MEMORIES: THE WAY WE WERE
since retiring as a journalist, I write stories for children. During my days as a newspaper reporter, I was told dozens of stories each day. I find people still keep telling me stories. With their permission, I'm sharing them with you. This is the second in a new series of monthly blog posts featuring great tales told me by people I meet on and off the golf course. It could be something that happened last week, 10 years ago, 50 years ago - or even before they were born, passed down by their families.
This month, you will be whisked back to Bonny Scotland during the Second World War and to Michegan, in the US, in the 1960s. There's surprises, shockers and strange things happening.
During the Second World War, Ann lived in Scotstown, Banff, Scotland. She recalls a memorable incident.
"I was in a shop when a woman came in and said the last three houses in Scotstown had been bombed. My house was the third last, so I went rushing back. The houses were okay but the bomb had hit the whiskey distillery, and whiskey had poured into the stream.
"The ducks drank it and they were staggering about drunk. A fireman had filled his helmet with whiskey and he was walking around drinking form it."
Lois remembers a harrowing time in the autumn of 1962 when her family home burned down. At the time, Lois, her husband, and five children, aged from nine months to seven years, lived in her parent’s big, old farmhouse in Hillsdale, Michigan, USA.
"I went outside and looked up at the sky. I saw smoke rolling out of the house. I hollered to the kids, who were upstairs sleeping, to go across the road where my brother and his wife lived.
"My mother called the fire brigade and the older kids got the younger ones out. I went for my husband who was on a tractor with his brother. I ran after them for about 10 acres before they spotted me. My husband went back and got the baby out, who I hadn’t realised was still upstairs.
"The house was a complete loss. We didn’t save anything. It was so sad because it was my grandmother’s house and it was full of antiques."
The fire started in the attic due to a crack in the chimney. Lois’ parents moved into the former hen house until they could build a new house. Lois and her family moved in with her father-in-law, whose wife had just died.
"The house was freezing," she recalls. "It was the worst winter of my life. All the kids got sick but we all survived."
It is more than 50 years ago since Rose sat by the fireside in the living room of her home in Denton Burn, Newcastle, in North East England, when something strange happened. A storm raged outside. She could hear the crash of thunder and see the flash of lightning.
"There was a rumbling sound in the chimney, then a puff of smoke came out," she recalls. "All of a sudden, a flash of light shot across the room and out of the closed window.
"I was amazed. A thunderbolt had come down the chimney. I expected the window to break but it didn’t – it was most peculiar.
"I got the shock of my life."
Before retiring, Ken was a vetinerary surgeon in Shelton, Connecticut, USA. Down the street from his surgery, was a business with a big pond in front. One day, someone came into his surgery and said a snapping turtle had attacked a duck and its heart was hanging out.
"I told them to bring it straight to the surgery," he said. "Its heart wasn’t hanging out but it had a big gash on its neck.
"I stitched it up and put it in one of the dog cages to recover.
"The next morning when I got to work, I checked on the duck and there was a big duck egg in the cage. I figured it was the duck’s way of thanking me for my services."
PENNIES FROM HEAVEN
Geoffrey had a French godmother, who every year gave him £1 at Christmas.
"I got £1 - from my first Christmas until I was 21. The amount never changed. When I was young, £1 was a lot of money, by the time I was 21, it didn’t go so far.
"Every year, my mother would buy me something with the £1. When I was 10, I insisted I get the money myself. We lived in Gosforth, Newcastle, (England) at the time. The first thing I did was run along to the bank on the corner and change it for 144 pennies,* because at that age pennies were more important that pounds.
"All those pennies lasted a long time. I spent it on comics and cakes. On a Saturday, I used to buy a big square slab of Russian cake at Greggs on Gosforth High Street and take it the kiddies’ matinee at The Globe on Salters Road.
"During the intermission, I would get an ice cream from the usherette for 2d and it cost me 4d to get in to the picture."
Another of his memories of Gosforth was when Maynards sweet shop on the High Street got a supply of wine gums in.
"It was 1947/48 and rationing was still on," he said.
"Word got out and there was big queue outside the shop. All they had was wine gums. You handed over your sweet ration** and got a bag. I was seven and they were fantastic."
*The UK currency was decimalised in 1971. Under the old system of £sd, there were 144 pennies to a pound. Under the new system, there are 100.
**Rationing came into force in Britain in January 1940, a few months after the start of World War II because of shortages due to the German strategy of attacking shipping in a bid to starve the nation into surrender. All sorts of essential and non-essential foods were rationed, as well as clothing, furniture and petrol. Rationing of sweets and chocolate began in July,1942, and ended in February, 1953.
OUT OF BODY EXPERIENCE
Lilian was 70 when she had an out of body experience.
"In 1995, I was in a horrendous accident," she told me. "A lorry hit the middle of my car. It happened at Pickering Nook, County Durham, (England) when I was on my way to referee a county golf match.
"The car was an absolute right off and people were amazed that anyone inside could survive."
It was touch and go for Lilian when the ambulance arrived.
"I was unconscious and came around in the ambulance. I heard voices saying, ‘She’s going. She’s going. For God’s sake, pass the mask’.
"I must have blacked out again but I do remember thinking, let me go. I was in such terrible pain. The next feeling was of being raised up with my back again the inside of the ambulance roof. I was suspended, looking down at the ambulance staff standing around some sort of form.
"My husband, Geoff, had suffered a massive stroke and needed 24-hour care. I thought, I can’t go and leave my sons John and Paul to look after Geoff.
"The next thing I recall was waking up in hospital. Someone said it was an out of body experience."
Lilian loved golf and never thought she would ever play again. But she battled to make a good recovery and went on to win many competitions, including being her club’s Player of the Year.
Thanks for reading and don't forget to keep reaching for the stars