Teresa Stevens - evacuated to Brighton
Leaving Norwood Junction
I remember waiting for a train at Norwood Junction, it was 1939 and I was nine years old. I was wearing a navy blue serge drill slip over my best pink crepe summer dress and my winter coat because it saved carrying clothes. It was a very warm September day and I was carrying a small brown suitcase with my other clothes and, best of all, a glass jar of Barker & Dobson’s round, wrapped barley sugars. My mother was carrying my brother Michael, 17 months old, and her case. As we travelled through the countryside not knowing where we were going she said, “I’m sure this is the line to Brighton, I recognize that bridge”.
Mother was right and our first stop was at a Church Hall in Brighton. I remember I was given a large bar of Cadbury’s milk chocolate. Our fist lodgings were with an elderly couple in the old part of Kemp Town. We slept on a large feather bed and the breakfast was at a small table with newspaper for a tablecloth. They were a kindly couple but we didn’t like the newspaper. Mother said, “I think I’ll go and see Mrs. Hinds, she will have to take evacuees, perhaps she’ll take us”.
The year before we had stayed on holiday with Mrs. Hinds at her boarding house at 2a St. James’ Street, in a tall building over a tailor’s shop, and next door to an ABC teashop. Luckily Mrs. Hinds agreed to have us to stay. We had to go into the house through a door beside the shop and up a very steep flight of stairs; the living rooms and bedrooms were on several different floors.
I went to school for half of each day, the other half we went for walks with our teacher. We walked on a very small area of the beach that was free of barbed wire and had competitions finding a list of objects like shells and gulls’ feathers. As I walked to school from St. James’ Street I remember seeing a building called the ‘Pepper Pot’. After some weeks mother and Michael returned home, as it was difficult for her with a toddler and the steep stairs, but I stayed in Brighton.
Going to a tea dance
I remember the weather was snowy. I visited the library at the Dome most days after school and read all evening. Mrs. Hinds, a widow, took me to a tea dance once and I watched the dancers from the balcony of a large ballroom. We had toasted teacakes and watched all the smart uniforms below. Her daughter was in the chorus of a big stage production on at Brighton that winter and I remember seeing it. The finale had a long line of people singing, dressed in modern outdoor clothes. The daughter lived at home and wore slacks – very unusual to me.
Safe and sound
I went home for Christmas, and then returned to Mrs. Hinds in the spring. But eventually I went home to Norwood, as everything was quiet and it had not had the bombing they expected. In retrospect, I think it is amazing that I was quite safe walking to school and to the library. I was a very innocent 9 year old with hardly any social life and no family and it must have been a very busy town, but I was perfectly safe.