In the approach to June 1944 the world was full of Americans with funny accents, chewing gum and chocolate. Girls came from miles around to accompany them walking in the park. As a child I couldn’t understand what was going on but I loved those healthy, clean, well-dressed and wealthy young men.
We had lodgers at our little house. People billeted on us. Mostly munitions workers. One came from Newcastle - she was very affectionate but very hard to understand. Apart from the teachers at school all I ever heard were broad Lancashire accents.
We had a Polish airman for a while called Boleslaw Bystron, a charming man. He was a very skilled cabinet maker who settled in Bolton after the War and married my mother’s friend Ann Robinson. We later had two Americans. It was forty years later that my dad told me they were killed on the D Day landings. I still have the Indian head five cent piece one of them gave me.
We always used to think that all Americans lived in luxury like Fred Astaire or in the Rocky Mountains like Roy Rogers. They couldn’t have found our cockroach infested house very pleasant. I suppose the warmth that the Americans were shown made up for the shortcomings of the accommodation.
There were German prisoners of War building houses in Westland Avenue, Farnworth. They used to exchange badges from their uniforms for cigarettes. We were only kids and the police used to chase us off if they saw us.
The War was a great novelty to us kids, trying on the gas masks and having air raid drills. All the young men were called up or volunteering. Dad volunteered and went into the Grenadier Guards as he was six feet four and Mam went to De Havilland on War work. I joined the Scouts at Saviour’s Church.
All sorts of things started to happen now Blackouts, Salvage Drives, Food rationing, Air Raid Wardens, even coal went on ration.
I made a little truck out of pram wheels and a soap box and went up Wigan Road to the Owd Lone pit for half a hundred weight of slack (coal dust) and we went to the gas works on Moor Lane to get a bag of coke if we were lucky. Mam and me would walk down to the ‘macker’ - that was the spare land at the back of the Aranda Garage where the stokers from the Merton and Rayon Crepes used to tip the ashes from the boiler house fire holes. There we would pick out the cinders and bits of coal from the ashes to bank the fire up. It would last for hours that way.
None of us kids in Partridge Street, Bolton in the 1940s ever realised there was a War going on.
We were all given a box to carry about with us but I don’t ever remember having to wear the gruesome looking mask that was inside it.
A tale was told that when James Street was bombed in 1941 a paving slab fell through our roof and landed in the cot from which I had just been removed.
One of the lads came to school with a banana and we chased him all round the playground just asking for a smell of it or a taste of the skin. When I finally got to eat a banana it was a big disappointment.
During the War there was a shop on Albert Road Farnworth which was known as Shudda Bins. Every time we bought something the shopkeeper would say it costs 6 pence but it shudda bin a shilling. It was next door to Savage’s meat shop.
My Dad brought a German flag back. When people were flying flags to celebrate I put it on a clothes prop and stuck it out of the window. When Dad came home he went mad!