The Holding Boys - Evacuees

The Society reaches far and wide resulting in a collection of letters from the USA  being sent to the administrator of our website. 

The letters date from 1942-1963, the correspondence was between Alice Holding, 106 Beech Hill Lane, and 14 Mort Street, Wigan to Mr. & Mrs. T. K. Harris, Hills and Dales, Canton, Ohio, USA.  

The background of the letters concerns the sons of Alice. Thomas and Cyril Holding of 9 Netherby Road, Beech Hill, Wigan. Thomas and Cyril were evacuees sponsored by Herbert W. Hoover of The Hoover Co., North Canton, Ohio. 

Their father Thomas Senior was a Supervisor at Hoover’s Warrington branch. Thomas and Cyril sailed from Liverpool to New York on SS Samaria, 10th August, 1940.

The letter below addressed to the Hoover Children was sent from Mr E.L. Colston, Managing Director of Hoover to Mr & Mrs Holding. The letter explained behaviour and manners in America, the difference in uses of English, describes skyscrapers, the use of knives and forks, and a warning against the using racist language. Mr Colston also mentions that his three children are Evacuees and living in Canton.

WARNING! - The letter contains an offensive word

Sadly a month later on 9th September, 1940 Thomas and Cyril’s father who was by now in the Royal Army Service Corps was killed and is buried in a CWWG in St John’s graveyard Pemberton. 


The Wigan Observer, 22nd September, 1940 reports that as a result of being involved in a road accident “somewhere in England” Thomas had been killed. He leaves a widow and two young boys who have been recently been evacuated to America.

Thomas Holding married Alice Hill at St Mark’s, Newtown on 27th April, 1929. At the time of their marriage Alice was living at 77 Martland Mill Lane and Thomas at 31 City Road, Kitt Green. They had two sons Cyril born 14th July, 1929 and Thomas born 26th July, 1931.

Upon arrival in Canton the children were taken to the Hoover Camp, where they resided for the first week of their new lives.  Home assignments were made, some found themselves in luxurious surroundings including Cyril and Thomas. They were housed in the T. K. Harris mansion in the exclusive development of Hills and Dales. 

The Georgian mansion at 2601 Fox Hill Drive was built in 1930 for developer T. K. Harris. The designer was Herman Albrecht,  a prolific well-known architect at the time.  According to an estate agent’s website when it was listed for sale in 2017 at a valuation of $2,950,000 It encompassed 10,000 square feet, 11 bedrooms, 8 full bathrooms and 4 half bathrooms.

                                              The Harris Mansion

Cyril and Thomas never returned to England and became US citizens. Cyril served in Korea in the US Air Force and Thomas in the US Army in Ramstein, Germany.  Their mother Alice eventually emigrated to Canton after the war but made frequent return trips to visit friends and relatives in Wigan.

Alice Holding died on Saturday, August 10th in Canton Christian House, Ohio. Her ashes were interred at St. Paul's Episcopal Church where Alice was an active member for many years.

The Holding family, Alice, Thomas and Cyril, during their time in Ohio, became a family with 5 grandchildren and 11 great-grand children.

"The road of life twists and turns and no two directions are ever the same. Yet our lessons come from the journey, not the destination." 

 How this quote rings true for Alice and the Holding boys

Rita Fell 2024

Thomas’s Obituary.


Thomas died age 79 on 11th September, 2010 at his home in Sharonville, Ohio. After college he became an engineer at Goodyear, his career was cut short in 1983 when he was hit by a car while crossing the road, suffering a brain injury from which he never fully recovered.  According to his obituary he was survived by a daughter and two sons and his former wife. Respecting Tom’s wishes no service was held.

Cyril's Obituary


Cyril died age 74 10th October, 2003 and is buried in North Lawn Cemetery, Canton, Stark County, Ohio

Phyllis K. Holding 


Below are some of the highlights of the letters that mention life in Wigan during WW2.

6th August, 1942 

Mentions of Thomas and Cyril’s friends, James Fenton, Charlie Haslem and Jack Grundy who are pupils at Wigan Grammar School. A recording must have been sent to Alice as comment is made about the boys’ American accents. The Holidays At Home scheme was mentioned and the bad weather that occurred when in the Park. Also The British Restaurant which was in King Street and the barges on the canal. 

2nd January, 1943 

From Mr & Mrs Harris, mention is made of Tom’s dental treatment. Christmas Eve, Alice Holding was on Fire Duty and heard the ringing of the church bells. Alice’s mother had suffered a heart attack. Ministry of Pensions, Life Certificate to sign. 

15th February,1943 

To Tommy from his mother  Small gardens to grow vegetables. Mother’s blood pressure.  Pantomime Cinderella with a work colleague. Sunday School. War Comforts Fund. 

15th February,1943 

To Cyril from his mother Thanks for Christmas card received 13th January. Mention of Fire Guard training and her ARP suit being too big. Alice was also shown  photos of bombs they may have to deal with. 

16th June, 1943 

Red Cross uniforms. Tropical outfit of a lady Doctor working in India. Vegetable shortage. Display of model planes in a shop window. 3rd annual Home Guard parade on Wigan Market Square. RAF concert at the Ritz Cinema. American soldiers in town, Gidlow Lane.   

22nd September, 1943 

Alice writes of missing her children. Commando film. Lancashire Book Drive. 

12th January, 1944 

Christmas. Airgraph returned. Civilian Service cancelled. 

6th February, 1944 

Hoover Thanksgiving party 

18th May, 1944 

Evacuation of Dunkirk. 48 hours leave. Cyril looks like his dad. 

Cyril Technical College, evening classes, drafting and cutting with examinations. Tommy American spellings confirmed 1st communion. 

22nd July, 1944 

Evacuees. Description of parents’ home. Baby weights. Tommy  Swimming and French coins. Cyril Mothers’ Day. Holidays 

19th December, 1946 

School reports. Girl friend. Visit of Alice. 

13th May, 1954 

Cunard Line, RMS Mauretania description of journey   

18th July, 1954 Thomas posted to Germany. Alice in Southport. 

24th May, 1956 Alice returned to Wigan, enjoys gambling. Staying with sister at 14 Mort Street. 

31st May, 1956  

Visited London, Trooping of the Colour held on Thursday, 31st May. Sailing from Liverpool on 14th July, which is  Cyril’s birthday.

 3rd July, 1956 

Alice’s return journey to Canton. Gambling on the ship 

25th April, 1958 

Selfridge’s letter. 

20th October, 1963 

From 14 Mort Street. Sailing details, lift to Liverpool. Grandson. 


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