Friday, May 8, 2020

A Day to Remember

In Beeston, as well as throughout the country, the end of World War 2 came as a tremendous relief. It was a time to put our continuing troubles behind us and to celebrate and rejoice - and it goes without saying that the citizens of Beeston were determined to be part of it.

Flags and bunting appeared throughout the streets, preparations for street parties were made - not an easy task with rationing restrictions - and people dared to look to a better future.

I was only six years old when the war ended on May 8 1945 but I still have memories that have set that day apart.  On Wallett Avenue, where we lived at the time,  a massive bonfire was built around the lamp post that stood in the middle of the small island in the road at the junction with Central Avenue. Clearly, the impressive fire that became the centrepiece of the celebrations on our street could not have done the lamp post much good but nobody worried too much about that - and everyone was saying that it looked like the authorities had "turned a blind eye" so that seemed alright. As I had  never seen a street lamp lit it made little difference to me! The war was over - that was the main thing !

On the day and over the next several days, many children enjoyed the parties which were held in many of the streets throughout the town. I don't remember a street party in Wallett Avenure - I am sure I would if there was one!  But the one on the next street, Clifford Avenue was an event to remember, the parties on Windsor Street and  Mona Street were particularly impressive and those on Regent Street (shown here), Chilwell Road, Derby Street, Park Street and elsewhere were thoroughly enjoyed.

Just two days days later the celebrations in Beeston  became larger  in scale when an open-air dance was held on Dovecote Lane recreation ground. Ericssons had installed coloured floodlighting and music was provided by Charles Trapp on his Hammond organ - and 7,000 people were there, enthusiastically taking part in the programme of dancing and community singing. A great occasion for everyone - young or old.

And on the Sunday that followed, an open-air Thanksgiving Service was held - again on Dovecote Lane recreation ground - led by the Vicar, Rev. J P Halet and  Rev Iram G Wall for the Methodist Churches.

For those families that had lost loved ones, it must have been a difficult time, one to reflect on what might have been. Those, in particular, we must never forget.

In many Beeston families - as everywhere - the husband, father, son or other loved one had been away for several years - some in circumstances where there was little or even no knowledge of their fate. One group - prisoners of war - began to arrive home immediately. Among these were two men who were well known in the Beeston community - Roland Jones was the son of the Beeston Evangelist, Tom Jones, known as 'The Singing Pastor", who had been the Minister at Wollaton Road Methodist and was soon to become the founder of the Evangelical Free Church on Broadgate. Roland had volunteered with the Royal Army Service Corps in 1939 and was serving in North Africa as a Sergeant when he was taken prisoner.  And for Murial Shaw it was "A real VE-Day for me" as her husband, Flying Officer Richard S Shaw was flown home after release from a prison camp in Germany. He had been captured following a raid on Milan in 1942 - just a few months after their marriage. Richard had worked for the local council before the war and was to return to that role after his return. Many Beeston people will remember Dick Shaw as Housing Manager for many of the post-war years.

And there was a steady stream of returning soldiers, sailors and airmen - something I well remember. My dad would improvise a flag pole and fly a flag whenever someone returned to a family in the street   And, in my Infants class, the door would open and a message delivered to the teacher. Then - "Jimmy, you may go home. Your daddy has returned". Many happy boys and girls received similar glad tidings and I was pleased for them - but it didn't happen to me. My dad had served in World War 1 and I never experienced him being away so I never got the chance to go home early!

But there was a long way to go before things would settle down again to the 'normal' we hoped for. But yes, it was a time to pause and rejoice - and we did - with gratitude and confidence. It was indeed, a day to remember.

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