Culture & Society
The Late Mrs. Mop.
By Kitty Wintrob
TORONTO. July 27/22 – Kitty Wintrob, author and storyteller, lives in Toronto, Canada. She was born and raised in Britain’s east end of London. At the start of the Second World War in 1939, in the first three days of official evacuation, 1.5 million people were moved: 827,000 children of school age; 524,000 mothers and young children (under 5); 13,000 pregnant women; 70,000 disabled people and over 103,000 teachers and other ‘helpers’. Children, including Kitty Wintrob, were parted from their parents.
Today is the final part of Kitty Wintrob’s story, The Late Mrs. Mop.
At the next rehearsal, I didn’t even have to push my hair in. Just putting on my hat hid the whole lot!
The Commissioner started her inspection. The feather in her hat seemed even longer than last week. She walked up and down the lines and finally, like before, stopped before me.
“Oh!” she said. “You must be the replacement for the girl with all the hair.”
“I am the girl who had all that hair, ma’am. I had it all cut off!”
“That’s beautiful!” she said. “You look wonderful.” And on she walked. And so having my hair cut did have some compensation.
The day finally arrived. No rain, and a little sun trying to peek between the grey clouds. Yet it was cold. Thank goodness I’d worn my woolly underwear. My heart was pounding as I got into line. Being short and skinny I was put in the front row. That meant everyone could see me.
The pavements were lined with people, children waving flags, just as I used to. I looked for my mum, Uncle Yudi and my cousin. My dad was working in the country. He couldn’t get time off to come. I wondered if my Uncle Yudi would shout out my name as I marched by. I prayed he wouldn’t.
We began to march. Our place was right in front of the Lord Mayor’s coach. We marched past the Royal Mint, and past the Royal Exchange. The bands were playing wonderful music. And as we turned into Leadenhall Street the girl behind me, who must have been as nervous as I was, tread on my heel and my shoe came off! I was sick. I shuffled along trying to squeeze it back in, hoping that the fat Commissioner wouldn’t see me. And then, the same girl kicked me and I pitched forward and fell flat on my face!
I heard a lady on the pavement say, “Poor kid, bet she don’t ‘alf feel bad.” And then a child saying, “Cor, look at ‘er!” And then I heard a loud whisper: “Trust you, Kitty! Up girl, or you’ll be in the dustbin yet!” Who else was it than my Uncle Yudi!
I picked myself up, slipped on my shoe, and prayed that the old fatty lady hadn’t seen me. Everyone was cheering and waving and for a minute I thought it was for me now that I was back in step.
On we marched to the Guildhall. Then our Commissioner’s voice: “Halt! Right turn!” And there was the Lord Mayor stepping out of his gold coach and entering the Guildhall where he would be installed as the Lord Mayor of the City of London. His footmen behind him were white wigged, with red and gold jackets, and white satin breeches. Just like a picture postcard, I thought.
I looked around for my mum, but I could hardly see people for the flags waving. Finally, to roars and cheers, the Lord Mayor reappeared and re-entered his coach. We circled around the Guildhall to the Mansion House, but just before we reached it there was a loud “Eyes Right!” from our Commissioner and there, on a dais, cigar in his mouth was our British Bulldog, Winston Churchill.
The crowds were cheering, and I wanted to, but didn’t dare. “Eyes Front!” and we marched to just before the Mansion.
The Lord Mayor and his retinue were going to have a wonderful banquet in there I knew, of mulligatawny and turtle soup, of roast venison and pheasant under glass, whatever that was! Everyone had heard all about it on the wireless.
We marched back to Red Lion Square where it had all started for our banquet . . . of cupcakes, with hot chocolate or lemonade. And it was as good a banquet to me as whatever the Lord Mayor would be having.
And then I saw the dustmen with their carts picking up all the litter that people and the horses had dropped.
“See, Uncle Yudi,” I thought to myself. “I WAS in the parade, and NOT with the dustcarts.”
And then, there was Uncle Yudi talking to the men. “I thought you’d have to pick up my niece,” I heard him saying. “Oh Kitty, there you are. You’re all right girl!”
What a wonderful day it had been! But now I would have to face the world with my new bob, and wait to be Mrs. Mop again!
Kitty Wintrob is the author of “I’m Not Going Back: Wartime Memoir of a Child Evacuee.”
Credits: Kitty Wintrob photo Omar Mosleh/Town Crier; Wikipedia
Click on the following links to read the previous two parts of The Late Mrs. Mop.
Do you have comments or questions about this story? Contact Kitty Wintrob at email@example.com
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