After arriving in Montreal we were taken by train to Boston. We arrived in Boston on August 24, 1940. We were billetted at Wellesley College until allocated to local families. Wellesley College is a one of the best knon women's liberal arts college in America, one of the notable Seven Sisters. Many of the students returned early to College to look after us. Local children also used to come and play with us. I learned to ride a bike round the quad at Wellesley thanks to one boy. We couldn't have been made more welcome.
We lived with a family in Swampscott, Mass. I am still in touch with the last survivor who lives in a community for the elderly in Hanover N.H. I had wonderful teachers in America. Integration was a bit difficult. I was 9, nearly 10 years old when I went to American School. I was put in the 6th grade, so the rest of my class were two years older. I started school in UK when I was nearly four so I had a head start. Socially it made life difficult, but my classmates were tolerant. I was used to having an older brother and so having twenty-five older 'brothers' and 'sisters' was not the challenge that my brother had. He started in the 8th grade and he was only eleven, and still in short pants! I think that only lasted a few days before our guardians took pity on him and bought him some long trousers. I wore my prep school suit for a few weeks until the weather turned cold and I went into longs. A few boys wore knickers but only one in the 7th Grade.
One of the characteristic of America I probably did not appreciate at the time but do now, is their generosity. We evacuees were hosted in a variety of ways, one of which was Summer Camp. It was decided that we should go to summer camp, a standard experience for merican boys. My brother and I and several other boys were sent to Camp O-At-Ka on the shores of Lake Sebago, near Portland, Maine. Two years ago I found that all our wefare records are archived in York University, and I obtained photo copies. I was amazed at the constant welfare reports that my parents received from The American Committee. I remember a woman called Miss Hooper who used to visit us, but had no idea she reported back to my parents following each visit. She became known as 'Hooper the Snooper' to the family, but she was really quite nice.
America was not yet in the War. In fact because of the Neutrality Acts, there were all kinds of regulations on American ships going to Britain. Thus the Atlantic convoys critical to Britain sailed from Canadian ports. Our ship, the Duchess of Atholl brought us in safely to Montreal. We arrived July 24, 1940. Here is press cutting from the archive of Wellesley College, showing some of us standing on the quay in Montreal soon after our arrival (figure 1). I am the little blond nipper at the extreme left. After this photogtaph was taken, we collected our suitcases. We each had one small case. We were then shepherded by our 'minders' on to buses. We were fed and housed in some sort of institution. It had big rather bare dormatories sleeping probably 20 or 30 children. Boys in one dorm and girls in the other. I remember the beds being iron framed ones with very thin, hard matresses. There was almost no furniture. We were not impressed! It was, however, for only one night. The next morning we were bussed to the station and boarded our train to Boston. Graham and I kept our eyes peeled for cowboys and Indians, but alas they were no where to be found. Perhaps Graham had a little realistic expectations, but I was really expecting to see Indians chasing around cowboys and the cowboys firing bacvk with their sixguns like we saw in the movies. I was rather disappointed at the tranquil countrysidecwe passed through. Some of us went to Wellesley College, and some to the Home for Happy Wanderers also in Boston. We arrived in Boston after dusk, tired but excited.
After arriving in Montreal we were taken by train to Boston. We arrived in Boston on August 24, 1940. We were billetted at Wellesley College until allocated to local families. Wellesley College is a one of the best knon women's liberal arts college in America, one of the notable Seven Sisters. It is located, in Wellesley, Massachusetts, founded in 1875. A heated political debate was in progress in America at the time over aid to Britain. between the isolationists desiring to keep America from supporting Britain and President Roosevelt'd Administration which was determined to aid Britain. I am not sure how Wellesley fit in to this debate, but many important colleges and universites with traditions and ties to Britain were important supporters of the Administration. Many of the students returned early to College to look after us. Local children also used to come and play with us. I learned to ride a bike round the quad at Wellesley thanks to one boy. We couldn't have been made more welcome.
We had a wonderful host who took us both in, Itvwould have been very upsetting if we had been separated. We lived with a family in Swampscott, Masssachusetts. The husband of the family had been born in England (Leicester) and come to America in the early 1900s. He was a star football player (All American) for Dartmouth Class 1910. He was married to Miriam Blood, a well to do mercant grocers family. They owned several food markets in the Lynn area. Mr. B. worked in the HQ as a finance controller I think. I remember going in his office once and he was signing what seemed like hundreds of cheques. She was I know understand was a woindeful councilor. They had two Daughters, Deborah who was in her 20s, and Betsy about 16 and in High School. She is still alive and we call each other big sister and little brother. I am still in touch with her. She is the last survivor who lives in a community for the elderly in Hanover N.H.
You would think a 9-year old boy would soon be home sick. Actually I don't remember getting home sick at all. It was mnore like a great adventure. I was enjoying life in America too much. This of course speeks volumes about our American host family. We did meet other evacuees from time to time and I know Michael at camp was very home sick, but he was only 6. Also I think he had a double whammy, because having been recently separated from his parents, at camp he was separaed from his foster parents. I think he was too young to have been uprooted this second time. Actually 6 years old is younger than the age that most American kids are sent to camp or for that matter to boarding school in England.
From the moment we arrived in Massacgusetts, not only our host parents, but others were very generous and friendly to us. And this included the kids. I made many friends. One of the first was Richard Bamforth. I remember Richard very well after all these years. His was one of the first American houses I visited after starting school. I remember his mother making me so welcome. They lived in a part of Swamscott where several of our classmates lived. I lived probably a couple of miles away, but it didn't take long on my bike. The only problem was he lived at the top of quite a steep hill! I remember now why I never met Richard's father. He was in the Merchant Marine, a very dangerous occupation at the time. He was quite distinuished and worte a book several years after the War which Richard edited, called Iron Jaw. Richard grew up to be a clergyman. A very rich family lived across the road. They had a little girl named Patricia. We went to elementary school together.
I had wonderful teachers in America. Integration was a bit difficult. I was nine, nearly ten when I went to American School. I was put in the 6th grade, so the rest of my class were 2 years older. I started
school in UK when I was nearly four so I had a head start. Socially it made life difficult, but my classmates were tolerant. I was used to having an older brother and so having twenty-five older 'brothers' and 'sisters' was not the challenge that my brother had. He started in the 8th grade and he was only eleven, and still in short pants! I think that only lasted a few days before our guardians took pity on him and bought him some long trousers. I wore my prep school suit for a few weeks until the weather turned cold and I went into longs. A few boys wore knickers but only one in the 7th Grade. Because I had been taught Latin and French back in England, I used to go into the Junior High next door and have Latin and French with the 7th Graders. We were streamed when we went into Junior High and my stream was C1 which stood for 'College Grade 1. Academic status was respected,
so inspite of my age and small size, I was O.K. My accent caused interest. The kids used to come up to me and say "Talk, go on Talk, we love it." I had the reverse experience when I returned to England in 1945. My 100% American accent caused giggles in class if I had to read aloud.
We were limited to one small suitcase when we were evacuated. So we soom needed new clothes. The issue was particular pressing for Graham. My brother quickly got new clothes when school started. Our English short trouser school uniforms didm't come off well with his scjool mates. I soon got long trousees as well, although as I was a little younger it wasn't quite as big of an issue. I remember my first pair of long corduroy trousers in about 1943-44 while in America. They were rather uncomfortable when new as they were a bit stiff, but nothing like as stiff and board like as new jeans.
Our first introduction to American food was when we had a barbeque at Wellesley College and had hot dogs hamburgers and corn on the cob. I didn't like hotdogs at first. I think it was the 'goo' that was poured
over them. I didn't like onions or tomato sauce. I nearly always had my hot dogs unadulterated all the time I was in America and still do. Corn on the cob was great until I broke my two front teeth. Then I had some
difficulty eating it. I did like lots of butter on it. I don't think I missed tea or bangers. Actually at the time we left England the rationing had not become really severe. And our mother was a really good cook. I am sure if we had come a year later we would hsave been strucj by the sheer abundance of food. Our American family loved Roast beef and Yorkshire pudding.
I loved sports. Baseball was my favourite, perhaps because it had a vague similarity to cricket. I was a bit small for football, but I was a good drop kicker. We played tag football at school. I became a good skiier and was in the JV team at Vermont Academy. I did Slalom, down Hill and cross country. Jumping was my weak event, but I found it exhilarating.
One of the characteristic of America I probably did not appreciate at the time but do now, is their generosity. We evacuees were hosted in a variety of ways, one of which was Summer Camp. It was decided that we should go to summer camp, a standard experience for merican boys. My brother and I and several other boys were sent to Camp O-At-Ka on the shores of Lake Sebago, near Portland, Maine. Britain did not have summer camps like America. It was something I had never heard of before. Being a city child, I didn't know much about camping, and learned a lot of Natrure Craft there. I was not a Boy Scout so all the outdoors, nature stuff. Being surrounded by American boys all day long was also a step in my Americanization so to speak. Some of the youinger boys had trouble being away from home for the first time. My brother and I, however, were becoming increadsingly independent by this time.
While staying at my host families Summer home in Vermont we used to go to air craft recognition classes and take time 'plane spotting'. Our local post was a fire watch tower in the Coolidge State Forest. We reported every plane flying over. (Direction, Type of plane, High wing, midwing Under wing, No. of engines. Approx Height. Make of plane if known.
It was very boring as we used to see only one or two planes per four hour watch. I used to go with my 'Big Sister' The younger daughter of my host family. We had a phone with a crank handle to report our sightings. As we were in a forest fire watch tower, we reported smoke I recall as well. There was no opportunity to relieve our boredom with portable radio, tapes etc etc. Betsy taught me a bit about bird watching, which was fun.
As I mentioned, I was very young when I arrived in America. I did not undersand just what war was and what it was all about. My mind was elsewhere. I did not ask a lot of questions at first. As time passed I got vmore interested nd finally it became a passion. My room began to look like a war room with naps and colored pins. I followed the front as the Alloes closed in on the NAZIs. I llearned a huge amount about geography. I was most interested in Europe, but as I was in America, I balso followed developments in the Pacific. My major source was the newspapers. Our parents wrote often, but they seemed most concerned to assure us that they were fine.
Two years ago I found that all our wefare records are archived in York University, and I obtained photo copies. I was amazed at the constant welfare reports that my parents received from The American Committee. I
remember a woman called Miss Hooper who used to visit us, but had no idea she reported back to my parents following each visit. She became known as 'Hooper the Snooper' to the family, but she was really quite nice. Another lady with the rather Dikensian name of Miss Honeybun used to visit. She travelled back and forth from England and gave my parents a face to face reports. All these reports are in my file at York. The archivist at Wellesley College sent me quite a lot of contemporary newspaper reports with photos of our arrival, including the one here. The Welfare aspect was the American Committes responsibility. The Welfare issue cause some problems. There was an overall Welfare Officer for all the children admitted to America under the auspices of
the American Committee, Miss Honeybun. Some of the organisations, such a Kodak, Hoover and the Harvard-Oxford Groups resented what they considered her interference. They thought they were quite capable of managaing their own welfare arrangements and liasing with the children's parents in England through their own connections in England. I learned this from my personal file in the York University Archive.
I have one letter, which turned up several years later. When my foster mother died, the daughters had a clear out of the house, and found a book, Janes Fighting Aircraft 1939', which Dad had sent me as a Christmas present. They sent it to me. Inside the book was a covering letter dated November 1, 1940. By that time the Luftwaffe had been dealt a severe set back and had been forced to bomb only by night. Britain had stopped the NAZIs in their tracks, but America was not yet in the War and what laid ahead with the Germans controoling much of Europe was uncear. They did send gifts from time to time (birthdays and Christmas), but some were lost when the mail ships were sunk.
There were some special occassions that we evacuees were able to make contact with home. Some of us evacuee children were fortunate to have a visit from their fathers while in USA. John and Clare did. Their father was an Army Surgeon and found himself on a warship going to USA. I think it was for training or something. Anyway he got leave to see his kids. It was exceptional of course. A lot of British pilots trained in Canada and if they had kids in USA they could get leave to see them. Most of course were young and unmarried, but the instructors might have families. We did speak to our parents one Christmas by radio telephone, and the local radio station in Salem Massachusetts had some of us in the studio and the programme which was on the local radio was sent to the BBC and broadcast by them. Somewhere I have a press photo of us in the studio, but I can't
find it for the moment. The BBC Overseas Service allowed my parents to send a Christmas Message on air. It was 1941, I think. My host family didn't have short wave radio and we had to go to a friends house to hear it. Their voices were recognisable but there was a lot of 'static'. It was only one way, so they didn't know if we had heard them of not until that got our letters saying we had heard it. I think that was a great boost to everyone's morale.
We spent most of our time with our family and at school. Thus except for the reception at Wellesly College and the summer camp we attended, we did not have much contact with the other evacuees. But I know a little about some of the other children. Mosly these are the other boys we met at camp, but I have recently made contact to one of the girls in our group--Clare. I think that most of the children were happy in America and very well cared for. In general the younger children seem to have adjusted the easiest--except for one boy I met at summer camp who was probanly o young to be evacuated and was dreadfully home sick.
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