Margaret Wooler

Talking behind the desk lid

By Margaret Wooler

Photo:Empire Day (23 May) as a Welsh girl age 7

Empire Day (23 May) as a Welsh girl age 7

Photo from WRVS Heritage Plus Archive

Photo:Red Cross Cadet just after the war. Age 14.

Red Cross Cadet just after the war. Age 14.

Photo from WRVS Heritage Plus Archive

Photo:Husband Don - wedding day April 1954

Husband Don - wedding day April 1954

Photo from WRVS Heritage Plus Archive

Photo:4 generations: Grandmother, Mother, Meg and first son Ian - 1959

4 generations: Grandmother, Mother, Meg and first son Ian - 1959

Photo from WRVS Heritage Plus Archive

Born and bred

I was born and bred in Eastbourne, in Dennis Cottages, off the Firle Road, then moving to Sidley Road, then Seaside, and then Seaford Road. I am an only child. My parents and in-laws are all from Eastbourne. I was born in 1931. My father's name was Harry Thomas Tingley. My maternal grandparents were James Hall and Kate Hall. My mum and dad's wedding (Kate Hall to Harry Tingley) was on 3rd November 1928. My Father was a butcher and slaughterman. There were two abattoirs in Eastbourne. He did OK during the war, as he was a butcher all the way through. He used to supply the Army barracks in Bexhill, and we used to swap things with them, meat for other supplies. He used to supply dripping to fish and chip shops. In our house there was me, me mum and dad.

Getting home late

I was an only child, but never lonely as I had lots of aunties and uncles (both in Mum and Dad's families there were ten children), and some of my uncles were only 8 or 10 years older than me.  My mum and dad were very easy going. I remember walking home from a dance once, and being late. My escort thought he was going to get into trouble, but my Dad just said: 'Thanks mate for bringing her home safe'.

Then next door lived my aunt with two sons. Opposite was my gran who still had four unmarried sons at home. My uncles were good to me, and used to teach me things. There was hardly any school during the war you see as they were evacuated. My uncle Cecil used to make me do lessons, so when I went back to school, I could do algebra (can't remember any of it now though!).

Teddy bears out of old stockings

One of my uncles was a POW. He had typhus or typhoid. The Red Cross used to send him special parcels from money we sent them. We all used to sit in the garden making things to sell: teddy bears out of old stockings, bookmarks, purses, slippers from old rope coiled round and round. One uncle used to make wooden and lead toys and then we would tell the neighbourhood that we were having a sale. All the money raised would then be sent to the Red Cross, Spitfire Appeal, Warship Appeal or any other cause we were asked to raise money for.

Unmarked graves

My dad got a certificate thanking him for what he did in the war. My dad was born in 1901. He didn't go to the First World War as his three eldest brothers all died there in the Dardanelles and Arras. They have unmarked graves there. I went to see the graves once but unfortunately there was no one to tell on returning home as all the older brothers and sisters had passed away. I was able to tell my cousin. Of course I never met these uncles, but for some reason, I've always felt close to them. Their names are on several memorials i.e. up in Eastbourne Town Hall, St Andrew's Church, Chichester Cathedral and Southsea Common, all of which I have visited.

Buttercup and clover

In the house I grew up in there were six rooms: three bedrooms, a front room, kitchen and scullery. We didn't have work tops in the scullery, just a draining board and a shelf which dropped down from the cupboard where we used to keep some of our food. In the kitchen we had a table and chairs where we used to eat, two armchairs, there was a coal fire and we had a radio. When I was little we also had a piano in there. Never played it mind you. There was a front room with two leatherette armchairs and a settee, and a small stand with a maidenhair fern on it. I can see it now. It was all gold and clover coloured pink. The furniture was brown leatherette. I used to go out and pick buttercup and clover for my mum for the colours to match, they were her favourites. We only used this room occasionally. We moved there in 1938. This was Sidley Road in Eastbourne . The floor was lino and then rugs on top.  In the Blitz we had a Morrison shelter where we used to sleep during the raids. I didn't have a bathroom put in till I was married, in my present house. It was put in 1961. In the old house it was a tin bath.

Sneaky Tingley

My dad used to play knock down ginger. He was a little terror! The police used to wear a long frock coat and a bigger hat than today, and my dad used to creep up and set light to their coat tails. He used to be known as Sneaky Tingley, and one day I was talking behind my desk lid with a friend in class. The teacher caught me and called me sneaky. I was so pleased! She called me the same nickname as my dad.

No school dinners

I was nearly 8 when the war started, but I wasn't evacuated. I went to Christchurch School from 1936 in Redoubt Road, near to the Redoubt Martello Tower, which we were taught to run to if there was an air raid. We had rush mats to sleep on in the afternoon. When I went to school there were no school dinners. We used to go home for lunch. I always walked to school, 'bout half a mile. During air raids we learnt to be quiet. The teacher taught us sign language. When I returned to schooling, London evacuees came to Eastbourne and shared our school. They would go to the school in the morning and us in the afternoon. We used to meet in various halls when not in school. Christchurch was bombed - luckily during the school summer holidays. Then local children and the Londoners were all evacuated. Schools closed so I didn't go to school for almost a year.

Ghost town

Then I went to school in Meads. It was safer there at the school under the Downs in Evesfield Road. This was a church school. I took the 11 plus there and passed, but the High School was evacuated and I didn't want to go, so I went to Bedewell School instead. It's a fire station now. I stayed there till I was 14. I loved it! Nothing was difficult and when I wasn't in school during the war, my uncle taught me lots as he was 8 years older. The last year of school, I was so ahead due to be being taught by my uncle, that I used to do the headmaster's office work for him. During the war Eastbourne was like a ghost town. There were only about 250 families left in town. You had to have a permit to come in or leave the town as it was a garrison town due to worries of invasion.

Skipping in the street

There were a lot of laundries near to my house, and every Good Friday the laundry girls used to come out and skip in the street each year. I was an only child, but we didn't play games as a family much: Mum would be too busy; there was no time for parents to play. As a teenager, we used to meet up in different friends houses to play Monopoly or cards or whatever. Even when we were married we still did it, playing for pennies.

Knickerbocker Glories

We used to take our lunch into the garden shed, me and my friend. My mum and I used to eat at the table mostly though. Dad got home late in the evenings, so he would eat whenever he got home. Lunchtime was the main meal of the day. I used to love fishcakes, but my mum was in hospital and I had to go and stay with my aunt and uncle, who I really loved, but I was miserable as I didn't know why, and when I was trying to eat it, I was crying, and I couldn't swallow these fishcakes. I found out much later that my mum had lost a little boy, and that's why she was in hospital. I still can't eat fishcakes to this day. It makes me feel like it did that day. We never went anywhere on our holidays, but we would always have a knickerbocker glory as a treat in the summer. They were half a crown. We loved them.

Pioneering surgery

When I did leave school, I got a job in a solicitor's office and learned typing and shorthand. At 19 I got tubercolosis of the spine and spent 15 months in Pembury Hospital, so I couldn't work. I had one of the earliest spinal fusions in 1951. It was pioneering surgery then. When I came out, I was in a full body plaster cast and at home I had to sleep in the front room where the Morrison shelter used to be.

I then got married in 1954 and had my first son five years later. The doctor told me that I had to wait this length of time to have children because of my spine, but I was fine. Eventually I had three children, and now two grandchildren. My children are Ian, born in 1959, who lives in Berkshire, Julie, born in 1960, who lives in Seaford, and Andrew who was born in '65 and lives in Hampden Park. I stayed at home with the children and did the paperwork for my husband's firm. In the 1960s we let rooms in our house as a Bed and Breakfast. Once, when my kids were small, we went to a park in the Avenue in Eastbourne. My husband was shaking the tree to get the conkers out for them, and someone came along, and said, 'At your age sir!' My husband died in 1983 after 29 years of marriage. I carried on working at the office I was at then, till they went bankrupt, then went back to Eastbourne and worked in Tenco until after 7 years, they too went bankrupt. The second firm grew too big, too quick, and they couldn't sustain it. So aged 59 I was made redundant again, and as a result I came to the WRVS in Eastbourne and have worked for them ever since. We are all still in this area, my eldest son's gone furthest, he moved to Berkshire!

This page was added by Susan Morrison on 31/12/2007.

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