Mike Connelly

Memories of Tollerton in the 1940s taken from the December 2005 newsletter

I lived at Frankley Croft, Tollerton Lane, between 1938 and 1947, with my parents, John and Lily Connelly and my two sisters Shelagh and Eileen.

We attended the little school, run by Mrs Wayman, who was assisted by Mrs. Ball. In the winter the milk froze in the bottles and the crates were placed before a roaring fire. The thawing milk then rose inches high out of the bottles and was hot in parts and freezing in others.

Hugh Wayman played the organ at St. Peter’s church where I sang in the boys’ choir, after ringing the calling bell, or smiting the tubular bells with a mallet in my version of Big Ben’s chimes.

During the war on my way to Sunday School I frequently met prisoners of war on parole walking in the lane. They were in German or Italian uniforms and were quite happy to offer a Polo mint and chat in broken English.

The Americans made a great impression on me. At the time Tollerton Lane was half its present width, with ditches on either side of the tarmac. The tanks had their tracks, one on each grass verge, and huge lorries with their V8 engines caused all the kids to run behind them shouting “Got any gum, chum?” We always had packets of the long Spearmint gum thrown to us. The American base was supplied by air and us kids were rushed indoors as the brightly coloured nylon parachutes descended from the Dakota aircraft. (We were good at aircraft recognition – German, American and British – having thoroughly read the booklets issued to the Home Guard.) Shortly after the drop, jeeps scoured the fields, looking for missing parachutes. Us kids climbed aboard and, knowing the area intimately, directed the drivers to their supplies which were in large wicker hampers. We were usually given a tin of biscuits for our trouble. Near the end of the war, the Americans invited the locals to their camp where they were having an “open day”. My memories include a boxing match and my first taste of tinned sausages.

The names I remember: Mr MUIR who ran the garage at the junction of Tollerton Lane with the main Melton Road. He had an unfortunate accident with an axe whilst chopping logs and lost part of his foot, I think.

The ANDERSEN’S who ran the general store next to the butcher’s shop, where we used to watch with fascination as the sausages were being made and deftly twisted into loops.

Silvia HINDS who lived on the first corner, next to the telephone box where I made my first call as part of my Cub training to Eric LAMB, who lived on the Cotgrave Lane in a house aptly named The Fold.

Mr & Mrs BALL and their sons, Tony and Adrian. They owned a fierce looking Staffordshire bull terrier.

Mr PALMER who’s greenhouse I broke with a badly (well!) aimed stone.

Mr GRIST who owned an old Armstrong Siddeley car.

Mrs WATHIS an elderly lady living on her own who’s lawn I mowed at a time when the lawn mower was taller than I was.

Mr HAYDAY an MP I think.

Bill LANE who lived opposite our house and who taught me to fish in the canal under the hump backed bridge, and who kindly allowed me to ride his “grown up” bike. His dad had made a swing in their garden by tying a pair of ropes to a very high tree.

Brian HEASON who was always messing about with electrical components. His dad once gave me a ride in his green (Jowett?) van.

Stanley & Peggy HEASON, Richard, Penny and Hilary who occasionally came to stay with us in Devon in the early 50s.

Hayward and Mrs MOWL. Their son David spent a lot of time with us and I still have his photo somewhere. Hayward ran the cubs when home from the Navy and owned a Morris Series E car. I remember going to Patsy MOWL’S christening at Plumtree church. We were often “baby sat” by Mrs Mowl or Peggy Heason. The three mothers, that included mine, took turns, looking after the kids. We had some wonderful parties out in the garden in the hot weather which we always seemed to get in those days.

Mr & Mrs WAYMAN (I have a photo showing Sgt Wayman sitting proudly with the local Home Guard Unit. Mr BIRKETT a very tall man also features).

June BURDEN who lived at the top of the rise.

John and Kenneth BLOWER on whose little child’s bike I learned to ride around their circular flower bed whilst they were called to lunch.

John ULLIOT, who lived at 97 Tollerton Lane, on the corner of Medina Drive opposite Farmer BROWN’S farm, where we climbed the chestnut trees and watched the threshing being done by a steam traction engine and long belt drives.

My mother took some of us to the Nottingham swimming baths and during the time that we were in the water, some rogue stole John’s trousers. We kids had to sit in the viewing area with a shivering John whilst my mother caught a bus to Tollerton to obtain a spare pair from his mum). I remember a very old car, probably pre-1920’s stored in one of the farm outbuildings, with woodworm in the wood, and insects in the leather.

Marshall HORNBY who lived at 5 Medina Drive and Barry WATSON  who lived at 18 Medina Drive. Medina Drive was still under construction.

One day at Sunday school, which was held in the Rectory rooms by the church and contained a snooker table, we ran outside to watch a flight of hundreds of aircraft of all shapes and sizes, towing Horsa gliders and travelling south. I guess they were on their way to Arnhem, where many of the men would die or be made prisoner.

I remember the “Tinker Man” who visited the village in his Morris Commercial high sided van. He parked in the road (no other traffic to bother him) and opened up the side of the vehicle, which was full of everything you can imagine. Amongst other things, I can remember buying a bicycle red rear light and my favourite of all, Oxo cubes, at one farthing each, which I ate like sweets! He also sharpened knives and mended saucepans, which seemed to sprout holes in those day, with metal discs and washers, held together with a tiny nut and bolt. It cured the leak but the pans didn’t sit very well on the stove thereafter. I wonder if anybody else remembers him?

I returned to Tollerton with my daughter in August 1995 to show her where I had spent my formative years. The oilseed rape fields were at their best and the temperature was in the 90’s. We looked at the airfield and I remembered the Harvard trainers and their unique sound. I also remembered seeing an American Lightning fighter disappearing over the distant wood in flames and the pilot descending on his parachute. Also a Lancaster bomber which had returned from an air raid in a damaged condition and, having overshot the runway, ended up with its nose hanging over the lane near the hangars.

At a demonstration of bombing after the war, we watched a Tiger Moth aircraft bombing the occupants of an open jeep with bags of flour and soot. Unfortunately the aim was good and a Jeep passenger received a direct hit and was killed. A tragic way to end the war.

My thanks to Hilary Heason (editor of the newsletter) for her article. It has revived memories which I never expected to recall. I hope to return again some day.

 

Mike CONNELLY