A LOOK at life growing up in West Devon in the 1950s is the subject of a new book. Don Balkwill wrote 'Memories of Childhood Growing up at Shaugh Prior' so that his children and grandchildren would have a written and pictorial record of how and where he grew up. Don, 61, who now lives in Abergavenny in South Wales and is a mortgage underwriter, lived in West Devon until he was 18 when he left to join the RAF. He said: 'I wrote this book because I didn't know any of my grandparents; they had all died before I was four. My mother died when I was 17 so I was never able as an adult to ask her about her early life or that of my grandparents. My father never really talked about his parents.' Don lived at Shaugh Bridge where there were about 30 shacks in an area called 'The Colony'. Most of them were built during the second world war by business people so that their families would have somewhere safe to stay during the blitz of Plymouth. 'There was no mains electricity, gas or running water in any of the shacks,' said Don. 'All but one was pulled down as people left the area. I lived in one of these shacks for eleven years — it only had two rooms. As you can imagine, life was very basic. 'My family was very poor. However, I do not consider that I had a deprived childhood. My life was richer in so many other ways. What was lacking in material things was more than made up for by where and how we lived.' What I've tried to do is give a flavour of what life was like as we lived it. I recount various memorable incidents in my life and have woven into these descriptions and stories about the history of the area, the myths and legends of Dartmoor. 'I remember the mealtimes and the food we ate, how we cooked, the utensils we used. I recall Shaugh Prior Primary School, Tavistock Grammar School, and, of course, what little I knew about my ancestors.' Don went to Tavistock Grammar School in the late 1950s and early 1960s at a time when most of the teachers wore gowns and some even still wore mortar-boards. One he remembered was Mr Rawlings, one of the maths teachers, whom Don describes as a 'legend in his own lifetime'. He said: 'Wilf, as we called him, but not to his face of course, was a keen Plymouth Argyle fan. We knew we could be in trouble if Argyle had lost over a weekend and we had a maths lesson on Monday. Woe betide you if you created in his class, or had a question wrong. 'He used green chalk to write on the blackboard because Argyle's team colours were green and black. 'If you were the subject of his ire you could have a piece of chalk thrown at you, or, if he was in a particularly bad mood, the blackboard rubber. 'For all his temper and mood swings I would say he was one of the best, if not the best and most loved teachers in the school.' Another well remembered teacher was Mr Wrench, who taught either physics or chemistry or both. 'He was a dapper dresser and always looked smart. His particular weapon against unruly pupils was a length of red Bunsen burner tube which he kept in his pocket. If a child was misbehaving he would take out this piece of tube, which he called his "Red Dragon", and whack it down on the bench in front of you. 'I also remember Mr Squibb, a chemistry teacher, and a Mrs Truscott, who taught maths. 'Finally, there was Miss George! She taught English and we all loved being in her class. 'Miss George must have been lusted after by every boy in that school. She was quite young, in her early 20s, very pretty with a superb, buxom figure. Not only did she look good, she was a lovely teacher who was always smiling. 'I remember vividly one Christmas when I was in the second or third form, armed with my mistletoe, I had a kiss from Miss George, or maybe I kissed her — who knows? Who cares? I'd had a kiss!' The book is available through the Devon Library Servies or at £6.95 each (95p for post and packing) by contacting Don Balkwill, Homee Farm Cottage, Coldbrook, Abergavenny, Monmouthshire, NP7 9ST or email [email protected]">[email protected]