Susan Coney (née Phillips) is a prolific researcher and recorder of local history, especially about Truro. Here, she shares with us part seven of her memories of growing up during the 1940s to the 1960s, recalled and recorded during the 2020 Covid-19 lockdown.
Whilst jotting down these notes about my childhood memories, I realised that my most vivid ones are those from the spring and summer. It seems that this is so for most of us. I remember my Mum talking about her childhood and the lovely times she had during the long warm days of summer on her Dad’s small holding at Comprigney. As a child, the summers always seemed warmer and lighter than they are today.
There were many days spent on the beach, often with family and friends. The beaches we visited most often were Perranporth, Porthtowan and sometimes Newquay Harbour, Towan Beach or Porth. On some occasions, Dad would take us to Loe Beach on a summer evening.
Family and Friends at Perranporth about 1959
An evening outing to Loe Beach
Surfing at Porth 1960
We were lucky, Dad worked in Truro Garages and had a works van. He was also able to borrow a car for a few days and we went on holiday to stay with my aunts, two of my Dad’s sisters. One lived in Barnstaple and another in Swanage, then Bournemouth.
Many people like autumn, seeing all the colours of that season but for me it has always been a sad time of the year. I remember sitting on the swings in our garden and watching the swallows lining up on the telephone wires across the garden, chattering away. Mum used to say it was ‘swallow school’ as the parent birds were telling their fledglings which way to fly back to South Africa. For me, it meant the flowers and trees dying, going back to school (always on 8th Sept) and the change in the weather – the rain and wind of autumn storms followed by the ice and sometime snow of winter, and being cold. I hate being cold.
Mum changed the crisp white sheets on our beds for flannelette ones with extra blankets and an eiderdown. This made our beds very cosy and warm despite having ‘Jack Frost’ on the inside of the windows in the morning. Winter underwear was a thicker vest and liberty bodice and thick flannelette knickers (sometimes with a pocket in them for your hankie), and long socks, Winter school uniform was a box pleat gym slip and cardigan. I remember putting my underclothes in bed with me at night and in the morning dressing in bed.
I can’t remember what coat I had at infant and junior school but at senior school my gaberdine mac was soon changed for a duffle coat – the fashion of the time. I had woollen gloves or a muff when I was very young. The gloves were attached to a ‘string’ that went up the sleeves and around the back of your coat so that you wouldn’t lose them.
Coming home from school in winter, by the time I had walked from the bus stop and down the hill, my fingers were often blue with cold and my toes too. I used to thaw out by the open fire (no central heating in those days), but that meant chilblains – nasty itchy things. On a Wednesday, I had a pasty for tea (saved from dinner time) to warm me up: it was either made by my Grandmother or Mum. Nanny’s and Mum’s pasties were the best ever – so juicy.
I remember the autumn gales with the wind whistling around the house, swaying the big oak tree at the top of our garden. Sometimes, Dad liked to drive out to the coast when it was ‘blowing a hooley’, especially if there was a ship on the rocks. I used to go with him – must be the ancient wrecker instinct in us. I loved it – in my brown wellies and wrapped up in coat, hat and gloves – you had to stand at ‘45 degrees’ to stand upright – it would certainly ‘blow the cobwebs away’.
Then came bonfire night. Dad bought a few fireworks (as much as he could afford) and set them off in the garden with my sister, Mum and I watching from the porch. I always got cold very quickly and whinged. I was given a sparkler to hold but was pleased when it was all over. Mostly, I hated the few weeks running up to Guy Fawkes night as the boys used to buy bangers and jumping jacks and throw them at the girls when we got off the bus – horrible little boys.
I was in the St John Ambulance Brigade from about aged eight until I was fifteen, (Dad was a member from his teenage years until he was in his late sixties). I still do envelope corners on my bed sheets, a triangular badge arm sling and bandaging around an elbow or knee.
Leading up to the Remembrance Day Parade through Truro, we practised marching including turns and standing to attention etc. in the St John Ambulance Hall in City Road. You would think, as I always felt the cold, I would wrap up warm for the parade but no, I insisted on just wearing my uniform which was a grey cotton short sleeved dress with white cuffs and no coat! How stupid was that – I was shivering standing at the war memorial. That was until I got older and had a bit more sense when I wore a mac over my uniform.
St John Ambulance Truro about 1955
Remembrance Sunday parade, Truro 1962
The days became shorter – getting up in the dark and coming home in the fading light – it all seemed very sad and, to a child, Christmas was an age away!
Although I was never very interested in history at school, it is now a big part of my life. I enjoy both the research and writing about it. Initially, it was about my family and their involvement in the community but this sparked a more general interest in Cornish history, of its people and places. I have been involved in a number of projects relating to Truro and have enjoyed this opportunity to record the results for future generations.