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Pamela's story

Yanks! - a London childhood

The City Authorities would regularly send people (women with small children) out of the City, into the country for safety. Mother would go with much grumbling and complaining. She was a City person.

The train would be packed to the limit with American soldiers coming and going somewhere. Every seat was taken, every foot of ground had someone crammed into it. As a small child, I could not step over the rucksacks or around the people, so the soldiers would pass me down the corridor, from hand to hand, with my mother trying to keep up. And they gave me chewing gum! I learned to say “Any gum, chum?” for a stick of Wrigley’s Spearmint gum.

Those yanks! I thought they were the grandest, most glamorous people in the world.

Easy smiling, handsome, glamorous looking, movie-star sounding, generous and friendly.

Yanks! With oranges and chocolate bars in their backpacks, silk stockings in their hip pocket, chewing gum (Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit) in their hands. All to be given away, to us, if only we can get to talk to them. If only your young and pretty aunt will go dancing with one, and then invite him home for tea.

They aren't like us English. To be proper we must be standoffish, serious, and quiet. (Children should be seen and not heard). And we shouldn’t want or take more than one of anything.

But the Yanks! Their uniforms are smooth and beautiful; their movements are relaxed, spacious. They take up lots of space, just standing there. They have wonderful accents. Sometimes hard to understand, but wonderful to hear when they draaawl their words. It sounds soft, unthreatening, friendly. They talk easily, loudly to each other - they laugh easily, out loud, even in public places!

They like children! How astonishing - they actually like children! Talk to us, tousle our hair, sit us on their laps, tell us we’re cute (what’s cute??), give us sticks of gum. And we don’t have to save it - we can eat it. Before dinner! And they don’t get angry if we ask for more. Or if we hang around them, stay close, touch them. This must be what having a father is like.

Age 5 - in love. Head-over-heels madly in love - with Yanks.

10th October, 2001

You can read Pamela's story "the stolen fruit" if you click here. Pamela and her family eventually emigrated to the US and she now lives in New Jersey. She is a member of the TIMEWITNESSES Panel of Elders and you can write and ask her questions if you click here.

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