Eddie Terry's Story
Hi there Gerry.
Firstly thanks for inviting me into your discussion group on WW11 evacuees.
Like you I was evacuated in 1939 at the tender age of five and a half, my sister
(who was two years older than me) and myself were evacuated from Stratford, East London, to Devon
. A train ride to Barnstable and then a bus to a little village called Swimbridge, I too can recall getting on the
train with a paper bag with our belongings and sandwiches and a gas mask in a cardboard box
strung over our shoulders.
Now whether the following memories are mine or what I have read from various books on the subject
but I recall sitting in the village hall around the wall whilst a lot of women chose the children
they wanted to look after.
And I remember that my sister and I were almost the last to be picked out and finally were taken to a house
opposite the local tannery by a woman who had two of her own children about our age.
The next few months were the worst of my life, her own children were spoilt and we were picked on,
and, because of the traumatic upheaval in our lives we wet the bed a few times, which resulted in
the usual wackings.
Our mother came down a few times to see us, and she must had sensed our unhappiness, so we were
shifted from this house and evacuated from Stratford, East London to Devon.
Our younger brother was evacuated too, and he and my sister went to one home, and I was billeted in a
farmhouse with a lovely couple called the Mitchell's. Life on the farm was wonderful and full of adventure.
But, I do remember that the local kids at school resented us intruders, and many a fight took place.
Now I must confess that although I was well fed and was never hungry, my East London street wise
faults got the better of me.
During harvest time the farm labourers at the beginning of the day placed their sandwiches and bottle
of drink in the hedge for later use. And I used to creep around and nick a sandwich and a gulp
Thinking back now it was a terrible thing to do, but at six years old and homesick it could have
been a way of me saying "I want to go home).
After about nine months our mother came down and took us back to London where we all survived the blitz.
Talking to my father in later years, he said the reason he brought us back was because if anything
did happen to mum or him then we would be near our relatives to be looked after.
With regards the villagers sometimes hostile attitude to the evacuees, looking back in retrospect there
was this village, unchanged for centuries, the same families owning the shops and farms,
passing them down to their sons when, suddenly they are literally invaded by hoards of scruffy uncouth kids,
some lice ridden and dirty, young in age but old in craftiness, their whole peaceful tranquillity destroyed.
Had I been placed in their position I would more than likely be the same.
Will send some more memories later
All the best,
I cannot recall much snow in Devon but back in London making snowmen was the favourite pastime with an
and old scarf around its neck and old pipe stuck in his mouth. And of course, snowball fights
and the art of this was to hold the compressed snow in your hands as long as possible,
because it then turned to ice and made more of an impact on your opponent
(What monsters we were in those days!).
And making ice slides in the middle of the road as long as possible, and seeing who could go the furthest
without falling over.
But, my most vivid memories of snow was during the fifties and sixties, because I used to drive a petrol tanker
for the Regent Oil Co. (later taken over by Texaco). Many of our deliveries were in Suffolk and Norfolk ,
and most of these were down narrow country lanes to the depots of the farmers Co-op.
And there is nothing more exhilarating than driving a semitrailer loaded with 6000 gallons of petrol
(this was the maximum load permitted at that time) on narrow snowbound lanes.
Although driving the same size vehicle through London when the smog was so thick that the bus
conductors had to walk in front of the bus to guide the driver who could not see the centre
line could be just as exciting.
All the best,
Hi there Gerry.
Chop toad is the same idea as toad-in-the -hole except instead of using sausages you use lamb chops,
this is a more tastier dish as the juices from the chops seeps into the batter giving it a nice flavour.
Shredded wheat shoes! I came from a poor east end family, and getting a new pair of shoes was a
very rare event.
So when your shoes developed a hole in the sole, an insert was cut out from the side of a shredded wheat
box and slipped inside the shoe, this was fine until it rained then the cardboard got wet and so did
your sock also small stones worked their way into the shoe and you were continually
taking your shoe off and shaking the stone out.
In retrospect, this makeshift repair was better than getting the very rare pair of new shoes because
every day when you came home from school your new shoes were inspected for scratches. Any bad scratch
resulted in a clip around the ears so, being very street wise we came up with an ingenious idea
to avoid the daily inspections for new scratches. On the first day we played footy, climbed trees,
jumped on walls and made so many scratches that any more daily inspections were useless this resulted
in one big hiding instead of a lot of little ones.
When I started work and could afford to buy my own suits, I made the trip to Maxie Cohen,
bespoke tailor, who had his shop by the side of Aldgate bus terminus.
He was the "in" tailor at this time, so whenever you folded your jacket you made sure that the
Maxie Cohen label was on the outside.
More later ,
Hi there everyone.
I have read a few of your stories about bath nights. Ours was the same with the large
galvanized bath set up in the front room for our communal bath. In the East end, modesty
was at a premium, and as everybody knew what everyone had nudity was not an
embarrassment (although I will admit when you're 12 years old and blossoming out it could be).
But, it did teach me that the human body is not some dirty object that must be hidden away like the
Victorian era, and my children were raised with the same attitude We have never had locks on the
There is nothing to be ashamed of being poor, because you can still be clean, and my mother
(gord bless her soul) insisted on this. We had to wash our hands before we sat down to meals,
our hair was inspected every day when we came home from school, and our clothes (although
threadbare were immaculately clean.)
Every Saturday morning we were given sixpence each and sent down to the local swimming
baths for a hot bath.
Now our local one was in Cannhall Road, Leyton (towards Grove Green Road)
You went to the pay booth, handed over your sixpence and received a small bar of soap and a towel
(for want of a better word.) Now this piece of material was course and rough and had the name
of the council in great big red letters to stop people nicking them (though for the life of
me why anyone would nick one is a mystery).
The bathrooms were set out along each side of this huge room with seats down the middle in case
you had to wait. All the taps were outside the rooms (big brass ones the whole length of the room)
When a bathroom was vacant, the attendant cleaned out the bath, filled it with hot water and in you
went. All the rooms had large numbers on the inside and outside the door, and if the water
was too hot you yelled out "more cold in number 7" and the attendant would turn the
appropriate tap until you shouted stop.
When you had been in the bath for the regulated time he would shout out "times up in number 7"
and out you got, dried yourself and handed your towel back in.
This might sound like an episode from a comedy series, but we enjoyed these sessions.
Do any of you remember eating a snack called "Nelson's eye"?
And with regards to pocket money, I did not know the meaning of the
word until, at the age of 10, I got myself a part time job and kept 25% of this money for myself,
This job by the way was tending a small coal boiler in a clothing factory
(my father obtained this job and delegated it to me).
The job involved cleaning out the clinker, filling up the fire to last through the night
until the workers arrived, running enough coal in from the back yard
to last the following day, and then running all the waste ash out
to the dustbins. Not bad for a ten-year old.
I put all of this hard yacka down to the reason why, at the age of
66 I am still very fit and active.
All the best, Eddie Terry