|The Reminiscences of Mr Charlie Holloway|
Regarding Redhill, St John's School and life in general
|The Early Days in Redhill|
I was born in 1927. My family all came from the East end of London. Mum and Dad, and all my brothers were born in London and I was the only one of the family to be born in Redhill - in Earlswood Road. My father had got a job looking after the lorries of Reddy's, the fruit and vegetable distributor; they had about twelve lorries and my Dad was in charge of maintaining them. The yard was in Earlswood Road, Redhill, and Dad had a house there and a pump for petrol. We were there when Dad was killed in a motor accident at the Nags Head junction in 1930 when I was aged only two.
..... So Mum being now homeless, Mr Reddy found us alternative accommodation in half a house at 34 Brighton Road, Redhill. Having half a house was the norm in those days because the rent was so high. We shared a house with a Mrs Matthews. She had one room downstairs and one bedroom upstairs. Her kitchen was in her living room and had no water so she had to come through our kitchen to the scullery with her enamel bucket for her daily supply. We had two rooms downstairs and two bedrooms upstairs. Seven and six a week they paid. We shared the front and back doors, hall and stairs. No-one used the front room, I don't know why. There was just the one outside toilet and gas lighting downstairs only, so when going to bed one had ...,,,.... Charlie Holloway 2010
..... Opposite where we lived was Dorman's the fish shop. When I was a boy there was a man who used to play the organ outside the shop. In the shop we'd ask for 'A tupenny and one,' which was two pennyworth of fish and a pennyworth of chips. My mum used to say, "Ask Mr Dorman to chuck some crackling in." We were very poor and Mr Dorman was a Salvation Army man. One of our entertainments was looking out of our upstairs window to see the charabancs going up and down to London and Brighton and Mr Dorman would often come across the road with his big pole that he used to pull his shop blind down with a bag of chips on it for us. `
..... The Britannia pub was just down the road from us. My sister Nellie and I would sometimes get sent there for a jug of beer. There was a separate door to go in for that, the Tap I believe it was called. Sometimes Nellie and I would be outside when mum was in there with her friends having a good old sing song and she'd bring us out a bag of crisps or a biscuit.
..... Monday was market day in Redhill. If you were on school holidays you'd definitely be there. You'd see ten men trying to get a big bull down, some holding him by the ring through his nose. As well as the cattle market there was the vegetable and fruit market with other stalls selling chocolate and such like. There were three bingo stalls too, and the prizes were always cigarettes or chocolate. I don't remember there being any other prizes. You could get as many orange boxes as you liked for nothing and all the boys brought their wheeled hand trucks to collect them. I used to be able to get nine orange boxes on my little truck. They were wonderful for firewood. As my dad was dead I was the man in our house.
..... Then one day someone gave me a rabbit and I needed wood to make a rabbit hutch. I started breeding rabbits. When I was a bit older I had Black and White Dutch, Flemish Giants, Belgian Hares, New Zealand White - they were easy to breed. I killed some for food. Hold a rabbit up by its back legs and hit it on the back of the head to kill it and then hang it on a nail in the door of the outside toilet. I'd put a bucket underneath, sharpen the knife and then call Mum - I could never gut a rabbit. She cut in down to get its intestines out. We used to eat no end of rabbits. Others would ask if we had one to spare and we'd sell them for half-a-crown.
..... Our garden backed onto a little alleyway. The front door was on the pavement in Brighton Road and the back entrance was from Brook Road. Behind the alley was what we called Goss's Yard. In those days cars, vans and lorries were commonplace but there were quite a lot of horse and carts about. Many of the businesses that still used horses had stabling attached and those that didn't used stables elsewhere. At the top of the Brighton Road its junction with Mill Street there's a horse trough on the pavement. It used to stand across the other side of Mill Street. Its main water trough was for horses to drink from, of course, but on its end was a metal cup without a handle attached to the stone trough by a chain. We used to pass it on the way to school. You would fill the cup up and drink from the middle. It was beautiful water, lovely and cool.
..... Carts going down Brighton Road would lodge a shoe under the wheel to lock the rear wheel to act as a brake, the metal rim sliding down the hill. Horse droppings were well used; my mate Ken Wicks knew all about that. If there were any left in the road by their house his dad would say, "Ken, get the bucket," Ken would say, "Yes, Dad," and go out and fill the bucket with the fresh droppings. His dad had an allotment round Brook Road - there were a few allotments touching the fence - and it would be taken round there and dug in. We used to take water round there. They had this big old metal thing with two iron wheels; it was a container for the water and it used to go to and fro on two hinges. We used to push it round to the allotment for Mr Wicks and he would say, "Here, Charlie, take this for your mum," and give me lettuces, beetroot and things like that, so he was very good to me.
..... I used to get my catapult elastic at Quinton's sports shop. Next to that was Wright's shoe menders, a sweet shop and then Chandler's Alley. They were opposite the Pavilion Cinema. All the picture houses used to be full up every night, especially the Pavilion. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday there was one film, and Thursday, Friday, Saturday nights another. On Sunday there was different film for the one night only so you'd get three shows a week. And there was also the Odeon, the Hippodrome and the Majestic cinemas, the last two being at Reigate. It cost a penny on the bus to get from Redhill to Reigate. Going to the pictures was a way of life. I can remember the Odeon being built. Lots of Irish navvies there were.
..... Mum used to send me to the gas works to get six pennyworth of coke on my truck. The man there used to have a huge fork - one or two scoops of that and you had a bagful. The coke was what was left after they'd made gas from coal. You could smell the gas from where we lived just up the road.
..... We used to go to Earlswood Lakes with Mum and you could get a motor boat ride round the island on the upper lake for a penny. There were other boats for hire too. There were canoes, dinghies, and the real top one was a skiff. No plastic ones. And there was a big blackboard and easel on which the man in charge would have the times each boat was due back in - 'No. 1 canoe due back in at such and such a time'. And he had a loudspeaker - "Come in number three!" And on the bank opposite was where people would go and get a tray of tea and biscuits. All these people sitting on the grass and someone would have a wind up gramophone and you'd hear the old favourites, like 'Red Sails in the Sunset' and all the old songs of yesteryear. It was a great place. And you could swim in the lower lake. There was an island with a diving board on it.
..... I used to do a bit of gardening at the top of Ridgeway Road for a Mrs Hooper. She was an ex-schoolmistress and asked me one day where we used to go from school to celebrate Empire Day. Before the Second World War all the schools used to gather together on Empire Day and raise the flag and sing Land of Hope and Glory. I told Mrs Hooper that we used to go to the flat grassy part of common in Mill Street. She told me that it never used to be like that, it was once all sand. The common used to be dug for the sand and the people doing it got beyond Sandpit Lane before some local people decided to do something about it before they diggers took all the common. The matter went to Parliament and the outcome was that the digging was stopped and the common was preserved for the public. Anyway the part where used to go for Empire Day had swings on it, I used to take my little girls there. Across the other side of Sandpit Lane were the lawns, three grassy area at different levels. Leading up the the top common was a path with a handrail. Londoners loved it there. They used to come down and walk though there and then down to the Earlswood Lakes. It was like a lovely park.
..... Everyone used to watch Redhill football team. The crowd used to be four of five deep all around the pitch. When the game ended there were so many men walking home that you couldn't drive down London Road for the crowd.
..... The Cinema Royal was the oldest cinema around here. I never did go there, although I nearly did once. My sister Nellie, cousin Nancy and me had threepence each to go there once but when we got there the price of a seat was ninepence, so Nancy went in and me and Nellie walked home. When the odeon opened we used to go regularly. It's not like it used to be, television hurt the cinemas and the pubs too. The pubs have hit back with food, they never used to sell food. It was all darts, dominoes and shove ha'penny. Going to the pub used to be a social activity. You went in the pub because you had a lovely time there.
|St John's School|
I was at St John's School from the age of four or five to when I left aged fourteen in 1941 or 42. I don't remember much about the infants except that it used to puzzle me why one of the teachers of a class I was in used to write the number thirty-four on the blackboard. Thirty-four was the number of our house in Brighton Road and I couldn't figure out why she didn't write someone else's house number. With hindsight I now realise that she was probably writing the date each day, thirty-four being the year part of it.
..... There used to be a big theatre in Redhill in the Central Hall. I was about five or six when I was one of the four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie. I had a blackbird hood with a big yellow beak that didn't fit me. My Mum didn't sew so Mrs Wicks who lived two doors away altered it for me. It must have been a school production. You go up the stairs and into the theatre and I remember looking up and there was this great big balcony full of people. That was an experience.
..... St John's was a church school and we used to say the catechism - the creed. In church we used to do a lot of hymn singing and if you got into the choir there was a bit of money to be made singing at weddings and suchlike. Ron Moon was one boy who I remember being in the choir. He was a good singer. Two other boys I remember were Stan Voller and Tony Norwood; they used to come first and second at school every year. I was always about the middle. Stan Voller was the same age as me, we were born on the same day, and our paths crossed quite a few times although he was never a particular friend of mine. Apart from being at St John's together he joined the same army cadets as me, so for three years we were in the army cadets together. Then when I volunteered for the army at seventeen and a half and went to Mark Eaton Park in Derbyshire for training the first person I saw was Stan Voller. I couldn't believe it. Then he married a girl whose sister lived next door but one from us, so I'd see he quite often when they visited her and we'd reminisce about school and life in general.
..... When I went to the big boys our first teacher there was Miss White. On of the first things she told us was that we had left the infants' and were now in the senior part of the school and were there to behave ourselves. Clearly she was a person who brooked no nonsense. She was a lovely teacher. She said that there was something else she had to tell us that would last us the rest of our lives and was going to be magic. We were all ears, wondering what this magic thing was. Eventually she told us "This is what it is," and held up a finger. "This finger is the magic" she continued, "for that is the distance you leave between each word when writing." While being perhaps a little disappointed with the 'magic' content of the statement we were nevertheless duly impressed. She was a lovely teacher. We used to have our bottles of milk and if there was any over she would distribute it among the boys who seemed the weakest. I was small of stature and so benefited from this concern of hers.
..... Other teachers were Georgie Barnett, whose favourite saying was 'G-r-a-s-s is Grass (as pronounced in the North), not Grarss (as pronounced in the south), and you don't say a silly arss, you say a silly ass.' Needless to say he was a north country man. He was a good teacher, especially with arithmetic. Then there was Mr Jones, a smart man about five foot nine tall.
..... Mr Mole was another teacher. He brought a real sense of comedy to school life - he made us laugh a lot. One of the events he would organise took place outside the school wall where the boys' shelter now is. He got all the big boys on one side and all the smaller boys on the other. The big boys were the horses and the smaller boys the jockeys. Each small boy mounted one of the 'horses', Mr Mole blew his whistle and shouted "Start" and the object was for each 'jockey' to get the other jockeys off. No-one was allowed to touch the 'horses' - they had enough trouble carrying the jockeys - it was wonderful fun.
..... Another thing Mr Mole organised was dry land swimming lessons. We had to take our chairs into the playground, lay on them face down, and he would say, "Arms out - hold it - now to your chest ." This was practice for swimming before we got to the pool. To go swimming we walked from the school down the Brighton Road (passing my house on the way) to the swimming baths in London Road, opposite the Colman Institute. Because of the practice we'd had in the playground - 'one. two, in, out' - half the boys could swim as soon as they got in the water. For those who still couldn't there'd be a couple of instructors at the shallow end holding a piece of rope that would be tied round you and they'd pull you along as you did the strokes in the water. Everyone was swimming. You got a certificate for swimming the width and another certificate for swimming the length. That was Mr Mole, a very good teacher. He used to walk all the way to the baths with us. I've heard about the holes in the wall outside the swimming baths made by boys turning pennies into the soft brick but don't remember that we did that. If you had a penny you'd put in in the Nestles machine and get a small bar of chocolate. I mentioned that we passed my house on the way down, well on the way back my Mum would come out and give me a couple of cheese sandwiches.
..... The walking we used to do when we were at school was unbelievable. On a swimming day I'd walk from my house to school, then to swimming and back. Then I'd walk home to dinner and back afterwards. Then home again at the end of school. There were a couple of boys who didn't go home to dinner because they lived too far away; they'd bring sandwiches.
..... When reading with Mr Mole we weren't allowed to look up, we had to keep our heads down and concentrate. If we came across a word we didn't understand we had to raise out hand but still look down. He'd then call out 'Yes, Holloway?' and then you were allowed to look up and ask the question about the word. Once the answer had been given it was heads down again.
..... Other times he'd give us a word and tell us to try to find out what we could about it. I remember there was one word 'Vladivostok'. We'd never heard of it but it turned out to be a seaport in Russia. Another one was PopocatÚpetl, which was a volcano in Mexico. I can't remember all the others but it was an interesting exercise.
..... Another teacher was Mr Tarr. he was very good at giving lectures about the fruit that came from South America - very interesting - but we always seemed to finish up talking about his car, and sometimes in his back garden in Meadvale mending it.
..... Mr Bradford, the music teacher, was another good man. He used to have a tuning fork that he hit to get us to recognise a note.
..... Mr Allen came very late, when I was about twelve. I think he took a liking to me. I liked painting and he encouraged me to keep it up. It's still a hobby now; I've got some pictures at home that I've painted. There were some paintings of Robin Hood outside the classroom. Mr Allen was the arts master whose idea it was to cover the walls of the boys' air raid shelter in murals and I was involved in some of the painting before I left. It was in my last year at St John's when the Evening Standard newspaper sent a photographer to take some pictures of the murals. We were told in advance that they were coming and told not to muck about but to make a good job of painting when they were there. 'Don't overload your brush' we were told. It's little things like that you remember. I was featured painting the dragon in one of the photos and I remember the photographer asking me to hold the brush in my right hand instead of the way I naturally held it in my left, but I never saw the resulting photo.
..... It seems likely that the murals weren't painted during air raid alerts as there would have been too many of us in the shelter. Although I can't remember for certain it seems more likely that they were painted when the shelters were not in use by anyone except the class doing an art lesson. I would say that Mr Allen probably picked about ten boys to do the painting, although I can't quite remember. I didn't see all the murals finished because I left before many of them were painted. I know that Mr Allen did a lot of the outlines of Robin Hood and other figures. There were some pictures of Robin Hood outside ourclassroom. He did all the skilled work, all we had to do was fill in the colours and not go over the lines he'd drawn.
..... After the war the shelter was closed and the murals forgotten. They have since been rediscovered and are regarded with pride by St John's School and a DVD of the school at war has been produced. When my daughter brought me a copy of the DVD I couldn't believe it, on its cover is a photo of a boy painting the dragon mural. I strongly believe that this is that Evening Standard photo and I am the boy featured in it. I have written to the St John's headteacher and will be going to see the murals again after seventy years in September 2010, something I'm really looking forward to.
.. ....................................................... Me painting the dragon in 1941
..... I was so thrilled to see the picture that many other memories came flooding back too, like when I played football for the school. We got to the final of the inter-schools competition one year. I was left half or left wing as I had a good left foot, and we played a team that beat us about four of five nil. The team came from the Redhill Technical College and they were boys who left at sixteen. We all left at fourteen so they were all older than us, so that's why we lost. We thought it was very unfair. My Mum came to watch - she'd never watched me play football before. The parents were all allowed in the grandstand and there were quite a lot there. I was thrilled to be playing on the sports ground pitch.
..... The school sports used to be held on the Ring. I remember that Peter Wakeman was outstanding at the high jump and Freddie Hills was the best sprinter.
..... We used to have our sports day at the Ring on Earlswood Common. There were all the usual events and being small and light I was quite good at long jump. They had all the prizes out ready for the long jump winners. The first prize was a cricket bat and I thought I'd really like that. For a time I was winning but a boy called Ernie Taylor came and jumped further than me and I got the second prize, a book. I even remember its title, it was called 'Ghosts of the Spanish Main.' It wasn't really interested in it, I'd wanted the cricket bat. During the war the Ring was ploughed and turned into allotments.
..... Then there was the marathon every year. It started by the monument on the top common. We called it the marathon and to us it was quite long, about four miles.
..... We also used to walk down to St John's parochial hall at the top of the Brighton Road for sports during the war when the evacuees were using our classrooms. I used to love that. Somebody would bend over and you had to do a diving forward roll over him onto one of those thick mats used in gyms. Then the one who was worst at it would have to also bend down so you were diving over two. Then there would be three and if you touched someone you had to drop out. This was all Mr Mole's competitive sports. You could finish up with four or five to dive over. It was wonderful fun.
..... Another place we used to go was Fairlawn, the big house the other side of the laundry from the school. We were allocated a big shed to keep our forks and spades etc. and we would do gardening, growing vegetables.
..... One less than good day at St John's that I remember vividly was when I was about ten. I was walking to school from Redhill when I met a boy the same age as me, John --------, who lived in the Redstone Hollow area, and we met at the end of Woodlands Road and walked on to school together. As we got to the school there was a big milk lorry at the bottom of the slope going up to the infants. John bent down, picked up a matchstick and started letting the air out of one of the tyres. Alarmed I said to John, "What are you doing?" He brushed it off as nothing. Now coming down the hill on his bike at that moment was Mr Mole. He said, "I'll see you two boys later." When we got to school we were reported to the headmaster, Mr Bennett. John went first and Mr Bennett said that Mr Mole had seen him letting the air out of the tyre and asked him what he had to say for himself. He said "I'm sorry, Sir." Mr Bennett replied, "Well, you're having three of the best; do you want the thick cane or the thin cane?" We heard that the thick one didn't hurt as much. John had three on each hand and came out crying. I went in and Mr Bennett said, "What have you got to say, Holloway?" I said, "I didn't know what he was going to do. I did ask him what he thought he was up to. I didn't know he was going to pick up a match and . . . . " I was trying to defend myself; I was ten, and at that age you can't put words together properly. He said, "You're as bad as him - three on each hand." And that's what I got. I really didn't deserve that and was disappointed that justice as meted out by Mr Bennett could be so unfair. I was a little kid, scrawny, weak, no dad - it was the only time I ever had the cane and I've never forgotten that day. When I got home I told my Mum and she said that it had happened and I'd have to put up with it. If you're in pain that's not want you want to hear. I had welts come up on on my hands and I couldn't write for a while after. I loved St John's but that was one day I didn't love. If I'd been guilty I might have accepted the punishment but I wasn't guilty and didn't deserve it, and as you can tell I'm still indignant to this day. About four years ago (2006) I was at South Park Con Club playing snooker when four blokes walked in. They were golfers and because it was raining hard they couldn't play golf and came for a game of snooker instead. One kept looking at me and came over. He said, "Charlie Holloway?" "Who are you?" I asked. "John Ashby." I hadn't seen him since the St John's days. I said "John, you got me the bloody cane!"
I knew what I wanted to do when I left school, I wanted to walk across the road to the Athanaeum and be a machine minder's mate. At school we had to write out job applications and I can still remember the one I wrote. 'Dear Sir, I submit this application for a job as a machine minder's mate.' To become a machine minder was a seven year apprenticeship and as his mate you looked after the paper. Those machines were big, they stretched as far as from my living room to the bottom of my garden. I got my interview and was told that the pay was fifteen shillings a week. I accepted and when I started was delighted to find that it was seventeen shillings and sixpence. I didn't complain, half a crown extra was a lot of money then. As I mentioned aearlier, I never smoked so that was something I didn't have to spend money on. I loved my sport too much and I knew that if I smoked I'd get wheezy and short of breath. My mate Ken Wicks used to by packets of five Weights cigarettes when we were still at school. He used to go up to the top common to smoke. He gave me one once. he was loving it but it just made me feel bad. My wife smoked. She once had hypnosis treatment under the National Health and stopped for about a week, that's all. She liked a cigarette and that was that. Back in our youth everybody smoked, if you didn't you were the odd one out. Presents were often connected with smoking - cigarette lighter, cigarette case, cigarette case with lighter combined. There were even leather cigarette cases. There were several tobacconist shops in Redhill which used to have piles of tobacco in the window and you could smell it - it did smell nice. There was a shop in Station Road near Rhythms like that where you could smell all these different aromas.
..... I went in the Towers pub once. I was sixteen and was with a mate called Peter Tomlinson. I had half a pint of shandy. While I was there three boys from the RAF who'd been wounded came in. If you were wounded you wore a special uniform, it was like pyjama blue but thicker material. One had both arms in splints sticking out in front of him and one had a patch over his face. As soon as they came in a space was made for them at the counter and they were given three pints of free beer. One helped his mate who couldn't hold the glass because of his splints while the other went up on the stage and started singing, 'One finger, one thumb, one arm one leg, keep moving' - and he's injured. Everyone was clapping to the rhythm. 'One finger, one thumb, one arm, one leg, let's all be merry and bright.' The song went on like that and everyone was joining in. To me this was pure heroics to see these lads like that, and they were respected. To see him perform like that after he'd probably been shot down in the Battle of Britain was marvellous.
I remember the battle of Britain and I don't think I'm exaggerating to say that from outside our back door I once saw a hundred 'planes shot out of the sky. I couldn't stop watching it was so thrilling. Parachutes coming down; what a time it was!
..... And I remember the retreat from Dunkirk and all the trains coming through with the evacuated troops. I was on the railway bank by the Reading Arch, on the Brighton Road side. Some of the trains stopped there, just before the bridge, and there were women on the bank as well taking cups of tea up to the men. They took biscuits and cake too and the men would throw out a few French coins. Some of the boys had torn clothing, some were without hats. The British army was in a right mess.
..... I also remember the blackout. Mum would sometimes take us to the Odeon and coming back was difficult. In the bleak nights of November you could just get along and know where you were. The lampposts were painted with white bands so that helped.
..... We had an Anderson shelter indoors. It was the size of a double bed with angle iron legs and grill all around. The top was three-eighths thick steel. I put it up with a couple of mates. That's what we did in people's houses as a part-time job. We slept under there for months while the bombing of London took place. That was when if you looked towards London at night you could often see a red glow as London was burning. We had a few bombs around here but nothing like London.
..... I remember the evacuees, there were quite a lot of them in Redhill. There were two friends of mine called Hedges in Garlands Road, they had an evacuee girl living next to them and one of them married her. Her name was Sheila, a very pretty girl. My friend Ken Wicks had an evacuee living in his house. On the other hand many people from here were evacuated themselves. Me and my sister Nellie went to an interview in the health centre at Shaws Corner. We were on the verge of going to Canada, I can't remember why. Thank God we didn't go!
..... I also remember troops being in Redhill, especially Canadians, thousands and thousands of Canadians. They were very generous, they'd sell you a blanket cheap. And cigarettes too, as everybody was smoking - except me, I never smoked - and there were no tipped cigarettes, you'd see people with their fingers stained with nicotine. There were quite a few Americans too but not as many. The Canadians built the military road from Maple Road through the Royal Earlswood and Philanthropic grounds to Nutfield. It was concrete with metal hoops to carry camouflage over it.
..... I remember that My mate Ken Wicks was in the Home Guard, as was Mr Hedges. It was called the Local Defence Volunteers at first - the LDV - but it was soon changed to the Home Guard.
..... In Fountain Road are cylinder shaped concrete blocks. They were put there in about 1939 as tank traps.
..... I left the Athenaeum when I was about sixteen as I wanted a job outside. I went to work at Ryall and Edward, which was where Homebase is now in Reigate. While I was there I saw hundreds of Doodlebugs go over. Sometimes you'd see one being chased by a Spitfire trying to turn it off course with its wings, turning it away from London and into the countryside. One dropped in St John's Road at the junction with Earlsbrook Road. The foreman at Ryall and Edwards, George Lucas, was one of those bombed out in St John's Road. Mr Edwards told one of his drivers to take the wagon and two boys and move him, as he had relations in Nutley Lane. So we spent all day getting his furniture into the lorry. Quite a few people were killed and just up from us was the Salvation Army and they were supplying rescue workers with tea and buns.
..... Eileen, a friend of my sister, Nellie, lived with us for some time. She was older than me by about three years and I remember one day a big box came for her. She opened it in the front room and it was all her Women's Land Army clothing - big hat, jodhpurs and so on. She had joined up. My sister Nellie joined the ATS when she was about eighteen. I volunteered during the last year of the war for the army. I was seventeen and a half. I had been in the army cadets since age fourteen. The Army Cadets Centre was in a big house in Ladbroke Road about where the new St Joseph's Church has been built. We had all sorts of activities including night duty there. I loved it so as soon as I could I volunteered for the real thing. This was 1945. I was made up to a lance corporal after I'd done my training at Derby, then I was sent on a course to Warminster for the infantry. When I came back I was in front of the C.O. and he told me I'd done very well and I was made up to a full corporal. I couldn't believe it.
..... It was a wonderful experience going to Warminster, I'd never seen anything of England before and each weekend we'd go somewhere like Bristol, Avonmouth, Cheddar Gorge, Stonehenge and Wells Cathedral. It was fascinating. As a full corporal I was involved in training war recruits in small arms. I got a bit fed up with this eventually and put in for a transfer - a posting abroad. I had my embarkation leave, got to Shornecliff and the sergeant shouted, "All people of the Jewish faith one pace forward march!" We then we knew where we were going - Palestine (except for those who'd taken the one pace forward). We got to a place called Heliopolis, just outside Cairo, the holding centre for onward postings. I went to see the personnel selection officer and asked for a storeman's job somewhere. I told him that my mother was a widow, which was true enough, and that where we lived there were lots of shops and stores. Six weeks later on daily company orders I read, Corporal Holloway, Royal Fusiliers, posted to METC Ghaza, South Palestine, as corporal in charge of the oil stores. I had no idea what it would be like and me and a bloke called Buster Moore, who was a cook and was posted to the same camp. went all the way to South Palestine. We crossed the Sinai Desert by train, got to Ghaza where we were met by the Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant. He showed Buster where the cookhouse and his digs were and then he showed me my job at the oil stores. I was in charge of all the diesel oil for the biggest camp in the Middle East. I had three Arabs working for me plus a lorry and a driver. Tankers would come in with oil in 800 and 1800 gallon tanks. This was put into 50 gallon barrels and the Arabs would pump it into 4.4 gallon jerry cans. I'd take it all around the camp and to other camps. I even learnt to speak a bit of Arabic. Sometimes we'd have to go the whole length of Palestine from Ghaza to Haifa to get more 50 gallon drums. It was a wonderful job and I was there until the First World War mandate ended in 1948 and we handed Palestine over to the United Nations. That coincided with me getting demobbed. I'd done three and a half years and I'd had enough.
|Life after the Army|
Back home I met a mate, Roy Hall, who had just come out of the navy. We used to drink together and, as we both liked football, we went training together. We used to run round the ring a few times then go for a couple of pints in the Nags Head at Salfords. One day we came out and there were a couple of Irish girls who worked at the Royal Earlswood Institution sitting on a seat opposite. One was Eileen Collins, the other Rita Quin. We got talking to them and went out with then for a while; going dancing, out for days to Brighton and so on. About two months later I'd arranged to meet Eileen when she came off duty. I was waiting when along came a girl who asked if I was Charlie. She had a message from Eileen to say that she was on night duty and she'd see me the following night. I thanked the girl and walked back to the Locomotive pub in Ladbroke Road where we also used to drink. While there I wished I'd got the name of the girl who'd brought the message. After the pub we went for a coffee in a cafe near the Wheatsheaf in Station Road - it's still there - and who was in there but this girl who'd given me the message. I thanked her and walked her home. That was it! I knew from then that she was my girl. I was hooked. Mary Whelan her name was. I said to her, "I'll see you Friday." She asked, "What about Eileen?" I said, "I'm seeing Eileen on Thursday and I've got to pack her up." I didn't want to but I knew I had to be firm. On Thursday I packed Eileen up and she went back to Ireland. I wouldn't have hurt her for the world. When love walks in and hits you on the chin it's as simple as that.
..... Me and my mate Roy had arranged a cycling holiday all around Southern England; we were going on the Saturday. A couple of days before Roy came round and said that we couldn't go. "Why not?" I asked. "Because," he replied, "I've got two tickets for the Olympic Games that day." 1948 was the year the Olympic Games were held in London. Roy's dad ran for Highgate Harriers and Reigate Priory and had got him two 3/6d tickets for that Saturday. We went to Wembley and saw the great Fanny Blankers-Koen, who won several gold medals at that 1948 games. We saw the end of the marathon when Delfo Cabrera from the Argentine won. We saw Murray Halberg from New Zealand, who only had one good arm, compete in the 5000 metres. And we saw the 100 metres; I remember that Harrison Dillard of the USA won it, Barney Ewell of the USA was second, Lloyd LaBeach of Panama was third, and Alistair McCorquodale of Great Britain was fourth.
..... I had about seven jobs in the space of a year. One was making breezeblocks with a couple of ex-RAF fellows at the NAAFI at Salfords. Then I worked at Fullers Earth, then in the building trade and then at the Post Office. By this time it was 1950 and Mary and I got married. We were first married at the Reigate Register Office, then when our first daughter was confirmed at St Joseph's, Redhill, we were married there at the same time. Mary was still working at the Royal Earlswood Institution and I asked her to get me a job interview with Mr Rake, the chief male nurse, which she did and I was successful. I started on the ward for junior third class small boys when I was twenty-two and I retired when I was sixty-two. I had forty years there. I started as an assistant nurse, then became a state enrolled nurse and then a senior state enrolled nurse. It was a wonderful job, I enjoyed every day of it. I used to take patients on holiday, write letters for them, take them on walks. The Institution had a holiday home at Worthing and the last holiday I took patients on was to there. I had to look after their medication and money and made sure they had good meals. others places I took patients was Thorpe Park, Kew Gardens, Windsor Safari Park; they had some lovely outings. There was another holiday home at Walton-on-the-Naze.
..... My brother Harry got married and took over half the house that my Mum still lived in when Mrs Matthews died. I got married in 1950 just as Harry got a council house in Willow Road so I took over the two up and two down with my Mum moving into the rooms Mrs Matthews once had. About two years later I managed to get enough money together to get electricity put in, it cost me twenty-eight pounds for eight lights - no power points, just the lights. When our two liitle girls came along they'd come down the stairs in the morning and go straight into Nanny's room and she'd give them chocolate biscuits and tea.
..... When my oldest daughter was about nine we got this council house. We had three places we could view, Batts Hill, Colesmead Road and here on the Doversgreen Estate. We couldn't believe our luck when we got this house. We had a garden and a bathroom; we'd never had a bathroom before. I walked up the garden and there were cauliflowers ready. I said to Mary, "We'll stop here."
..... Mary and I were married sixty years this March (2010).We got a letter from the Queen. Three weeks after that Mary died; she'd been ill for a couple of years, so we were expecting it. We had a wonderful life together, two daughters, four grandchildren, six great grandchildren.
..... Mary and I had a lovely do at the Home Cottage for our 60th anniversary. Mary dolled herself up and looked lovely. Because she was ill my daughters and I thought she'd have half an hour there - she was there until two o'clock in the morning, singing amongst other things Danny Boy, as all the Irish side of the family was there from Liverpool. It took a lot out of her though. She didn't want to go to hospital and died in my arms three weeks later. The funeral was at the Redhill Cemetery Chapel and then afterwards at the Home Cottage once more.
..... Almost all of my wife's family came to live in Redhill, some getting jobs where Mary worked at the Earlswood Institution.
..... I never had one day on the dole. Nowadays if you've got a job you've got to look after it; there's no such thing as a job for life any more. With school, the army, work and marriage I've had a good life