George Cunningham: Second World War in Broomhall ~ Part 17

Victory in Europe Street Party

Researched and written by Gemma Clarke

Illustration taken from taken from "More George! Growing Up: The Story Continues..." Page 134. 1994
Photo: The Hallamshire Press

This is an interesting insight into what happened at an actual Victory in Europe Street Party, and how the community was dealing with the effects of the end of the war.

End of George’s War Time Service

‘In Early December 1944, the War Office, no doubt satisfied that I had done all that could reasonably be expected of me, stated that the Home Guard was to be stood down. On a wet Sunday morning, I and my comrades in arms packed the Regent Picture House in Barker’s Pool to hear the King’s message of appreciation read out. Afterwards, we paraded around the rain-soaked streets, past the gaunt skeleton girders and bleak bomb sites. In spite of the weather and being wet through, our steps were firm and joyful in anticipation of the peaceful years to come.’

P. 129, Chapter 27, More George! (courtesy of The Hallamshire Press Limited).


‘So, after nearly six years of conflict, peace returned to Europe. Bunting hung across every street. Banners made from old sheets bearing slogans like the one for my brother which I painted, saying ‘Welcome home, Billy’, were displayed on many houses – the luckier ones, that is.’

Victory in Europe Party

‘I noticed some activity down the ‘Owd Lane’. It was a ‘Victory in Europe’ party. Although the Japs were still holding out in the Far East, the fact that the arch-enemy Adolf had bit the dust at last made everybody feel like celebrating. Tables and chairs had been brought into the lane. Planks on boxes, and even lavatory doors taken off their hinges and covered with paper, made makeshift supports for the food and drink, which miraculously appeared from long-cherished hoards. Streamers hung across our old football pitch and along the walls bordering the back yards, while the ‘Owd foundry’ was decorated up like a fairy palace. All the seats had been taken up by kids and a few older people, but I was happy to stand at the back.’

Mrs Gumson and Nellie Slatters

‘Tommy Green, landlord of the Oxford House, had sent down some bottles of beer and a glass of it was pressed into my hand by Mrs Gumson, who insisted on giving me a kiss. She appeared to have been celebrating for some time, because suddenly she seized hold of Nellie Slatters and the pair of them performed a spirited can-can on the causey outside the foundry gates.’

‘What they lacked in style and grace was compensated for by the energy they put into the provocative dance. Nellie, overpowered by the size and weight of her partner, was content to hang on, merely lifting her legs high enough to display a patched petticoat and lisle stockings, darned at the knees. Not so the magnificent Mrs Gumson. She lifted her skirts and kicked her fat legs in the air, revealing a pair of bloomers which billowed like barrage balloons. The finale, which came all too soon after a series of tremendous high kicks, ended the performance when she spun around, flounced her clothes shoulder high and bent herself almost double, thus exposing an enormous backside, covered tightly in silvery material which had a crown and the letters ‘W.D.’ stamped upon it.’

Peace restores neighbourhood gossip

‘During the clapping and cheering that followed, Mrs Gumson collapsed onto a chair, and panted to her husband, ‘Get mi a drink, arm fair gaggin!’ I heard behind me a woman’s shrill voice, tinged with derision, but also envy, remark to a companion, ‘Did ta see wot ‘er britches wor made on? Bleedin’ parachute silk, that’s wot it wer. Ar wonder ar many jumps she ‘ad ter gerrall that!’ Conviviality reigned supreme. Many long-standing neighbourly feuds and back yard quarrels were forgotten in the long-awaited day of peace. Not all of them, it seemed.’

The Blackwell’s

‘I turned at a touch on my elbow. It was Norman Blackwell, accompanied by his father, the intrepid stormer of Pickering’s on that first night of war. ‘Nar den, Georgie, it’s a good do, in’t it?’ remarked Norman, as someone passed him a bun.’

An Observation

‘His father, though, didn’t appear to be all that impressed by the celebrations. ‘Ar wonder wot ‘appened t’ fire watching money,’ he said morosely to no one in particular. I knew this sum of cash had been a bone of contention in the district for some months. Ever since the blitz, almost five years ago, a weekly collection had taken place in each street to purchase fire fighting equipment, mainly ladders, which weren’t provided by the authorities. One particular fund had been organised by Billy Podson’s father, whose family had moved up the social scale from Green Street to the dizzy heights of Clarence Street. He was very punctual, never missing a Friday, meticulously jotting down in a little notebook the coppers donated by every household.’


‘Mr Blackwell’s observation hadn’t gone unheeded. ‘Thart reight, Albert,’ said Alf Thompson, the man next to him. ‘Thi must ‘av bin a good few quid in t’fund an’ nobdy’s ever seen a ladder, as thar, Ernest?’ he appealed to his companion, who shook his head emphatically. The topic was taken up by the older people standing at the back of the tables, each one claiming that they had contributed more than the other.’

The Podson’s

‘Suddenly, someone of the fringe of our crowd of dissenters cried softly, ‘Ey up, look wot’s cummin!’ All eyes turned to a little group of people walking up the lane. It was headed by Mr Podson, a bow-legged man, whose east and west visionary affliction made it obvious that Billy was indeed the fruit of his loins. Linking his arms possessively was his lady wife, a roly-poly little woman, the brightness of her lipstick admirably matched by lurid patches of rouge on her cheeks. It wasn’t the make-up or the flower-bedecked hat perched at a coquettish angle on her newly-permed hair that drew the attention of some of the women.’

Turning against the Podson’s

‘One of them, Mrs Garfitt, folding her arms tightly across her meagre bosom as if to compress her agitation, pursed her lips and with brow wrinkled in concentration, she peered pointedly at the approaching party. ‘Look at that fur cooat she’s gorron,’ she exclaimed to Mrs Gumson, who had taken a beverage and was modestly arranging her dress. ‘Thi’s a bob or two’s worth theer. Ar bet that’s weer ar bloody ladder money’s gone. It’s on ‘er back!’ Mrs Podson, unaware of the hostility that this remark had brought about, beamed patronisingly at everyone, confident in her sartorial superiority. ”Ello,’ she said in a friendly manner, ‘Enjoyin’ yersens are y’?’

To the Point

‘Mrs Gumson, never a believer in preliminary trivialities or polite gambits, came straight to the point and answered, ‘Not as much as we would be, if we ‘ad our ladder money ter spend, instead on it keepin’ you warm, madam!’ It was evident to everyone that the arrow had struck home. A guilty blush suffused the already-rosy cheeks of Mrs Podson, as she struggled to find words to defend herself against this accusation.’

Trying to wriggle out of it!

‘Her husband, too, was visibly affected, although he had an advantage of not having to look anyone straight in the eye. ‘Nay, nay,’ he mumbled, ‘Ar bowt it art o’ mi o’ertime money, din’t ar luv?’ His wife, at a loss for words, merely nodded. Mr Gumson, not to be fobbed off, cried, ‘Right, y’ only live round corner, nip along an’ bring us ar cash, den!’ Mr Podson, taken aback by this demand, falteringly stutered, ‘Ar carn’t, it’s in a special account in Yorkshire Penny Bank.’ His spouse, thinking the pressure off, smiled superciliously. It was evident that they had both gravely underestimated Mrs Gumson. ‘Gu an’ fetch us bank book, then,’ she cried trumphantly, ‘An we’ll soon see ‘oo’s reight!’

Getting Violent

‘The chorus of approval from non-playing bystanders convinced Mrs Podson that the game was up, so she abandoned rhetoric and gave Mrs Gumson a violent shove in that lady’s ample bosom. At the same time she shrieked, ‘Cum arta rooad, ar’ve got mooar t’ do than argue toss wi you in street, y’ owd cow!’ Once again she miscalculated the power of her opponent, who cried, ‘O, o, missis, that’s ar y’ want ter play is it?’ promptly seizing Mrs Podson’s hair and shaking it so violently that the lady’s hat fell off. Her husband attempted to intervene, but was deterred by Mrs Gumson, who squared up to him in the approved prizefighter style and issued an invitation to ‘Cum on den, let’s ‘av thi.’


‘Billy Podson, who with a girlfriend had brought up the rear of the party, pushed forward to give his parents filial support, but was prevented by Norman, who made a fist, blew on it and gave it a rub, before pointedly holding it aloft. Billy turned his head sideways, trying to focus on me as he had done so that long-ago voting day. I relived the terror as if it had been yesterday, but thankfully he backed off and Mr Blackwell, with the assistance of two men, parted the contestants, who were running out of steam anyway.’

Knocked of her pedestal

‘Mrs Podson, who a few minutes earlier had been the epitome of fashion, was tousled and tear-stained as she tried to knock back some shape into her hat which had been trampled underfoot in the melee. Stifling a sob and wiping her nose with an upward gesture of an open palm, she confessed, ‘Ar’m sorry, ar’ve bin wantin’ a fur cooat all mi life, an’ when this bloke said ‘e could get one on black market, ma mester said ‘e’d gerrit fo’ me arta ladder money. ‘E’ll pay yer all back, waint y’ luv?’

Shaking Hands

‘Mr Podson, relieved that he hadn’t had to indulge in fisticuffs, replied, ‘As God’s mi judge, ar will,’ and looked for someone to shake hands with, finally settling on Mr Blackwell, who, although, he returned the gesture, remarked menacingly, ‘Tha better.’ The Podsons were allowed through the throng, having to run the gauntlet of remarks such as ‘Tha wants ter tek that cooat o’ thine up t’ Marsdens on Button Lane. Thi gie y’ a penny apiece fer owd rabbit skins!’ Mrs Gumson, the worthy champion of a righteous cause, sat back in a chair, every inch the magnanimous victor, and was regaled with a glass of Magnet, which she drank off with relish, declaring, ‘Ar’ve bin wantin’ ter gie that brassy bitch a good shekkin ever sin’ that dog o’ hers mucked on mar dooarstep, an’ very same neet in Tommy Green’s ar copped ‘er mekkin’ sheep’s eyes at my Oliver.’


George’s Life during the Second World War ~ Part 18

The Man and His Art ~ Introduction

This page was added by Gemma Clarke on 26/03/2015.

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