Mrs. Smith is eighty five years old and is the mother of Peter Smith family butchers on the High Street.
Mrs Smith lived the first years of her life in Cockshut, she attended the local school until she was fourteen years of age, she said that she left school on the Friday and on the Sunday was packed off to help an aunt in Rhyll.
She didn’t ask any questions and had very little choice in the matter. The aunt in Rhyl was married to a butcher and ran a boarding house. Mrs Smith doesn’t remember too much about her time there,
she stayed for nearly two years helping where she was needed then came back home. Home was now on a smallholding near Soulton, where her father worked.
At the age of sixteen, well she admits to telling a white lie here, she was nearly sixteen, she told them she was sixteen, she got a job in Shrewsbury at Quarry Place Nursing Home.
Mrs. Smith became the Matrons maid, this was a glorified waitressing job and she loved the time she spent there, which was to be for six years. It was a live in job and you were treated very well
if you worked hard says Mrs Smith. She made lots of friends and spent lots of happy hours gossiping in the kitchen with the cook.
On days off and weekends she would cycle back to Soulton. Mrs. Smith loved cycling and after cycling home would cycle further a field with her sister. They thought nothing of setting off to Chester and back in the day.
Depending which way the wind was blowing, took about fifty minutes to an hour cycling from Shrewsbury, through Hadnal to Soulton. Mrs Smith admits the traffic was almost non-existent and the old fashioned lorries
with the tailgates went slow enough for you to catch hold of and have a tow. She insists there was no danger and it was a common sight to see a cyclist holding the tailgate of a wagon. To stop her skirt or dress blowing open
she would fasten a piece of material with press studs back and front, making them into culottes.
Believe it or not Mrs. Smith never came into Wem more than once or twice in twenty-two years even though she lived so close. It was not until she met Mr. Smith who was a butcher that she had reason to visit Wem.
Mr & Mrs. Smith met in Shrewsbury while visiting a mutual friend in hospital. They courted for two years and married in 1935 on Boxing Day. It had to be a holiday day because the shop couldn’t be closed, even for a wedding.
In fact it was to be nineteen years before they took a real holiday.
For the first couple of years they lived with Mr. Smiths mother. Mrs Smith recalls how little she knew about running a home. Her own mother had not had time to pass on culinary skills, and in her employment
Mrs Smith admits she worked hard at her tasks but had no real interest in learning to cook. So when her mother in law divided the household duties she would do the cleaning and, it was the cooking to the new Mrs Smith.
Mrs. Smith remembers worrying long and hard over pastry making and she had to take her mother in laws wrath many times over the silly mistakes she made. However she remembers her mother in law with fondness and
has been grateful to have some one to show her how to run a home. The morning I visited Mrs. Smith she was preparing lunch for her grand daughters and she is now clearly an excellent cook all those years on.
Mrs. Smith had three children, the middle one Peter took on his fathers butchers business and is well known to many in Wem. Her youngest daughter lives near Wem, but tragically her eldest son died very suddenly when he was thirteen.
During the war her husband looked after his own butchers shop but also kept Mr. Evans Butchers business across the High Street, going for him, because the three men of that family were all called up.
After the war Mr. Evans was able to restart his business and was always grateful to Mr. Smith. Not long into the war Mrs. Smith had a knock at the door and standing there was a man from the Welfare with three children evacuated from Liverpool.
She had no advanced warning, she had spare rooms so three children two brothers and a sister were allocated to their house. “ You just had to get on with it, we were very fortunate they were nice children and
although the extra work was hard we could feed them easily, I was always able to get an extra little bit of meat.” Said Mrs Smith.
“We became part of their extended family, every Sunday their mother and father along with their elder sister and her boyfriend, would come for Sunday dinner. We got to know them quite well and always felt grateful
we didn’t live in Liverpool after hearing at first hand the stories of the bombings.”
A couple of years ago the youngest evacuee came to visit Mrs. Smith all the way from Durban in South Africa. She was so happy that Mrs Smith lived in the same house and was able to say how grateful
she had been for the way they had been accepted into the Smiths family. At the end of the war Mrs Smith received a letter from the Queen Elizabeth, now the Queen Mother, saying thankyou for taking
evacuees into their home. She still has that letter all these years later.
It was easy to see after chatting with Mrs Smith how lucky those children had been to live in her home. Mrs Smith is the kind of lady any one would have been proud to call mum.
Reproduced from 'The Wemian' magazine, with thanks.