An Interview With Margo Eden, 93

Sam is doing a project at school about World War 2. As part of his project, he decided to interview my grandmother, who lives just a few blocks away from us here. Sam had some questions written down, but the interview went beyond his original expectations and he spent hours yesterday copying Margo's experiences onto his project paper. I'm going to write down here what I've got scribbled on the scrap of paper in front of me, the notes from the interview, as I don't want to change anything!

We made a pot of tea, and Margo put aside her tapestry and sliced some cake. Still baking cakes, full of fruit! (and still refuses to be called "Granny"!) I sat poised with my pen and paper, and Sam began:

How old were you during WW2?

... 34? How old WAS I?...

Did you cook? What kind of food?

Yes. We had everything we needed, but because of rationing we had less. If you baked a cake, you used half the ingredients. You had cake, just smaller pieces.

What difficulties did you have?

Rationing was fierce, petrol rationing... No cars, you just parked up until the war was over... Fewer buses and trains.

Were you ever hungry?

No, not if you were sensible. Some people would eat everything they had quickly, and then they were hungry, but if you were careful there was enough.

What kind of shelter did you have? (Sam was trying to get a specific answer, "Anderson" or "Morris", but the mention of a bomb shelter set Margo reminiscing)

None. We lived 12 miles from Liverpool, in Ormskirk. We weren't at much risk, though the planes dropped their leftover bombs after they'd been to Liverpool, on their way home. My mother sheltered under the stairs. We had two children from Liverpool, evacuees, for a while. I wonder what became of them? Their parents took them back, before too long.

What kind of shelter?

At work in Liverpool we had a shelter, of course. I worked the Comptometer. You had to use two hands. To get to work we went by bus. One morning as we were driving through Liverpool, we saw two old people come out of their door, and carefully lock it behind them. The door and a few walls were all left standing of their home. They must have sheltered under the stairs, I suppose. They had nothing left. Everyone on the bus was weeping to see those people locking their door.

They were lucky to be alive, I suppose, but is that lucky? To lose everything?

One day we arrived at work to find the building had been bombed. Everything gone. My savings Certificates! They were in my desk drawer! Four fire watchers were killed.

Jack was in the Merchant Navy. One day when he was on shore leave, his ship went down with all hands. All of his friends. He didn't speak for three days. When my grandsons were born, I thought that if there was ever a war.... Why are there wars?


Anonymous said…
Soo cool that Sam is getting to know her.
My Mum grew up in Swansea during the war. As a major port, Swansea was specifically bombed, and she had some pretty exciting stories! She also helped evacuated children, and was awarded a book of Tennyson's poems as a reward, which I still have.
Ndinombethe said…
I love it! I did the same sort of interview with my grandparents when I was in convent - my grandfather drew his old car, the bathing suits they used to wear, all sorts! Such a great project to look back on. All my family members have photocopies of it now. A little piece of them - preserved.

Hope you enjoyed it Sam wise!

And yes Margo - why are there wars indeed?!
Nan Sheppard said…
Email reply from Mum:

Dear Sam and All,

Did you know that Margo's father kept bees and that meant that their neighbourhood and family could have something sweet to eat, since sugar came from the West Indies and was a very scarce commodity. The merchant ships brought it back from Guyana or Jamaica and oil from Trinidad and Venezuela. The Germans wanted to blockade the ports of Britain and their U boats were torpedoing the supply ships out at sea, to try to starve the British people into submission and defeat.

Ask Margo about rationing. Carole was a baby and she was allowed 2 eggs per week, so all the aunties (Jack had a lot of sisters) used to donate their one egg a week to her so that she could be extra nourished. I wasn't born yet!! They all lived together in Devon where Jack moved them to be safe from the bombs.

So many stories. It was a pointless, useless waste of time and lives. But perhaps the human sacrifice bought a few generations of peace for people like us? And then the Edens came to the beautiful green bounteous island of Trinidad where we could be safe for a while and there Nancy, Jimbo and Ailis were born and then Chas and Sam and Max. If Margo had lost her life in an air raid or Jack had gone down with that ship, none of us would have been created. This is why our lives are so special and thrilling.
Cheffie-Mom said…
Wow!! Grandparents are so special -- Thanks for sharing this amazing interview.
Unknown said…
I think it must be some rule - some cosmic, ironic twist - that the older one becomes, the less war makes sense.
Anonymous said…
Oh wow. What stories she has to tell. And how lovely that they're being recorded for her grandchildren! The part about the old couple locking their door--oh my, that is heartbreaking.
Islandgirl said…
and this is why Nan and family had to leave Trinidad - to preserve these stories from a time we can't even begin to comprehend. Because if we forget we are doomed to repeat it. I am so glad the boys have this chance. Makes me think of my old friend Roma and her wondeful stories. She was 97 when she died and remembered the sinking of the Titanic. I treasure those stories and tell them to my kids and even though she wasn't my grandmum she became like one to me. Everyone has a story. Its up to us to listen. Will never forget that about your cousin Miles, of the first things he asked me when we first met in Mayaro was 'tell me a story'. It should be what we all ask!
Anonymous said…
In remembrance...

My grandfather was french and a sailor by profession. As fate would have it he left Trinidad and found himself with the US navy and on one of the ships in a convoy headed for France to aid in her liberation. He saw a torpedo racing through the water, deflect off of his boat and blow up another nearby. Standing next to him was a sailor whose hands were fused to the railings in terror (the rails had to be sawed off and taken below with the sailor or they would have had to break his fingers). When the other boat was hit, body parts rained down onto his own deck.
He survived that day by inches and he survived the war.
The day he returned my father ran away screaming to his mother that his father's ghost was on the doorstep. He never expected him to return. It was supposed to be the war to end all wars.

God bless those who returned and remember the ones who fell.

Anonymous said…
Actually, the war to end all wars was supposed to be World War 1.
So the question is...will we ever learn?

Nan Sheppard said…
The ones who fell, and the ones whose families suffered the trauma of their return... Those men were never the same after the experiences they had.
i am the diva said…
wow, she sounds like a wonderfully interesting lady to visit with!!

and so nice that sam got to have that experience.

on a side note, i do hope your hat arrives soon!! *(I am literally kicking myself for losing the tracking number!~!)
Chennette said…
I loved this post. Three of my grandparents died the year I was 13 or's a loss I didn't fully appreciate at the time, and I guess part of the reasoning behind my blog posts on family recipes is to capture the traditions the parents learned from them...I think I should be more organised about it though, especially for the generation that won't remember them.
witchypoo said…
Your family is amazing, and I love that Sam is doing this project with your grandmother.
grandmas are so smart. i spent about two hours on the phone with my mom today, and she helped me figure out everything :)

love you you guys. this post was so special -- i linked it on my library blog.

ps nan i am boycotting facebook but you know where to find me ;)