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Evelyn Gooderham

This story is submitted by Heather Russell of Head Office in Charlottetown. It is taken from her mother's diary.

"My name is Evelyn Gooderham. I was born in Wiltshire, England, December 8, 1932. I wasn't quite seven when World War II started. I'm not sure how long after that the bombing started, but I do remember that night. I was living with my grandparents, my Aunt Joyce and my Uncle Derek. Derek was around eleven. We lived in Salfords, 23 miles from London. This was also only about ten miles from Red Hill, the base for the fighter planes. Derek and I were playing outside. It was just around dusk when we heard planes in the sky. They were very low, so low we could see the Swastikas on the wings of the German planes. They were dog fighting with our British planes. The police man who lived next door told us to get inside quick. My Granny was just opening the door to get us in. It was a terrible night. We were all very frightened. The fighting went on almost all night. Granny cleaned out her cupboard under the stairs and put some blankets on the floor. Derek and I slept on the floor with all our clothes on. My grandparents sat on the higher part of the floor, with their clothes on. Caesar, our dog, was very scared. He shivered and shook and hid under our blankets. That was our bed every night for a long time. We always slept in our clothes. We never knew if we might have to run outside. There were sirens to let us know when the planes were coming and an 'all clear' sound when it was all over.

We had to carry our gas masks everywhere. We had to wear them for a while in school every day. They were very hot and stuffy and would steam up inside so you couldn't see out very well. I didn't like them. Lots of days we would spend a couple of hours in the Air Raid shelters. There was not much light in them and they always smelled damp and musty. I used to feel like I was buried alive, although I was very young. We used to sing down there. Some of the very young children used to cry for their mothers. It was not a very happy place to be. There were no lavatories in the shelters.

Everything was rationed. We all had a ration book and took it to the shop every time we went. We only had oranges and bananas once or twice a year. Candy was rationed, so we didn't get much of that. We used to buy a little bag of cocoa powder and dip our finger in it and lick our fingers. Everyone had to queue up (line up) for everything. You could stand in line for an hour to get a rabbit, then they would be all gone by the time you got there. There was also a real shortage of elastic, and it was very poor quality. It didn't last at all. The women would be very excited if they heard that a shipment of silk stockings came in. These were also very hard to get.

My Grandfather worked in London and went by train every day. The station was just a walk from our house. I remember Granny watching for the train to come in the evening. The trains often got hit with shrapnel. Two nights a week, my Grandfather had to stay at work and watch the roof in case it got hit with an incendiary bomb that would set fire to the roof.

My Aunt Joyce, who was 18, joined the Land Army. She had to milk cows, clean barns, etc. because the farmers had to join the forces. There was a shortage of men to work the farms.

My Granny fed the Canadian soldiers who dug the holes for the Air Raid shelters. They had a lot better food than we had. I think the government provided the food. Sometimes there would be a little left, then we would have some.

Caesar, my Gran's dog, had to be put to sleep. The noise of the planes and bombs drove him crazy. He had always been very afraid of thunder. He was such a lovely dog. He was an Airedale. We used to dress him up. He would let us children do anything to him. He waited by the gate for us to come home from school each day, then followed us around wherever we went. We were very upset when we came home that day and Caesar was gone.

The war took a lot from little children. We had to grow up very fast. Always on alert to know what to do if the sirens went when we were walking home from school. We had to drop to the ground and lay flat on our face, if the planes were above us. If not, we had to run as fast as we could, home or to school.

The Buzz Bombs were the worst. They were pilotless planes or rockets. They had a big flame coming out the tail end. They would fly over your house and the engine would stop. Sometimes they would fall right down, and sometimes they would glide for miles. When you heard the motor stop, your heart would almost stop too. You didn't know if it was going to drop on your house or keep on going and drop on your friend's house.

Before I went to live with my Grandparents, I lived at Warminster. It was a place where the soldiers were stationed and being trained to go overseas. The streets were lined with big lorries and tanks. Any large house that was vacant, the government took it and put soldiers in there. We used to pass one of these houses walking to school. There were American soldiers there. They used to give us gum and life savers. The lady who lived next door to us used to have soldiers in sometimes in the evening for tea. One day I was outside playing and a van pulled up in the street and two men went up the walk to the house next door. They dragged a soldier face down all the way down the path to the van and then threw him in the van. I was very upset over this and cried and didn't sleep well that night. I heard the grown-ups talking. They said he had run away because they were being shipped out the next day overseas somewhere. I expect he was frightened. He was only very young.

My mother married a Canadian soldier and when the war was over, my two half brothers, David, two, Gordon, nine months, my mother and I set sail for Halifax. We left South Hampton August 6, 1946, on the Queen Mary. It was quite a journey. It was all war brides and their children. The first time we all went down to the dining room, we couldn't get over the food. I had never seen that much food before in my whole life. The white rolls and real butter, all kinds of meat. Our bread in the war was kind of a grey colour. My mother was very seasick. Each day she had to queue up to wash my brothers' nappies. She fainted right out twice. I had to look after my brothers a lot. We got all our instructions over a loud speaker. We had to leave our cabin door open a few inches at all times. My little brother could crawl through this opening, so he was really hard to watch. We had to all go on deck with our life jackets on for life boat drills. It was very difficult to carry a child when we all had these big jackets on. One night it was very rough. The water came in the port hole on my bed. I woke up quite wet. I thought I was drowning.

My stepfather met us in Halifax on the 12th of August. We stayed overnight in Halifax. I had grapes for the first time in my nearly fourteen years of life. We started for Charlottetown, P.E.I., very early the next morning. It was hardly daylight. The train was very slow and very hot. When we opened the windows the black smoke came in. My brothers wore very light coloured clothes. When we got to Charlottetown, they were really dirty. When we got to town, it was nearly dark. We then had a good hour's drive by taxi over rough dusty roads to my stepfather's parents' home in Little Pond. I remember waking up in the morning and looking out the window to discover our house was in the middle of a field. And all the houses I could see were made of wood. They looked so strange. They all had very slanted roofs. I was soon told that was to let the snow fall off. Of course, I hadn't seen that much snow, so it still didn't make much sense to me. It did when winter came, though. We had a really bad winter that year. Very cold and a lot of snow.

My mother didn't like it here. We had no inside plumbing, no electricity, no bus to ride, just dusty roads. She wanted to go home, but, of course, didn't have the money to do so. We went back to England the next July. We went back on the Acquitania, only stayed to the next summer, then came back to stay.

My mother worked as head cook at the Kingsway Motel for about 25 years. She is now 91 and residing at Colville Manor in Souris, P.E.I.. My stepfather lives at his own home in Roseneath. I married John Howlett and live on the old home place in Annandale. We farmed for a few years, but times were tough. The large farms were starting then, and the small mixed farms couldn't survive, so my husband got a job driving the high school bus to Montague. He drove until he was 65, when he was forced to retire. We had five children, three girls and two boys. They all live and work on P.E.I."

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