The war had been on now for a few months and Christmas was upon us. Quite frankly I can’t really recall if we even had a Christmas that year, or for a few years. With all the regulations about house lights and blackouts (windows being covered so as to show no light outside, because of air raids) and a constant shortage of supplies of any kind, it’s doubtful that much of anything was observed for some time, except the ache in your heart.
With the outbreak of the war, no father and times of poverty, there really wasn’t very much Christmas spirit to speak of. I do remember mom taking us kids to see a pantomime (live) show, which I believe starred Tommie Handley from the “ITMA Radio fame”. ( remember, there was no television in those times either! Just Radio ) . I’m not sure if the pantomime was “Puss in Boots’ that year, for they did do a lot of those shows where we lived in Blackpool. Of course because of the war even some of those were somewhat restricted in numbers for a while.
(Fred Yule, Tommy Handley and Hattie Jacques, ITMA 1947))
I can of course remember seeing and almost bumping into Vera Lynn one time as she came out of the Palace Ballroom building. We were out with mom on the promenade, going someplace nearby when she came down the steps from the building. Vera Lynn was an entertainer, a singer. She performed shows, sang with a band and they played her song’s on the radio all the time. When you heard her voice you knew right away who it was, she had such a distinguished sound to her singing. She became a legend with the armed forces during the war.
So Christmas came and went and nothing changed from what had now become the norm. I don’t think we even got any snow that winter, but then I later learned that because we were living by the seaside snow didn’t last too long, because the salt air melted it quickly. Winter or not, us kids wore short pants year round anyway! (Shorts in North America) Talk about cold legs!
That was the custom of the times in England. Possibly it still is to a point, even today. Long pants came a bit later for kids. I think it was when a kid got to be about 11 years old and moving into another school level.
I still went to my makeshift school though and also attended the Sunday school, coupled with Sunday church services as a boy choir member. Speaking of choirboys. Boys will be boys, as the old cliché goes.
Like any other kids someone will always be up to a little mischief once in a while. This particular Sunday we were all gathered at the church for Sunday service as usual. Normally things went along like clockwork, today however we had been hanging around waiting, for the choirmaster had gone somewhere. We had been dressed a while now ready for the entrance parade as we called it. Naturally it wasn’t long before some of the kids started fidgeting. As a result one of the kids had been playing with matches. He had this piece of string which he had lit then blew out, now it was just smoldering. There he was swinging this thing around when the choirmaster walked in on us. Not knowing what to do in his panic, the kid stuffed the string into his coat pocket on the clothes hanger and off we went into the church.
The service started and we sang a couple of hymns and a psalm. Just about the time the vicar was going to announce a prayer, one of the congregation gave out a yell, “Fire!” Turning, we saw that there was smoke billowing out from the back room entrance to the pews. Meanwhile one kid in particular had turned a somewhat unhealthy shade of green! That episode promptly brought the service to a temporary halt while someone rushed out and checked things out. That didn’t make that kid feel much better, for he knew I’m sure that he was in for something not so good!
Fortunately it turned out to be not too serious, a small fire and lots of smoke. Things were very quickly brought under control.
Thus Endeth The Lesson!