In the 1930s Elsie lived in London, working in a clothing factory as a machinist. One day a young man called Jack, who worked in the same factory, asked if Elsie would like to go out with him.
“No,” She said, “I am going out with my sister!”
A few nights later she was on her way home and it was foggy and to save money she was walking. Under a lamp post she saw Jack he was holding a little case and Elsie got closer he opened the case, got out his ukuleli, and sang this song:
Oh me, oh my, I hope the little lady comes by.
“Come on jump on this tram; my Dad is driving it we won’t have to pay!”
So that is how Jack and Elsie got together. Soon they decided to get married but first they would have to save up for a house while they were both working.
After 3 years, they nearly had enough to make a deposit on a house and with a loan from a bank and some money from the families they could get a house for £375. There was a house nearby which they went to look at the old man said he wanted £400 – Perhaps they could get a bigger loan.
But try as they might they could not get any more money so they went back to the old man and said that they could not afford it.
“Oh well!” He said, “I suppose I could give you a wedding present of the £25!”
So Jack and Elsie had their house and not long after were married. They were expecting a baby, but all was not well; war was expected and one evening they all sat around the radio at Jack’s Dad’s house and heard the Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain announce that they were at war with Germany. Just as the broadcast finished, the air raid sirens went off. Some of Jack’s sisters hid under the table, his mum rushed to pick up the cat, his Dad took the clock off the wall and everyone waited. After a few moments they crept out into the street to see everyone else out there staring up at the sky. It was a false alarm.
Everyone was talking about evacuation and children were being sent away from London. Elsie’s sister had just moved to a new job in South Wales and it was decided that Elsie should go and live with her for a while. So Jack and Elsie went off to Paddington to get the train to Wales. There were thousands of people trying to leave the city. Were they all going to get on this train? But when the train arrived at the platform, it stopped with the door right by Elsie, so she got a seat. Jack watched and waved to Elsie as the train moved out and then realized he was still holding Elsie’s sandwiches. He ran and threw the package and managed to get it through the window to Elsie. He stood and watched the train pull out of the station in the swirling steam and smoke and wondered whether he would ever see his Elsie again.
When Elsie got to Wales she stayed with her sister for a while but the room was very small and when the baby was born Elsie’s sister moved out. The room was above a butcher’s shop and every time the baby cried the butcher’s wife came upstairs to complain that her husband could not sleep.
Elsie hated it there and wrote to Jack asking to come home.
They met under the clock in Paddington station. Jack had built an air raid shelter in their garden, which they shared with the neighbours and he was now in the home guard; on “fire watch”. Several houses had been hit in their street and the air raids were getting bad. One night Jack was on a roof with the home guard and someone shouted “Hey, Jack! It looks like there has been a bomb in your road, you had better get home!”
So Jack jumped on his bike. Would Elsie be alright? And the new baby? He rushed as fast as he could in the pitch dark. At the top of their road his front wheel hit a brick and he hurtled into the road. When he got up he could see that there was a house on fire, just about where his house was. So he ran as fast as he could, the neighbours were putting a ladder up on to his roof. The whole back of the house seemed to be on fire. Jack climbed the ladder while the neighbours pumped the stirrup pump. They were in luck because the incendiary bomb had landed exactly into the top of the wall and therefore had not gone right into the house. Jack broke a few of the slates away and put the fire out.
After that it was decided that Elsie should leave London. This time she went to a little village in Cambridgeshire. She wrote back to Jack saying that it was lovely. They were having strawberries for tea and eggs for breakfast!
Elsie stayed there until the war was nearly over then decided to move back. The air raids had ended now and there were just a few flying bombs coming over.
Elsie was now expecting their second child. One morning she had made Jack’s sandwiches and seen him off to work on his bike and taken their son, John, across the road to school.
She was very tired and decided to go and have a sleep on the bed. But half way up the stairs she decided that she really ought to go down the shelter, Jack would be cross with her if he knew that she had gone to bed up stairs. So she went down into the stuffy shelter again. She was just closing the door when the ground shook, there was a huge explosion and dust trickled down from the roof of the shelter. She then heard the sound of the V2 the Doodle Bug coming after it had already exploded. She went out into the road, all the birds were in the air screaming, her neighbours from all around were coming out of their homes covered in plaster and some with cuts and bruises, and over the road where there had been the baker’s shop there was a gap. The baker’s had gone together with a house on either side it.
The front door of their house had been blown up the stairs and was in the back bed room, every window was empty and the glass was stuck all around the inside walls, like knives.
Elsie sat on the garden wall thinking what she should do when Jack came peddling along the road to see if she was all right. A week later, in the front room of their house, with boarded up windows, the baby was born, a fine healthy boy, and ten days later Hitler died and the war ended.
There were bonfires down the road, lots of singing and dancing and Jack and Elsie… they lived happily ever after. The children. John, the oldest is now retired and living in Wales and the youngest… well guess what, became of the baby born in a war torn house in 1945, he became… a storyteller.