A few weeks ago I did something I've been meaning to do for a long time - I visited Cheshire Records Office. I've drafted a book set in Chester in WWII and now that I'm editing it, I need more details of what life was really like in the area. I'm fortunate that I don't have to travel far to get my hands on all this lovely history, but still I never seemed to make the time.
It might sound a bit boring for some, but for me it was a thoroughly enjoyable day. I phoned in advance to book a microfiche screen and when I was there I had to register and was given a free membership card for the next five years. You are only allowed to take pen and paper into the main library so I was given a locker key where I had to stow my bag away. (I felt like a proper historian!) and then I was shown how to work the machine and where to find the tapes for each newspaper in the timescale I wanted.
Obviously I've done a fair bit of research already but what I really wanted to know was how the run up to the war affected people and what was in the papers at the outbreak of war.
It felt really strange to read a newspaper which is still a weekly publication today, but from all those years ago.
These days we don't currently have a cinema in Chester but then there were three. The week before war broke out, one was Showing Stage Coach with Claire Trevor, John Wayne and John Carradine and the other The Perfect Specimen starring Errol Flynn.
I found out what the main shops were in the centre and adverts which were truly of the day.
Browns of Chester have men and materials available now to black out your home in accordance with the ARP.
Each year Cheshire holds a county show. Now its in June, based near Knutsford, but then it was scheduled for 7 September at the Roodee which is Chester's racecourse. The week before there was a big page spread showing who was going to be show and the next a tiny box saying that it had been cancelled.
At the outbreak of war everyone feared that Hitler would instantly bomb Britain so all the precautions were in place but the saddest one I found was this:
Send pets into the country. It is better to have your pet destroyed than to leave it to wander about.
Poor things - I'm not sure that I could have done that. Mind you, I'm not sure if I had lived a city, that I would have been able to let my children be evacuated either.
It just makes you realise how lucky we all are now.
But on a happier note, it was a thoroughly productive day, hopefully the first of many I will spend immersed in the past.