Ralph Worthington's Story
My name is Ralph Worthington and I live in Ellensburg, WA, in the glorious
Pacific Northwest. I was born in Coventry and at the age of 14 was
evacuated along with the rest of our school (BABLAKE) immediately after the
November Blitz in 1940. We were evacuated to Lincoln, where were took over
old, temporary school buildings. Most of us were billeted in private
homes- I was in two over the next two years. For my third year, before we
returned to Cov. In 1943, I had the fun of being a member of a school
hostel. There were about 30 of us boys in a fantastic 300+ year old house
almost next to the cathedral, and we had a great time. I tell you more
about those years in the future, now I'd especially like to hear
from any other Bablake old boys. I'm already in touch with one in Canada.
My ICQ # is 8930679. I'm a one finger Typist so I prefer to Chat (talk)
with people using Microsoft Netmeeting, The software is a free download from
Microsoft.com and it works really well, I can talk with people in Australia
and the UK, in fact, all over the world, for free!
I now live in Ellensburg, a small town of about 6,000 regular
residents, but we are the home of Central Washington University, so the
population expands to about 11,000+ in term time.
Our home is on the southern edge of the city with a beautiful view across
the Kittitas valley, which is the upper valley of the Yakima River. This is
one of the major rivers flowing east from the Cascade mountains. A few miles
south the river cuts through a ridge forming the Yakima Canyon, which we can
see the entrance to from our home. From here the river again flows in an
easterly direction to the Columbia River, which it joins at Richland. This
of course is the major river flowing west from the Rockies and is the third
largest in the US.
The scenery here in the northwest is immensely varied, from the lush
temperate rain forest on the Olympic peninsular through the Puget Sound
region with Seattle, one of the two or three most livable cities in the US,
as its capital. Eastwards up the Cascade foothills with their dense conifer
forests to the snow capped Cascades themselves, with their half dozen
dormant volcanos, all above 9000 feet high, with Mount Rainier, second
highest peak in the 48 states at 14,400+ feet. The scenery and plant and
animal life are wonderful. Still moving east the eastern Cascade foothills
gradually lose their trees and become a dry desert by the time you reach the
Columbia. Irrigation projects based on the Grand Coulee dam system has
enabled this desert to become in part a rich agricultural plain. Further
East still we star to reach the foothills of the Bitterroots and Rockies and
trees once again cover the slopes. Then you're into Idaho, another wild
The people here are, generally, we find friendly and down to earth and
still retain much of the frontier spirit.
There are, of course, endless outdoor activities, boating, fishing sea and
freshwater, skiing, walking, climbing - you name it we've got it!
Seattle, a hour and a half's drive for us has Symphony, ballet, theater,
football (the Seahawks), Baseball (the Mariners), Basketball (the
Supersonics), Soccer (the Sounders), hockey, etc., etc.
Why don't you all come and live here, half of California seems to be coming.
Yes I remember the pictures, especially the tuppenny rush on Saturday
afternoons. That's where I was introduced to Tom Mix and Tony. He was my
favorite cowboy for years. Never could come to terms with the singing
ones. It seemed so out of place to me.
One of the special things about those mega cinemas was the cinema organ,
which used to appear from the bowels of the stage with the organist in full
blast. The one at the Rialto cinema in Coundon was often on the wireless,
the BBC Midland program I remember. This made him a person of great fame
locally. Later in life, while at the University of Birmingham, I joined The
Society for the Abolition of the Cinema Organ. We used to go to city
cinemas and boo the organist. I'm not convinced it was because of our
efforts, but organs soon disappeared for good. What a shame! >
And yes Gerry, tastes changes with age. Our taste organs become less
sensitive, sometimes in specific areas. I still love Rowntrees clear gums
and pastilles and all three of my kids love them. I used to bring British
candy back from business trips. They were always the most popular of gifts
and I remember the kids used to hoard them, hide them from each other to
make them last. Now I can get them and all sorts of British sweets, foods and
all sorts of books, soaps, China, linen etc., etc. from a British shop in
Seattle. Another shop in the famous Pike's Place Market keeps a wonderful
selection of British foods, like Branston Pickle and especially cheeses from
all over Britain. I still love English beer. It's brewed differently from
US and Continental beers and loses much of its flavor when chilled.
Lagers need to be cold and become strongly ester tasting when warm. However
Guinness is now producing stout to be drunk SLIGHTLY chilled. Have you
come across the new cans with an insert which produces a stable head, just
like draught when poured? The US is now producing some creditable beers at
micro breweries although the Buds, Coors and Millers are no better than ever
It's advertising, not taste, which sells them. My favorite bottled beer
produced by a major brewery over here is Moosehead, which is brewed in
Canada and has a real full hoppy flavor. What are your preferences
I always enjoyed going to the Coventry market as a kid. It was part covered
and part outdoor, behind the main shopping street with the entrance through
an arcade beside Woolworths. I'll bet Jim remembers it. I always enjoyed
the food stalls best. They exuded such gorgeous smells. At the time we
could rarely afford such delights, but ahh, the aromas. A year or two
before the war, Dad got a job and we were able to partake of such delights
as pork pies (why, oh why, can't you get one in the US? Even if we go to
Canada and buy one in Marks and Sparks, the customs, or rather the Dept. of
Ag. won't let you bring it onto the sacred soil.) and roast pork buns with
sage and onion stuffing. Even better, on the way through the arcade you had
to pass Elizabeth's bakery and Mum would get me my very favorite cream puff
bun, made of choux pastry and FILLED with real whipped cream. My mouth
waters now at the thought. They were so much bigger than any I've seen
since, or it just my aging memory playing tricks?
Not a market as such was the annual Crock Fair, held on either Stoke Green
or Hearsall common. I loved to go with my parents and sister after dark
with all the oil and acetylene lamps lit. So much more exciting than
electric lights! I especially loved the patter of the stall holders, once
they had gathered a large crowd. The would offer a huge selection of
crockery starting at say, five pounds and gradually keep adding more and
dropping the price till they would offer the lot for say, seven and six.
Then a feeding frenzy would start in the crowd, so that even the many
assistants were overwhelmed with buyers. I've often wondered since how much
the crocks were really worth. Still, the fair returned every year and
traveled throughout the Midlands and North, so folks must have been
satisfied. As the same faces showed up every time. I don't believe that
this was a Southern, or London, phenomenon, I guess you had all those markets.
By the way I'm trying to leave a record for my kids, so far 30+ pages and
I'm only at age eight or nine. As I only type with one finger, it's a real
time consuming labor of love.
Keep the tales flowing. Ralph.
I was evacuated with my school, along with Jim Elks, to Lincoln. At first,
for about a year I was billeted, along with another boy called Peter
Worthington, who was no relation, to the home of a signal man on the LNER
and his wife. They were, or any way seemed to us, very old and had never
had any children of their own. They were very good to us, in their own way,
but had very old fashioned ideas of children's place in the world. It soon
became clear that they were happiest when we were out of the house playing
with the local kids. In many ways those kid's parents understood us much
more and were really very good to us, treating us like their own.
Being city kids we had never eaten so well in our lives. Old Mr. Brown was a
genuine Lincolnshire poacher, and we thrived on hare, pheasant, partridge,
wild duck, rabbit and pigeon. In addition, Mr. B operated the signal box at
the railway crossing on the main street in Lincoln. He was adept at rapidly
closing the gates, which in those days were manually operated from the box,
in such a manner as to clip a passing RAF lorry. The driver would come up
to the box and beg him not to report the incident to the RAF. In return for
this favor Mr. B would receive some small token, such as a beef joint or a
box of tinned fruit or even a warm woolen RAF sweater or jacket; whatever
was on the lorry. These gifts all augmented our meals at a time when most
people were struggling on rations.
After about a year the Browns decided that we were too much of a handful and
so we were moved to other digs. Here again the people couldn't really be
bothered with me, I think they just wanted the extra money which they were
paid for billeting me. They were a family of a mother and father and their
daughter and son-in-law. They spent the whole time it seemed screaming at
each other. They disagreed about everything, but especially politics, the
old man was a staunch Tory and the son-in-law a rabid left wing Socialist.
Trying to do homework in the (small) house with them screaming was little
short of impossible. I would often go across the street to a family
opposite, whose kids I played with to get a little peace. This infuriated
the folks I lived with. They thought my friends were snobs because their
father was a lawyer's clerk, while they drove a lorry and delivered coal.
When I got home they would transfer their shouting to me.
After some months the situation became impossible, and the school billeting
officer moved me to a hostel run by one of the masters. That's where Jim and
I lived with about 30 other boys for a year or so. It's only in
the last year that we've reconnected through the net. I'm looking forward to
some of your tales, good or bad.
Cheerio for now,
You couldn't have described my feelings about food better. I'm on a
diabetic diet but still crave just the sort of things you describe. Let me
add a couple--- real fish and chips, they were never the same after the war
, and real Melton Mowbray black puddings. The ones in Lancashire and
Yorkshire never touched them. The lovely pieces of pork fat nestling in
among the blood and barley. Only the best German blutwursts come any where
close. I don't suppose all you Londoners remember these.
It's great to be able to dream!
Like you I'm convinced that deprivation enhances the appetite and the fond
memories. So perhaps it's one of the good things we got out of W.W.II.
I remember going to the "Tuppenny Crush " for kids on Saturday at the local Rialto.
Those were the days of Tom Mix and his horse, Tony, still, I think, the best of the cowboy serials.
I remember things used to get really rowdy, with orange peel and other
unpleasant objects thrown down from the front rows of the circle onto the
unfortunates below. Eventually, the management frisked us all before we were
allowed into the auditorium. All catapults, peashooters and gum had to be
handed over and oranges had to be peeled on the spot. The confiscated
objects were returned, hopefully to the right owner, at the end of the show.
It only took about three weeks to sort things out and return to normal.
I remember too that we all used to sing along with the cinema organ at the
interval. The cinema was bombed during the blitz, but the attached dance
hall survived and at the end of the war I learned to dance there, taught by
my younger sister. Nobody seems to dance properly anymore. Even the old
ballroom dances have degenerated into almost motionless shuffles. Perhaps
they were always like that in the USA! I know we used to really move about
on the dance floor.
Regarding pocket money, before the war I got tuppence, later threepence, a week.
After the school was evacuated this went up to eight pence, and later a
shilling. The school did not encourage large sums.
I loved the cathedral in Lincoln. For a few coppers in the maintenance box I
could climb to the top of the main tower. As the cathedral sits atop a
steep escarpment, the view was incredible, especially to the south. My main
delight, along with other boys was to take rubber powered model aircraft, or
gliders, to the tower top, concealed under coats etc., and to fly them from
there. The elevation and the thermals rising from the lead roof of the
cathedral resulted in magnificently long flights. Sometimes you could set
the rudder to keep them circling over the roof for long periods of time and
if you were lucky they would eventually come down in an accessible spot.
Often, though they would soar away "into the wild blue yonder" and after it
went out of view the flight was timed "OOS"(out of sight) in the jargon of
model flyers. Some of our flights were so long they could have classified
as international records, had they not been artificially assisted by the
elevation and thermal source. We were never caught up there, and no-one ever
complained that we knew of.
Lincoln was a real fun place if you knew where to go, but more of that some
I well remember the trams on the Bristol road in Birmingham. They ran right
out to the city limits at Rugely, a distance of well over ten miles. One
year, 1945 I think, during the Rag Week, when students collected money for
the hospital ending with a big Carnival parade on Saturday, a group of
students, who shall remain unidentified, hijacked a tram on Saturday morning.
They threw off, very gently, the driver and conductor and ran the tram all
the way to the terminus and back, stopping at all the stops and collecting
fares as normal. When we got back to the hijack point we handed over the
tram to the driver, with thanks. All the fare money went to the hospital
fund. The powers that be were very understanding and, as no damage had
been done, the event went unpunished.
Trams still run along the promenade in Blackpool, single and double deckers,
which are all decorated with colored lights during the Illuminations Week.
There is a tradition dating back longer than my lifetime and still worth
seeing once anyway.