My father, Harold Joseph Hailstone was born in Small Heath, Birmingham on the
4th February 1891 and my mother, Margaret (Daisy) Langslow in Balsall Heath,
Birmingham on the 29th March 1894. They met at The Old Meeting House, a
Unitarian Church in Bristol Street, Birmingham and were married there on the
22nd April 1916. Mother was twenty-one years old and Father twenty-five. At that
time Mother was a merchant's clerk and Father an industrial chemist. He was in a
reserved occupation and was therefore not called up for service in the First
World War. Father had one brother and Mother two sisters, Winifred and Jessica,
Mother being the eldest.
My sister, Margaret Florence (known as Polly within the family) was born in
West Bromwich, Birmingham on the 10th March 1917 and, because my Father's work
had taken him there, I was born in Rochdale, Lancashire at Heald Cottage, Lower
Fold on the 30th July 1922.
We later moved to a modern council house, 36 Falkland Avenue, Rochdale. This
was rented unfurnished as were all, but one, of the future houses and flats we
lived in. I went to the local council school when I was five. I remember the
large classroom with at least forty children sitting at double wooden desks
being taught to write with my finger in the sand which was sprinkled on to a
Life at that time was very pleasant. Father's career was established as the
Gaswork's Chemist in Rochdale. We had an Austin Seven car, a telephone and a
daily help to do the housework and laundry. We went for holidays in Wales where
my Father liked to walk - going for 'tramps' he would call it - sometimes
carrying me on his shoulder. He would amuse me when he came home from work by
showing me glass test-tubes filled with coloured fluid which bubbled over bunsen
burners. He let me play with tiny drops of quicksilver (mercury).
I played with the other children in the road and on the dirt pavement -
marbles, whip and top, bowling a wooden hoop (you could buy them in all sizes in
those days) and I learned to ride a bike.
Horses and carts would deliver coal and a 'rag and bone' man would give you a
small thing in exchange for some unwanted article. Mother would buy fresh
flowers from a cart and when they were nearly dead, I would have them. One day I
stole a penny from Mother's purse and bought a flower from the cart. Mother
questioned me about it and I had to own up. That was the first and last time I
When anyone was seriously ill at their house, straw was strewn in the road to
subdue the clatter from the cartwheels and horses' hooves and when a funeral
cortege went by, everyone stood still with the men removing their caps. There
was consideration for others in those days.
I had scarlet fever when I was about five and was put in strict isolation in
my bedroom. A disinfected blanket was draped across the doorway to prevent the
germs from escaping. A coal fire was lit in the tiny grate. I was given steamed
plaice to eat which I loved, and raw egg and milk to drink which I loathed! I
was given a stuffed toy dog which I called 'Stumpy'. When I was well again, the
sanitary inspectors came, sealed the room (with Stumpy in it) and fumigated it
so it could be used safely again.
The winters seemed very cold and I dreaded going outside. My feet and hands
would almost freeze despite all the warm clothes, including long leather gaiters
which were fastened with dozens of tiny buttons done up with a button-hook.
My favourite toy was a train which when wound up, went round a track and
under a tunnel. The whole thing was only the size of a tea-plate and was made of
On the 4th March 1929 disaster struck our family. My Father had gone to the
funeral of his mother and caught a chill and within a week he died at home with
pneumonia. At the very same time, Mother was ill with scarlet fever. Mother then
had to be moved from home to the Isolation Hospital way out on the Moors.
Margaret (Polly) and I were taken care of by friends of the family and they took
us to the railings of the Hospital grounds so that we could wave to Mother from
her window. Father was buried at Rochdale Cemetery and none of the family was
able to be there. He was thirty-eight years old.
When Mother was well again, she had to go out to work full-time. Work was
scarce in 1929 but she was given employment by the Gas Company at the Rochdale
Gas Showrooms as a sales lady - the only woman amongst the all male staff at
Margaret and I were farmed out to various people - who they were I
have no recollection. Eventually, when I was about seven, we moved back to
Birmingham to be near my Mother's sisters. We rented a semi-detached house in
Blenheim Road, King's Heath and I went to the local council school where my
cousin Jean also went. We were good friends and we used to get the most
uncontrollable giggles in class!
As Mother worked full-time in the Gas Showrooms
in the Council House in Birmingham City Centre, Margaret and I just fended for
ourselves somehow. It was impossible for Mother to devote any time to look after
us so, on the advice of my Uncle Jack, we were sent to a boarding school. It was
called Burcot Grange and was at Four Oaks, Sutton Coldfield, near Birmingham.
cried when I was first left there at eight years old but was reprimanded by the
very strict Headmistress and told that crying would worry my Mother and I was to
stop it! So I didn't cry any more and soon got to enjoy my life at Burcot.
made some good friends and I looked smart in a dark green pleated gymslip and
cream blouse . My blazer had an embroidered badge of the Staffordshire Knot on
the pocket. I wore a panama hat in the summer and a green velour one in the
winter. I enjoyed all my lessons with the exception of history and was
consistently in the top four in my class. I had two extra periods on a Saturday
- drawing and piano lessons which were paid for in addition to the standard
fees. Everyone had elocution lessons and I soon lost my north-country accent and
learned to speak in a cultured style. I joined the school Brownie Pack and was a
'Sprite' - brave and helpful as a knight!
Although I was for the most part very
happy at Burcot, there were some not so happy situations. I dreaded mealtimes. I
had a poor appetite and seated at a long table with a prefect at the head,
seeing that we ate every morsel of food from our plate, I was nauseated. It was
made worse when, for a long spell I had to wear a brace on my teeth!
feeling so cold in the winter. My fingers and toes would be covered in
chilblains which swelled and broke so much that I couldn't get my shoes on and I
had to wear slippers for a while.
Because there was no real 'home' for us, we
often had to stay at school in the holidays when all the other boarders had gone
home to their parents. I always felt slightly different from the other girls
because they all had fathers and I remember feeling guiltily jealous of my best
friend when she received lovely letters from her grandfather - I didn't have a
grandfather either! Not that Mother didn't write to us. She did, every week and
I looked forward to those kind letters very much. In our turn, all the girls had
to write a weekly letter on a Sunday. We had to mend our own clothes and darn
our stockings and woollen gloves.
My sister left the school about eighteen
months before me and then when I was eleven, I had to leave because the money
ran out. I was so upset about leaving that Mother let me stay on for one more
term and then I had to go.
It was during this time at Burcot that Mother was ill
advised to leave her job with the Gas Company and buy a newspaper, sweet and
tobacconist business in Shirley, Birmingham. So when I left Burcot I lived there
and went to the local Sharman's Cross Senior School at Shirley. It was a big
co-educational council school. I felt very strange. I was put in a big class of
boys and girls, dressed in my Burcot uniform. You can imagine how popular I was,
dressed like that and speaking in my posh way too! I soon made it my business to
fit in, by wearing ordinary clothes and acquiring a Birmingham accent! I can't
remember life being very happy then . We muddled along at home but I was
conscious that the house was neglected and I was too ashamed to bring my friends
there. It didn't occur to me that I could have tried to clean the place up
When I was about thirteen, Mother sold the business as she really
couldn't cope with it and we moved to Smethwick just outside Birmingham. Mother
got a job at the Gas Showrooms there. My sister was working too. I went to a
very small private school called Bearwood High School for Girls. There were only
about twenty pupils of all ages, divided into two classes! These classes were
taught by two teachers, mother and daughter, and I learned absolutely nothing
In Smethwick we rented a flat over a photographer's shop in the High
Street. From the sitting-room window I could almost touch the top deck of the
trams as they clanged by. It was very noisy. At the back, the nauseating
sickly-sweet smell from a sweet factory seeped through the kitchen window. I
shared a double bed with my Mother who complained that my wriggling kept her
awake, so I volunteered to sleep on the big leaf from the dining-table,
supported at each end by chairs. I padded it with a blanket but I remember it
was still very hard! It was in this bedroom that I heard of the death of King
George the Fifth. I was very sad.
After school, in the winter, as I was the
first to come home, I would light the coal fire. If the wind was in the wrong
direction, as it often was, all the smoke poured into the room and I would have
to fling open the windows to let it out - and the bitter cold in - until the
fire had burnt up sufficiently. It took about two hours to get this one room
I left the little Bearwood school just before my fourteenth birthday and
we had moved again to another rented flat in Barclay Road, Warley Woods,
Birmingham. This one was much nicer, facing the lovely woodland park. It was on
the top floor of a big house which had been divided into two flats.
I stayed at
home so that I could 'keep house' while Mother and Polly worked. I hated it, but
every now and then I would have a 'blitz' and try and clean everything in one
go! As compensation, I had found the delights of the Public Library and often,
when the breadwinners had departed, I would sit in the kitchen, escape into my
book and keep warm with my feet inside the gas oven! I would sing the latest pop
songs at the top of my voice, knowing that there was no-one to hear me. I also
enjoyed being a Girl Guide and I became a Patrol Leader and later, a Company
My Mother being attractive, had several men friends. Two or three over
the years came to the house and sometimes I would meet them, but usually not. If
one wasexpected, I would be asked to light the fire in the sitting-room so that
it would be warm for the evening, then I would have to keep out of the way. If a
letter arrived from one of these paramours after Mother had gone to work, I
would have to take it to her, going by foot and by tram.
After a few months I
rebelled against the lonely life of domesticity and, contrary to my Mother's
wishes, I got a job at a leading wholesale drapers' departmental store called
Bell and Nicholson in Birmingham City Centre. I was fourteen. As far as I can
remember, I worked a five and a half day week from 9.00 a.m. until 6.00 p.m. and
I earned ten shillings a week. Half of that wage went on bus fares and the rest
on National Insurance and to Mother to help pay the food bill. My first job was
to address hundreds of envelopes and bill-heads with the aid of an
'Addressograph' machine. I got to be very quick at it and was promoted to going
from one department to another with queries and 'memos'. It was a huge building
and I was fearful of getting lost. I was a nervous girl. Sometimes on leaving
work in the winter evenings, there would be thick pea-soup fog, so thick that I
could see only a yard in front of me. People would wear masks over their noses
and mouths. I couldn't see the number on the bus I wanted.
A few months later I
found other employment and doubled my wages. It was with a leading chemical
works in Birmingham called W. Canning. I was the junior in a big office and I
had my own desk!
In 1938 we went for a holiday to Shanklin on the Isle of Wight
where Mother met John Partridge. He was a bachelor aged just over forty and
Mother forty-four. John lived in Ilford, Essex and worked at the General Post
Office in the City, London, as a Civil Servant. They soon married and Mother
moved to Ilford leaving Polly and me in 'digs' in Birmingham. I was sixteen and
disappointed that I hadn't been allowed to join Mother and John. After some
months at Polly's suggestion, they did agree to have me living with them and I
moved to Ilford in their rented house. Mother had prepared my room beautifully,
with new green rugs on new lino and a china trinket-set on the dressing-table.
John was kind to me and I took great care to not be a nuisance to them.
there was little employment for girls without qualifications, I eventually
joined a queue, fifty yards long, outside a new knitting-wool shop, for a
vacancy as a saleslady there. I was given the job and I enjoyed selling vast
quantities of wool from one-ounce skeins, to several pounds in hanks.
came next. Mother, John and I were on holiday in Aberyswith in Wales when war
was declared on the 3rd September 1939. I was seventeen. It wasn't all bad for
this is when I had my first kiss - on Constitution Hill, by a handsome boy who
was the local champion swimmer! In Ilford we had an Anderson shelter in the
garden. There were a few air-raid warnings but no bombing at first. When the
siren sounded everyone would make their way to the nearest shelter. One day I
was late for work and because of this I was severely reprimanded by the
manageress. I was so cross at this injustice that I gave her a piece of my mind.
Next day I handed in my notice before she could give me the sack!
My next job
was at Plessey's Engineering Works in Ilford where I was employed in the
accounts department. When I was promoted to another section I couldn't
understand what I was supposed to do and it was a nightmare for me. It was a
huge office with the clerks sitting in rows behind a supervisor who sat facing
us behind a glass screen. It was very strict. No talking was allowed and I had
to 'clock' in and out every day by inserting my card into a machine which would
record the time of my arrival and departure. Occasionally I would have to
deliver some paper-work which took me through enormous work sheds stocked up
with rows upon rows of bombs. I could not conceive that they were being made
ready to drop on human beings.
Meanwhile, after some weeks, my Mother began to
get paranoic about the possibility of air raids on London and Ilford and she
felt she must flee to the country. So, early one morning, without any prior
discussion, just as I was getting up to go to work at Plessey's she announced
that we were all going to leave Ilford THAT MORNING! We didn't know where we
were going but in fact, with our suitcases, we got on the District Line and went
to the end which was at Chesham in Buckinghamshire.
We stayed at The Lamb Inn in
Chesham for a week and John travelled daily to the City to work. After that, it
proved too expensive to stay there so Mother and I tried to find someone who
would rent us a room. We just knocked from door to door! Eventually someone let
us have two upstairs rooms and the bathroom in a little terraced house. In my
bedroom was a tiny grate where we cooked our meals over a coal fire. We washed
up in the bathroom.
I got myself a job at the Co-operative Society Bank in
Chesham. I had huge ledgers with columns of figures which I had to add up. I
hadn't done such a thing before and could only add up on my fingers! Nightmares
again! Every night at home, I would practice adding and eventually I could do
it. Another thing, being the timid creature that I was, I was terrified of
answering the phone. This fear lasted for months until of course, I overcame it.
I became good at my job and was eventually promoted to having my own till on the
After the two rooms in the house, we moved to a little rented
house in King Street, Chesham which was a big improvement except for a battle
with an infestation of fleas in the bed. It was the first time I had encountered
fleas and over the weeks I exterminated them all by squeezing them between my
nails. They have tough little bodies, but I was the tougher!
We stayed there for
some months until we were offered a little detached cottage to rent. It was
'Wren's Nest' in Asheridge Lane, a couple of miles out of Chesham. It must have
been two hundred years old and had no running water or sanitation. The water was
drawn from a well in the front garden and the contents of the outside closet was
emptied into a pit at the back of the house. The stone sink was outside the back
door under a lean-to porch. We did have electricity. I loved it there and my
bedroom window looked out onto uninterrupted country. This was the first time I
had been in the country apart from the odd holiday and I just felt at home in
I had a wonderful time in Chesham at the beginning of the war. I played
tennis, went walking in the country and danced and danced and danced! There were
weekly dances held in the local village hall with, usually, a live band and the
choice of lovely young men in uniform to dance with. I was a good dancer and so
was never short of a partner. The 1940's music was compelling dance music.
nineteen I decided to join the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) later to be
re-named the Womens' Royal Army Corps (WRAC) and went away to train at Honiton
Camp in Devon. I was very excited about it and was glad it was a long way from
home and in such a lovely place. I really enjoyed the drill and the discipline
and above all, the provision of clothes and food. I had never had any
pocket-money to speak of and could not afford anything but the most necessary of
clothes, so to have that problem solved was a relief for me.
I spent four years
in the ATS, from 1942 - 1946 and achieved nothing. My work was clerical and
boring but relieved from time to time by working a telephone exchange. I was
attached to various Corps during my stint - Pay Corps, Royal Artillery and
Intelligence. My postings took me to many parts of England from the South to the
North with umpteen places in between. All the towns were interesting and I took
the opportunity of exploring them on my days off duty. The longest part of my
service was with the 183 Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery and I was
Private Hailstone B.K. W/159850 (later to become lance-corporal). I enjoyed the
life but it was uncomfortable at times, sleeping on hard 'biscuit' mattresses in
a Nissen hut with little or no heating in the winter and washing in cold water
very often. During my last months, I was transferred to the Intelligence Corps
because my Regiment was sent abroad and I had the luxury of private billets.
When I was stationed At Preston in 1942, my friend and I would hitch a lift into
Blackpool and it was there, in the Tower Ballroom that I danced with an Airforce
boy. He was Frank Collins, aged nineteen and I thought that he was very
He was stationed in Blackpool and while I was at Preston we met quite
often and got to like each other. However we were soon parted when I was
transferred to Hastings. We kept in touch by letter and the occasional meeting
and eventually, on the 6th November 1943 we married. We hardly knew one-another
but because of the war and the uncertainties, life was accelerated. We managed
to get seven days leave and the wedding took place at St. Mary's Church, Castle
Street, Reading - Reading being the home town of Frank. I wore a white gown
borrowed from a friend (clothes were rationed during the war), Frank wore his
Royal Air Force uniform and my sister and Frank's sister were bridesmaids. They
had hired very smart bridesmaids' dresses and hats. We had a reception in the
local tea-rooms and family from both sides were there. We had a three-tiered
cake but only the top layer was real - the other two being cardboard covered
with icing because it was almost impossible to get the ingredients. Frank and I
spent our honeymoon at the Apsley Hotel in Torquay, going there on the train.
had a marriage allowance from the Army and every week I deposited it in the Post
Office Savings Bank. I didn't spend any of it and it came in very useful when I
was demobilised on the 20th July 1945.
I went to live with Frank's parents at
Rose Cottage, Grazeley Road, Three Mile Cross near Reading and got a part-time
job as a typist for a while. How and why my employer took me on when I could
only type with two fingers was a mystery, perhaps it was because it was a
Government office! Frank was still in the Air Force serving abroad in Europe. He
came home on leave occasionally and I became pregnant. I found the restrictions
and frustrations of living with my in-laws claustrophobic and very hard to bear.
I had enjoyed a relatively free life and although they were extremely kind to me
I felt I had to try and find a home of our own for Frank and me. Fortunately,
the Army Captain I had worked with in the Intelligence Corps owned a little
house just outside Reading, 75 Essex Street and he let us rent it for a modest
sum. It was a turn-of-the-century, end of terrace house that used to be a tiny
shop. The front window was still a shop window. It had a little strip of garden
at the back. I went to the junk shops and bought a deal table, two chairs and a
three-foot iron bed and I was very proud of our first home. There was gas
lighting and an old gas stove and when I could afford it I replaced the two
flat-irons which I heated up on the stove, for a modern gas iron!
For the last
three months of my pregnancy I periodically went to Watford Hospital for
check-ups. This was because my sister and her husband Bill, lived near there and
I stayed with them for the last month to be near Watford Hospital where the baby
was to be born. I preferred this arrangement to staying on my own in our little
house. So when the baby started to come, my sister and I went on the Underground
train from Hatch End to Watford! Frank had difficulty in getting leave to come
and see me, but he did manage it - just before the baby was born on the 3rd June
1946. He weighed eight and a half pounds and we called him David Roger. When we
left the hospital, David and I went to stay with my Mother at Wren's Nest,
Chesham for two weeks. Frank had to return to the Air Force, abroad. David slept
in a drawer by the side of my bed. Back at the Reading house, we were on our own
until the late Autumn when Frank was discharged. David was about five months
About a year after that, we moved into Rose Cottage at Three Mile Cross
after Frank's parents had vacated it to run a grocery store at Ash, near
Aldershot. They sold the bungalow to us for a modest sum. It was rural and had a
huge garden at the back which we could not control - any more than the chickens
we tried to keep! David learned to walk here.
Stephen John was born at Rose
Cottage on the 17th May 1948 and a very kind midwife delivered him. He weighed
six pounds fourteen ounces. My Mother came to stay for a while to help and David
stayed with a near neighbour for a few days. Frank couldn't take time off work -
one didn't in those days!
Before Stephen was born we had a motorbike-and-sidecar
and later, when Frank had a company car, we sometimes went to Hayling Island or
Wittering for the day. Our weekly treat was to eat a hot steak and kidney pie
and gravy for our supper. We would sit and toast our toes in front of the coal
fire and enjoy the pies as if they were caviare! I would have walked a couple of
miles to the butcher's that morning pushing the babies in the big pram.
was never done. The washing alone took the whole of Monday, boiling the white
things in a gas copper, washing all the rest by hand. It had to be rinsed,
mangled and if fine, hung on the clothes-line in the garden. It made a very long
line indeed and the clothes had to be hung in batches. Sometimes the line would
break and the washing would dangle on the ground and often had to be re-washed.
There was no hot water on tap. I would be near to tears. In the winter, the
clothes hung about in the house nearly all the week before they were dry. The
nappies were priority and were dried hanging over the fire-guard around the
fire, making the room steamy. This was the only source of heat, the rest of the
bungalow was icy in the winter. Then everything which needed ironing was done
with the gas iron and it was all just about finished before the whole procedure
started again! In between tending to the children, cooking, shopping, cleaning,
I would somehow find the time and energy to make jam, preserve fruit (in Kilner
jars) knit the childrens' jumpers and make simple clothes. This was always in
the evenings when the children were in bed.
There was little money to spare and
there were no luxuries but we did manage to save up and buy a wardrobe, a
tall-boy, a chest of drawers and a double bed. This furniture was on coupons and
was called 'Utility' furniture. It was well made to a standard pattern and we
kept it for very many years. We couldn't afford carpets so didn't need a vacuum
cleaner but we had lino and rugs.
In 1950 Frank went to the little grocery store
(then called Doreen Stores) in Shawfield Road, Ash, near Aldershot to help his
parents who were finding the running of it difficult. His parents lived behind
the shop but we rented the basement of the nearby big 'Shawfield House'. Our
living-room was large with a stone floor. There was a fireplace and a stone sink
with a cold-water tap. We had electric light. I had two single camping
primus-stoves and a pressure-cooker and managed to cook nourishing meals for us
all that way. There were two large bedrooms and our one was regularly flooded at
night by used bath water! The drains were blocked and when the owners' upstairs
had their baths, the water escaped into our bedroom. We always had a broom ready
to sweep it through the back door! The other novelty was the big grain-store
(the owners' kept horses) next to our living-room. This harboured mice which
used to run along the skirting-board and up and across the mantelpiece. We would
try and attempt to limit their numbers by standing each end of the retaining
boards of the grain-store, myself rattling it and Frank with the broom ready to
strike when the mice ran out! We used the owners' toilet on the first floor
(quite a journey) and washed ourselves at the sink in the living-room. It was
here that Stephen learned to walk.
We lived there for nearly a year when Frank's
parents decided to move to Weymouth and sell the shop to us. So we moved into
the accommodation behind it. This comprised of three small narrow sections, one
behind the other. The kitchen, living-room and bedroom (which David and Stephen
had). Frank and I had a home-made bed-settee. There was a coal fire and electric
light. In the tiny kitchen there was a dresser, table, gas copper and a gas
stove. There was cold water on tap, a stone sink with a plug-hole - and that was
all! NO DRAINAGE. Every drop of water from the bucket which was placed under the
sink, had to be carried to the bottom of the garden and thrown into a ditch.
There were gallons of waste to dispose of. Frank's and the assistants' hands
were frequently washed. There was extra washing with Frank's heavy white coats
and aprons, not to mention the weekly scrubbing of the wooden floor- boards in
the shop and the various utensils. There was no bathroom of course - we washed
in the kitchen and had a weekly bath in the living-room in a big tin bath in
front of the fire, the water being heated up in the copper and carried through
in buckets. It was emptied likewise in bucketsful, down the garden. No wonder we
shared that bath-water! The lavatory was outside, down the path. It was an Elsan
chemical one which was emptied twice a week on to the council sewage disposal
cart. We called the man 'Lavender Jim'.
We bought our first television set, a
nine inch black and white one, to watch the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II and
sat enthraled, watching it all day.
We had a van in which to deliver the grocery
orders and I reluctantly learned to drive it. I passed the test after the second
attempt. As usual, I was very nervous and dreaded driving the van and on the
first occasion with a load of groceries to deliver, I promptly went into a ditch
at the side of the lane and had to be towed out! On another occasion, I had
pre-school Stephen with me and whilst I was going to someone's back door with
their order, I came back to find Stephen and the van gone! He had taken off the
hand-break and the van had veered across the road and had come to rest some
In 1953 the semi-detached house next door to the shop became vacant
and we were able to buy it. This was paradise. Although there still wasn't
proper drainage, Frank made an unlawful entry into a sewer pipe at the end of
the garden and our waste water escaped through that. I bought a small Hoover
Hilary Ann was born from here on the 2nd March 1954. I had her
in luxury at Mount Alvernia Nursing Home in Guildford. She weighed six and a
half pounds. Frank's parents kindly had David and Stephen for a fortnight.
next year in 1955 we sold the business and the house and moved temporarily to a
rented bungalow in Jubilee Road, Mytchett. Hilary learned to walk here. It was
small, detached and had a garage. For a while Frank ran a small mobile wholesale
grocery business from the bungalow. Deliveries from the suppliers would be made
and the crates and boxes stored in the garage. I was always anxious when the
vans came as we were not supposed to conduct a business from the premises. Frank
bought a Transit van and, as a precaution against him being off sick, I tried to
learn to drive it. I didn't succeed.
Then I entered my religious phase!
Influenced by a devout Roman Catholic neighbour, I was baptised and confirmed
into the Church of England at St. Andrew's, Frimley Green. My enthusiasm lasted
about ten years until it was a relief to acknowledge the fact that I could never
be a good Christian!
In 1956 we sold the little wholesale business and bought a
house at 31 Coleford Bridge Road, Mytchett. Frank took a job as a representative
for Nestle's. It was the nicest house to date, detached with a fair-sized, but
neglected garden. We bought our first three-piece suite and a second-hand
Bechstein piano which was going for a song. We had a caravan and towed it to
Woolacombe for a two-week holiday. The weather was perfect and we spent all the
time on the beach. I remember the sheer bliss of coming in on the breakers with
Frank wasn't happy working for Nestle's and yearned to be his own
boss again and have a business to run. So this took us to Frimley Green where we
bought a large grocery shop and called it Frimley Green Stores. This was in
1957/8. It was a late Victorian building with out-houses, in a lovely position
facing The Green. The spacious living accommodation was behind and over the
shop. It had gas, electricity, water and main drainage but no central heating or
hot water on tap. I did all the washing in the big bathroom upstairs and used
the gas copper to heat the water and to boil the white clothes. There were three
large bedrooms, a kitchen, a dining-room and a pleasant sitting-room with a coal
fire on the first floor which overlooked The Green. I served in the shop as much
as I could and helped with the weekly stock-taking when Frank and I would be
working until midnight. As consolation we would treat ourselves to a bowl of
Rice Krispies covered with double cream! Although there was food all around us,
we still lived very frugally as we didn't want to encroach on the profits. We
ate a lot of things that would have otherwise have been thrown away and that
included bacon which had begun to turn green, and rashers which had got
fly-blown! Once the eggs had been washed away with vinegar, it was fit to eat!
Rosemary Jane was born from here on the 27th June 1962 at the Louise Margaret
Hospital in Aldershot (a Military Hospital). She weighed eight pounds five
ounces. She completed our family and we thought ourselves to be so lucky to have
had two boys and two girls, all lovely healthy children.
I bought a New World
gas cooker - the first new one I had ever had, and also as spin-drier.
Frimley Green Stores was extended to include a separate wine shop. This became
Frimley Green Wine Store. We sold the grocery section and Frank concentrated on
the wines. There was a small flat over the wine shop and we moved into that.
Rosemary learned to walk here. We bought our first domestic refrigerator. The
washing line was strung between the upstairs kitchen window and a post across
the yard, the line being on a pulley. It was quite a feat hanging out the
washing for six people including a baby in nappies! Somehow I found the time to
be on the St. Andrew's Church Hall Committee and I organised two Christmas Fairs
to raise money.
1964 took us to our new house in Wharf Road, Frimley Green. It
had been designed by our friend Basil Rizzi and built on the site of an old
farm-house called 'Lake House'. We retained this name. There were several acres
of ground and an orchard. We sold most of this to a developer who built a small
estate of bungalows. This became Wharf Way.
The house seemed luxurious and it
had every convenience. Central heating, hot water on tap, a Mira shower,
downstairs cloakroom, a Baxi coal fireplace, double-glazing in the sitting-room
and parquet flooring throughout the downstairs. It had five bedrooms. We had a
new carpet in the main bedroom and vinyl elsewhere. The curtains which I made
myself were all new. In previous moves I had cut down or added on to the old
ones to make them fit. We bought a new dining table and chairs and a light on a
pulley which shone over the table. (That light is still in use).
felt I wanted to do something in my own right but having no qualifications, it
was difficult. So I attended a full-time course at the Farnborough Technical
College in order to get the Medical Secretaries' Certificate. This was in 1968
when I was forty-six. I was the only 'mature student' in a class of twelve
ex-sixth-form girls. I enjoyed the eighteen months very much and found it quite
easy to keep up with the girls. I got on with them very well and had great fun.
I learned shorthand and typewriting, medical terminology, physiology, anatomy,
first aid and not to mention English and the formation of the National Health
Service! I passed the examinations and with the confidence that gave me, I soon
got a job at a doctors' group practice in Frimley. I worked five mornings a week
from 9.00 a.m. until 1.00 p.m. and the occasional Saturday morning. I had help
in the house for two hours a week and when the old washing-machine broke down, I
replaced it with an automatic one - luxury indeed!
My Mother died of cancer on
the 24th June 1973 after a long illness and she was cremated at the Bournemouth
By 1976 Frank and I were not getting along together very well so we
agreed to a trial separation. I went to Poole and took Rosemary with me as she
was still at school. The other three children had left home by then and were
independent. We bought a bungalow at 21 Denby Road and I got a full-time job,
first with James and Son, Property Surveyors, and then at a doctors' surgery in
Parkstone Road, Poole. After nearly a year of separation we decided to give the
marriage another chance. The bungalow was sold and I moved back to Lake House
and back to the Frimley Surgery working part-time.
In September 1978 we sold
Lake House and bought 31 (then number 11) Mount Pleasant Road, Poole. Frank sold
the Frimley business and Rosemary had left school, so it was an opportune time
to move and start a new life in fresh surroundings. I worked for a lady doctor
in Parkstone as secretary/receptionist, part-time until I retired at sixty-five.
The house in Poole is my dream house. It is on two levels, faces south and has
uninterrupted views over Poole Park, the Lake and the Harbour. It has every
amenity and is a few minutes walking distance from the town and the Arts Centre.
Since retiring I have had more time to enjoy the house and the garden and to
explore Dorset's country lanes and footpaths. I feel that Poole and Dorset is my
home and there is nowhere in the world I would rather live. My sister Polly
lives a few miles away in Swanage and we meet often. Our lives have gone along
very different paths but it is comforting to know we have both come from the
same source and can share the memories of life in the very early days. Although
we have quite different personalities there is deep affection and concern for
Frank and I celebrated our Golden Wedding Anniversary on Saturday
the 6th November, 1993. We hired a large room at the Grasshopper Inn in Poole
and every member of the family was able to be there. It was a wonderful
afternoon and after a meal we danced to the music of the Hambledon Hopstep Band.
I felt pleased that Frank and I were still together and enjoying life. I have
such a lot to thank him for and over the years I have grown to love him more and
more. We have had bad times but there have been many happy ones to compensate
Now as I write in March 1996, I am seventy-three. The four children
are happily married and I have five grand-daughters and four grandsons, the
eldest of which is himself married. That they are all strong and healthy, honest
and successful is a bonus indeed and I consider myself to be the most fortunate
of women to have such a lovely family. I want them to know what pleasure and
interest they have brought me and just how much I love them.