Christmas 1942 – Somewhere In England

152nd Station Hospital -1942

I found this tiny program in some of my great-aunt Wylly’s things when I went to see my cousin, McKenzie last summer. I had a whirlwind trip where I scanned photos and documents for most the time I was there. It was a quick overnight visit with me quietly scanning through the night while the rest of the house snoozed. Aunt Wylly was my writer aunt that I’ve mentioned before and sweet to me like a dear old grandma. She was McKenzie’s great-grandma and after McKenzie’s mother died suddenly a few years ago, she’s been the one to keep the family history safe.

Going through things quickly, I learned a lot about my family I hadn’t known. This Christmas menu and program from 70 years ago was tucked in a box, no doubt saved by Aunt Wylly who left a serious paper trail. I knew my Uncle Tom had been in the army, practically everyone called him Sarge when I was growing up so it would have been hard to miss, but I did not know that he’d been in England during WWII. Finding this little treasure from 70 years ago left me with loads of questions with no answers. I gleaned a bit online, but I’m hoping a older relative or adult child of someone who might have served with my uncle will see this post and get touch with me.

Thanks to the internet I was able to learn where the 152nd Station Hospital was located, and found that my uncle was in Bristol, about a 14o miles from where I live now. Frenchay Hospital was much smaller before the Americans arrived in 1942 and they added more buildings to make a medical complex that is still in use today.

I wish I knew more about his life and his time in England during the war. My husband, John was less than three months old when Uncle Tom sat down to the Christmas dinner you see on the program below. Given the shortage of food and rationing going on in England at that time, Uncle Tom’s Christmas dinner was likely much better than what the English were having that year.

Christmas Menu 1942 152nd Station Hospital

Since I’m talking about food and family, I thought I’d share a bit of our Christmas day with you.

Christmas 2012

Our Christmas dinner, the American version … no roast potatoes, sprouts or parsnips. I like them, but I wanted a more familiar taste of Christmas and John was fine skipping them this year. He cooked the turkey and made the gravy, I made the rest from handed down family recipes. We did have the English version of pigs in a blanket which were wrapped in bacon versus biscuit dough.

Christmas 2012

That pink mass before you is a cranberry congealed salad. It stuck a bit in my jello mold so it’s not very pretty, but it was tasty. This traditional Christmas salad has been the subject of a great deal of ridicule from John. I get that congealed isn’t a very appetizing name for it, and that it tends to look like something that has already been eaten once, but it reminds me of my step-mom, Cullene and it’s very special to me. John thinks it is very similar to what they call a blancmange (sounds like bla-monge) which does sound a bit more grand. He had a decent sized portion with his dinner so I think he may be getting used to it.

IMG_3027

Here’s a shot of John waiting patiently for our present opening to begin. I’ll be back with another post on gift-giving as I received something very special from him.

P1020471

Since we’re talking about food in this post, here’s a shot of me with one of the carrots I took on our walk to the pub for our traditional Christmas drink. The couple that own our village pub offer everyone in the village a free drink on Christmas day if they come in on regular basis. I was carrying carrots hoping we might come across a moorland pony or two, but we stayed in the lanes on our walk making it less muddy and we bypassed the moor and the ponies. I did get lucky though as you can see below.

P1020476

This sweet horse was having a Christmas walk and had the benefit of the carrots in my pocket. Murphy munched them down pretty quickly and we went on to the pub.

Thomas Franklin St John

Thomas Franklin St John

I’ll leave you with this photo of my great-uncle Tom taken in uniform. I don’t share any of his DNA as he’s my uncle through marriage, but it’s kind of nice to feel a connection through both our military (Army) ties and our Christmas dinners in England.

If you’re visiting older relatives this Christmas … ask them about their life or you may be sorry later when they’re gone. 

When Your Reputation For Alcohol Precedes You

Exmoor Ales - Empty Glass

For some people this empty glass is an invitation to buy another round. They do that in our village pub. Buying rounds in they way they do was new to me. It might well be the same in the US, but due to my lack of alcohol consumption, I don’t have much experience with these things.

I tend to have a camera in hand more often than a pint when we’re at the pub and I’m always trying to capture the best images I can using a small point and shoot camera without a flash so as not to disrupt the naturalness of the scene. The image above I shot standing on a picnic table outside the pub while looking in through a window. I don’t think anyone saw me that time, but sometimes I do get funny looks.

This poorly lit image of John was taken on the restaurant side of our village pub. He’s drinking a cider (I think they taste like apple juice gone bad) and I’m having my usual diet lemonade which is like a diet Sprite. On quiz night I splash out as John would say and go for a double.

Elizabeth Holding Jess At The Pub

Here’s a shot John took of me last February holding one of my favorite pub pooches. Jess tolerates me cuddling her for a bit, but her gaze is never far from her John who I wrote about here. (It will make you smile)

I was sitting on the same stool last night holding her as I joined John and some of the other Friday night regulars who stop in for a drink and to catch up on the week. It’s a nice way to relax with friends and I make do just fine with my diet lemonade or diet Coke.

Most Saturday nights we have live music at the pub and tonight we have a local family doing their annual night in August where they’re billed as the Spriggs Family Robinson.

A group of us are meeting at the pub this evening to support Jos, Connie, Rebecca, and other Spriggs family members, and as we were confirming our arrival times among our group last night I said, ” I might even have some alcohol! ”  As I am so well-known for not drinking anything with more kick than a bit of carbonation, this comment quickly elicited a rousing chorus of ” Oooooo! “

I’ll let you know tomorrow if I decide to splash out or spend the evening as I usually do with my camera and a diet drink.

I think I need to consider my options carefully as it seems that I have a bit of a reputation to maintain now.