JUST PETER (with
apologies to Richmal Crompton!) AND AN INCENDIARY TALE
During WW2 and
just beyond life was more ordered, and for children much more free. When kids
were not at school they were allowed out to look after themselves until hunger
drove them home. We were often 'missing' all day.
local Sheldon kids formed themselves into gangs. Not the modern, sometimes
violent, and often vandalising gangs of now. It was more about climbing trees,
swinging on ropes from trees over the local brook, and playing Cowboys and
Indians based upon the epic films at the Tivoli cinema at the Saturday morning
children's matinee in Yardley. We walked to the cinema and re-enacted the films
on the homeward trek.
Our gang ran
fairly wild over the local farmland where now stands a housing estate, ice
rink, library, a retirement home, doctor's surgery, shops and the brook is now
in pipes underground.
Our pride and
joy was our den. This was dug into a small hillside, roofed and walled with
scavenged corrugated iron and turf placed over it for camouflage. This den was
on a rough, grassy hilly island, surrounded by wheat and barley fields. Access
was across a path used by the farmer and his tractor, and left no trace of
passing gangsters. Here the gang met, planned their days.
the brook where sticklebacks were caught and released, and black, fat,
squirming, leeches were brushed from our 'wellies' with sticks.
particularly idyllic hot summers day the gang met and sat round a campfire
outside the den. Unfortunately the surrounding grass caught fire and despite
much beating with coats and pieces of old packing cases quickly spread to the
cornfield. There was not too much flame but the smoke was intense which was our
A line of small
boys crawled through the wheat and barley under cover of the smoke to emerge by
three fire engines. The fire was quickly put out and not too much harm was
done. We stood angelically by as the firemen explained to the assembled throng
that it was undoubtedly an incendiary bomb that had failed to detonate on
impact and had been set of by the sun heating it.
Our secret has
remained until this day, so please do not tell anyone.
By Peter G
Pigden (Aged 68 years)