Another Education

Another Education
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Another Education

By Alice Common

Alice recounts her time spent in Cumbria during the Second World War.

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Another Education

By Alice Common

So, Alice, would you mind just telling me why you were living in sort of Cumbria during the war?

Yes. Well the reason why we were in Cumbria was that my husband was driving the petrol wagons and apparently they wanted most drivers at Carlisle to supply the airfields. Planes and things like that, you know. And I went about 6 or 7 months later on account of trying to get the house rented whilst we were away.

How did you feel about leaving Newcastle?

Broken-hearted, absolutely. I mean, we’d only been married 5 years, saved up to buy this house and it seemed to be taken from me as there was no talks of war in 1935. So it did come as a little bit of a shock. However, you did as you were told, those days on account of that. It’ll be about 7 or 8 years we were at Carlisle; which I made a lot of friends, fortunately, I was still very homesick.

So when you moved out to Cumbria, what was the house like, that you moved, there?

Well first of all we were in rooms, then from then, somebody knew somebody that had this cottage in Crosby on Eden so we got sent there for two or two three years and this was the start of the evacuees.

So, you took evacuees in? Why, why did you do that?

We had no choice. Because they were supposed to have gone to Brampton and when they’d went to Brampton, someone had beaten them to it, so they had nowhere for these people to go and considering it was nearly 12 o’clock at night the whole row was knocked up and you were just taken what you were given, you didn’t even have a choice. And the little girl that I got, her mother hadn’t come back cos she was in the hospital having another baby and I don’t think I ever saw the mother again; and of course the 2 year old, she didn’t know who I was at the beginning naturally. But I was called Mammy because no one ever came to see how she was getting on and they picked her up as quick as she was dropped off, not a thank you or anything. And from having a baby after a couple of years I had school children as evacuees; I think they were all from Newcastle. And then, from then, as they moved on, we started having the RAF boys; when they moved on we had the soldiers. Then by then, by this time, they found us this house at Harrowby and we’re there about 8 or 9 years

So what was it like taking the evacuees in? What did it feel like having these children?

Well at first you were very nervous, you were just new starters, course with being a … with me having a small child, it wasn’t too bad but others were to have teenagers and different ages, y’know. If you had room, you had people coming to stay at your house.

So, you mentioned some of the war workers that you took in, did…were there any characters?

Oh yes. The workers were characters (laughs)

Can you tell me a bit about them?

Oh yes, they were quite jovial and they give the street plenty to talk about with their nonsense, y’know. And er, one of them used to, sort of, give you ghost stories before you went to bed and you were terrified to go up the stairs like (sound of being scared).

And did you get any help or support for taking in evacuee’s and the war workers?

Oh yes, we were paid for it, but that went towards their keep, y’know. With extra ration books we had a little bit more to play with y’know. And then, of course, as you got to know your neighbours, they used more of one thing than the other; there was some swapping done; sugar for tea etc etc, y’know (laughs). No, it was another education, really. What annoyed me was they were using your towels and beds and that, and you weren’t allowed extra coupons to replace them. Though of course (laughs) we were quilting sheets to quilted quilts and so it went on. I think the nicest one came when we were allowed to put all the lights on after all the blackout. The whole street went in and put the lights on; we went outside just to see all these houses lit up, it was lovely. Then shortly after that, em, the petroleum people, half them sold their stock, so the one that Bill was working for was sold, so I think he was on a bread van for a while. But, through time, I realised you could do a swap for these council houses from where you lived to where you wanted to be, so we were lucky enough to get a swap from Carlisle to Newcastle and back to square one.

Were you glad to be back?

Delighted, it was better than winning the pools (chuckles)

And how did you feel when it was all over?

Well, I think everybody was so relieved. I think we went a little bit bonkers, talking about what we’d been through and what we had to do, wasn’t it lovely to be, more or less, back; although the ration didn’t stop for 2 or 3 years after the war had stopped. It made you look back and think, how did I did this, do this do that with the small amount of rations you had, magicians.

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Grange Stories

A group of older people who attend The Grange Day Centre tell stories of romance, pop music and the pains and pleasures of everyday life.

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