He lived through the war and now the coronavirus - but this Sunderland man said: 'At least the enemy wore a uniform last time'
Jack Curtis is 89 and was a 14-year-old boy when Sunderland celebrated VE Day.
He lived through the whole of the Second World War in Wearside and still vividly remembers air raids, rationing and the daily threat of death.
But he told the Sunderland Echo the current war with coronavirus was much different and added: “At least the Germans wore a uniform like ourselves.”
Jack was working at Doxfords and making ‘42 mugs of tea three times a day’ for his colleagues when VE Day came.
And although Sunderland celebrated peace in Europe, there was no clamour to know when normality would return before it arrived.
“We all thought ‘it will take as long as it takes to win’ and people were not bothered about how quick it was.”
Cinemas were still open – even if they did sometimes come with a warning at the start saying ‘there is an air raid due’.
You could still get to the shops even if they were limited in supplies.
“People were very calm. There were no hysterics and it was a great example for a boy.”
That calmness served Jack well in a war where he grew up in Barrack Street and where people huddled into air raid shelters while bombs rained down.
Once, he lived through an air raid where two 1,000lb bombs landed within 100ft of his shelter.
It was a war where three friends died in air raids yards from him.
A war where rations meant people queued for food on coupons such as cheese and butter, and where shops were blacked out against the Luftwaffe.
“Some were covered in corrugated iron as well but they had little peepholes in them so you could see what was inside.”
It was a war where people were resourceful. His family had an allotment and they supplemented their rations by the food they grow. Jack was expected to work on it each day as soon as he reached the age of eight.
They were tough times but when it was all over, the people of Sunderland used their resourcefulness to celebrate.
“We had a big celebration,” said Jack. “The women cooked this and that and we had a good time.”
His mam was a great cook and also knew how to make ginger beer.
“She used to make cinder toffee as well.”
There are similarities, although few, between the coronavirus and the Second World War with queues and an enemy fighting all over the world.
But there are differences too.
“We are not fighting a normal enemy here. It is invisible,” said Jack.