A Happy Evacuee
In the early part of the war my dad Louis sent my mother and myself to Teynham due to the heavy shelling bombarding Deal. My mum Maudie Friend (nee Knight) had relatives at Claxfield Cottages. We were billeted on an aunt for nearly a year then my mother rented a house from Mrs. Oyler, number 104 London Road, on the opposite side of the road from Kisser Kemsley, the house is still there. My dad was in a reserved occupation, a miner at Betteshanger Colliery. I was lucky, I saw my dad once a fortnight, he would knock off from his 8 hour shift on Saturday and cycle to Teynham. I would be waiting for him at the top of Cellar Hill outside Mrs. Seal's sweetshop, number 4 London Road, next door to the old forge. The cottage had a bay window then but this has since been removed. We would go into the shop and he would buy me a painting book and sometimes sweets if we had enough ration coupons. Then I would sit on the crossbar and he would cycle home. Sunday evening he would cycle back to Deal ready for his early Monday morning shift. Not many people would do that now.
During the summer months mum with other Teynham mothers would work on the fields picking cherries, soft fruit and then go on to apples and pears. Us lads would be roaming all over the farms and orchards helping out when and where we were required, and possibly causing chaos. Those long summer holidays and the double summer time gave us freedom for so many adventures. Riding on the hay carts, taking horses to the forge and back again and best of all a ride on the lorries to Spitalfields Market, where Potter Oyler had a fruit stand. Boys such as Fred Harvey, Don Hawkins, Peter Leeds, Doug Mills, Derek Mount, Jimmy Russell, my cousin Doug Knight and myself, out morning till night only going home for something to eat. We would hang about around the yard, hoping for one of the drivers to call you. Some of the drivers such as Nookey Ford and Jack Lewis were great characters, Jack sometimes drove the ambulance, which was often stationed near The Fox pub in his spare time. Due to the shortage of men most drivers did not have a ‘mate’ to help load and unload and as boys, we were only too willing to help. The cherries were loaded in 12lb chip baskets and the apples and pears in bushel boxes which most of us boys could lift. Health and Safety, well we were all healthy and we’d never heard of safety.
One time Fred Harvey had been given a film projector. He found an empty chicken house in the orchard, acquired some hessian sacks and covered the windows, turning the place into a makeshift cinema. Wonderful, a world of our own, watching silent Laurel & Hardy and Old Mother Riley films. With always the possibility that someone’s mum had given them food that would be enough for all of us.
There was a war on, but as kids it was just one big adventure. One time we were all in the bean field picking beans as fast as we could when a lone Messerrschmitt 110 came over and started to strafe the field. We all ran hell for leather. Nobody was hurt and the next day we were back looking for souvenirs. Shrapnel, the bigger the better
I went to Bapchild school as it was the nearest to Claxfield Cottages. The Headmistress Miss Lambert taught the top class, Mrs. Connolly the middle group and Miss Smith the infants. When Miss Lambert left Miss Avent took over. I went on to Westlands school which had just been opened, but I was only there a few months before I was old enough to leave
I was a happy evacuee, had great mates and family in Teynham. Deal, it never came close.