It was 1939.
Papa John was dead, and Emily now had seven young boys and a nine-month-old daughter to care for … alone.
Christmas was just over a fortnight away. [fortnight = 2weeks]
How she managed, I cannot tell you as there is no one left to tell me, but I can tell you this: her boys were hellions! (Yes, my father was the youngest.). How Emily kept her sanity is beyond anything I can imagine!
This one incident occurred after the war was over. Like typical boys, they liked to build things … repair things… so, when one of them had an idea to have some fun, they were all in.
To make money to feed her family, Emily house-cleaned for a couple elderly ladies that lived next door; and whenever she did, she took her young daughter with her because the boys were just too pre-occupied with other things when it came to looking after their baby sister.
Today, for example: they were breaking into a junkyard!
While there, they found many treasures: a mortar, a steel helmet, a couple sten guns, a few machine guns and some bandoliers with the ammunitions still in them! Content with their loot, they took everything home.
With all their stuff sprawled out on the basement dirt-floor, they began repairing their “new toys.” They managed to get one sten gun and a machine gun working; but they still needed to test them.
That’s when my father voiced the idea of using their sister’s dollies as targets, by hanging them across Emily’s washline which was strung across the rafters.
NOTE: These dollies were not Barbie and Ken; they had china faces, arms and legs and a sawdust-filled bag for a torso.
The dolls were no sooner prepped, Jack took the machine gun and made shards of them too quickly.
Ecstatic that their repair skills were so good, they wondered what they could shoot at next.
“A bull’s eye!” Howard chimed, “We can draw a bull’s eye on the wall!”
Jumping up and down with excitement, Frank drew six rings with the largest reaching from the floor to the rafters. The bull’s eye was about six inches wide.
One by one, the boys squeezed the trigger of the machine gun, followed by the sten gun.
Bullets disappeared in the wall, making it difficult for anyone to know who hit where — until a loud, slow creak seemed to come from the rafters. It was followed by a low rumble that shook the house.
Curious, the boys looked around for the source of the noises, when a nine foot by six foot section of the basement wall fell in! (Yes, the same section they were using for target practice.).
“Oh! Neat! I can see Aunty’s house across the street! HI, AUNTY!” my father cried waving frantically.
Hushing him quickly, his older brothers reminded him they were snipers and could not be careless, or they would be discovered!
Working together, they managed to lift the wall back into place using dirt from the floor to putty the holes and cracks; then they hid the guns and mortar.
“Mum cannot find out,” Frank told his younger brothers, “Or she’ll kill us all.”
All was well for about a month — that was when the April showers came.
With all her children in school, Emily took to the basement to do some laundry, as it was just too dreary out to do any gardening.
After filling her galvanized steel tub and locating her washboard, she started scrubbing.
She managed to get a few clothes hanging on her line, when she heard a very strange creak coming from overhead.
As she prepared to go upstairs, she watched as the 9×6 wall section fell in again!
Rolling her eyes, she looked on in disbelief. She KNEW who to blame, but was riddled as to just how they did it?