Gardening and garden centres for growing wartime boys, tomboys and garden gnomes. “Go to it, lads!” (The Boy’s Own Paper, August 1940)

Bumper August holiday edition of the blog: The World War Zoo garden at Newquay Zoo celebrates its first anniversary  on August 31st. Packed with extra reading and some fun things to do!

 Happy National Allotments Week 9th – 15th August 2010 http://www.nsalg.org.uk

Wartime holiday reading - the dramatic front cover (The Altmark story) of Boy's Own Paper August 1940 Price 6d (Image from the World War Zoo collection, Newquay Zoo)

August, our first garden anniversary amid school holidays with Newquay Zoo www.newquayzoo.org.uk and busy local Cornish beaches, full of children and their families enjoying sunshine, picnics, animal feeding talks and each other’s company (along with the odd temper tantrum and family row). Many stop to look at the fresh veg, flowers and busy bees of the World War Zoo garden, soon to be celebrating its first anniversary at the end of August 2010. Sadly the cares of the office and family back home are never far away, judged by awkward mobile phone conversations. 

 Holidays in wartime were increasingly more of a ‘staycation’ variety, with ‘Is Your Journey Really Necessary?’ posters and petrol rationing, wired off and mined beaches with troops tensely awaiting invasion and Home Guards watching the shoreline from pillboxes, rather than today’s RNLI lifeguards. 

Spot the pillbox on your Cornish summer holiday. Without camouflage now but still blends in well! Protecting the harbour at Porthleven in Cornwall still, 2010, 70 years on from construction at the height of invasion fears. (Image: World war Zoo gardens, Newquay Zoo)

Many of the older generation still loyally return to Cornwall where they were brought as children on family holidays or as evacuees. Newquay has recently seen another anniversary trip by staff and boys of Gresham’s School, 70 years on from the school, like Benenden Girls School, moving from the battlefields of the South Coast to Newquay and Cornwall. The holiday period of this time is vividly captured in Bettye Grey’s reprinted memoir of Newquay life, “Oh Get On!”

Fabulous adverts for childhood toys and boys' careers, August 1940 Boy's Own Paper (Image: World War Zoo gardens, Newquay Zoo)

Already in early August there must be children moaning “I’m bored!” to parents. What would a wartime school child do in their extended holidays, either in their evacuation centres or  increasingly at home returned from  evacuation billets when not much was happening in the ‘Phoney war’ and often with  no schools to go to?

 In a battered and yellowing copy of the Boy’s Own Paper for August 1940 in the Newquay Zoo World War Zoo gardens wartime life archive can be found the following rousing instructions from the Editor for young men (and their sisters):

 “Be British [quoted as the last words of Captain Smith of the Titanic] and summon up your nerve and heart and sinew to carry on with your job – your harvesting, your waste-paper-collecting, the repairing of the school air raid shelters, black out blinds, fire service, first aid.”

“Write home often, and tell those anxious people how jolly all right you are; and let your whole being throb with the almighty unconquerable challenge –“Let them come!” Brace your muscles every time you think of it, let it resound from your spade when you give an extra hefty jab into the earth of the school garden plot. Let your nostrils dilate, your eyes kindle with a fierce gleam as, with fists clenched, you surge out that mighty challenge between set teeth. Go to it, lads!”  (Editorial, Boy’s Own Paper, August 1940)

 Never has gardening been so breathlessly described in such “ripping” terms. Another article begins:

 “All of you who have a garden have, I know, been digging for victory, and now your crops are up you can see what can be done by hard work, and penny packets of seed. Every potato, parsnip, carrot, beetroot, every row of peas or beans, every lettuce or tomato on your plot of ground is going to help us win through, and what is more, it is your very own contribution to victory. Having dug for victory, I am now going to talk t you about feeding for victory. I don’t mean by this that you should sit down and eat up all your crops. I mean feeding livestock.”

“Why not keep one or two rabbits, a few chickens or half a dozen bantams? … and some have a large enough garden, perhaps to keep a pig, or there may be adjacent to the garden a rough piece of meadow or waste land to poor to grow crops but where a goat could pick up a living and provide you with milk … How ripping, too, if there was also honey for tea from your own bees … doubly welcomed now we are rationed with sugar …” (“Feeding For Victory”, Boy’s Own Paper, August 1940).

Gardening for Boys - Boy's Own Paper, August 1940 (Image: World War Zoo collection, Newquay Zoo)

Followed by W. E. Shewell-Cooper’s Garden and Allotment What You Can Do series, August’s article  being ‘How To Get Good Garden Crops’: 

“August is a harvesting month. It isn’t as big a harvesting month as September, of course, but there is lots of harvesting work to do. Take the French beans and runner beans, for instance …” 

Not many years ago, there was a brief nostalgia  flourish of the “Dangerous Book for Boys” genre and not-so-dangerous companion book for girls. Many journalists and childhood experts  lamented the modern safety-obsessed, neglectful or over parenting of the ‘play safe, play at home, computer and text obsessed, short attention spanned, foul-mouthed, under-parented, disrespectful, drunk, promiscuous, overweight and more miserable generation’ of 21st century children and teenagers in Britain than anywhere else in the developed world.  Many in Newquay have  been fighting back recently against  adverse publicity  regarding this generation on holiday without parents for the first time.   

My friend Sue Palmer, author of Toxic Childhood, Detoxing Childhood, and 21st Century Boys (all by Orion, see www.suepalmer.co.uk ) would no doubt approve of the vigorous and earnest pursuits suggested or sold to Boy’s Own Paper readers in the August 1940 edition.

There are plenty of activity ideas “for the growing boy” in the Boy’s Own Paper August 1940 (B.O.P Motto: Quicquid Agunt pueri nostri farrago libelli, or “Whatever boys do makes up the mixture of our little book”)  for boy craft of days gone by. Amongst the rousing tales of daring-do and technical articles on “Submarines: what they are like and how they are operated” (at a time of rationing and increased Merchant shipping loss to Nazi U-boats) are some fascinating adverts.

More activity ideas and "knowledge for the growing boy", adverts page, Boy's Own Paper, August 1940 (Image: World War Zoo gardens, Newquay Zoo)

What boy could be bored, tempted by naval careers or radio officer training colleges (“A career of national importance in wartime with an assured future in peace-time”), Skywaymen of the BOP Flying League and their aircraft recognition card games, Cold Ovaltine “the best summer drink”, Brylcreem and discreet booklets on “Sex Problems … if you are puzzled about the secrets of birth” in “Knowledge for the Growing Boy” (6d, post free.)

What does the holiday weather matter as wartime boy when there is always the latest model anti-tank gun or make-it-yourself ship or plane models, photographic chemicals, stamp collecting advice care of Stanley Gibbons (in the centenary year of the Penny Black and Penny Post 6th May 1840), cricketing tips, pen pals seeking fellow “aviation enthusiast” or “cricket enthusiast”, explosive chemistry experiments, canoeing or cycling adventures (with blackout shielded headlamps, naturally). There were of course for some, visits to the local zoo, if it had reopened as a morale booster and a touch of normal pre-war life. 

Battle of Britain in your hands for the growing wartime boy! Frog kits were the forerunner of postwar Airfix kits, and taught valuable craft skills and aircraft recognition - friend or foe - for young and old alike! (Image: World War Zoo collection, Newquay Zoo.)

Cold Ovaltine! The ultimate summer drink, showing lots of busy boy and tomboy sporting activities to fill the holidays, as advertised in August 1940, Boy's Own Paper (Image: World War Zoo collection, Newquay Zoo)

 There was also the salvage of aluminium kitchen goods to collect and sort out, as part of COGS (Children on Government Salvage), during the July and August 1940 appeal by Lord Beaverbrook for saucepans for Spitfires! This campaign features comically in William at War, one of the Just William books reprinted in the 2009 “Still Naughty at Ninety” anniversary of Richmal Crompton’s boy wonder. Find more in the  www.panmacmillan.com  the A- Z author list.  

The life of a 1940s boy (or tomboy girl) seems exhausting and busy by modern standards! Amongst many memoirs and histories of wartime children, Mike Brown has written a fabulous short Shire Library Book on Wartime Childhood www.shirebooks.co.uk which illustrates the varied activities, challenges and opportunities of my parent’s childhood. Two of our handmade wartime toys – a Spitfire and a wooden sliding puzzle – from the Newquay Zoo wartime life collection can be found on the BBC www.bbc.co.uk/ahistoryoftheworld

 If you want to recapture some of this indoor childhood activity, Airfix are very proudly advertising their kits again through http://www.airfix.com/  in the pages of BBC History Magazine http://www.bbchistorymagazine.com/  including an anniversary  Battle of Britain range and RAF airfield (just like the one my granddad served on) with proceeds to veterans’ charities. The Airfix Club flies again for a whole new generation of paint-splattered boys and girls!

Setting up our World War Zoo display in the Grow Your Own allotment section of Trelawney Garden Centre, Wartime garden display on right, minibeasts being unpacked on the left.The lavender and Buddleia were alive with bees throughout! (Image: World War Zoo collection, Newquay Zoo)

So “get to it, lads” (and lasses) at your local garden centre!  Newquay Zoo and its World War Zoo wartime gardens display were ‘on tour’ at the weekend of July 31st and August 1st, as guests of  Trelawney Garden Centre at Sladesbridge near Wadebridge. We were very busy for two days showcasing wildlife friendly gardening, helped out by giant minibeasts from the Newquay Zoo collection, along with amazing phasmid leaf and stick insects from Kevin Roberts, Trelawney’s events manager, as an active member of the PSG Phasmid Study Group. http://www.trelawney.co.uk/wadebridge/index.htm  

 http://phasmid-study-group.org/

Hopefully some of these children might go on to join  the AES Bugs  Club, junior section of the Amateur Entomologists Society http://www.amentsoc.org/bug-club/

Amongst many welcome cups of tea from their friendly staff, we chatted to many hundreds of children and adults of all ages, from all over the country along with a puzzled elderly couple of Cornwall’s many German ‘garden tourists’. My German is  a little ‘Rustig’, especially when it comes to explaining the wartime garden display, marginally better on insects, habitats and camouflage (‘Muster unt Tarnung’).    

Gardening was also part of this manly (boyish or tomboyish) existence, amongst the columns of nature notes such as “The Wonders of Crab Life” by H. Chapman Pincher BSc, (surely not the controversial Spycatcher writer of later years?) – and “Through the Hedge and over the Downs” by ‘Hedgerow’. We saw lots of native wildlife such as bees, birds and dragonflies flitting and buzzing around Trelawney Garden Centre and its lakes (with rumours of kingfishers), amid many chats about our live insects, sloughed spider moults, wasp nest sections or dried specimens of Death’s Head Hawk moth.  ‘Hedgerow’ notes topically for August 1940 “What to look out for this month: Hawk moth larvae; Privet Hawk on Privet: Eyed Hawk on willow, Lime Hawk on lime or elm, Elephant Hawk on Willow Herb.  Dunlin or Ox birds by the seashore.  Corn Buntings and yellowhammers by the Cornfields. Butcher Birds’ larders in the hedges. Teazles in Bloom. Wasps’ nests.” A refreshing sight for the sore limbs of many a Land Girl or Victory harvest schoolchild working in the August fields, but also sign of how Britain’s wildlife has changed in 70 years, If you haven’t signed it yet, sign up via www.signtheletter.org.uk   to the RSPB’s Letter to The Future campaign www.rspb.org.uk

L.R. Brightwell's cheerful nature notes illustrations to Hedgerow's gnomes and gardens August 1940 column for the Boy's Own Paper. (Image: Newquay Zoo, World War Zoo collection)

This last Boy’s Own Paper article is quirkily illustrated by L.R. Brightwell, cartoonist and illustrator of many zoo and nature books (see our archive blog entries on his Story of London Zoo, August 2009). Our partner college Cornwall College Newquay www.cornwall.ac.uk/newquay , quiet without hundreds of degree students for a few weeks, has some original Brightwell paintings. There are several more in the care of  the retired College manager and author Dr. Mike Kent, no doubt vigorously rambling  around the Cornish countryside and coast path collecting materials for his modern hedgerow notes books about Cornwall http://www.alisonhodge.co.uk/ShowDetails.asp?id=125 We were interested to note and already tracking down in detective mode the mention of ‘Next Month! Look out for … Wartime and The Zoos by Sydney Moorhouse FRGS, illustrated by L.R. Brightwell, FZS” promised for Boy’s Own Paper, September 1940. When we track it down, we’ll share it with you on this blog.

“Children’s Gardens” by Edwin L. Howard (the Studio Publications, 2s. 6d.) is favourably reviewed by ‘Hedgerow’ in Boy’s Own Paper, August 1940,  who notes amongst bird and water garden designs that “I expect you boys will like the Zoo Garden best, but your sisters will prefer the Enchanted Flower Garden.” A second hand book to look out for, predating many recent books and seed company’s ranges (such as www.mr-fothergills.co.uk or  http://www.suttons.co.uk/grow_your_own.htm for children’s gardening. Suttons have agreat gardening blog too:  http://www.growyourownclub.co.uk 

Many of these colourful cartoon packets, much like the Doctor Carrot, Squander Bug  and Potato Pete (see below picture) wartime cartoon figures of “eat more veg”, were excitedly bought by children and parents at Trelawney Garden Centre to help pass the holiday time, many proudly telling me about what they were growing at home or at school. Grow It! Magazine had a good article on children’s gardens by Angela Youngman in the July 2010 issue http://www.growitmag.com , whilst the Eden Project books for inspiring child gardeners by Jo Readman are also full of ideas www.edenproject.com

Gnome Guard on parade from The World War Zoo gardens collection at Trelawney Garden Centre, July / August 2010

Our khaki clad Gnome Guard also travelled out to Trelawney Garden Centre at the weekend as part of our wartime garden display. Here he was greeted by many other gnomes awaiting employment and a home, dressed in their civvies and colourful demob suits. The place was like a Victorian hiring fair for gnomes, all with the tools or symbols of their trade.  So far our Gnome Guard member of the LDV, introduced to the World War Zoo gardens to mark the July 1940 renaming of the Home Guard, has not been stolen by gnome liberators. Yet.

Gnome guard on parade. Gnome Guard on parade from The World War Zoo gardens collection at Trelawney Garden Centre, July / August 2010

But before anyone questions his willingness to serve or wartime authenticity, gnomes bizarrely feature in the Boy’s Own Paper August 1940 nature notes by ‘Hedgerow’ on fungi, at the height of the Battle of Britain when the Editor worries not only about increasing  paper rationing but about the threatened invasion “By the time you read this that foul fiend Apollyon may have struck at Britain, our land”). The columnist ‘Hedgerow’ whimsically notes: “One of the most handsome and decorative is the Scarlet Fly Agaric. This is copied by those who make garden ornaments and sold with gnomes to furnish a miniature wood or rockery. In my wood they grow freely. As I have a real wood I have no need for china gnomes, for they say there real gnomes in the woods and that they hold their meetings around the little red tables of the Scarlet Fly Agarics. I have never seen them, but as I write my nature notes under the light of an oil lamp in my little house in the wood  I often wonder whether they are playing around outside or spying to see if I am properly blacked out.”   (Boy’s Own Paper August 1940 nature notes)

So hopefully, during the summer holidays, you might like to paint your own china gnome, if you don’t have your own real wood and fungi. Wherever you are you could grow one thing, even if it’s in a tiny pot, as part of Garden Organic’s www.onepotpledge.org 2010. (Apparently if I encourage several others to sign up, I earn my very own Gardening Guru membership card or badge. How Boy’s Own Paper is that!) More growing advice can be found on the http://www.rhs.org.uk/ and www.bbc.co.uk/digin  BBC Dig In campaign pages. You can also sign up to “do one thing” campaign, part of International Year of Biodiversity  2010,   http://www.biodiversityislife.net/?q=do-one-thing the theme of some of our summer 2010 activity weeks at Newquay Zoo www.newquayzoo.org.uk

Finally, if you are in London this August,  look out for wartime chickens and WLA Land girls! There is a Wartime Farm outside the Imperial War Museum 12-15 and 19-22 August (admission free) as part of their Ministry of Food wartime rationing exhibition, (small admission charge to exhibition). These are both mentioned in the August 2010 Grow Your Own magazine www.growfruitandveg.co.uk  has a well illustrated article by Sara Cork interviewing wartime Land girl Joan Proctor. The main exhibition Ministry of Food www.food.iwm.org.uk continues until early January 2011 and marks the 70th anniversary of rationing and also the Dig for Victory Campaign.

Hopefully there were  lots of bumper holiday ideas on our blog to keep the whole family busy this August (or winter!) Off to try some Cold Ovaltine! 

Hooray We passed our 6000th page view today on 8th August 2010!

For all enquiries or comments re. World War Zoo gardens project, contact us via the comments page below.

If stuck inside, 21st century child style, you might like to check out our past blog entries, look at the macaque monkey webcam on www.newquayzoo.org.uk or join our World War Zoo gardens’ official Facebook page (to eventually replace our original world war zoo worldwarzoogardener pages). 

Look out for future blog articles on the Vive la French Marigolds! The Entente Cordiale: Friend or Foe, Garden allies, pests and sympathetic planting – flowers and herbs in wartime garden.

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15 Responses to “Gardening and garden centres for growing wartime boys, tomboys and garden gnomes. “Go to it, lads!” (The Boy’s Own Paper, August 1940)”

  1. islander inn hotel reviews Says:

    Great tip…my pops always said The best way to garden is to put on a wide-brimmed straw hat and some old clothes. And with a hoe in one hand and a cold drink in the other, tell somebody else where to dig.”

    Like

    • worldwarzoogardener1939 Says:

      This is some of the wisest gardening advice I have heard! This is also why there were so mnay ‘Allotment gardening for Dummies’ type books from the 1940s in our collection as young gardeners tended to called up or old ones requisistioned for the war effort, leaving more wealthy householders puzzled, wondering what to do with the garden when the gardener wasn’t there!

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  2. Craigslist autoposter Says:

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  3. tomate y amor Says:

    Exceptional post – and great domain by the way!

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    Kudos from one brainiac to another. 🙂

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  5. Jude Says:

    Thanks for a very informative website. What else may I get that type of info written in such a perfect method? I have a project that I am just now running on, and I’ve been at the look out for such info.

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  6. Rugby World Cup 2011 in New Zealand Says:

    Makes me think…. How come you have so much knowledge in this topic?

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    • worldwarzoogardener1939 Says:

      Dear Fleitman 871
      Q. How come you have so much knowledge in this topic?

      A. We’ve been researching wartime gardens since about 2008 as part of our World War Zoo gardens project here at Newquay Zoo. Part of this has been collecting period materails (books, magazines, letters, diaries) to get a flavour of the period ( literally with recipe books!) The wartime Boy’s Own Paper stuff is second nature, I was brought up by my parents who had been evacuee children in the 1940s and growing up in the 1970s were a period of thrift / austerity compared to today, so we kind of made our own entertainment, still had cheap hobbies and helped out with the family veg plot!
      Thnaks for reading the blog – we’ve had lots of comments on last August’s blog post so we’ll be upadting and reposting it for this year’s summer holiday bumper issue.

      Like

  7. Auto Shipping San Diego Says:

    I have not checked in here for some time because I thought it was getting boring, but the last few posts are really great quality so I guess I’ll add you back to my everyday bloglist. You deserve it my friend. 🙂

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  8. Abel Says:

    I adore your website! Do you have a facebook or fb page? I’d like to connect and speak about a couple of things. Appreciate all of your work.

    Like

    • worldwarzoogardener1939 Says:

      We will be setting up a separate website this autumn to link with the official Newquay Zoo website, so thyen we can host a facebook page for the wartime garden friends. Keep watching the blog for details …

      Like

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