At the outbreak of war, in September 1939, mum was about to turn five. By the time it ended, in September 1945, she was about to turn 11. So, much of her childhood was during that period. At the end of August 1939, she started school. Outside of school, she had music lessons and learned to play the piano. She also had dancing lessons (see Chapter 31). In September 1945, when mum had just turned 11, she started at Nottingham High School (for girls). The previous month, grandma and Olive went into Nottingham to buy school clothes for her.
There are few, if any, details of mum’s school life in grandad’s diaries of this period, and mum’s diaries had not yet started. However, among mum’s papers were a number of her school reports including four from East Kirkby Junior Girls’ County School (see box). They are similar in format and cover the period from February 1944 to June 1945. They include reports for particular subjects and an overall mark and position in the class. In three of her four reports, she was first in her class.
|I believe that East Kirkby Junior Girls’ County School is now Morven Park Primary School on School Street. There is a photo in the book “Kirkby & District: A Second Selection” by Frank Ashley, Sylvia Sinfield and Gerald Lee, p19.|
Much of mum’s time and energy were spent in church and Sunday School activities and with extended family, both on grandad’s and grandma’s sides. She spent time with grandad’s brothers and sisters, Cyril, Eva and Olive. For example, she and her friend Dorothy stayed for a few days’ holiday with Cyril in Ruddington in both 1941 and 1942. She also spent time with grandad’s sister Olive who she recalled calling “Ant Pant”. She also recalled car trips with grandma’s brothers Ray and Bert (see Chapter 31). Tom and Annie were like another uncle and aunt. Mum often went to spend time with them. She was involved in a number of family weddings and was bridesmaid twice in this period – for (Alf and) Olive in 1939 and for (Jim and) Renie in 1942 (see Chapter 29).
Mum also had several friends during this period. In May 1939, grandad took mum and her friend, Joyce Copeland, up the “44 steps” (see Chapter 31). Mum was friendly with Beryl Green, who also lived in Station Street, but she died in July 1941 (see Chapter 29). Mum developed a long-lasting friendship with Dorothy Lofthouse, the daughter of one of the Methodist ministers in Kirkby during the war (see Chapter 31). In 1945, grandad noted that mum’s friend, Sally Rosser was killed by a Trent Bus (see Chapter 31). Another friend was Margaret Bird (see box). In April 1945, grandad, mum and Margaret cycled to Linby and Papplewick. Margaret also went with mum and grandma to tea at Bert’s the same month. In June that year, grandad took mum and Margaret to the Regent. Among mum’s papers was an envelope labelled “childhood friends”. This included a number of photos including this one of Margaret and the one below of Fred Wilkins and his mother. There was also a childhood photo of David Hill, a later photo of mum with Joan Storer and a baby photo of Sharon Rowe, the daughter of Barbara and Ron Rowe.
|I do not know if Margaret Bird was related but Birds were a well-known butchers in Kirkby. I recall dad buying sausages there when we visited grandma (his mother) in Kirkby when I was a child, They ceased trading in 2015.|
Fred Wilkins and Other Evacuees
The family had an evacuee from Birmingham, Fred Wilkins, stay with them for some of the war. Initially, he lived with Eva but, on New Year’s Day 1941, he came to live with the Parkins. They celebrated his birthday in January and involved him in family activities, including cinema trips. Various of his family members came to visit him including his mother, sister (Elsie), brother (Jack), sister-in-law, niece or nephew. He was also visited by at least one friend, Dennis. In 1942, Fred started working, initially for T Oldham (see box) and then on a farm along with other boys from school. Grandad didn’t note when Fred left them but he was last mentioned in July 1942. The evacuees that came to Kirkby came from Birmingham. Grandad noted that 780 came in November 1940 with a further 750 in December. I recall dad telling me that they also had an evacuee stay with them during the war.
|Grandad noted that, when he went to work for T Oldham, Fred was paid two shillings. His employer was in fact Charles T Oldham who was a fruiterer and greengrocer in Harcourt Street. In 1947, he was taken to hospital with gallstones. In 1955, mum and grandma looked at his mother’s house but decided that it was not what mum and dad wanted. He died in November 1967. Mark Ashfield, in his book “A Carnival Crown and a Roasted Ox” describes Tommy Oldham in some detail (pp41-42) including that he only had one arm having lost the other in World War 1, a fact that grandad did not mention.|
|Evacuees in the second world war|
During the second world war, children were evacuated from major cities at risk of bombing, such as London and Birmingham, and moved to smaller towns and villages considered safer. Three waves of evacuation have been described. The first was at the start of the war with the expectation of bombing, the second was in 1941 with the threat of invasion and actual bombing of cities and the third in 1944 and 1945 with the use of flying bombs. In the first wave, more than 1.5 million were evacuated from cities in three days but by January 1940 around half had returned.
In the first wave children were moved from inner Nottingham to other parts of Nottinghamshire. In the second wave, children came mainly from the South East of England to Nottinghamshire, a pattern repeated in the third wave. As a result, many evacuees came to Kirkby and surrounding towns and villages.
Mum was also friends with her (second) cousin Marilyn. Marilyn  was born in Yorkshire on 25 August 1936, so was almost two years younger than mum. Her father, Albert (Bert) Edward Seville  was son to Uncle Frank and Aunt Bertha , and brother to the younger Frank Seville (who we knew as Uncle Jim) . Bert married Edith (Edie) Taylor on 20 May 1933 and grandma  went to the wedding. Bert and Edie are first mentioned in grandad’s diaries when they came for tea in May 1931 and they visited twice more that year. Marilyn is first mentioned in May 1940 when she came for the day with her parents and grandparents. She came with them periodically throughout the war years, usually for a meal but, in February 1941, she and her parents came and stayed for the weekend. Marilyn and mum were also both bridesmaids for (Jim and) Renie in 1942 (see Chapter 29).
So what was mum’s wartime childhood like? She did talk about it but not excessively. From the diaries, it seems that although the war did provide a backdrop, as a child, mum was influenced more by the foreground of family and chapel. The family were relatively well-off in a fairly poor mining community. Much of what mum did day-to-day related to family and chapel.
What was grandad like as a father? From the diaries, he could come across as somewhat remote and distant. For example, at Christmas, he sent his wife and child to relatives while he went to the cinema by himself! However, these were days before the family had television so perhaps we should not judge too harshly! When preparations were needed to buy clothes for mum to go to High School, he left that to his wife and sister. But, perhaps that was just reflecting the norms of the time. Of course, my perceptions are coloured by my own recollections of him as a child. I am sure mum would have disagreed with any perceptions of remoteness or distance. I think she regarded him as a kind, generous and loving – if not demonstrative – father. The diaries show that they did things together and that he frequently made things for her, as he did for us his grandchildren. Clearly, he had high expectations of himself and others. So, for example, when a clock he purchased did not chime as expected, he mobilised the family to send it back. Similar characteristics were visible in mum and, I fear, also in me!