Joan Wollen's Story
I was evacuated to Totnes, Devonshire
from Acton, London in 1939.
I was seven, and my sister was five.
Most of the people we were billeted
with were kind but strict,
which must have been strange to me as I
still remember it!
I think the main benefit was to show me a
different way of life, a love for Devonshire
and country life. I was evacuated
from Berrymeade school and well
remember the preparations we had to make
for the journey.
I can remember a few shops from before the war. one was a little
grocery shop which was just a few steps from my house, the butchers
shop, slightly further, next door to a fish and chip shop. I seem to
remember that there was also a pawn shop in that little group. I remember
the iced gems very well, when Marks and Spencer's was here in
Edmonton, it was possible to buy them, my main interests were of
course sweet shops, seems to me that one could even buy something for
a farthing! Remember Snow Fruits, would love to be able to buy them
now, the nearest substitute seems to be sherbet, an old man would
come around selling ice-cream from his horse and cart, Sundays would
be the winkles and shrimps, traditional Sunday tea, remember going to
the seaside, which for us was usually Southend, buying whelks and
cockles, all the shops with bucket and spades hanging outside. Lots
of nostalgia. In Devonshire, I never did have winkles and shrimps but
did discover milk shakes, cornish pasties and honey!
My first job was working in Woolworth's, on the music counter yet
which I loved, I was always in trouble for playing records that the
supervisor didn't like, I remember playing Mairzy Dotes and Dozey
Dotes and Little Lambs eat Ivy, she hated that one and I was
forbidden to play it! can't remember how much I got a week but 15/-
seems to strike a cord, I was 14 years old and so glad to have left
school which I hated. I wanted to be a hairdresser Gerry but unlike
your dad, mine felt it wasn't a well-paying job, of course, he was
talking about the apprenticeship during which the pay was very low.
Later, when I entered nursing training, where the pay was even worse,
he kept quiet. There seemed to be so many jobs around then but unlike
today, we didn't have enough knowledge to decide which would be the
best path to do down.
I was lucky I think but even so have suffered many emotional problems
which I am sure originated in that era. After the war, my father,
whom I had worshipped as a child came back a changed person,
very angry and seemed to reject us all. I later found out that
during the war he had started another family and I supposed he
resented having to stay with his
I was seven years old and although logically I must have understood or
been told the reason, I am sure part of me thought it was something I
had done which had caused this to happen. Later my mother joined us
for a brief period but went back to London once more leaving us with
had to deal with the same emotions in our adult life, I can't imagine
how I would have felt had it been
me having to give up my daughter