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(August 1944)

3.  The Queslett Road Crossroads
The Americans

by Chris Myers

3.  The Queslett Road Crossroads and The Americans

So, we'll leave the pub to its peace and quiet and start walking. Along the pavement on this side of the road, over the opening of Thornhill Road, where that goes off to the right and down the side of the Park, and on up to the Queslett Road crossroads.

At that crossroads the road to the right is a short one and it just leads back to the Thornhill Road again. It's the Queslett Road on the other side, opposite it, to the left.

The Americans
I don't think I've ever been up the Queslett Road and I don't really know where it leads to. Somewhere up there, I think, is a place called Pheasey. It's where the Americans have been for the last year or two. You don't see many of them walking about. Or any, really. There were two that I was very glad I didn't meet, though. I heard Mum telling a friend all about it on the telephone. The American Military Police caught up with two men who were escaped prisoners. The MPs were being very rough with these men, punching them and kicking them and beating them up. This all happened in a lady's back garden, somewhere near here. The lady was very upset at what was happening and told them to stop it. The one policeman replied and said "You wouldn't be saying that, ma'am, if they had got their hands on you first". Mum was talking about this in very hushed tones. I don't think I was supposed to hear.

But I have met one of these Americans who live at Pheasey. And he's the only Yank I have ever met in my life, so far. He is a nice young man who speaks in a soft voice and his name is Bob. Bob is a US Ranger and he has been in Normandy. He has been injured there which is why he is back here, although he seems to have recovered well and I can't really see anything wrong with him. I think Dad knows, though, because he has written to Bob's parents in America to tell them how Bob is. Bob isn't allowed to do that himself. We haven't had a reply yet. That will take a long, long time.

Bob is my sister's friend. I think she met him at the Birmingham ice rink or at a dance. I could tell you a little bit more about Bob but I'll just say that he is not at all like I expected an American to be. He doesn't wisecrack, he doesn't chew a cigar and of course he doesn't wear a cowboy's hat. Just a smart, smooth uniform which makes him look like a general even though he's just a private. Not like Dad's scratchy Home Guard uniform at all. And he has brought us a couple of tins of peaches which Mum and Dad went mad over. He calls them cans but they are really tins. And I've had some gum. "Got any gum, chum?" my pals reckon they say to any American they see. I think I might be too embarrassed to do that. And I didn't have to with Bob.

As I say, we don't see the Americans walking around here much, although their camp isn't all that far away. Bob has to walk to come to our house, I expect, although Dad possibly uses some of his precious petrol to run him back at night. I don't expect he has a bike, as we all do. But we do see a lot of their vehicles on the Chester Road.

Jeeps of course, and big lorries. I think they call them trucks. There's one sort which I specially notice. I looked at one which was parked, one day. It had its name on the bonnet. Not in shiny letters but sprayed over with dull khaki paint. I was close enough to read it. P-O-D-G-E. So whenever I saw one of those roaring past on the Chester Road, I knew it was a Podge. For a long time I thought this was a very funny name to give a big vehicle. And especially one which is part of an Army. But one day, I put two and two together. Of course, one of the American cars I love so much is a D-O-D-G-E. And I see lorries as well  which seem to have the name of Podge. Of course, they HAVE to be the same thing. Why didn't I think about that sooner? Sometimes, as you get older, things sort of come together and it's nice when that happens. And you feel a bit daft for not having worked it out earlier.

Still the Queslett Road Crossroads
We'll stop at the crossroads for a couple of moments more. This crossroads is very dangerous. There are a lot of crashes. Last year I was walking past it on the way to the Park with Mrs Bacon, our neighbour, and her three-year-old daughter in her pushchair. Something dreadful had just happened. I was told not to look. I don't want to talk about it. It was horrid.

And I think it was here that Dad had a smash when a drunken driver drove into him. Either at the crossroads or just in Queslett Road. Dad was coming back with my brother and sister after a visit to the flicks. Either the Odeon at Kingstanding or the one at Great Barr. I was far too young to go. I was probably only a toddler. This was in our Ford V8. Here it is, the following day, at Cutler's garage. It was repaired there and was as good as new afterwards.

Mind you, you should have seen the other bloke! This was his car. Fortunately, nobody was badly hurt although, if you look at Dad's windscreen in the first picture, I think my brother who was in the front passenger seat must have had a bit of a headache for a day or two. I don't think I've ever heard any of them talking about it. And of course my brother is now far, far away anyway. But the photos are still there with all the others in a drawer in the bureau and I look at them from time to time and I think of my brother banging his head on that windscreen.

I can remember the V8 quite well and it was a lovely car. It must have been such a thrill when Dad first got it. So modern and American, after the boxy car he had before, a Morris Major. The V8 took us on very long journeys.

Here it is in South Devon in 1938, behind me, Mr. Cummings and the 1 h.p. horse. (I liked cars far more than horses. And still do). Dad had to get rid of it in 1940 for a Ford Prefect which doesn't need so much petrol.

But back to the Chester Road. On the opposite side of the road to us, there are some petrol pumps and a little cafe. But we’ll stick to this side of the road because there’s no pavement on the other side, just a wide grass verge and the hedge with fields beyond. Filled with corn at the moment because it's August. 


    4. On along the Chester Road
   and Chester Road Traffic




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