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Banburyshire Family History

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go back to the last page you were on The Anderson Shelter


It started life as an Anderson shelter. Later it was designated as my centre of activities. The coalman would hoist a sack of coal onto his shoulder, trudge down the entry, through an interesting area we called the garden, and hurl the sack through the doorway of the shelter. Tipping coal out of the sack he closed his eyes to the dust, and so presented an interestingly dark complexion with two circular white patches around the eyes. Empty sacks were counted, and rewarded with Co-op tokens, purchased previously.

Photograph of Smokey at the time

"butter wouldn't melt...."

The floor of the shelter lay about two feet below ground level. I was entrusted with the heavy responsibility of organising its storage and arranging stock movement. On one side, the larger pieces, used to maintain the domestic fire, which was the source of hot water and toast on a prong. On the other side, smaller pieces, used when lighting a fire. The centre was my working area for riddling the smallest pieces (slack), into old buckets. This was used to back-up fires overnight and was very wet. I should confess, control of slack was never really successful; it appeared from nowhere, and supply easily exceeded consumption; the floor level gradually rose to meet ground level.

Dead fires also came into my remit. Riddled, large pieces of non-burnt coal were recovered, and the remaining ash (surprisingly fine, like flour) went to numbers 35 & 16, with their civic pride. I was allowed to construct new fires, which was quite an art (says he modestly); screwed newspaper, a grid of firewood, supported so as not to collapse too quickly, and pieces of coal individually positioned, of increasing size. I was not alas, sanctioned to provide the spark of life to my creation. It rankles still....

My involvement with the solid fuel industry knew no bounds. My grandparents lived several streets away, and behind their house ran a railway line from the colliery to a marshalling yard with the LMS railway. Grandfather had several friends at the colliery, and it was quite amazing how many lumps of coal fell off trains at the bottom of his garden. Step forward one solid fuel consultant, bucket in hand.

Written by Smokey