20 Jun


Circa 1946, in Rugby, Warwickshire photo image0-4_zpsmjphicfu.jpg  I must have been four, maybe still only three, when our family moved into the council house I was to live in for the rest of my childhood and into adulthood. It was on a large estate of hastily erected houses, the upper floors and roofs being made of steel and the ground-floors pebble-dashed on top of breeze blocks.

There was a great need for housing back then. The second world war had seen huge destruction of domestic properties as German bombers targeted anything and everything. I was born during the conflict and our family at first lived in lodgings and then moved, temporarily, into a remnant of wartime, a Nissen hut vacated by the army. But not for long. That housing estate leapt into being and the roads were still virtually unmade and the pavements mud when the furniture van with us boys in the back arrived at Number Four of our new road.

Number Four was a proper house and I was so excited that I wet myself. Feeling full of shame I decided to run up and down the road, still unfinished, in the vain hope that running would help my short trousers to dry!

I rather suspect my parents were too busy unloading and sorting and carrying to take much notice of a son who had suddenly developed incontinence. Maybe the fact that I was racing around trying to create enough wind to dry myself kept me from being under their feet. All I can remember is the dampness and the running along with the ungrassed verges spaces between roads and pavements.

Despite the fact that they were built in haste those houses were good. They even had part central-heating, they came with a cooker and a copper for washing clothes in, they had a bathroom complete with bath and toilet as well as a downstairs loo just outside the back door. The heating was via smokeless solid fuel, a novelty back then, and cheap as coke was a by-product of the production of gas. Many of the features were remarkably advanced bearing in mind many people still lived in terraced housing with outside loos.

We hadn’t been there very long and my father passed away. I don’t know whether I’d been aware that he was ill though I’ve recorded elsewhere that I can remember with three-dimensional vividness the day I was told that he was dead.

The welfare state was in its earliest stages when my mother found herself an unwilling widow, but she was entitled to a small widow’s pension on the state, which meant she didn’t have to do the impossible and bring up two very small boys and earn sufficient an income to pay her bills. Life was cruel to her anyway, but it could have been a damned sight more cruel.

I don’t think that my brother and I suffered much, being fatherless. We had birthdays, went away for annual weeks at the seaside and enjoyed Christmas just like most other children.

But birthdays weren’t as significant then as they are to children today, and I was born in December so birthday and Christmas sort of merged together and although my mother did her best to ensure that I had presents for both occasions I’ve a feeling I took precious little notice of my own birthday.

You see, the place where my father had worked up to his death held parties for children of employees, and my brother and I received invitations despite the fact that nobody in the family now worked there. They were generous to the kids of deceased employees, and the Christmas parties, as I recall, were extravagant affairs, with food and presents and as well, I seem to recall, some entertainment which can’t have been particularly memorable because I’ve forgotten just about everything about it.

When it came to be time for Santa to distribute gifts we had to line up at serving hatches (the party was in the works canteen) in age-order and on one particularly cringe-worthy occasion I got into the queue for boys of the age I had been last week but wasn’t any more. I’d forgotten that I’d had a birthday! I told them I was seven when I was eight! That must say something about the significance of birthdays to me.

Every year at the festive season one of my uncles came to fix the fairy lights. Some years he arranged them in a ring around the light on the ceiling and others he draped them, more traditionally, on the tree, if we had one. There were twelve lamps and every year began with searching for the one that wasn’t working. Then, Christmas over, every year we would walk the mile or so to a different uncle’s house and watch Boxing day programmes on his television. Not many people had television sets back then. We certainly didn’t.

My mother had three brothers and I’ve no idea who the third one was. Maybe I never met him. Maybe he had disgraced himself in the eyes of his siblings – I don’t know. And another thing I don’t know – my father seemed to be a solitary figure in terms of family, and when he passed away everything to do with his side of the family seems to have been almost, but not quite, extinguished, as may be revealed elsewhere.

Well, that’s Christmas and Boxing Day over. I may tackle seaside holidays soon!

© Peter Rogerson 20.06.15



  1. colinmh13 June 20, 2015 at 1:07 pm #

    Thank you. I liked your story which I’m guessing (from your name) was in England. There was a huge housing-shortage post-war and I had a similar early up-bringing in Scotland.
    For 5 years, my family were housed in a Nissen hutted military camp – Logie Camp, Crimond and ex-RNAS camp supporting HMS Merganser.
    When I recently tried to research this, I found a report stating that there were over 200 such camps in Scotland alone housing over 2000 families – an astonishing number – an yet I could find nothing of this in local histories.
    As a child, I remember the camp with fondness, but it must have been hell for the parents awaiting rehousing.

    • Peter Rogerson June 20, 2015 at 1:18 pm #

      Thanks for your comment. It might interest you to know that I’m 1/4 Scottish .. my father’s father was a Scot, I believe.

  2. georgiakevin June 21, 2015 at 12:28 am #

    There is a sweetness to your post and as always your post was very worth reading.

    • Peter Rogerson June 21, 2015 at 7:53 am #

      Thanks, Kevin. I seem to be getting a bit introspective these days!

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