Thursday, April 19, 2007

Theodore Richard Clarke


My father is Theodore Richard Clarke, who was born October 16, 1931. His mother was Irish and his father was from Cheshire. He's shown above after his marriage to my mother. During the war, he was evacuated, and I took some scribbled notes about what happened to him:

I went to East Horsley, to a place above Connersby Butchers, but the husband was ill. Next I was sent to a wealthy couple who had a big garden and taught me how to garden. They sowed some cress in the shape of my name, and "Theo" came up in cress. They taught me that you should never eat until you are full up, and I was expected to push in my chair after dinner and say "I have had an elegant sufficiency...". Of course I hadn't, I did eat until I was full! They had a son in the RAF who was invalided out.

I was sent next to a bungalow in the woods, which was wooden and build on stilts with no electricity. They got a tin bath from the garden shed on bath nights, and were very nice people.

Then I was sent to Shelford, on the other side of Guildford, and went to the village school, which was one master and two classes. He would tell one class to get out their maths books and the other class to get out their English books, and then they would swap round in the afternoon.

Next I was sent to Staines, to a place within 300 yards of a Gasometer. So much for a safer place! Mrs Clarke (no relation) was not a nice woman. She knocked me down a complete flight of stairs, and only had evacuees because she got five bob a week for each of them - she had three boys to stay. Eventually the authorities moved me to Egham, to stay with a nice couple from the City of Durham. They had a son in the Royal navy.

Egham is home to Stroud school, which was established in 1638. I used to go out and watch the air raids. Some of them had a sound like a non-stop train. There were breadbasket bombs too - they were supposed to throw incendiary bombs,500 all over. This one hit the ground and ploughed up the hill, and all the bombs were thrown out.

I was at that place when there were the d-day invasions, from Inglefield Green. As I was going up Egham hill there was a continuous line of lorries. I went to school and the line of tanks and lorries was still going down the hill when I came back. Then the son in the Navy got wounded and came home, and so I had to go to Inglefield Green.

I stayed with Captain Woolf Bernato. His father went to South Africa in the 1890s and he ran a diamond mine. He came to England in 1936 and built a place which cost £136,000 in 1936. The estate had 4 lodges at the gatehouse, 4 bed houses. The valet and his wife and family, the butler had another, I don't know who had the third bothy house, chauffeurs of the people that they used to invite for Ascot week. Guests in the big house, used to house their servants in the Bothy by the drive, at the entrance to the yard.

When a car went through an arch, it went through a beam and broke it, and the lights came on. The house was a combination of Spanish, Modern American and English.

Captain Barnato had been a racing driver before the war. It was a hobby for wealthy rich people and made the news. He raced at Le Mans (and won three times) and at Broadlands etc. Just before the war he was trying to do 200 miles an hour in a bugatti and blew the engine up. He wrote off to Italy got a new engine.

There were 14 cars in the garage. He drove in a little volkswagen car, black and white with a long bonnet and 3 flexible chrome exhausts on each side and black and white leather seats. When the war started he had a lot of jewish friends; children in the Bothy. In 1943 they decided there was no place safe and they were sent to America. There were 14 evacuees in the Bothy and they went to school.

When the war ended, all the others went home. Because my mum was dead and my father was ill, he let me stay. He bought me my first long trouser suit, and I went to Stroud School in Egham. I got picked for the teams there.

In the interim a big argument developed between London County Council and Surrey County Council. He wanted to adopt me, but because he was Jewish and I was Catholic, it wasn't allowed.

The place had a swimming pool, and a cinema, I used to help project the films.

I was taken to an orphanage in Ripley, Surrey at 13 years old. To get money, I had to find a job. In the village was a shop which sold everything. Used to have now and again lyons fruit pies, and I used to get one. I used to deliver goods by bike, Used to take stuff to Wisley Aerodrome and to farmers. There was a woman farmer who had a load of Italian pows and take cigarettes for the Italian POWs. 10 cigarettes were missing and I had to cycle back for them. In Ripley there is a big old pub room which was the last that Nelson slept in before he went off to get killed was left exactly as he left it.

We sent to Send School, which was brand new. On the first day there was Algebra. I had never heard of Algebra. The next lesson was Frnech. The French mistress didn't speak anything but French. Other kids had had years of French, and I had none.

Settled in at that orphanage, and in the meantime, the Catholic Church had enquired (west cathedral school before the war). I was then told they had sorted out the argument about who was responsible for me, and the catholic church sent me to Brentwood in Essex with 500 boys, run by the brothers of St John of God. They were brutes. I saw the head. I was 5 feet seven and a half inches tall, and seven stone.

He told me, we have some boys who do the gardening, and some go to school. I was given the choice, and as I was a bookworm and always avid for knowledge, I chose school. So they sent me to work in the garden.

I went to the greenhouse - there were five boys who were only 14 or 15, but you'd have said they were navvies of 25. Thighs like oak trees and muscles. It wasn't a garden - any normal organisation would have got a tractor to dig it, but we dug it by hand. The gardener would stretch a string out and we had to dig from marker to marker.

I was there for 2 years. I went in as an intellectual boy with no interest in sport, particularly. What got me going with sports was that the gardeners could swim at lunch time and evenings. The other would stop and go off to swim. I carried on digging because I couldn't swim. So in evening sessions, I learned how to swim. In the shallow end the boys punched me in the stomach and so I went to the deep end so they couldn't follow.

I got to the bottom of the steps and thought if I launch myself and thrash... I made it to the other side, so I thought I could swim. So the next night, I climbed onto the 4ft diving board, got on there, bounced around, jumped off, and down I go, when I came up in the deep water in an upright position down I went again. When I came up again, I shouted help! help!

When ~I came up for the third time, five dived in to get me I pulled the trunks off one, and punched another on the nose. One of the brothers came along and started giving respiration with his big hands - I thought he was going to break my ribs. I was taken along to see the nurse.

There were 6 or 7 acres with a building which had three boiler houses, and a hospital which also had a boiler house. In winter had to get whellbarrows and shovels and get sacks of coke and take six to the boilerhouses. It was a good job to be shovelling and a bad job to be holding the sack on a very cold day.

The nurse in the main building had three big bottles. One white peppermint mixture, one castor oil if constipated and other pink gunge. Never discovered what the pink gunge was.

She said: this boys swallowed a bit of water, so I was given a cup of pink gunge to drink and sent to bed.

Within six months of getting there I had shot up two inches and went from a total weed to someone who could pick up big....

I was there two years. Once I was 16 I was moved on to Isleworth, to a working boys hostel. Given living expenses to go out and find a job. I went down the Great West Road, Osterley Road, past Gilette, H&P biscuit, Sperry Gyroscope. I tried there. Wages were 25 shillings in the office, and 25 shillings plus a bonus in the factory. I went to the shop milling depertment. I operated a great big machine like a round tank. There was a door on one side and on the other a window with cl;ass with two holes, and with rubber gloves, a grab nozzle. High power metal shot - shot blaster cleaned metal as if by magic. Big gloves - one of them split; Worked hard for bonus. The blokle I was working under, he got productivity bonus and I just got 25 shillings. I gave a week's notice, went to a firm that made steel twist drills. After a while they asked me if I wanted to go on piece work. Started on piece work. Batch of drills went to the inspector and if nything was wrong had to redo.

I was beavering away doing them very quickly and got a high level of rejects, and after a while realised it was more haste less speed, if you took more time you had less rejects. I earned £2-5s in a week and had to give 27/6 for my room and board.

Chatting to the firm next door, they were getting £3-5s a week at Pepsi Cola. I did any job, and turned out 50K bottles of pepsi a week. I started on the washing machine, dirty bottles cleaned 20 at a time, whip the bottles onto the machine and put a box on the production line. I moved to inspection, never allowed bottles with chips out, and sort out the strangers from other commpanies. Made syrup in a vat 500 gallons of water 200 weight sacks of sugar. secret ingredients tip in and stir for 24 hours and then syrup pumped over. Tank from syrup above labelling machine if pumping up there and didn't look the people doing labels would get covered in syrup. Special lorries panel down the middle and 3 pallets on either side.

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