Outside toilet and gas lighting
Moved to grandparents
In February 1937 my mother died in Brighton General Hospital. I was only five years old and my brother just eighteen months. As Dad was unable to care for us we were taken from our home in Whitehawk to live with our grandparents at 35 Cobden Road. Grandma was an invalid, permanently in a wheelchair, so we relied on our father’s sister, Aunt Jess, to bring us up. I was not told that my mother had died for some time, and can still remember walking up Elm Grove by myself to wave up at the hospital windows in case she was looking out.
We used the public baths
The house at Cobden Road had an outside toilet and gas lighting, so was quite different from the new modern Council house in Nuthurst Road, that we had previously lived in. As there was no bathroom or hot water we used the public baths on the corner of Cobden Road and Islingword Road. Although the house had only three bedrooms, for much of the time there were at least six adults and two children living there. Grandad was a really kind gentleman and took in his two brothers when they were failing in health and needed somewhere to stay.
Our kindly neighbours
An elderly lady, Mrs Bishop lived opposite us and made toffee apples, which she sold for a penny each. Mrs Price and her family lived near us and, as I grew older, I used to go shopping for her once a week; for this I was offered a choice of either 3 pennies or a jug of delicious vegetable soup – I usually chose the soup. Our next door neighbour was an elderly lady, Mrs Gates. She was very friendly and visited Grandma each morning for elevenses. As her house had a spare room she was allocated an evacuee during the war, a young lady from London.
At school with evacuees
I attended Elm Grove infant and junior school, and then passed my eleven plus exams, so went on to Varndean Grammar School for Boys. During the war we had a shift pattern, whereby the evacuees attended either morning or afternoon, with the Brightonians attending school the alternative shift. We spent quite a lot of time in the air raid shelter, which was built under the playground, directly above the Kemp Town Railway tunnel.
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A tremendous challenge
In spite of the very sad circumstances which necessitated my move to Cobden Road, I have many happy memories of the area. Nowadays my Grandparents would probably not have been allowed to take us in and we would have been put in care, but I will be forever grateful to both Grandad and Aunt Jess, who took on what must have been a tremendous challenge, and moulded both my brother and myself into the people we are today.