Friday, March 2, 2007

Through The Eyes Of A Child

In thinking further about the “Reflections” blog a little more detail wouldn’t hurt I’m sure. So many times we see and read about war and the effects of it. The casualties to the forces, including death and damage done to property plus the resulting fallout effecting everyone. I think that the first largest change to register as a result of the times, were all the restrictions that had to be put onto the people. The most obvious being the Identity cards, food ration books, even ration books for simple clothing and shoes. All of that pales by comparison to the heart wrenching events for families being separated and dislocated.
Not often enough do we hear of the other casualties of conflict, these are the people with no voice, children and civilians, the list is endless.

I was very young, when on Sept 3 1939, the second world war broke out, of course we were all too young to really understand what this really meant. What it meant was a major change that would have drastic consequences for the rest of our lives. Because of the threat of bombing from the Germans, we were told that as a precaution most all children in the whole country would be evacuated. I realize now we were so lucky; in the sense that we were to be evacuated from Manchester to a place called Blackpool. This place was the seaside holiday resort of England, situated on the west coast.

Believe me it surely was a big adventure for little kids such as my brothers and I. Of course we did not realize the implications or the seriousness of the whole thing, but we would come to realize things pretty fast.

The departure from Manchester remains slightly vague in my mind. There was just so much confusion with all the milling around going on. Oh so many children in lines that stretched forever, five or six children wide. The trains in pre-war days were still in the old steam engine stage and as I remember it quite different from what we have today.

The thing that always stayed with me as a child was the sounds and smells of the trains engine as it went along. I know that today it may sound a little crazy but I used to love the smell of the steam the most and then there was the steam billowing out and towards the rear as the train moved along down the tracks. I remember opening the small side windows in the carriage. I had to stand on the seat to reach them, but that way I was able to stick my face close to the window and sniff this smell of the engine. There was no mistaking that aroma, for when you got a whiff you knew exactly what it was.

I remember walking down the railway platform at the Blackpool Central station, after we arrived, along with so many other kids. We all had to carry a little square light brown box that contained our gas masks. These were a general issue that everyone in the country had to carry at all times. We also had on our clothing a large name tag, so people could identify who was who. All the same we still just looked like packaged meat waiting to be shipped. ~ This was the first time I had ever seen the ocean, believe me it really took my breath away to see such an expanse of water with no land showing on the horizon.(It was a sight I would learn to enjoy for many years. As I grew older I would learn to love a walk along the promenade in the driving winds and rain.)

All of the evacuees were marshaled into an area and delegated onto buses. We were then dropped off at different houses in various parts of the town. To me being so young, it was a bit bewildering and frightening, yet a mixed feeling of so many emotions. It really did feel very strange, almost like a dream for as kids we didn't really know what was going on. I guess it could have been looked upon as the start of a big adventure but, there was something about it all that took the excitement away. Instead I was apprehensive and scared, which even then bothered me I guess. I think I was aware that I was the eldest and had to be strong. Unbelievable as it was, I was at that time a mere 6 years old. I knew my two younger brothers must have felt even more scared , just by the way they clutched at my hands and the youngest was crying incessantly. You learn as you are growing up; especially as you get older, that you as the eldest in a family with no father, somehow seem to assume that role and assist Mom at least that’s the way it went for me. I had to grow up fast for so many reasons.

We pulled up at a house in Ashburton Rd, then Mom and I went into the house. It was a huge big boarding house, run by an old couple. In the summer season it would normally be filled with holiday makers, right now it was an emergency dropping off point, and more families would be re-located shortly. I really couldn't understand why only I was being taken there; but the thought had to be at the back of my mind, for I was terrified at even the idea of being split up from my family.

Well that’s the way it turned out, strange how at times like that one can lose all sense of rhyme or reason and sheer panic sets in. Mom told me she trusted me to be good boy, as it would only be for a short time until more permanent housing could be found. With that she gave over my documents and ration books to the old couple, for while I was staying there they would be responsible for that kind of thing. They had to use my Ration book to augment their own material needs, after all they couldn’t be expected to use their own meager supplies to feed another hungry mouth. Maybe things weren’t that bad there after all.

To Be Cont'd Tomorrow!


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