SHELBOURN, Nina Adelaide
- Born: 25 Sep 1934, North Witham (nr Grantham), West Kestaven, Lincolnshire
- Marriage: PETHO, Steve (Istvan)
My Memoirs - Nina Adelaide Petho - nee Shelbourn
I have often considered writing my memoirs - mainly for family interest - and today - being cold, wet and miserable seems like a good time to start.
One often wonders if our earliest memories are actual memories or just what we recall of events that have been relayed to us from older family members. Nevertheless, I can clearly recall several events that must have occurred when I was around the age of four but I need to go back a few years earlier to fill in a few relevant details.
I was actually born when my parents Gladys and Robert were living in Nth Witham, Lincolnshire. Dad was working at Frodinghams Open Cut Iron Ore mine and Mum was the landlady of the Village pub. At that time they already had two children - Rex the eldest born in Nov 1929, Rosemary born in March 1932 and I arrived in September 1934. I understand they moved to Hilltop Farm Wyville to live with my maternal grandfather, a widower, when I was a toddler. Grandad Burton had taken on running the Hilltop farm after leaving Southwark Mews, London where he ran a hansom cab and with his wife Rose, had raised their eight children. I believe apart from his love of animals, and horses in particular, he was not a very good farmer.
There seemed to always be a number of our extended family staying with us at Wyville. On one such occasion I fell into a stone horse trough and was rescued by cousin Jim. The older kids were catching small fish in the stream and putting them into the trough and, taking a peek, I fell in. On another occasion I fell off a three-legged stool hitting my leg on an iron saucepan, which resulted in a broken leg. Another time, following Rosemary and Rex along a path we came to a nest of ants the other two were big enough to jump over but I hesitated resulting in the ants swarming up my legs - another painful episode. It was at Wyville that I found some old coins near the outer wall of one of the buildings - possibly tossed under the foundations before construction - a custom in some parts of England in bygone days.
From Wyville we moved to a rented farm cottage at Walton Farm - I do not think we lived there very long and Mum said many times it was an awful place. It was there I learned to collect the eggs from the chooks and also to tell the difference between real eggs and pot eggs (put under the chooks to encourage them to lay). One of the farm cats had kittens in a rug in our staircase cupboard - Mum did not particularly like cats so we were not able to keep them. I also used to watch the farmer dipping the sheep.
I can also remember the bluebells in nearby woods so I think we must still have been there during the spring.
Our next home was Brook Cottage, Gunby. It was a beautiful old two storey home, previously used as the village vicarage .It had bay windows, ivy clad walls - a large garden with a stream running through the bottom of it, a summer house, several out-buildings and lots of fruit trees. There was a rope swing on one of the stouter limbs of the old walnut tree. The lower lawn was large enough for a tennis court and although at one stage we had a net and the court marked out I do not recall playing tennis very often. Next to Brook Cottage was an old orchard with wild fruit trees and the scattered remains of two old cottages - here we kids created many childhood adventures. The fact that there was no electricity or telephone in Brook Cottage was not important in those days. It was the perfect home for children to grow and play - and this we did.
The village of Gunby was just one street and Brook Cottage was on the outer edge. There was a church but no shops or pub. Our grocery supplies and meat were delivered - no supermarkets in those days. Occasionally we would all go, by bus, to Grantham for a days outing. We used to visit one of our Mothers Cousins who owned a butchers shop. We were allowed to watch the sausages being made and then sit down to a lovely lunch with the family. I remember being given a small bottle of tomato sauce that I had taken a shine to during one such lunch.
By now we were four - Thea being the latest addition born in 1938. The war broke out in 1939 - at first life in the country seemed much the same but slowly things changed. We were all required to carry a gas mask at all times. I remember us all being fitted with one and from then on the little bag containing it went everywhere with us. Except, on one of our outings to Grantham when we all left our gas masks at home and were unfortunate enough to get caught up in a Fire Drill where teargas was used - possibly to impress on the general public the importance of 'being prepared". A very tearful experience!
I can recall the last bananas we had before they were unobtainable - the Beechams were staying with us and Aunty Nellie made the banana custard we talked her into putting all the bananas into it - never realising these would be the last bananas we would see for many years. Oranges were only available for babies and people on special diets. Meat and groceries were strictly rationed, as were confectionery and all clothing and Manchester items. In spite of all this we lived extremely well - Dad had a vegetable garden we had chickens, ducks, goats for milking, pigs, and at one time a cow. Wild rabbits were also a regular item on the dinner table and, as our Mum was an excellent cook, they always tasted delicious.
On numerous occasions, we kids would hand feed baby lambs that had lost their mothers during birth. We once hand reared two calves only to find out later that they were destined for the dinner table - not one of us could partake. We had a dog called flossy - a white bull terrier - she was not a very pretty dog but had a wonderful nature. We also had a very lively chestnut pony which none of us could ride but we did have an occasional ride in the pony trap. Our main mode of transport were push bikes - Dad's little car sat in the garage all through the war years as petrol was strictly rationed and we, as an ordinary family, were not eligible for any at all. Our cousin Mary stayed with us for several months along with an evacuee from Birmingham called Margaret. It was common practice during the war to move the children into the country area due to heavy bombing in some of the larger cities. Indeed whilst Margaret was with us her home was badly damaged in an air raid but thankfully her family were OK.
During the latter part of the war we experienced many air raids - I believe that this was due to the air force bases and dromes that were scattered around that part of England. These were pretty scary times and the nights spent in the dark, musty cellar under the house something of a nightmare. I can vividly recall a recurring dream that stayed with me through out our time at Gunby - I was standing looking up at the house that was just a burnt out shell. with the moonlight shining through the empty upstairs windows. One very sad incident- an RAAF plane came down in a field of sheep a short distance from Brook Cottage. Rosemary and Rex ran over to see what had happened but I was not allowed to follow them. Probably just as well as it was not a pretty sight.
In spite of all the restrictions life at Gunby would have had to be as close to perfect as possible during those troubled times. Our Mum was something of a marvel - there was an endless stream of visitors, from relatives to comparative strangers who all enjoyed her warm hospitality. . I often wondered how she managed. Grandfather Burton would stay with us for several months at a time he just moved between his sons and daughters homes spending time with each one. We always enjoyed his visits. During the summer months we would roam the fields picking blackberries, mushrooms and collecting wildflowers. Our entertainment was musical evenings; usually with Rosemary playing piano and family sing songs. When relatives were there we girls often put on a concert of sorts - which we all enjoyed - I suppose the adults did also. We played cards, endless games of ludo and snakes and ladders and knitted numerous squares for blankets and socks for soldiers among other things.
It was during one of the summer holidays when Brook Cottage seemed to be full of cousins with the usual childhood arguments and squabbles taking place, that Mary (Beecham) and I vowed that we two would never again argue with each other, and, from that day on we never did.
Rosemary was taken ill at one stage with rheumatic fever and because of her love of music and to help with her recovery, Dad bought a piano accordion and an old wind up gramophone. Both added to our home entertainment. Life was never dull.
School was a mile away in Sewston - one open classroom with one teacher in charge of all the grades from 5 years of age through to the 11 plus. I was lucky in my early years there to have an older brother and sister to look out for me but during our years at Gunby both Rosemary and Rex moved on to Secondary schools in Grantham - a few miles away. I was left to deal with our spoilt sister Thea. Being in the same classroom she would not let me out of her sight and would let out a piercing scream if I left the room with out her. Even getting to school was a problem - she had learnt to ride a bike but only if she could be put on and taken off. This I had to do several times to and from school, as neither would she ride on a slope - of which there were several!
Towards the end of the war years - possibly late 1944 - things changed dramatically. Dad always played the Littlewoods Footballs Pools and had for many years put in the same entry. Finally it came in for him with the princely sum of approximately Four and a half thousand English pounds. - Quite a fortune in those days. It was soon after that we left Gunby and moved to Skegness - a seaside resort. For us it was quite an adventure. Our first home was a typical English guesthouse -" Cintra" - four floors plus a basement in a row of four houses. I believe the remainder of the row had been bombed and was now just vacant land. Rex went to work as an apprentice motor mechanic, Rosemary to the High School for some time before working for the local paper - it seemed such an exciting job - I was very proud of her. Thea and I went to the Primary School, which, being a much bigger school meant I did not have to be in the same room with Thea and her tantrums. The following year I moved on to Skegness Grammar - which was a delightful experience - the memories of which I will always treasure. Rosemary and I joined the Guides and although Rosemary dropped out at some stage I continued until we left England. It was here that I first learnt to enjoy camping - it always seemed to be such a great adventure.
Again our home was open to all, apart from the paying summer guests Mum took under her wing several young airmen and naval boys along with some young naval women who were stationed nearby. With Rosemary at the piano the musical evenings continued. Next to the house was a picture theatre and we kids spent many an enjoyable afternoon in the nine-penny stalls. In the house next door were two Jewish men married to two Irish girls - a strange mix, but as I recall all lovely people and good friends to us all. Next to them the Large family, Blanche Large living up to her name and as happy and jolly a person as one could meet. Skegness was quite an exciting place for me having lived all my life previously in the country. There was a boating lake, where I learned to row, a roller-skating rink and after the war the Billy Butlins Theme Park. We were never short of something to do.
The war ended whilst we were living at Cintra - I can still recall the rowdy but joyful celebrations. With the ending of the war hotels that had been used by the forces as billets became available, and one such place, Carrisbrooke became our next home.
It had been badly neglected during the war years so was cleaned and painted throughout and restored to its former glory before we moved in. It was well situated on the seafront and with Mum and Dad being such good hosts was never lacking in paying guests. Although it was always interesting to have a house full of guests I preferred it during the off-season when we could choose a room to ourselves. I seem to recall that instead of the china basin and jug each room had a small washbasin with running water, which, in those days, was quite a luxury. Petrol became available and Dad bought a very smart looking maroon car. I do not recall going out in it very often as most things were within walking distance but I think Dad often used it to collect guests from the railway station. Once again, our main mode of transport was bikes or as most things were within walking distance, on foot.
Although it always seemed that we had Aunts, Uncles and cousins staying with us during holiday periods there were occasions when we also visited some of them. The first I recall was in 1938 when Rosemary and I stayed with an Uncle Geoff (Mums cousin) and Aunty Rene in Birmingham when Thea was born - it was in November and we both had our first experience visiting Father Christmas in a local store. We also went once or twice to Mums brother and Wife Rose in Boston - not a good experience - the house was an awful mess. I stayed a few times with the Beechams in Lowestoft- they had a grocery shop at that time which was full of delightful smells and I always enjoyed being shown around by Mary - she seemed to know everybody for miles around. On another occasion I can recall Rosemary, Mary and myself staying with Aunty Emily in Doncaster - it was here that I saw a movie for the first time. Although the Brewers from London were regular visitors over the years we never actually went to London to visit them until a few weeks before we left England.
Nina married Steve (Istvan) PETHO. (Steve (Istvan) PETHO was born on 8 Jul 1928 in Hungary.)