Mother In The Money

Blackpool was crowded right through the war. It continued its tradition as a favourite holiday playgtound for the Lancashire mill workers who came for their annual Wakes Week. People who had never heard of Blackpool before the war came for their holidays too, because the southern beaches were cut off by rolls of barbed wire to protect us from invasion. Walking along the promenade in the height of summer you would never believe there was a war on had it not been for the number of men and women in different kinds of uniform. At night time there was no doubt, for instead of the brightly coloured illuminations of peace-time a black pall would descend.

The blackout restrictions were strictly enforced. We were allowed torches with very weak batteries so that we would not get entirely lost in the dark. Parents did not worry about children coming home from school in the winter. The sense of camaraderie was strong. People watched out for each other, especially when they saw children on their own. Air-raid shelters abounded at street level.

We had one right outside our house. The only purpose they ever served was as a hiding place for courting couples and a platform for sergeants drilling their squads of new recruits on the promenades. Soldiers, airmen and a few sailors thronged the streets alongside Wrens, WAAFs and ATS girls. Many were foreigners from Europe who had escaped to join up with us. Later on the American G.I.s arrived.

All these people had to live somewhere. There was never enough accommodation. During our first year in Blackpool a billeting officer from the RAF called on all the houses in our street looking for rooms for airmen, some of them accompanied by their wives. Mother, without asking Father , said “yes”.

We had a succession of young couples during the training periods before the men were sent for operational duties. Mary and I had to give up our room for the damp spare one at the back of the house.

When we got back from school we entered into conversations with the incumbent wives, usually on the stairs. They had little to do while their husbands were out being trained. They were mostly newly married and liked to talk to us about their love-lives and we encouraged them. There were many gaps in our knowledge of what went on in marriages. They didn’t talk to Mother. Probably she was too busy or perhaps they were frightened of shocking her. Like most mothers at that time she was afraid to talk about such matters to her daughters. I never saw pregnant women. They were very good at concealing themselves or perhaps I didn’t know what the signs were.

When the airmen had finished their training and left, Mother found a new source of income. The number of holiday-makers increased. Blackpool was famous for its numbers of boarding-houses. During the summer there were plenty of customers. Mother kept all the money she earned for herself except for what she gave us for helping her with the work of looking after the guests. In winter visitors were sparse and once again Mother complained that Dad did not give her enough money. She often borrowed from Mary and me. I found ways of earning a penny or two by making all sorts of little things such as toys, purses and necklaces made of sea-shells, especially at Christmas time.

So much of the government’s money went into the war effort that things that were considered not to be necessary were scarce and I found a ready market.

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