Wartime evacuation remembered

PUBLISHED: 14:05 09 January 2010 | UPDATED: 11:32 25 May 2010

Nick Reynolds today at his home in Israel.

Nick Reynolds today at his home in Israel.

PLUCKED from home during wartime and deposited in a strange town far away from familiar surroundings.

Nick Reynolds aged six, pictured with his old brother

PLUCKED from home during wartime and deposited in a strange town far away from familiar surroundings.

The story was a familiar one for tens of thousands of evacuees during World War Two, with many creating new homes in Weston far from the big city bombing targets.

Weston evacuee Nick Reynolds - now a pensioner living in Israel - recalls fond memories of his time in Somerset, and shares recollections of some names and places which readers might recognise.

My first meeting with Weston was around 70 years ago. I was about two and World War Two had been going for a couple of months. We were evacuated from London. I don't know who chose Weston -was it the evacuation authorities or my father? But anywhere, that's where we were.

My father -George Reynold - decided to open an eating place, The Hollywood Café in Regent Street, almost opposite the floral clock. It's not there any more, but the old timers will remember it.

We started off by living in the flat above the café, and what with the cooking smells and grease and the noise and the general tension, they were hard times.

It was transport café food, and the customers were mostly the air force boys from Locking camp, who didn't have much to do in their spare time other than eat.

Just a few doors from the Hollywood was a sweet shop run by Max Zimmerman, and his brother. I don't know why I remember that - maybe it was the association of children and sweets?

When the air raid sirens began to wail my parents, brother and I went down and huddled under the stairs.

They told me that the German bombers were not really bombing Weston. The main target was the Cardiff Docks, but if they had any bombs left over on the journey back they dropped them on us.

The following morning we wandered around the streets assessing the damage and watching the workman knocking down the broken buildings and piling up the bricks. But seemingly the damage was not too great.

In our time in Weston we lived in two other houses.

The first was in the row immediately opposite the station, which today looks exactly the same as it did all those years ago. In the area in front of the station was a huge barrage balloon which I was very impressed by.

We lived upstairs, and down below were Mr and Mrs Small. He worked on the pier as an electrician, and they had two sons, Norman and David, one of whom worked in WH Smith and the other was a shoe salesman, both in High Street.

And then we lived on Milton Road.

In those days there was a second railway station there for a while. I went to a school which I think was called Kingsholme on the Upper Bristol Road.

I walked to school through the cemetery and I used to talk to the grave diggers and ask: "Who is that grave going to be for?"

One day one of them told me it was for a German pilot who had crashed, or been shot down, and I couldn't quite understand that because they were supposed to be the enemy.

We used to come back to Weston-Super-Mare (it was only much later that I realized that Super Mare means 'On Sea') for many years as my father still had business interests there.

One of my greatest joys as a young lad was to watch Somerset play at Clarence Park. Three matches there were, one of them usually against Glamorgan, and the names - Gimblett, Wellard (he held the record for the most sixes in an over), Lee, Bertie Buse, Horace Hazell, RJO Meyer, Maurice Tremlett, Harold Stephenson - were my heroes.

But I understand the tradition stopped some time ago, and the tents, the beer, the cockles, and the tiny pavilion are no more.

My mother used to love the sea. Not the sandy part where the donkeys were, but the rocky part at Anchor Head, with trays of tea from the little café, and we used to swim off the groin and have a wonderful time.

The crabs, and the sea weed and the boats. They must still be there.

One of the boatmen was Jim Tancock, and his family was very involved with the swimming and water polo at Knightstone Baths. His daughter was Molly if I am not wrong. It was all very exciting and there were visiting teams, even from London.

I now live abroad but see a lot of English news. I saw for instance that there was a Tancock in the last Olympics - the same family, I wonder? - and I heard that the wonderful famous pier was damaged. This is no less than a national tragedy.

I remember fondly the charabancs - Do we still use that word? -Cheddar Gorge, Wells Cathedral, Clevedon and Portishead, I remember the Campbell steamers from the Old Pier to Barry Island, Cardiff, Penarth and even Ilfracombe.

But the pier is in bad shape and the steamers must have retired many years ago.

One very special trip I recall was a flight in a very small plane to Cardiff. I must have been very young, but not scared if I remember correctly. I don't know if Weston airport was ever really commercial.

This has been a real trip down memory lane, and I am amazed that I remember so many names and places - only the older generation will relate to my musings.

Over the years I return to Weston from time to time. It's always a thrill, and it's amazing how little it has changed.

Even the goldfish are still there in the Winter Gardens.

Good old Weston, I really love you. Pity about the pier.

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