Wednesday, 29 March 2017

War Baby ......... stories by Eddy Newport no 29 .........

Another in the series by Eddy Newport taken from his book, History of a War Baby.

My favourite trips out were to the East Street market with Mum and Nan to do the shopping.

As a special treat, there were market stalls selling hot chestnuts and hot black current juice and the delight of sipping this delicious concoction to me was pure heaven. That was something to look forward to.

Nan visited the market often and was known by a lot of people so she was always stopping to chat with somebody.

There was a time when I got lost. I was a child who had an independent spirit and hated holding on to hands. So it was no surprise that I became detached from the family group.

I must have been about four years old. I guess I knew I was lost because I went up to a policeman and told him so. I was asked if I knew where I lived I did but could not relate the actual address so I told the policeman I could take him to it.

He persuaded a market trader to give me a present of some cigarette cards. We took off in the homeward direction. Once out of the market area we came across Mum and Nan looking for me. So all was well, but I was chastised for getting lost.

My brother David was now a permanent feature in my life. For four years I had the fullest of attention from my mother and grandmother and now I had some competition. I hate to say this, but I resented my brother whose attention he was taking from mum and nanny was less that what I was getting.

So a feeling of resentment took me over and I would not involve myself with him.

Today as I look back I feel bad that I should have felt like that but it is the truth. As he got older I would torment and tease David until he lost his temper until he got into trouble, but more likely I got into trouble for upsetting the baby.

David was just too far away from me in age to be a pal and our growing up was not a shared experience. Now, years later I love my brother and regret the time missed when we could have been closer. I was always doing my own thing and David his.

A magic moment was when “Jack’s”, a local ice cream man, would come by selling cornets and wafers. It was kept in large tubs with a big brass handles. The taste of his ice cream is a treasured memory. He had a highly decorated push cart with tubs kept cold with dry ice they looked as they were smoking.

He also sold toffee apples. I remember I got a head slapping from uncle Jim when he was taking me somewhere and I spotted Jack’s cart in the distance and shouted out I wanted an ice cream. Uncle was not having any of that and ignored my request to which I shouted louder only to get a thick ear for my trouble. I think he did not like me as I guess I was a spoilt child. I did not tell my mum about this. After that, I held a certain respect for Uncle Jim.

So now our family was four or five if we included Nan.

Nan’s son James (Uncle Jim) Hicks did not join the army. He spent the war as a civilian working in a factory making parts for the war effort. He had been courting a local girl who was drafted into the land army her name was Barbara.

She was a big girl with ginger hair and a quick wit and a fantastic sense of humour. They got married about the time Mum was expecting David and soon after announced that Aunt Barbara was expecting a baby.

They had a boy and named him Barry. He became a play pal for David and they grew up best of friends
A social gathering was often spent at Nanny and Granddad Newport’s home in Oakhurst Grove in East Dulwich. As the Newport’s clan were gaining maturity the boys were getting married and joining the army.

Uncle David (dad’s elder brother) was doing war work in a factory by this time he had married Aunt Rose (King). George married Ellen Nolan Aunt Nell. He joined up and went to war in Africa.

Arthur also joined the army and became a dog handler. Freddy stayed at home and was not able to join up as he was declared unfit for service. Aunt Ginny had married Fredrick Raeburn. Aunt Rose had married Walter Hobbs. The unmarried girls Ivy and Doris later joined the Women’s Royal Army Corps WRAC’s.

Oakhurst Grove was a big terraced house which was divided up into three flats the ground floor housing Aunt Ginny and her husband Fred and their three children Doreen,

Brian and Freddie. Freddie was about my age and I looked forward to seeing him, as he was always up to something exciting and was fun to be with. The first floor lived Nan, Granddad and Uncle Fred and the top floor lived Aunt Rose with her husband Wally.

They had a boy called Bruce. Later on, they had a girl Jennifer. Other social occasions were spent at Nanny Hicks flat with Uncle Jim and Auntie Barbara. Not as interesting as going to Oakhurst Grove. Christmas time was something special. All the family just had to be there even my other Nanny Hicks.

Nanny and Granddad Newport were there to watch over the evening. Us kids would be playing hide and seek down in granddad’s cellar and garden shed. The older generations would do their party pieces to entertain everybody else. My dad was playing the piano. The two-star performers were Uncle Arthur and Uncle George. They would dress up as vicars and do a hilarious comedy routine that had everyone in fits of laughter.

To me, the main event was when we all had to be on our best behaviour when Father Christmas came to visit us and distribute the presents. We all had to keep very quiet and wait for the knock on the door. Soon a loud knock could be heard and in came Father Christmas with a big sack over his shoulder bursting with presents. This was the real thing to a six-year-old.

We all got our presents and after FC had a mince pie and a glass of something he went out the door on his way. These were wonderful memories of a Christmas gone by. It got blown away the following year when FC came in only, this time, he had over his shoulder a pillow and not a proper sack and a beard that looked like cotton wool. Something fishy was going on here, I thought, and I soon realised Farther Christmas was one of my uncles, dressed up.

To me, the Christmas bubble had been burst never to be the same again. Some time later I found out that the original FC was Granddad Newport he was the best FC of all.

This photo was taken in 1945 minus the men still serving overseas. Left to right:-

Uncle David, Aunt Doris holding Cousin Pat, at the back Aunt Nell married to Uncle George (not in photo), and Cousin Doreen with hair bow, behind her is Aunt Rose with Edie (Mother) holding brother David, at the back uncle Fred standing next to Granddad David Newport, at the back standing is Uncle Fred Reaburn married to Aunt Ginny standing on his left. Centre is Nanny Jane Newport holding Cousin Bruce son of Rose and Wally Hobbs (not in photo). Centre right is Aunt Rose married to Uncle David holding cousin Brian, Aunt Ivy is standing with back to the piano. Two boys sitting in front are left, Cousin Freddie and I am next to him. Note photo on the piano is my dad Ted. (Not in photo)
Quite a bit to sort out.

© Eddy Newport 2017

Pictures; from the collection of Eddy Newport

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