Harry was only nine years old and had already experienced much of the hard side of life. The years of depression in the 1930s had taken their toll in the small fishing port in Scotland where he was born. All over the country, men were out of work, money was scarce and there was little food. Harry knew only too well that anything he wanted he had to work for, so when he saw the little green tent in the shop window one day, he decided he was going to have it and determined to do everything he could do to get it.
Seven shillings and sixpence! Harry gasped as he looked again at the price. How was he going to get such a lot of money and achieve his dream? Old Mr McDonald smiled when Harry told him how much he wanted the tent and agreed to put it aside and accept a little money each week until Harry had paid for it. Harry paid his first sixpence to Mr McDonald, who handed him a small notebook with an account of his payment written in it and signed as paid.
“Seven shillings left to find,” Harry thought excitedly.
Three months later! Many errands run and lots of odd jobs done for friends and family. Harry had only paid four shillings more into his little notebook.
Every day as he passed old McDonald’s shop, Harry would press his face up against the window and look longingly at his little green tent. When he told his best friend Mousey about his tent he asked if he could go camping with Harry. Mousey’s dad worked in the fish market and Harry suddenly had an idea.
“Yes, you can come camping with me, but only if you will ask your dad if we can have some of the old wooden boxes from the market,” Harry said. Soon Harry’s backyard was full of the wooden boxes, Mousey’s father had been only too glad to get rid of.
Three days later all the boxes had been chopped up into small sticks and Harry had tied them all up into bundles. Filling a sack with as many as he could carry, Harry walked the streets knocking on doors and selling his bundles of wood.
Sales were good and soon he had sold every one of them. Counting his money, Harry’s excitement grew as he realised he was just twopence short of his target. He remembered seeing some pretty handkerchiefs in town earlier and made his way to the shop.
“One penny each,” the shop assistant told him when he asked the price.
“Okay! I will have two please,” Harry said, handing him the money. Hurriedly he made his way home and folded them carefully into a small box then went to his father, who was busy in the stables.
“Dad,” he called out excitedly. “Dad look what I have got!”
Harry’s father had been well aware of the work his son had been doing and the reason why and smiled to himself when he heard Harry.
“Look Dad. Look a great present for you to give to Mum for her birthday tomorrow.” Harry handed his father the box of handkerchiefs as he finished speaking.
“Why these are very pretty, son,” Harry’s father said. “You are right, Mary would like them very much. How much do they cost?”
“Only sixpence, Dad and you get the box too,” Harry said, really hoping his Dad would not think that was too much money.
Without hesitation, Harry’s father put his hand into his pocket. “Here you are then boy. Now off you go, I am very busy.”
Harry raced along the road to the shop his money held tightly in a bag. Old Mr McDonald marked off the last of the money in the little notebook.
“That’s it young Harry. Well done!” he said as he handed the tent across the counter. He watched the boy running down the street and sighed, knowing he would miss the lad’s smiling face.
The next school holiday Harry and Mousey were boarding the ferry across to Burnt Island carrying the tent, four sausages, candles and some bread. Their big adventure had begun. Feeling really excited they left the ferry as soon as it docked and walk through the village stopping at the watering trough in the centre to play a game with their toy boats. Harry felt really important and hugged his tent tightly. They had walked for miles before Harry chose a spot beside a stream to camp for the night. The tent up, the boys suddenly realised they were hungry and lit a small fire to fry the sausages. That was when it started to rain and they scrambled inside of the tent as fast as they could. Undeterred Harry lit four candles and cooked the sausages; to the boys it was a feast. Harry had achieved his dream and as he snuggled down inside his beautiful new tent his dream had come true.
This story is a true account of my late-husband’s childhood, as told to me. I wonder how many children today would work so hard for a dream instead of wanting everything ‘now’, thereby never realising the joy of achievement. I would love to read their stories if they can give me hope for the next generation.