Celebrating freedom in the same garden 75 years on
ISLANDER Clare Pallett will today be celebrating Liberation 75 in lockdown – at the same St Helier address that she celebrated freedom from German Occupation on 9 May 1945.
Mrs Pallett (85) still lives in St Saviour’s Road, now with her husband, Bill, and is just a stone’s throw from the site of the old Continental Hotel – now Liberation Court – where she remembers watching German soldiers on parade.
Today with enforced lockdown, her daughter Juliette collects their shopping, queuing in much the same way as she remembers her mother used to queue for milk, carrying a tin can to be refilled.
‘Then I used to go with my aunt and my mum to Simon Place to the cook-house because some of the time there wasn’t any gas, so we used to take our bean crock, or our potatoes and swedes to be cooked – there wasn’t anything else,’ she remembers.
One advantage her family had, an unusual one for town-dwellers, was the luxury of a garden where they would grow whatever fruit they could and then barter it for such meat as could be tracked down in the early years of the Occupation.
Mrs Pallett’s family had bought the plot of land, previously the playground of the school which occupied the adjoining Elysian Terrace at the beginning of the 20th century.
She lived in the cottage at 19 St Saviour’s Road during the Occupation and then in a bungalow that her husband built across the garden from the early 1960s. Apart from a seven-year period in Hilgrove Street, she has always lived there.
‘I’ve never lived in the country. I’ve always lived in town and I’m used to it. I don’t know what else I can say, really. It’s handy and we’re quite out of the way’ she said.
Lockdown in 2020 is, therefore, not an entirely new experience for Mrs Pallett who, as a young girl during the Occupation, was not given the freedom to roam afforded to her brother, Charles.
‘Yes, it is similar today. Years ago the butcher used to deliver the meat and the grocer would deliver the groceries. That’s how it was. It’s the same sort of thing really.
‘But of course, we didn’t have the food in those days. I remember my mum having a plate in the middle of the table with bread, and there was a slice and a half each. I can remember me being hungry and saying, “I’m going to have a piece of bread now, I’m hungry, I just can’t wait”. I had my piece but when we sat down I could see that I still had my piece and a half left.
‘My mother went without and gave me the extra piece because I was hungry. We just didn’t have the food. The children didn’t realise it but it was the parents for whom it was really hard. It was sad for them. We were looked after,’ Mrs Pallett said.
A phone call earlier in the day with a friend of a similar age afforded the opportunity to discuss how lock down is affecting older Islanders and Mrs Pallett agrees that it is not an easy experience, though one for which the Occupation provides some preparation.
But while queues and home deliveries may ring bells, other aspects of life during the Occupation bear little comparison.
‘Now you can buy what food you like, but you couldn’t in those days’, she said recalling one particular memory when hunger was at its most acute.
‘I was at school at St James and we used to pick the tar off the road and chew it. Really, it was a whole different life in those days’, she said.
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