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Banburyshire Family History

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Muriel Wells

To begin with, no-one younger will appreciate just how cold it became in the late 1940s. A mini ice-age, not as severe as that of the 16th century, when the Thames froze over and the activities of the town spread over onto the ice ---- hot chestnut stalls and the like, and of course --- skating. But for all that 1946/47 brought deep snows, hard frosts, and perhaps we felt the cold more as rationing was still in force. Britain was expected to "do her bit" in feeding liberated Europe, so many foodstuffs were in shorter supply than during the war! There is nothing better to counter the cold than a good feed, and unfortunately we weren't able to have that, although our mothers, bless them, did their best.

Now about the COKE. Not that nasty stuff that is ruining so many lives nowadays, but the byproduct of domestic gas production.

In Coventry, the gasworks was in Foleshill ---- my suburb! Word got around that coke would be available, to the public presenting themselves at the gate, with one bag allowed per person.

Now put yourselves back into a time when very few families had a car, and the few that did had problems getting petrol and had to eke it out. So no-one rolled up to the gates, packed to the gunnels with family members and progeny (no seat belts restricting numbers then), to fill up the boot and perhaps a towed trailer!

No. We slogged up the Foleshill Road, on "Shanks's Pony" and queued until the gates opened. In my family, Dad being at work, we mustered Mum, my younger sister, my brother of around 8 or 9 years old and me. We had a bicycle and an old pram with us. We queued and queued in the cold, stamping our feet and banging our arms to keep the circulation going. Ah, at last the gates opened and we trouped in! With our one sack each we loaded the pram and put one on the bicycle crossbar and walked back. A very tired group reached home, but all glowing with satisfaction. Coke on its own didn't make a good domestic fire, but eked out our meagre coal ration. Combined, as only our mothers knew how, they burnt well to provide welcome warmth.

Which reminds me I must go and put more wood on the wood burner --- a chill is creeping in!

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Written by Muriel Wells