A Pensioner’s Perspective –VE Day Celebrations

Here’s the latest news from our lovely Marion. Last week’s “Thankyou clap” sing song and preparations for VE day celebrations. A 3-day celebration had been planned to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day but obviously, with the country in Lockdown, these have all been cancelled. It seems that it is not stopping some communities from organising their own socially distancing parties! There’s not many of us that can say they experienced the actual VE day celebrations and Marion has shared her memories with us…even though she was only 5 at the time!

“On Thursday evening, we all did our usual “distance” greeting at 8 p.m. One of my neighbours, Andy played “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong and Anne (next door) joined in on her recorder. Anne’s husband had supplied everyone with a song sheet with all the words, so we had no excuse not to join in.  It was also another neighbour Anya’s 40th birthday, so we all sang “happy birthday” to her.  I got her a card and a gift, (luckily I had a few cards and small gifts put by, so I didn’t need to venture out). It was great to be able to help in celebrating her birthday.  I seem to have got to know my neighbours better in the last few weeks than in all the years I have lived here, so that’s good”

“On our avenue we are planning our own little celebration for VE day on Friday 8th at 3pm.  I’m not sure which songs we will be singing, needless to say Vera Lynn has been mentioned and “We’ll Meet Again” and “The White Cliffs of Dover” have been proposed. I think that some of us are planning to make cakes and biscuits and have cups of tea,  (social distancing of course!).

Thinking about this historic day brought back some of my earliest memories of VE day, as I was 5 years old. I was born in Hague Bar (a small village about 3 miles from where I live now).  The village consisted of cottages and semi-detached houses which straggled the main road. There was very little traffic in those days and you could hear the bus climbing laboriously up the hill from the village of Strines (just a mile away). There was hardly any other traffic between one bus and the next!

On VE day, trestle tables were erected on the main road through the village and people brought out chairs from their houses for us all. The Mums and Grandparents all got together to provide a celebration tea, everyone made sandwiches and cakes and the tables were decorated with paper tablecloths and flags etc. I can clearly remember the excitement that we children experienced.

There was only one shop in the village which was run by my Aunty Marion (who I was called after) and it was a bit like the sitcom “Open All Hours” as she sold everything under the sun and knew the lives and history of everyone in the village. The shop had been run previously by Aunty Marion’s mother – Aunt Lizzie to me and as they lived at the shop, they were practically an “institution”. I also remember clearly that we went to the shop for the “rations” as rationing went on for years after the war ended. Whenever I went into the back living room, there would be cardboard boxes containing the rations for everyone in the village and Aunt Lizzie sat in a large high-backed chair supervising everything from her lofty perch:)). She was always dressed in black and wore some kind of a bonnet. I remember also that it was the only house in the village that still had gas lights, as Aunt Lizzie didn’t trust this new-fangled electricity!  The gas mantles used to fascinate me as a child as the light used to hiss and pop. After Aunty Lizzie died, Aunty Marion was in sole charge of the shop. When the bell went,  and Aunty Marion went to serve a customer, I used to stand on a chair and very gently touch the mantle which broke the light and bits used to flutter down. As you can imagine – my Aunt was not amused and then had to replace the light, with me proclaiming my innocence of the whole affair!   I do also clearly remember when rationing ended, especially when sweets were not rationed any more – very important to a child, as my mother would never waste the sweet coupons on “rubbish sweets” and only bought “Quality Street”.  I can’t help wondering what today’s children would make of all this, but perhaps it saved us needing too many fillings!

I don’t suppose any of my memories are very different to anyone else of my generation but at times like these, especially when we see old newsreels on the TV of the celebrations, I do think it is good to think back and never forget how lucky we have been to have enjoyed the prosperity that we have all experienced. I’m sure if we all continue to pull together and support one another in these difficult times, then we will all emerge richer for the experience and will appreciate how important it is not to take things for granted. To be part of a loving family and have such good friends and neighbours is the most important thing”

Wise Words Indeed Marion.