1940s Childhood Part One

I was born at the beginning of the war in a two-bed roomed house in Nelson Street. This was a short street of five houses situated at the bottom of West Lane. The house had a yard at the back and a small garden at the front which was across the other side of the road. Nelson Street Garage now stands in what was our garden. One end of the street was blocked off by large gates leading into Young’s Garage, but fortunately the entrance wasn’t used very much so our front street was quite safe. At the other end was Colley’s Taxi business in Nelson House. My earliest memory is being carried across the road into the Anderson Air Raid Shelter, inside there was a form down each side where we sat. My mother said that she told us stories and did quizzes to keep us occupied. My two elder sisters wore siren suits; these were an all-in-one jumpsuit with a zip down the front, as you can imagine they were difficult to struggle out of if you were in a hurry to use the loo, so my mother cut a flap in the back and fastened it with two buttons. My sister also had a Mickey Mouse Gas Mask which fortunately she never had occasion to wear.

My mother always remembered to take her crocheted bag with her; this had a zip along the top to make sure that nothing dropped out, and contained all her important documents, Rent Book, Insurance Policies, Birth Certificates and of course our Identity Cards. We wore Identity Bracelets with our name engraved on one side and our Identity number on the reverse, which we had to learn off by heart. Later this number was used as your National Health Number when the 1948 Health Act came into force.

 Welfare Clinic, (which is now a Nursery) mothers with prams stood in long queues outside, waiting to swap their milk tokens for a tin of National Baby Milk Powder. We were also taken there to be immunised.

Anderson Shelter
Mickey Mouse Gas Mask
Welfare Clinic
Bluccey – Bottom of West Lane

In those days the wireless was powered by an accumulator battery which had to be recharged and topped up. The casing was made of thick glass with a positive and negative pole, the battery was filled with lead plates and an acid and water mixture. This was too heavy for us to carry so we put it in the baby’s pushchair and wheeled it around to Blucceys on West Lane. He took the old one and gave us a new one. This took two of us as we had to walk very carefully and try to keep the pushchair level, as we went up and down the pavement steps so the acid wouldn’t spill, we were also warned never to touch the battery acid or it would burn our fingers.

One day we heard that a new material called plastic had been invented. The first things we saw made of this new material were electric wires. These were available in different colours, so a new craze was born. The girls all dashed down to Blucceys to buy lengths of coloured wire, which were then woven into bracelets with hook and eye fasteners on the end. These could be fashioned into numerous different designs, and everyone swapped ideas. Of course, you didn’t always need to buy new wire as you just undid the original and re designed it.

 Reminiscence by Bunty for the Friends of CLS Heritage Group March 2011