It all started with an ice cream cone

Vernon writer Peter Kendal shares more of his delightful memories of growing up in northern England during the Second World War

I presume that we have all lost something or things at sometime in our lifetime. My losses, apart from the irretrievable losses of close family relatives, started at any early age with someone else losing me!

It was early in the Second World War when I was four years old. My mother had taken me with her by bus into the local town, Bishop Auckland in the North of England, had completed her shopping and we were going to get the bus back home.

There was an ice-cream cart near the bus departure bay and I asked my mother if I could have an ice-cream before we left. She agreed and said that I should get my ice and follow her on to the bus that was only about five metres away. I got my ice and started to rejoin my mother on the bus. To my consternation I saw a bus pulling out and away.

Now to a four-year-old boy one big red bus looks much like any other big red bus so I made the first mistake that started everything off. I assumed, wrongly, that it was the bus my mother was on. So to my mind there was only one thing to do. If the bus was going home without me then I would go home without the bus. After all I knew the way, it was only about three miles and this was not to my mind very far to go.

I turned right out of the market place and went down the hill over the river Gaunless. I soon finished my ice cream that I had the presence of mind to hold on to, crossed the river and went up the next long hill. Meantime my mother was becoming more concerned at my sudden disappearance and, after a search of the market place, contacted the local police. This was in the days when violence against children was unheard of, there was a war on, and amber alerts were unheard of.

Anyway I trudged on about a mile up the hill and followed the bus route towards home. I went on for another half mile which meant that I was halfway home. It was a warm day and any sense of adventure that I may have had was wearing rather thin. Another bus passed me heading in the same direction as me, but then it pulled up short. An alert neighbour on that bus had spotted me and I was saved a further one and a half mile walk. No doubt she had been asked by my mother to watch out for me.

The lesson I learned that day was a serious one and I have kept a good watch over my sons and granddaughters since. A child’s thoughts and reasoning can be so different to an adult’s. But I seemed to be the only one who thought that in my own case I showed commendable initiative.