Saturday, 20/07/2019, 3:24 AM
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MEMOIRS 1939 to 1945 - Stacey Simkins

Some Personal Recollections

During 1941, about a dozen of us lads decided we'd learn to dance,

and went to the Magenta School of Dancing. We had one lesson where we actually learnt the basic steps of the waltz: one-two-three, one-two-three. Like idiots, me and another fella asked two girls at a youth club we used to go to if they'd like to come with us to a dance,. So on Saturday night we took them to Barking Baths, but when we got there all we could do was sit and try and make conversation until a waltz was played - then go one-two-three, one-two-three down one side, stop and turn around to get round the comer and so on. Needless to say they refused all future offers of going to a dance with us!

Later on, owing to one of the (by then) sporadic air raids, we'd moved to Katherine Road, and we had the two top floors of a three storey building. It was quite big up there, it had three bedrooms, a sitting room, kitchen, bathroom, and the door from the kitchen led out onto an iron balcony with some steps down into the garden. In one of these raids they'd managed to damage the gas supplies, so we were left without any cooking facilities thus forced to use a primus stove we had.

One day it was standing on the kitchen floor cooking something when it caught fire. We managed to get the kitchen door open and kick it out onto the balcony, then down into the garden where it promptly exploded. Some of the neighbours thought there was another air raid on at the time.

Almost directly opposite was another block of three storey buildings, but the bottom part was shops, one of which was a newsagent and sweetshop. The lads, including Dennis and I, used to assist from time to time when we were available, helping him deliver the newspapers - partly out of a sense of public duty but mainly because he had two daughters! Anyway, Christmas 1941 he invited all us lads to come and have a Christmas party. We all had a jolly good time except for one poor person, one of my mates Martin Crowe who developed a whitlow. While we were enjoying ourselves in the main room he was sitting in the kitchen most of the time holding his finger up or in a bowl of hot water -they're bloomin' painful things!

At that time, drink was getting a bit scarce for the civilian population, but the newsagent produced some bottles.

"I managed to get hold of this stuff, it's called Green Goddess."

We all said "What's that?", and he replied:

"Oh, some sort of cordial" and proceeded to pour it out in half pint tumblers. So you can imagine we all got a bit merry to say the least of it, in fact he finished up on the kitchen table with his carpet slippers on playing a toy trumpet and doing a little dance, so you can guess he had a good time! (Research indicates that this drink is the notorious Absinthe!)

When the party was over, Dennis and I had to go back home, so we carefully steered ourselves along the pavement until we were opposite our place. We crossed the road and went up the path, but we realised we'd gone up the wrong side of the railings and we were next door. So we carefully turned round and steered ourselves back down the path, crossed the road, back to the Newsagent, and started again. Ahem. Anyway it was the next morning that I discovered that I was immune, at least mostly immune, from hangovers. But it was quite a good time, except for poor old Martin. He's one of the people I've been trying to trace and never could. He became a W/Op (Wireless Operator), before me actually; I know he went out to the Middle East but after that I lost track of him.

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