Kensington Gardens - 1940'sBambini3

This article was published in the West Sussex Gazette on 14 November 2002. It was written by Anita Lewis, whose family lived next door to the De Marco family in Kensington Gardens.

I was born in 1930 London, wrote twice-widowed Anita (whose maiden name was Lewis), but was taken to Brighton to live when I was a few weeks old with my parents and older sister. Another 2 girls were born later on, so we were then 4 girls with no brothers.

There I grew up during World War 2, but do not remember where we actually lived until the war. My parents had a ladies dress shop in Kensington Gardens, in an area now known as the North Lanes.

The shop was called "Madam Hannah" and we lived above the shop as my Mother wanted us to be close by because of bombs etc. When war was declared I remember my Mother putting all our gas masks on, OH! Those gas masks we had to carry them with us everywhere.

We had no bathroom, (not made for living in), so we went to the public baths once a week; how I hated that. Our toilet was outside in the yard outside the basement near the coal cellar. The stove was in the basement, and I can remember my Mother stamping her feet before going down the stairs for the mice (if any) would scamper away.

There was a room above the shop which we used it as our dining room: it just had a table and chairs for us to sit and eat, listen to the wireless etc. My Father passed away in 1941 aged just 42, through an illness. My Mother was left a very young widow with 4 small daughters.

I remember the butchers shop and the 2 men who owned it were Mr Glass, and Mr Schneider. That was one shop I hated going to, but do not know why, I just hated the smell I guess. The grocer was Mr Leibling and I didn't mind going there. There was a sweet shop around the corner and their name was Burton. Next to them was a fish and chip shop.

I attended Middle St School, Brighton (Junior) from the age of 4 yrs. Across the road from the School was a live Theatre called the Hippodrome where we took shelter under the Theatre during the air raids. At first we loved going there, for it meant no school work, but the teachers got clever and took or left school work down there for us.

Tommy Trinder, Max Miller, and George Formby with his Ukulele were the Stars that use to perform there. Of course there were others but they are the ones I can remember. When I left Junior school I went to Pelham St. School, Brighton until I was 14 yrs old.

Now I had to look for work so tried working in my Mother's shop, where her Father and Step Mother worked, but unfortunately I didn't get on with my Grandfather, who told my Mother either I left or he would. He was far more experienced than me so I left HA HA.

I remember running to air raid shelters in the night, a few Streets away, where we saw the same people down there so it became a friendly place. Everyone took food, drinks, (not alcohol) but eventually you got tired of getting up and running to shelters so you got use to it and stayed in bed and hoped for the best.

Next door to our shop was an Ice-cream shop owned by Italians, their name De Marco, their daughter Nina we use to play with, hopscotch, jump rope, play school, etc. I remember the parents were interned during the war. They made delicious ice-cream and they had one daughter our age. During the war you couldn't make real ice cream because of the shortage of eggs, cream and milk etc, so we had like frozen custard, but occasionally when they made real ice cream for their daughter they gave us some.

Down the road was our opposition: another ladies dress shop named Lenz. They also had a daughter Dora whom we played with, (no-one seemed to have sons). Her Aunt and Uncle use to work in their shop also.

I remember my Mother giving us cod liver oil and malt every day, and some type of Orange juice that came in a bottle, for only Pregnant women and children were allowed Oranges which wasn't often.

We had ration books and coupons for everything: a certain amount for clothes, food, fruit, oil, sweets. I used to make my sisters put one sweet away in a big tin every time they got their ration, and then once a year we used to open it, share it out and have a party.

I used to dream how wonderful it must be to be able to go into a sweet store and buy whatever you want: a bit of this, a bit of that, that was the first thing I was going to do when the rationing was over. I still haven't done that.

I remember going to the pictures, loved the serials, and couldn't wait for the following week to see what happened. My Mother always taught us never to panic and start running when the Message came on the screen to say there was an air raid. We were told to stay calm and go under the seats if there were bombs, but don't run out because of stampede.

After a few years she got tired of our living conditions and bought a double storey house in neighbouring Hove. Thank goodness it had a loo inside and our own bathroom. Now we had an inside shelter, a Morrison, or was it an Anderson, I have forgotten which is which. One was for inside and one for outside. We used ours as a table and we slept in it at night like caged animals. Terrible! After awhile some of us stopped doing that.

I remember the Regent dance hall by the Clock Tower, Sherries where we also went dancing as young as we were, the ice rink a few doors down, the beach that was barbed wired we couldn't go on, and the worry of threatening invasion by the Germans who were only just across the Channel.

After leaving my Mother's shop, I worked in a clothing factory as a model, not sure of the name but the name Errol comes to mind; of course it may be the wrong name for it was a long time ago and I was about 17.

I was just trying on clothes when customers came in for garments my size. Didn't stay there long, didn't like it. Before that I worked at the Palmeira Stores in Hove, as a relief cashier, going from cubicle to cubicle in different departments when someone was on lunch or taking a break, or was ill, etc.

I didn't mind any of the departments, But the fresh fish OH! how that did smell dreaded that dept. I call them cubicles, each was a very small box-like room with bars in front. You sat behind the bars, so at least you didn't get robbed.

I remember The Lyons Corner House, where we ate spaghetti on toast, or baked beans on toast; the ice cream shop on the promenade where we ate Knicker Bocker Glory; the library where I used to take out books to read: Just William, Milly Molly Mandy, and Rupert the Bear.

Mum used to buy toy sweet shops for us; and from the sweet shop the red lips, sherbet with a toffee on a stick where you stuck the toffee into the sherbet and licked it, the sweet that looked like tobacco, Gob stoppers, and of course Brighton Rock.

The aniseed balls were about 10 for a penny. I found sixpence once and used it all on the aniseed balls, and ate them, (couldn't have eaten them all,) of course I was so sick, never did it again.

One day when my Mother and I were going to the Ascot races by Charabanc, we never got there, as we were in a smash with a lorry and 2 other cars. I was knocked unconscious, my Mother hurt her knees, and others were also hurt. That was in 1946 or 7, before we emigrated.

In 1947 my Mother with her 4 girls emigrated to South Africa where I married and had children. They in turn emigrated to America in 1989. I followed them and I now live in California near my children and grandchildren.

I went back to visit Brighton and Hove in 2001 for the first time. I will always feel British, no matter where I live.

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