the earth hedges on each side of it stretch right up over our heads and then the trees on top join up over us so that we are walking up a dark, green tunnel. Just a few spots of sunlight will shine through the leaves to light it up. And then finally, we'll emerge into the sunshine, right in the middle of nowhere, to a warm welcome from the old people as they usher us into the cool of their little cottage. There'll be a glass of lemonade and a slice of cake at their kitchen table for each of us. And chat and laughter.

So, even though History HAS finished - which it certainly has - and all we have to look forward to is The Future, perhaps it will still be interesting and fun. Even if it's not very important any more.

So, as I and everyone else wait for The Future to start, tomorrow, I'll just say, from my nine-year-old self:

Cheerio, everyone, and good luck!

CM.jpg

Chris
 

lmr3103

master brummie
Wonderful writing Chris, you really have a gift. I honestly think your diary is as good if not better than a lot of books I've read, I'm disappointed when I get to the end! Have you ever had anything published?
Lynn.
 

Johnfromstaffs

Johnfromstaffs
Thank you for this interesting piece about a fairly chunky section of your life, especially when you’re 9!

If my maths is right, there are about twelve years between us, and I have to say that I would offer to you my further thanks for having lived those twelve years instead of me. At nine in 1945 you had, I think, possibly a small appreciation of life before the war took a real bite out of its good bits and your in-built positivity shines through. At five in 1953, when I started school, my main memory is of getting a 12 inch black and white Pye telly to watch the Coronation, and being bored stiff for most of that day.

I’m sure you must have had worse days during the war.

All the best
 

ChrisM

Super Moderator
Staff member
Thanks for your generous comments Lynn and John. And thanks also to those who have bothered to wade through this stuff, or at least dip into it, over the last two and a half years. No, Lynn, nothing commercially published, it's just been a bit of fun.

Well, perhaps a little more than that – I think that if you have an interest in social history, you have a bit of an obligation to add to it if you can. And I find it interesting when you can associate specific personal memories with actual dates and what was happening in the outside world at the very moment when you were thinking or doing something or other. Especially in significant times. If you can jot these things down in as much detail and as honestly as you can, perhaps the grandkids will appreciate it , one of these days!

How I wish that my gt. gt. grandfather (who ran a pub in the 1830s in central Birmingham), or my gt. grandfather (who went out to the Californian Gold Rush and returned after eight years but not with a fortune) or my grandfather (who spent time in Florida in a railroad-building gang) - how I wish that they had left something similar behind. Or my father, about his childhood in Edwardian Birmingham and at King Edward's and then his time in the trenches. Just the day-to-day stuff. Apparently of no interest or value at the time, but later, gold dust!

But my dad did leave behind a wonderful description of his Home Guard platoon in Streetly and Little Aston between 1940 and 1943 (online) and my brother a description of what he saw and what he did and what he felt while he was in North Africa, Sicily, Italy and Austria in 1942-46. They remain treasures within the family.

We've all got worthwhile memories. It's just a question of making the effort to get them onto paper! Forum members would quite like to read them as well!

Chris
 
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lmr3103

master brummie
Thanks for your generous comments Lynn and John. And thanks also to those who have bothered to wade through this stuff, or at least dip into it, over the last two and a half years. No, Lynn, nothing commercially published, it's just been a bit of fun.

Well, perhaps a little more than that – I think that if you have an interest in social history, you have a bit of an obligation to add to it if you can. And I find it interesting when you can associate specific personal memories with actual dates and what was happening in the outside world at the very moment when you were thinking or doing something or other. Especially in significant times. If you can jot these things down in as much detail and as honestly as you can, perhaps the grandkids will appreciate it , one of these days!

How I wish that my gt. gt. grandfather (who ran a pub in the 1830s in central Birmingham), or my gt. grandfather (who went out to the Californian Gold Rush and returned after eight years but not with a fortune) or my grandfather (who spent time in Florida in a railroad-building gang) - how I wish that they had left something similar behind. Or my father, about his childhood in Edwardian Birmingham and at King Edward's and then his time in the trenches. Just the day-to-day stuff. Apparently of no interest or value at the time, but later, gold dust!

But my dad did leave behind a wonderful description of his Home Guard platoon in Streetly and Little Aston between 1940 and 1943 (online) and my brother a description of what he saw and what he did and what he felt while he was in North Africa, Sicily, Italy and Austria in 1942-46. They remain treasures within the family.

We've all got worthwhile memories. It's just a question of making the effort to get them onto paper! Forum members would quite like to read them as well!

Chris
Yes we all have memories Chris but for a lot of us it's difficult to put them into words. You have a wonderful gift of bringing the past to life which is more than just dates and events. As I said before your diary is better than a lot of books I've read. I feel as if I know you (as a little boy at least! ) and your family through your very descriptive and amusing writing and I'm sure a lot of other members feel the same. It must be very time consuming for you to do but I'm just hoping there's more to come at some point... no pressure of course...
Thanks for keeping us very amused Chris!
Lynn.
 

Richarddye

master brummie
Thanks for your generous comments Lynn and John. And thanks also to those who have bothered to wade through this stuff, or at least dip into it, over the last two and a half years. No, Lynn, nothing commercially published, it's just been a bit of fun.

Well, perhaps a little more than that – I think that if you have an interest in social history, you have a bit of an obligation to add to it if you can. And I find it interesting when you can associate specific personal memories with actual dates and what was happening in the outside world at the very moment when you were thinking or doing something or other. Especially in significant times. If you can jot these things down in as much detail and as honestly as you can, perhaps the grandkids will appreciate it , one of these days!

How I wish that my gt. gt. grandfather (who ran a pub in the 1830s in central Birmingham), or my gt. grandfather (who went out to the Californian Gold Rush and returned after eight years but not with a fortune) or my grandfather (who spent time in Florida in a railroad-building gang) - how I wish that they had left something similar behind. Or my father, about his childhood in Edwardian Birmingham and at King Edward's and then his time in the trenches. Just the day-to-day stuff. Apparently of no interest or value at the time, but later, gold dust!

But my dad did leave behind a wonderful description of his Home Guard platoon in Streetly and Little Aston between 1940 and 1943 (online) and my brother a description of what he saw and what he did and what he felt while he was in North Africa, Sicily, Italy and Austria in 1942-46. They remain treasures within the family.

We've all got worthwhile memories. It's just a question of making the effort to get them onto paper! Forum members would quite like to read them as well!

Chris
Chris, thank you for all of this........I did not serve and my father was in the Home Guard plus my relationship with him was virtually non existent.

As I get older I find I want to try to explain my history, 77 years. One of the things I get from the Forum is to relive some of that history and my life! What you have done is to bring a difficult time into perspective at least for me. Truly I get 2+2 coming out to be much more than 4 where the sum or the whole is far greater than the individual pieces!
The photos posted are much more emotional that I would admit. Last week lyn posted a picture of the house where I was born and a listing of my my mother, aunts and uncles. that was a big deal. oldMohawk & Perdos etc., and all photos are wonderful. RR, Mr Bus as I call him has taught me more about buses than I dreamed. And Pete turned me on to YouTube and steam trains where I spent two hours bring back memories of Snow Hill station.
I go started on steel in Birmingham because of a posting, I am a student and fan of the Industrial Revolution, my problem is knowing where to start and where to end up.
Thank you all, I do my history everyday at the Forum! Sorry for rambling...........
 
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