My father and I boarded the liner Mauritania in New York in February of 1939 and disembarked in Glasgow just a few miles from Dumbarton. We were met by my paternal grandfather who said that war was imminent. War was declared in September and as Dumbarton was a shipbuilding town we were heavily bombed in 1941. My friend Jean and I would visit the cemetery after each raid to count crosses. We also collected shrapnel from the bombings. We walked, our gas masks slung over our shoulders across Knoxland Square to get to Knoxland Primary School, and saw the palings taken away from the bandstand and from around the tree only to be replaced by sandbags. The town is surrounded by hills so it was easy for a child to get away from death and destruction, not to mention food shortages. I left Dumbarton in 1949 to join my mother in Chicago. It was a very sad day for me and I still think of Dumbarton as home.
When I lived in Scotland there was nothing drearier than the Scottish Sabbath. Sunday meant church and a walk. We chose between going down to the castle or going up Dumbuck, a hill on the other side of town. I lived next to the castle and spent my Sunday afternoons going up the 365 steps of the castle with friends.
Dumbarton high street is where I would go to shop, meet with friends to go to the ‘pictures’ as we called movies and watch the boys who went to a boarding school spend their weekly allowance. We wore navy blue blazers and theirs were bottle green and the boys always looked sad.
It is in Dumbarton that the river Leven, pronounced “Leeven” meets the river Clyde. I lived on Leven Street and my best friend lived on Clyde street. As the top of these streets had tenements and we lived in the row houses at the bottom, whenever we gave our address, we said, “the cottages, of course.”