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?