Part 4: 1939 - 1967

The outbreak of war in 1939 brought many changes and probably precipitated a few decisions. Eddie Stafford and Lou were married on 13th May 1940 and rented a house in Lindenthorpe Road. (Eric Peason was still in Ostend and missed the wedding - he retuned shortly afterwards and went straight to London where he tried, unsuccessfully, to gain a seagoing appointment). 


Eddie and Lou Stafford

When the German Blitzkrieg bombing began and the "Battle of Britain" raged in the skies above southern England, most of the younger population, including all the younger Pearsons, were evacuated to safer parts of the country. Eddie's school, Holy Trinity Broadstairs, was evacuated to Tamworth in Staffordshire, and Eddie and Lou moved there until he was called up into the Royal Navy late in 1940. Thanet, the tip of Kent where Broadstairs was situated, was regarded as a prime location for the expected German invasion and was sealed off to non-residents in 1940. Broadstairs became something of a ghost town for while. Gradually, as the war progressed, the threat of invasion diminished and it also became evident that most parts of the country were equally threatened by German bombing, and people started drifting back into town. A stray bomb flattened the house that Lou and Eddie had rented, along with all their possessions. Eric and Louie remained in Broadstairs for the duration.
 

Betty and Doris had signed on for three years with the Territorial Army in early 1939 and were thus automatically co-opted for service at the outbreak of hostilities. However they found their somewhat sterile office duties not much to their liking and were agreeably surprised when they found themselves released from the service at the completion of the three-year term with the war still raging. Betty married Harry Dent who worked as a ground mechanic on various fighter bases in that part of the world and met many flyers who subsequently became household names, including the famed Douglas Bader (After whom their first-born son was named). Eric jnr also joined the RAF later and became a pilot,
  and Phyll went to work for the Ministry of Supply when her school closed. 


The two Erics


Lou and Eric on Broadstairs seafront


Emma Jane died in about 1943. Eric, Eric jnr, and Arthur were down at Deal trying to salvage a vessel "Nora" off the beach there and
the rest of the family were expecting a visit from Otto, Eric's younger brother, who had returned from South America where he had been a mining engineer and also apparently something of a political activist, and joined the Royal Engineers before the war. One day, anticipating his arrival and not having seen "Pom" (Otto) since 1935, Emma Jane appeared at the lunch table unexpectedly dressed in her finest clothes. After lunch she retired to her room and died that afternoon. Otto arrived the next day.

All the major players in this story survived the war, though no doubt somewhat scarred from their experiences - a factor much recognised in this day and age but not acknowledged back then when an inability to "get on with your life" was deemed more of a character deficiency than a culpable trauma. (Perhaps things haven't changed so much...)

After the war the world must have seemed a much changed and more austere place. Consumer goods and many food items were in short supply, rationing was still in force and remained so until 4th July 1954. It must have been hard for the young families setting up homes, but such was the bond of the family that they all chose to return to Broadstairs to do so. Lou and Eddie Stafford rented a house in Luton Avenue until buying a home in Dumpton Park Drive in 1952, Betty and Harry Dent eventually got a house in Vale Road, and Phyll married Arthur Hodkin, another teacher, and in time they built a house in Stone Road at North Foreland. 3, The Vale remained the hub of social activity in the family and I think it would have been a brave and foolish spouse who might have endeavoured to steer any of the siblings away from the family fold. Arthur Pearson, who had been young enough to escape active service, was called up for National Service and joined the Navy.


Arthur serving in Hong Kong in the RN

 After demobilisation Eric jnr, Arthur and Harry Dent, using their hard-won experience assisting their father with his shipwrighting work, established a boat-building business in St Peters.


"The Boys" & Harry on Broadstairs seafront

It soon became clear that the struggling business could not support the three of them and Harry left and eventually went on to become a civil engineer, working in many far-flung corners of the world including Western Australia, Iraq and Nigeria. Meanwhile "The Boys", as Eric and Arthur were known in the family, continued to build wooden boats to various specifications and were also keen members of Broadstairs Sailing Club.

Captain Eric Pearson died of lung cancer in 1949, aged 66, always believing he had tuberculosis, that traditional killer of seafarers for centuries. I was not yet born and so I never knew him. Louie stayed on in The Vale for another 8 or 9 years until her debilitating arthritis became so bad that she vacated 3, The Vale and moved into our family home in Dumpton Park Drive. This, I believe, rather marked the end of an era and gradually many of the family moved on to pastures new. Eric and Arthur sold up and, after a brief foray as “ten-pound Poms” to explore the possibilities of establishing themselves in Western Australia, they returned to England and set up a boat-yard in Littlehampton, working in the new medium of fibreglass. Arthur Hodkin accepted a teaching post in Southampton where he moved with Phyll and his young family, and Doris, who had married an army officer Bill Coombs, eventually settled in St Margaret's Bay. Eric jnr had meanwhile married Ann, an artist of flamboyant character who died tragically young of stomach cancer soon after the birth of their son John, and Arthur had met Marion Maxwell, a nurse, on the ship to Australia, andshe eventually also returned to England to marry him. Eric was eventually remarried to Pam.

Despite her condition, Louie remained very much the matriarch of the family and every Christmas and New Year our house would groan at the seams with the influx of the ever-growing greater family. George, being that much younger than his siblings (and hence the only one not addressed by my generation as "Uncle"), studied aeronautical engineering and led what seemed a colourful and itinerant life, appearing at the family gatherings from different corners of the globe, usually with an attractive exotic companion on his arm!


George in Portugal

He was teaching English in Finland when he met and married Irma, and they eventually settled in Suffolk where he took up a full-time teaching career. My childhood companions were my many first cousins of the Pearson line, and the closeness of feeling between my mother's brothers and sisters ensured an unquestioned affinity between us that largely endures to this day. Of course to me at that time Louie was simply "Granny" - an old lady of great warmth who taught us to play cribbage and pontoon, looked after us on the rare occasions my parents went away or out to a dance, and who shuffled ever more painfully on two sticks between the sitting room, the sun room, and her ground-floor bedroom. How I wish that I had been old enough to have to appreciated the things she had been - a woman of great beauty in her youth, to judge from the photographs, and evidently great spirit and fortitude, who went on to endure and enjoy a very full life of occasional undoubted hardship, but high adventure also. Oh the stories she must have had that I was too young to ask or listen to! The last time I saw her in 1967 I had ridden over on my moped to visit her in Ramsgate Hospital. She was painfully thin and frail, yellow with jaundice, and she mistook me for my cousin Bill Coombs (jnr). She died a few days later, aged 77.

 

This then is the end of the account of the remarkable lives of Captain Eric and Louie Pearson as far as I have been able to unravel it. I'm aware that it probably contains some errors, and certainly many omissions, and I welcome any feedback that will enable me to make corrections and flesh out further details and stories. It is not, though, by any means the end of the Pearson Family story, and the aim of this website is to try and pull everything up to date so that our children and their children can see where they fit into the whole scheme of things and hopefully provide sufficient interest for them to want to make contact with each other around the world. HOWEVER (yes it's a big "however"!) I do not possibly have the time and resources to research and write the stories of each of Louie, Doris, Betty, Eric, Arthur, and George, let alone the stories of their children and grandchildren. I do invite (urge?) those interested in this project to provide even just a few details, facts or photos that could be included on this site so that we can all see how we are related to each other and where we have ended up.

 

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