Monday, 10 March 2008

#004 Life in Bretby

Earlier on that year, work had commenced on a new hospital wing, which were to be wards 9 & 10. F. Perks & Son, a firm from my own town of Long Eaton had the contract. Just before work commenced on this project we had got very keen on football, each drawing a team from the first division of the Football league. Arsenal was my choice ‑ they were league leaders at the time. Some bright spark suggested we get a ball and challenge wards 6 ‑7 ‑ 8 to a match. At that time, the maker of OXO cubes where running a competition. If you saved fifty cube boxes and sent with these a 2s 6p Postal Order you received a football. We went in the kitchens and informed the staff of this and they duly supplied the empty boxes. We then had to find the 2/6 for the PO, quite a large sum for us, it was eventually saved and a kind nurse procured the PO and some time later the ball arrived. Two teams where picked, the sights that were behold for the teams where unbelievable, three ‘up patients’ played forward, patients with one leg iron played in defence and goalkeepers were patients with two leg irons, who lay across the goal mouth. All patients were wheeled on to the front of ward 5, the match being played on the lawn in front. The game was a great success and more were played through that great summer.

As was written previously, F Perks & Son where building wards 9 & 10, at their lunch break they borrowed our football, much to our irritation the ball was burst. The following week they bought us a new one far superior to our OXO model. We were wheeled outside in all weathers, in summer ‑ irrespective of the weather ‑ we only wore small trunks, all the bedclothes being taken from us. In winter the only time we were brought indoors was if it rained, snow was no problem, we were in it. Those of us with bed cages were lucky, because you could go underneath this. My dad bought me a bike front lamp which I was then able to use to read under the clothes. We all had frost bitten hands, even though we used old socks for gloves and 1929 was an abnormally bad winter!

During the day we made our own enjoyment, submarines and battleships was played across the ward, we also arranged domino tournaments and of course, card games. Scouts were organised that summer by a Scoutmaster from Burton on Trent. We were given shirts, scarves and hats and we all passed our tender foot badges then took higher badges. We had our own War Cry –

‑B‑R‑E‑T‑B‑Y Bretby is the place

Where we make men.

There are no flies on us,

There may be flies on some of you guys

But their ain't no flies on us‑

A boxing tournament was arranged one evening, one of the boy's parents brought gloves, everyone took part in this knock out competition, even the lads on tip-up beds, they had their shoulder restraining straps removed to enable them to have more room. I was beaten senseless by one of these bedridden lads.

The food whilst being good for us had no variety, every week was the same. We had roast beef and Yorkshire pudding on Sunday, on Monday we had cold beef, Tuesday beef or mutton, Wednesday was stew day, Thursday hash, Friday fish, Saturday fruit and every day rice or sago pudding, brought to us in white pails. Breakfast was bread and honey or Lyle’s golden syrup, boiled eggs also appeared from time to time. A cooked breakfast of bacon & egg was the treat the day after any operation. We had plenty to drink ie cocoa, Horlicks, (which is still a favourite drink) and milk. Plenty of fruit was eaten at tea time so, all in all, good plain food ‑ which all had to be eaten, anything that was left had to be finished at the next meal ‑ and the next ‑ till all had gone. School was every day, same hours as at home. History was my favourite subject (it still is); personally a lot of reading was done.

After operations you had your first plaster cast removed then out came stitches, then you were fitted with a walking plaster and measured for large boots. When the boots arrived you were able to get up but what a shock because you had to learn to walk again, holding on to beds and falling over. But it was a very good feeling after (for me) 12 months in bed - I was lucky, some patients were still bed ridden when I returned some 4 years later.

One particular happening that summer I remember well. The Airships R 101, R 100 & R3 4 flew over, what a great day that was for us, bearing in mind that if a car or lorry appeared down the drive we all crowded round to catch a glimpse of these (to us) mechanical marvels. Christmas was a great time for us. During my childhood spell at Bretby, we had a regular visitor call on us, his name was Mr Heather. He brought everyone a bag of sweets, and he also held a religious service in the afternoon. People in Burton 3 miles away could hear us sing, especially the Hymn

'Pull for the shore, sailor, pull for the shore,

Heed not the tiring wind but bend to the oar

Safe in the lifeboat, sailor, safe evermore,

Glory, glory hallelujah, pull for the shore.

My dad came to see me every other Sunday and he had a word for all the other lads (he could not come on Saturday because of the shop and he came by bike in all weathers, a 50 mile round trip. There was a period in 1929 when we had no visitors for some weeks due to a Diphtheria epidemic; Thank God this has been eradicated now. Early in 1930, February comes to mind, the wireless loudspeaker in our ward had been left on, suddenly an emergency announcement came through, the newscaster announcing that the RI01 had crashed in France, we were all saddened as we had seen this ship just prior.

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