First car journey

Private motor cars were not that common before the war but more and more people were owning them but they became much rarer after the outbreak because of petrol rationing and shortage of spares etc,. in fact petrol became only available for ‘essential journeys’ such as doctors visiting patients, therefore many owners mothballed their vehicles for the duration of the war, standing them on blocks and removing their wheels and if stored in the open covering them with a tarpaulin, many privately owned cars along with lorries and vans were requisitioned by the government for various tasks but for the majority this had little effect as the most had probably never ever travelled in a car, the means of getting about was on buses, trams, trains, cycles or walking.

I had never been in a car, to my knowledge, before the war and it was well into the war before I experienced my first ride which was courtesy of Mr Hatley who lived further up Hursley Road on the corner of Cockoo Bushes Lane, he ran a small engineering works at the bottom of his garden and also had a sawmill in Baddesley Road. He owned a black painted Ford V8 car, as almost all cars were that colour at that time, it was quite big by the general standards. My first car journey was less than half a mile, from St Boniface Church to home accompanied by mum and my brother and sister, we were given the lift because were caught in a heavy downpour whilst walking home from Grandmas.

I found the short journey a little bit scary as it was a new sensation and I felt a bit claustrophobic so I was not keen to do it on a regular basis which of course was very unlikely anyway. Mr. Hatley had two sons and a very dowdy wife who was rarely seen, their home was a bungalow clad in dark green corrugated iron and although it was close to the road it was well hidden by a dense laurel hedge. Possibly because his wife was plain and mousy Mr Hatley had an eye for other ladies and one such lady was Mrs Newton, Frank and Alan’s mother.

Four doors from home lived old Mrs Wallace with her son living next door, ‘old ma’ Wallace as we kids called her, was intolerant of young kids, particularly as there was a small and very climbable oak tree opposite her house which was a reasonable distance from it, any noise we did make shouldn’t have disturbed her but she would come storming down her path and across the road brandishing a clothes prop, poking into the branches trying to dislodge us, and telling us to ‘push off’, all she got in response was laughter and her behaviour resulted in we children climbing the tree more often and making as much noise as we could in the hope that we could provoke her.

Old Ma Wallace either died or moved to somewhere else and her house became empty, thanks to the good offices of Mr. Hatley, Mrs Newton and her children moved in. I don’t know exactly what relationship Mr Hatley and Mrs Newton had nor cared but he seemed to be supportive of that family in more ways than one. The Newton’s house was very open and friendly, in the thirties and forties if you knocked on the door of a friend you were never invited in and stood on the doorstep until they joined you, it was rare to be invited into play in most houses but at the Newtons you were always invited in to wait if they were not ready and on wet or cold days often played there. It had to be pretty awful weather for we children to be allowed to play indoors on Saturdays or during the school holidays or even after school when there was enough daylight, not that we were that keen to stay indoors most of the time, my mother was always busy and did not want her kids ‘getting under her feet’ as she use to say, so out we went. If we complained that it was cold she would say ‘run about you’ll soon get warm and she was right, we did.

Before the war Sundays were very much regarded as a day of rest and in some households practically nothing was done including gardening and only essential chores in the house. In our house on Sunday mornings dad often took us for walks through the fields and woods as already mentioned, Sunday afternoons we went to Sunday School and quite often the whole family would go for another walk mostly through the residential roads in the ‘upper crust’ area of Chandlers Ford so that we could see how the ‘other half’ lived, for the most part that did not amount to much as all the bigger properties were surrounded by dense and large evergreen shrubs and mature trees with maybe the sound of tennis being played, we rarely saw the people who lived in them.

Chandlers Ford was not very much a village if one could actually call it a village, it was more of a dormitory for Eastleigh and Southampton of ‘have’ and ‘have not’. None of the children from most of the top end of the village, which was occupied mainly by the middle and upper middle classes, attended the local school, that included the children from the retailing ‘live over the shop’ kids from the small shops in the village, who all went to Sherbourne House private school with the older ones paying to attend Peter Symonds school in Winchester, only one child came to Kings Road school from that group and that was ‘fishy Jones’ the son of the local ‘fishmonger’ who also sold ‘fish and chips’, he was called ‘fishy’ not because of the family trade but because he smelt ‘fishy’ and more than just faintly.

Sundays were very quiet and I remember being able to hear sheep bells from a flock over a mile away and that with dense woodland in between and also the peal of bells from Hursley Church which was, almost if not more than three miles away, with a substantial hill in between, the bell of our own local church, it only had one, which was just over half a mile away sounded very close and clear, traffic noise was almost none existent apart from trains running on the track not far from home and even they were few and far between on a Sunday. There was a bus service along Hursley Road which during the week ran every hour, on Sundays this was reduced by more than half.

During the summer months it was we children’s job to pick the peas and beans and shuck them for Sunday lunch, Pat and Rod were also made to do the washing up, me being the youngest got away with that, much to their disgust, but a roast dinner on Sunday was always the best meal of the week, particularly with freshly picked veg. and new potatoes straight from the garden, although meat was rationed I think nearly all our weekly allowance was used up in that one meal.

Added to rationing, which did not come into force until January 1st 1940, was that there was no guarantee that the butcher had much in the way of meat to sell, which often meant that the housewife would have to queue up to get the little that was available, not only for meat but nearly every other foodstuff, in fact you had to queue for almost everything, consequently, queues were an everyday thing and became part of life right throughout the war and long after.