July 19, 2020|

Margaret Gwynn – A Schoolgirl’s Memories

My first memories are as a child living at No.7 Star Cottages, a two-up two down middle cottage of three next to the Star inn (now Greens).  We had no inside toilet or bathroom – that facility was marked ‘up the garden’ where a wood fired ‘copper’ heated all the water for Friday night baths and Monday morning washing.  The rent was 9/l I a week, but by the time I went to school we had moved into the newly built houses of Mayles Close where the rent was 7/ll a week and we had a bathroom with an electric geyser for hot water!

My father worked for a local farmer – Mr. Stubbs.  Most of the young men had gone to the war.  There was double summer time during the harvesting season so that people working in factories could enjoy some sunshine each day, and aso help with work on the farms.  It was a very exhausting time for my father, often getting up at 4.30 to milk the cows by hand and then harvesting until 11pm.  During the war he was a member of the Home Guard – training had to be fitted in with farm life and guard duty at least one night per week based in a back room at the Star Inn.  We had 3 bedrooms at Mayles Close, and after the bombing raids on Southampton and Portsmouth we were asked to take in evacuees.  A family of 8 arrived and Mrs Dorothy Warwick as ‘Billeting Officer’ placed these children with 3 families in Mayles Close, to be near each other.  We had the youngest toddler and the eldest girl, all their clothes were in a brown paper bag!  My mother made them clothes and accepted any offered by friends but they were not happy in the country.  Afier a few weeks my brother and I were found to have head lice.  My mother couldn’t cope with that problem – it was a stigma in those days, and the children happily returned to their homes. During that time our schooling was shared, the local children going in the mornings and the evacuees during the afternoons and vice versa the next week.

Summer holidays were spent at home – I learned to swim in the River Meon, we could ride our cycles in safety in the lanes and we took picnics to ‘Knowle Copse’ and climbed trees.  The episodes of the detective series of ‘Paul Temple’ and ‘Dick Barton’ were on the wireless and eagerly awaited.  I belonged to the Brownies and Guides, sang in the Church Choir and was a member of the GFS (Girls Friendly Society).  I had piano lessons with practice everyday.  They were happy days – summer was summer and winters usually very cold – sometimes we could skate (in my case ‘slide’) on Rookesbury Pond.  Our childhood was ‘childhood’ – no one had much money (at I6 I had 2/6 a week pocket money) – rationing affected everyone.

With the approach of D Day, Wickham and the surrounding roads was filled with tanks and lorries, many Canadian.  Quite suddenly they disappeared and the sky was filled with aircraft, many trailing gliders.  D Day had arrived.  Soon we were to experience ‘doodle bugs’.  We heard their distinct drone and suddenly the engine would cut out and we all dived under the table or our desks and waited for the explosion.

Margaret Gwynn (née Gale)

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