Growing up in Possilpark in World War Two - Scottish nostalgia
Memories of Glasgow in the Second World War. By Betty Walton.
I was a pupil at Possilpark School when an unexploded bomb landed there in World War Two. What joy, an extra day’s holiday, this was more important to an eleven-year-old than thinking of the consequences of being blown up.
At this age, war was a big adventure, an exciting time, when we often had to leave our beds in the middle of the night for the air raid shelters, carrying our gas masks. We accepted all of this, just living for the present and not thinking what the future held for us.
Life in Possilpark
Not that life was easy living in the tenements of Possilpark. Here, money was short but everyone was in the same boat, which made poverty more bearable. Once a month the rent had to be paid and this entailed a visit to the Factors Office two streets away. This was a task Ma loathed, especially when the payment (as was often the case) was overdue. My brother Andy had to do the deed in that case.
Ma would accompany us to the close mouth where the Factor lived and wait until Andy and I climbed the stairs leading to his office. I can still remember our dread on entering and being faced with the high counter, on which, standing on tiptoe, we’d deposit the rent book and money.
The Factor, a giant of a man, would glare down upon us from behind the desk, his spectacles dangling on the end of his nose, demanding to know the reason for the late payment.
Almost as scary was a visit to the library. We loved our library books and usually changed them once a week but what an ordeal it was. The chief librarian was a woman who hated all children and terrified the life out of us.
Dressed in a tweed skirt and twin set adorned by a double string of pearls, her unfriendly eyes, framed by thick glasses, penetrated into our very souls. As we placed our returning books on the counter, she’d demand in a thunderous voice ‘Hold out your hands!’ and shivering in our shoes, we’d hold them up for inspection. Only then were we allowed to choose a book. This had to be done in complete silence, as children weren’t allowed to speak within the library.
On one occasion I had to return a damaged book, the cover of which had been torn off by Judy, our newly-acquired puppy. We knew that the ‘wicked witch’ as we called her, usually had Tuesdays off, so we returned that day bearing the chewed book. But as Rabbie Burns once said, ‘The best laid plans o’mice and men gang aft aglay’ and there she stood in all her glory, like a female version of St Peter on judgement day.
We stood listening as she raved on about allowing dogs to chew library property, before banning us from the premises until we’d paid for the damage. Needless to say, we couldn’t afford the fine so it was some years before we could return to our beloved books and by that time she was, thankfully, no longer there.
(image copyright Daniel Naczk)