When Anne returned to London at age 14, not only was the war not over, but the terror the war brought with it was increasing.
“The Germans had perfected the rockets. They would send them over to London. Then they had the flying bombs which was a pilotless plane that came over and when the engine stopped, you better take cover, it was like a bomb.”
Anne’s father was still in the military, so Anne, her mother and sister were left with only each other, Anne’s brother still living in Wales. While the war raged on, the three of them would still find time to have fun, venturing into downtown London to see the shows. Taking the underground into the city was a constant reminder of the threat they lived under, as many people would sleep there to stay safe. Anne and her family, however, lived a bit too far for the underground to be a viable option every night.
“We had a building at the end of the road which was all brick and had no windows, and we would sleep in there. Then later on, the government gave you like an iron table, and you slept under the iron table. If you were bombed and the house came down, you were underneath the table. Another place that people would go is under the stairs. That was like a little cubby hole.”
I’ve often thought about what it would be like to have to sleep under an iron table (known as a Morrison Shelter if you search the internet) since talking with Anne. Knowing that at any time the house could fall in. It sounded like a life of sheer terror. But just as at the beginning of the war, the people of London pressed forward with life. Anne went to work in a photography shop, studying drama and dance during her free time, and taking exams at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.
“When I was 18 I belonged to a little drama group. Every year these little drama groups all over north London would perform a one act play and then they would have a very famous somebody come and adjudicate everybody. We did this play, I played the part of a person who could not speak, The Sister’s Tragedy it was called. After performing it, somebody came back and said ‘Hannen Swaffer wants to see you’, so of course I went to see him and he said ‘How would you like to be a professional actress?’ And what do you think I said? Yes!”
Anne toured all over Great Britain for the next five years, living a life that many today would dream to have as a young woman; ultimately even meeting her husband on tour.
“My mother used to love to come and see me off. We were going down to Maidstone and Kent, the company was going on the train. I’m there with my mother and I go in and my husband is sitting right there and he introduced himself. When I went to say goodbye to my mother she said ‘You’re going to marry him’ and I said ‘Mum, don’t be so silly.’ “
But boy was her mother right.
“We used to say she was like a witch. She used to predict things quite well. We used to say, ‘Mum, if you had been born earlier you would have been burned at the stake.’ “
They were married when she was twenty-three. Her aunt, like any concerned elder, encouraging them to find steady pay.
“His aunt said, ‘You can’t be married and be an actor. You’ve got to have a decent occupation.’ So he went to college and qualified as a teacher. After a time, we went to Nigeria.”
That’s right. Sweet Miss Anne’s story isn’t over yet. She and her husband relocated to Nigeria for his work. From living in London with all the modern amenities, they moved into the bush.
“When we lived out in the bush, the first house we had was a mud house with a thatch roof. All made of mud and straw, like what you see on the TV. No electricity. Running water was outside. It was really primitive.”
After her husband suffered a heart attack, they moved into the city. But even remembering their time out in the bush, Anne looks back on it fondly, saddened now by the war that has torn apart the place she once called home.
“Where we were is just terrible now. A war zone now. It was wonderful then. I never even saw a gun…There was no problem at all. Now its just so sad because they’re lovely people, really lovely people.”
After eight years in Nigeria, she and her husband relocated to the United States. Her husband was a pioneer in teaching education by television, and was offered a position in Maryland. They moved to the States and settled in, and never left. After a lifetime of adapting, Anne had a place to call home for more than a few years.
But though she has now called Maryland her home for more than fifty years, her heart will always be in Wales. Not only because she remembers it as a time of growth, love and happiness, but because truly, part of her heart is still there with those she loves.
I had promised that the day Anne visited Cross Inn wasn’t the last time that her path would cross with the Davis family. Just a few years ago, Anne was thinking just how much she appreciated all that her time in Wales had offered her, and decided to let the Welsh people know. In an unexpected turn of events, this decision brought she and the Davis family back together.
“The little girl of the family, I met her a few years ago. I wrote an article to the Welsh because I always thought, ‘My goodness, I ought to tell the people now what a wonderful time I had in Wales with this family.’ So I wrote an article to the Aberystwyth Paper telling them all about my life from 11 to 14. A very defining time in a person’s life, really. I wrote this article and I mentioned all the names of the family, and Kanor. One of her relatives sent the paper to Kanor about five years ago and said ‘Somebody’s writing an article about you.’ “
Though she didn’t recognize the author’s name, as Anne was married and her name had changed, Kanor contacted the paper, and was put in touch with Anne. At the time of our meeting, Anne had just returned from a visit with her childhood sister.
“This is the third time we’ve met. It was absolutely wonderful. I was 14 when I last saw her and about 5 years ago we met for the first time after all those years. I went to Swansea on the train and I thought ‘I wonder if we will recognize each other?’ and I got off the train and her arms were open.”
Over sixty years later, Kanor, a woman who then was just a little girl, is still bringing great joy to Anne’s life. She is just one of the many people Anne has met throughout her life that are imprinted on her heart, just as I am most confident that she is imprinted on theirs. Her story is a vivid reminder of the difference one person can make to another, often without ever knowing.
– Miss the beginning of Anne’s story? Read part 1 here