Before the War aeroplanes were a great thrill, and the great event was the Hendon to Brooklands air race. We would watch for hours to see the bi-planes or mono-planes pass over. Such names as Hawker, Grahame White, Bleriot, Alcock, Fewker and Leblanc used to be the competitors and our heros. By 1915 they were being used in the war by both sides. In 1917 bombs were dropped in Brentford and Kew, 5 all told. We saw the damage in Whitestyle Road, two houses down. A large crater outside Kew Bridge, and a gate lodge at the Brentford Water Works hit, killing 3 men. Another fell in the Thames and one on the tow-path on the Surrey side. I remember the fear these bombs caused. How trifling they really were in comparison with World War Two Blitz! Searchlights used to light up the sky and naval guns mounted on lorries could be seen on the roads.
Food was very short and rations were very small. We at home were always well fed. Mum was a good cook, we used to keep rabbits and chickens, and Dad grew most of the vegetables. Mum almost always had to cook for 6 or more. There were no such things as school meals, and us kids had to come home to dinner. We had 2 hours in the summer’ 1½ hours winter. Most times there was some errand to do. Price’s had built a bakery in the Uxbridge Road in front of St George’s Church in 1912, and the price of a quartern loaf was 3 1/4d ( 1½p ). So we used to be sent for the bread. It became law that a loaf must weigh 2 lbs. Until the bakery could adjust their machinery to comply with the law they used to weigh their loaves and cut a piece to make up. This was called “overs”, and we ate it on the way home.
Several times my father was sent to work at his boss’ brother’s jamworks ( Plaistows ), Kings Cross, and would be able to purchase stone jars of jam which would cost 1/9. ( 8 ½p )
Hard Earned Pocket Money
In the winter of 1917 I earned quite a bit of pocket money fetching coke from the Gas Works. At that time the price was 10 pence ( 4p ) for large and 11 pence ( 4½p ) for small per cwt. I would go to the works, hire a sack barrow for 2 pence and deliver it to who wanted it for 6 pence. This would be in the lunch time. Next day I would return the hired barrow and bring another sack. To finish I would take a barrow of my own, with the hired one on top, and bring coke back on it. It was hard work and always plenty of customers. With so many horses about it was fairly easy to earn some pocket money with barrows of manure and, of course, Dad and I were always glad of it. As previously stated my duties as houseboy included taking parcels and messages to patients in the Australian Hospital, and I used to get very good tips from them also. If Mr. Norman asked me to clean his bicycle or thigh boots, that earned 6 pence. Mr. Payne ( schoolmaster ) would also ask me to take my barrow to the station and collect packages that had been sent from Devon, and Mrs. Payne would give me something for doing so.