Find­ing love on the ten­nis courts

Wind­sor woman re­calls grow­ing up in Europe dur­ing the Sec­ond World War


Spend­ing af­ter­noons cre­at­ing Molo­tov cock­tails with her fa­ther, Bar­bara Hughes had ex­pe­ri­ences that many young peo­ple to­day couldn’t be­gin to fathom.

But for Hughes, those ex­pe­ri­ences were sim­ply day-to-day oc­cur­rences as fam­i­lies en­dured the harsh re­al­i­ties of the Sec­ond World War.

“Ev­ery night we would go down in the cel­lar to sleep. The place could be lev­elled up­stairs — you had a bet­ter chance of sur­viv­ing down there,” re­called Hughes. “It seems so un­real now.”

Hughes, the lone child of Wil­liam and Dorothy Mar­garet Pope, grew up in Bournemouth, Eng­land. The Ger­mans never at­tacked the sea­side com­mu­nity, which was lo­cated on the south­ern coast of Eng­land, by ground strike, how­ever, there were in­cen­di­ary bomb raids. The com­mu­nity mem­bers car­ried gas masks with them, and re­ceived in­struc­tions on what to do if there was an at­tack. Her fa­ther was a mem­ber of the Home Guard, which largely con­sisted of men who had pre­vi­ous mil­i­tary ex­pe­ri­ence. He had fought in the First World War.

“At the be­gin­ning of the war, ev­ery­body wanted to wear a uni­form and do our bit,” said Hughes.

“My mother, she vol­un­teered to work in a gas cleans­ing sta­tion be­cause we ex­pected the Ger­mans to gas us. We all ran around with gas masks,” she said.

At the gas cleans­ing sta­tion, Hughes said her mother had to wear mul­ti­ple lay­ers — some­thing that was too tax­ing on her phys­i­cally.

“At the gas cleans­ing sta­tion, she put all this cloth­ing on so that she could op­er­ate all the stuff and wash ev­ery­body off. Well, she’d pass out,” said Hughes. “She never once put it on when she didn’t pass out so they de­cided that a ca­reer for her in that was not very promis­ing.”

From cloth­ing and food, to lux­u­ries like bat­ter­ies and toys, ev­ery­day items were ra­tioned or re­stricted through­out the war. Res­i­dents learned to make do and live as fru­gally as pos­si­ble. The threat of be­ing gassed or struck by a bomb was never far from their minds.

Hughes with a chuckle.

Rub­ber was in scarce sup­ply due to the war ef­fort, but when he ar­rived at the courts, he had ten­nis balls with him. Hughes said her school had al­ready switched to play­ing cricket due to the ten­nis ball short­age.

“We were just hit­ting balls to­gether at the be­hest of the grounds­man. I wasn’t think­ing any­thing at the time,” said Hughes, when asked how the courtship be­gan.

He was sta­tioned in Bournemouth for sev­eral months, be­fore be­ing de­ployed to var­i­ous posts in Birm­ing­ham, Scar­bor­ough, and north­ern Eng­land. The pair stayed in con­tact. As their af­fec­tion grew, Hughes said she was de­ter­mined to fin­ish her school­ing be­fore get­ting mar­ried.

“I wanted to fin­ish univer­sity and also com­plete my train­ing as a lawyer and things like that,” said Hughes, adding that she man­aged to “stretch out” the time­line to be mar­ried.

She at­tended the Univer­sity of Lon­don and then joined Gray’s Inn, one of the Inns of Court.

In 1948, while at­tend­ing univer­sity, she spent her sum­mer va­ca­tion­ing in Nova Sco­tia with Hughes, vis­it­ing the var­i­ous tourist sites and play­ing ten­nis.

On June 10, 1950, they wed over­seas and spent their hon­ey­moon in Wales.

While Gor­don Hughes was liv­ing in Wind­sor wait­ing for her to ar­rive, “he formed the Lan­caster Sports Club, which is where Walk­ers Restau­rant is (now),” said Hughes. The so­ci­ety con­sisted of a club­house, can­teen, ten­nis courts and a swim­ming pool.

“All these things were rather phil­an­thropic,” said Hughes.

“Gor­don opened it for the Red Cross so chil­dren could learn to swim and he formed the Wind­sor Ten­nis Club and had al­most 100 ju­niors when I ar­rived here,” she con­tin­ued.

“His busi­ness acu­men was con­sid­er­ably less than his de­sire to do all of these things. The re­sult was, af­ter three years, he closed it.”

Gor­don F. Hughes went on to found the Evan­ge­line Sav­ings and Mort­gage Com­pany in June 1964 and over the years, the pair once again gave back to the com­mu­nity.

They do­nated the land that the Gor­don Hughes Ten­nis Club, lo­cated on Col­lege Road, was built on, as well as helped fi­nan­cially to see the ten­nis courts con­structed. Through­out their years in Wind­sor, they re­mained ac­tive ten­nis play­ers, win­ning countless tro­phies, ti­tles and sil­ver plat­ters.

Gor­don Hughes died in 2001. They were mar­ried for 51 years. They had one child, Trevor, who is the chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of Evan­ge­line Wealth Man­age­ment — an off­shoot of Hughes’ orig­i­nal com­pany, and they have one grand­daugh­ter.

Re­flect­ing on the war and the pos­i­tive life they built in Canada, the soft-spo­ken 90-year-old Wind­sor res­i­dent said it’s im­por­tant for peo­ple to never for­get what can hap­pen.

She men­tioned cur­rent atroc­i­ties oc­cur­ring around the world, and said peo­ple must stand against such un­due suf­fer­ing and vi­o­lence.

“His­tory is ev­ery­thing. It’s ter­ri­bly im­por­tant that peo­ple to­day know what hap­pened and also the great sac­ri­fice that some peo­ple paid,” said Hughes.


Bar­bara and Gor­don Hughes first met on a ten­nis court in Bournemouth, Eng­land dur­ing the Sec­ond World War. The pair mar­ried in 1950.

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