This is my aunts story ( Joan Punter, nee Toller )- as she wrote it- March 2005.
I was born in 1940 so war was a normal state of affairs for me and my sister. The family ( grannie, aunts, uncles and cousin ) all lived in Oxford Road Cambridge. My father was away fighting the war in France, in the Royal Army Medical Corps. Uncle Bill was in the Fire Service and Uncle George was in the R.A.F. so men in uniform was normal. Uncle Russ and Uncle Arthur worked away some of the time in munitions, so ours was a world of women.
We grew our own veg and salad, kept the allotment going to help Bill, with chickens and pigs to feed. We made our own clothes often and baked cakes and pies.
Nights were spent sleeping under the air-raid metal ) table, surrounded by wire mesh on a red cross blanket. We had an Anderson shelter in the garden, which was cosy but cold and damp. We also went in the cupboard under the stairs when the siren went, and took it in turns to sit on the gas meter! Luckily for us the bombers which came over Cambridge usually headed up north to bomb our factories which made munitions, but I remember the sickening siren sound, followed by bombs exploding. My daddy was driving these baddies away, and he later told us how he came back from Dunkirk with bombs dropping all around and near their boat. He kept saying " Please God get me home to my wife and children."
I was five when it ended, and all I remember then was red, white and blue everywhere, street parties, and best of all a new baby brother! ( Sadly I had friends whose daddy never came home as ours did.)
Joan ( nee Toller )
Toller Family Tree notes by Joan Punter [nee Toller] (my aunt – transcribed by Michelle Bullivant Dec 2010)
John (1727-1807) probably born at Everton, grew up and married Elizabeth. They moved to Upper Caldecote around 1759, to Tempsford in 1779, died and was buried in Tempsford in 1807.
James (1762- 1826) born in Upper Caldecote, married Mary Swanell in 1786, took over the farm at U.C., moved to Kings Ripton in 1788, and farmed Rectory Fram. Moved to Southill, farmed Old Rowney 1803-26, and was buried there.
John (1791-1872) born at Kings Ripton, married Anna Maria Swanell in 1811, farmed Recotory Farm for his father , until 1813, moved to Sapley (Sapley Park Farm) in 1831, farmed at Fenstanton in 1851 at Tollers Farm in Hemingford Grey, at Anstey Hall Farm in Trumpington in 1842, also Moor Barns farm in Madingley, later bought s…Farm at Streatley, also land at Dunstable.
In 1871 John came back to Anstey Hall, and is buried in Trumpington Church. He seems to have been the most successful and rich farmer.
Frederick Swanell – born in 1813 at Sapley Park Farm – farmed his fathers land at Fenstanton in 1840. He married the ‘house-keeper’, Betsy Brown, an Irish woman, in 1852. They farmed at Hemingford Grey until the lease expired, when his father refused to sign it so that he lost his livelihood. Cut off by his father he worked as a bailiff in Hardwick until 1860. Then moved to Cambridge (67, Newmarket Road) where 5 of their seven children died in overcrowded, unsanitary housing, so different to the healthy life in the country they were used to. Frederick died of TB in 1874. Betsy moved to Harston and married Josiah Pestell, who ran a bootmakers shop.
Richard 1864-1937, born in Newmarket Road, and moved with his mother to Harston at 10 years old. He came back to Cambridge (1892) where he met his second wife, Florence Clifton, married and lived at 29 Perowne Street, Mill Road. He died there in 1936. He spent his later life as a painter and decorator.
Alexander Edmund (Ed, Eddie) 1915-1987 born at Perowne Street, his only sibling, sister Peggy , died of pheumonia aged 5. Eddie worked at Cambridge University Press in Trumpington Street from the age of 15. He married Constance Beatric Broom in 1934, they had four children and he served in the Royal Army Medical Corps 1939-45, fought in France, retired at 65. They lived at 110 Oxford Road until 1954, when they moved to 59 Netherhall Way. Eddie died of cancer of pancreas aged 69.
Elsie Joan born 1940, during World War II at Oxford Road. Attended Richmond Road Infants School, then Park Street Primary School. Went to Cambs High School for Girls in 1951, left in 1956 and went to work at University of Cambridge Exams Syndicate, Mill Lane (opposite C.U.P., where her father worked). Joan married Michael Euyene Brown in 1959, and lived at 10 Church Street Chesterton. She had Christopher david, then moved to 116 Fishers Lane Cherry Hinton, where she had Jacqueline Susan. They moved to 57 Glebe Road, and she had Andrew Paul. In 1976 they moved to 15 Shaftesbury Road near the University Press buildings. After the break-up of her marriage Joan married Richard Douglas Punter and they lived at 7 Drayton Road [Cherry Hinton] where she had Mia Jane in 1979 and Eleanor Claire in 1983.
Tales from Cambridge part 2 written by my aunt Joan Punter (nee Toller)
Another big influence on us was home-grown vegetables and fruit. Everyone kept allotments the (dig for victory) and if everything else was on ration we could at least live on fresh produce, so many hours were spent with our cousin, Christine [Christine Cash, nee Broom, Bill Broom’s daughter] helping bring home potatoes, carrots, onions, green veg, whatever you could grow we did and everything tasted so much different to nowadays supermarket stuff. Strawberries, asparagus, runner beans and peas were nothing like nowadays tasteless objects. Uncle Bill also kept hens and pigs, so it was something like a farmyard up Histon Road there, through the passage in Windsor Road. Auntie Hilda [Hilda Broom – Bill’s wife, Christine’s mother] plodded up there everyday carrying two buckets of pig ‘swill’ that Gran had boiled up on the gas stove.
We were accustomed to watching hens having their necks wrung when they were ready for the pot. We helped pluck the feathers off them and I actually held them upside-down by their feet till they stopped fluttering (when they were dead they fluttered for a bit before they finally went still). Children accept these things as a normal part of life, but Uncle Bill used to laugh and say I was ‘bloodthirsty’. (perhaps that is why I’ve never been afraid of blood or gory sights in my work in the hospital!)
Val and I were quite different in temperament as young children. She was the quiet, thoughtful and studious one; whereas I was outgoing, noisy, assertive and a dare-devil. She smiled sweetly and spoke quietly – I tended to shout and ‘lark around’ a lot. When dad came home in 1945 he quickly sorted me out and I received the discipline he thought I needed – but I always had Gran and Bill on my side and I distinctively remember Bill’s voice saying “Come on my little old sugar plum, over the road with your granny and me.” I loved Uncle Bill, and I thought him handsome with his black wavy Brylcreamed hair and twinkling blue eyes; also a real softie. He would have tears in his eyes whenever something upset him (or through laughing) and Christine was his pride and joy. If he wouldn’t let anyone hurt one hair on my head, you can imagine what he was like with her.
Ivy and Russ were also a big influence on our lives when they lived with us after their marriage during the war. I could snuggle up with them in their bed any morning I liked, they played with me all the time, and I even ate off Russ’s plate, pinching his spouts.
When I think of those poor girls, single parents, living in an upstairs flat with babies, also toddlers having nowhere to run around in a garden, driving their mothers into depression I realise how lucky we were to be born when family was everything, stayed together to build a secure and loving home, and it was rare to see a woman struggling on her own without the father and relations nearby to ease the burden. They never gave up on parenthood, they learned the skills to make it work, and had confidence through it for their children’s sake. They didn’t have to learn it from TV or a book. It was commonsense; and a joy, not a burden. Kids were always happy.
When I was quite young my Gran acquainted me with the verse in the Bible that goes “Suffer the little children to come unto me, for such is the Kingdom of Heaven”. It always stuck in my mind. Children were something, not only innocent, but almost sacred. If anyone harmed them physically or emotionally, they were in danger of hell fire!
When I was 11 I passed the scholarship (pre-11 plus exam) and had a choice of the Perse or the County Girls School, so I chose to go with Val to the newly built County Girls High School. It was an excellent school, brilliant teachers (called mistresses!) and I was in the top grade ‘A’ class. I have to admit that being with those brainy girls was demanding, and I struggled to keep up when I was 13-14, mostly because we had hours and hours of homework, and Bet and I had discovered boys, so spent a lot of evenings on Histon Road Rec and Jesus Green swimming pool. We both lliked the same boys so sometimes swapped! I looked a lot older than I was with massive boobs, and I wore uplift bras with tight sweaters, and a pair of real American tight jeans given to me by American friends when their dad was sent back by the U.S.A.F. to Minnesota!
Dad was always on my case to stop my fun and games with the boys, and when we moved to Netherhall way I was 14, and I was only allowed to go to St Paul’s Church to meet ‘good’ friends (not common ones from Akeman Street as mum used to say!) So I got quite religious going everywhere with Val, and Den Beales got fed up biking across town to see me. So I got a new boyfriend called Brian Stalley, a County [school] boy 2 years older than me. He was a decent boy, played cricket, studied hard at school; so unlike my naughty friends. I had new friends too like Sadie, who was homeless and lived in a hostel; I sang in St Pauls choir and helped in other organisations, taught in Sunday School, worked for the Sudan United Mission, and after getting my five O Levels I got a job in University of Cambridge Exams Syndicate up Mill Lane as an examinations clerk preparing question papers for Press. (near dad at the Cambridge University Press opposite).
It was about then, 16 years of age that I decided to do nursing training when I reached 18 with views to working in Africa with the S.U.M. Everything was arranged, my interview at Addenbrookes and I was accepted to start at 18. Everything went pear shaped when I met Mike (Michael Brown) at 17 and a half. He was 24, just back at U.C.L.E.S from his National Service in Malaya – fit, tanned, crew-cut hair, footballer, beer drinker, I fell in love! We got together at the University Ass. Club Xmas 1957, and everything went to the wall – Africa, Church, friends etc. Dad was in the R.A.M.C [Royal Army Medical Corps] with Frank Brown, so Mick was IN! However, I started my nursing training as planned and although I found it clashed horribly with any social life with Mick I stuck it out till the P.T.S. exam (which I passed very well) so kept going til six months was almost up, then I realised that marriage was out for a nurse (in those days you had to be Florence Nightingale) I talked to the Matron, who had no time for thoughts of boyfriends, marriage was forbidden, even engagements were kept secret. I was up in Hatton Ward sluice with the bedpan round while Mick lived it up on a Saturday night with his mates (and girls from work) so I gave in my notice. I knew I would go back into nursing one day, buut NOT NOW! They took me back in the Annexe as before, I got my sapphire and diamond engagement ring and looking back I was stupid because had I stuck it out, instead of romance I could have qualified, got married and still had Christopher [Chris Brown] in 1962! I changed, chameleon like, and in the fashions of the fifties wore pencil slim or very flared skirts, 4 and half inch stiletto heels, permed hair and smoked with a long cigarette holder. Every weekend Mick and I went dancing with our many friends, or up the Old Spring in Chesterton Road. Saturday afternoons were football or cricket as he played for the N.C.I., Central Old Boys, Cambridge University Press. I used to score for cricket and if it was a village match we had lovely teas laid out in the Church hall. This life went on for three years till I had Christopher at twenty three. I stopped smoking and drinking!
Written by Joan Punter (nee Toller) – my aunt – transcribed by Michelle Bullivant Dec 2010
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