Keith Webster is the clear winner of my writing competition. He sent me not just one, but four pieces and I have chosen my favourite to share with you now. He describes vividly the years following the war!
“By the time you read this, I will be into my seventh decade on this particular planet. A scary enough prospect to be sure but the alternatives are, currently at least, not worth considering. So I thought I would journey back some fifty years in order to remind myself just how Alderney worked in the early nineteen sixties.
Our population was much the same as was our road network, island gateways, financial institutions and churches but that was really about it. Take milk, for instance. Firstly it was produced on some fifteen tiny farms and then, after the bits of straw and stuff had been (mostly) removed, it was dispensed to individual households, the matriarch of which would leave a suitable jug outside her front door. Underneath this receptacle would be a handful of coins to pay the milkman, mainly my father, in case you were interested.
Schooling was haphazard at best and rudimentary at worst. If you didn’t pass the eleven plus you left at fourteen to try and carve out a life where the steel works or meat factory were your best options. Shopping too was very different. No supermarkets, of course, but Victoria Street was full of small retail outlets selling everything from mouldy sweets (Mr Parmentier, you had much to answer for) to bathroom fittings and everything in between.
Car ownership was still in its infancy with about 200 or so vehicles on our roads. Telephones were black , shiney and rare. If you had one it was placed reverently in the hall for all visitors to see and wonder at. Most calls were still routed through an operator and public telephones required considerable manual dexterity to make them work. Television was equally rare and difficult to use with reception from transmitters in the UK largely dependent on weather conditions and the whim of immature technology. Getting any electronic device fixed (or mended as it was quaintly known) depended totally on the skills of Mr Bichard whose record of success could be described as patchy but only if you were of a charitable disposition.
Electricity supplies were intermittent and unpredictable and many houses still used wiring installed by unwanted visitors some fifteen years previously. Which, of course, is the strangest thing. Just one and a half decades or so prior to my tenth birthday, the island was a semi-derelict mess and according to the then UK government , unfit for human habitation both at the time and for the foreseeable future.
I sometimes think we forget the efforts of those who returned after the war, the sacrifices they made and the hardships they endured in order to get Alderney up and running again. We wouldn’t be here without them and it makes an old chap very humble. Still no excuse for mouldy sweets though.”
I love the way Keith draws us back to a time when life was really tough for the islanders and maybe helps us to appreciate what we have today! Thanks Keith!