My Christmas as a young boy In Leonard Stanley and Stonehouse.
by Bob Lusty
The earliest Christmas I can remember was in 1945 when my Dad came home from the war. I was three years old.
In the months leading up to Christmas, he found time to make me a wooden model railway engine and tender. On Christmas Eve I hung my large stocking on the side of the fireplace, I was very excited because I knew Father Christmas would be coming down our chimney, so my Dad said he would have to let the fire out as he would not want him to get burned. I left him a mince pie and some carrots for his reindeers. Then I went to bed.
I woke up early the next morning very excited and, as I slept in the attic at the top of the house and it was still dark, I had no idea of the time and as I could not hear any movement I stayed there in the warm. My Dad was always the first up and usually quite early so I thought it best to wait for a while.
After a short time, I heard my Dad go downstairs and I could hear him raking the fire out so that he could have it going well by the time I got up. No central heating in those days. He always took my Mum a cup of tea up to her in bed. After what seemed a long time I ventured downstairs to my Mum’s room and she was getting dressed and said I should wait for her because of the dark stairs. When we got downstairs the fire was going well and our little cottage room was quite warm.
I could see my stocking was full of items and as I walked towards it I saw the Red Railway Engine and I went straight to it and immediately wanted to play with it, I was so excited that Father Christmas had bought me such a large toy.
After a while Mum said I should look to see what was in my Christmas stocking. It was taken down from the fireplace and placed on the floor for me to take out more presents. I cannot remember everything but I know there was a painting book and a box of paints, an orange, a bag of sweets, bar of chocolate, a game of Snakes And Ladders and some new socks. All very exciting but it was the railway engine I wanted to play with.
Dad was a chef in the Army so he got all our breakfast for us and he did most of the cooking of the lunch. We had no visitors so we had all day to ourselves, me playing and Mum and Dad listening to the Radio. Christmas was very simple in those days – no £400 games like today, but still very enjoyable and appreciated.
Two years later in January 1947.
Dad had built a porch over our door to help keep the cottage a bit warmer, I can remember Dad opening the door and the snow was in the porch higher than me. Dad had to dig us a way out to the street. It was that cold in our little kitchen that a bucket we used for fresh water had frozen over.
It was one of the coldest winters on record, with snowdrifts as high as a double-decker bus. Because there was so much snow on the roads the horse and cart and motor vehicle delivery people were unable to get around for several days, so there was a shortage of food. We did have a small village shop in the street with very limited supplies, also Hadley’s shop on The Marsh about half a mile away.
In 1950 at the age of eight, myself and a few friends went around the village carol singing having learned them all at Sunday School. This gave us a little extra money to buy presents for our families – by that time I had a three-year-old brother David and a little baby sister Sandra.
Some of my pocket money, and the extra I earned doing odd jobs for people, I took to the village shop and saved it in a Christmas savings scheme run by the lady shop keeper. Then a few days before Christmas I would draw it all out and buy Christmas presents for my family. Wonderful times full of good memories.
About 1952 we were told our cottage and others were going to be demolished and we could have a new council house in Midland Road, Stonehouse. This was very exciting because it would be the first time we would have a bathroom and an inside toilet, a kitchen with running water and electricity, a dining room and a front room/lounge. There were three bedrooms – one for my brother and me, one for my sister and one for Mum & Dad. We thought we were in real luxury compared with our old cottage.
Our first Christmas there was wonderful because we had two rooms to decorate with lots of trimmings, some bought and some we made ourselves – also we could have a bigger Christmas tree. Dad had rented a TV from the local shop so we had entertainment, although limited over the Christmas period.
It was a wonderful time to be young. Presents were quite simple, books, games, new clothes, Dinky toys and I had my first Hornby clockwork train set. Dad helped me put it all together in an oval shape; it was one engine, a coach and a couple of goods wagons. Over the next few years, I added items to it and even built it outside at the bottom of the garden.
Christmas 1956 I can remember my little sister had a doll’s house and I made furniture out of old matchboxes to go in it. Also, I learned to knit and I made a blanket for her doll’s bed!
Those were the days!