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Dot's story

LONDON

Photograph of child Dot I was still only 15 when I finally got out of the steel-works at Scunthorpe. I went to London to live with my sister. It was 1945 and the war was still on and it felt strange sitting in the dim light of a London bus in the blackout, no lights anywhere, just a tiny glimmer coming from the stairs that went down to the 'tube'.

By the time the war ended in September I was thoroughly enjoying myself - still 15, but I had a very full social life. Ballroom Dancing was my passion, and my job as a shopgirl in Woolworths was very much better than my job as a barrow girl, trundling half-hundredweight bags of filthy slag-dust from 7.30 in the morning until 5 at night for 30 shillings a week.

We would go to the Putney Palais de Danse every Saturday, and there were lots of forces home on leave to dance with. I didn't take up with anyone special - just had a bloody good time! We had all got used to taking everything in our stride; young peoples attitudes were very much "enjoy yourself while you can, cos a doodlebug or a V2 can get you any time of the day or night".

The lads on leave were certainly out for a good time and the Palais was where they went to have it. Not at all like today though - there was no bar for a start. At the interval we would all have cups of tea and a slice of cake. Socialising didn't mean getting tiddley, and being sober didn't stop you having a bloomin good time.

Another difference was that we could walk back the couple of miles or so from Putney Palais at midnight without any fear at all. You would pass people, lots of people, sometime a soldier or a sailor would say "give us a kiss love" and you'd give him a kiss if you liked the look of him, but there was never any thought at all that you might suddenly be attacked by anybody.

Strangely, our determination to enjoy ourselves carried over past the end of the war, and looking back I can see that my generation considered war conditions to be 'normal' and we found it very hard to change our attitudes.

But all of a sudden we had all these soldiers and sailors coming back from the war, all wanting to get stuck in to a 'normal life' except that they wanted it to be different from what they had before the war. You know, a proper Health Service and such for a start.

Dot Baker

Dot has written other stories about her childhood :


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