Posts Tagged ‘1940s’

Flung by father

November 2, 2015

Well not really flung! I’m sure I was totally safe in the hands of my dad who was raising me high in the air.

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This, I regret to say, must date from the 1940s and as that is me up in the air, it reminds me that I’m not as young as I once was. That, of course, is my regret. My dad is sitting in a chair and giving me a high view. I look to be taking an interest in the world around me, albeit I see no sign of a smile.

Behind us is the home I lived in, only for the first ten months of my life. It was near Wadhurst in Sussex. My dad, were he still alive, would tell us how much he loved living there. It was a life style he never quite recaptured elsewhere.

As we left there when I was a mere ten months old and I am now the only survivor of the very happy family that lived there, real memories no longer exist. So three cheers for photos!

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A Hole Punch

April 22, 2015

I do like older mechanical items and today I’m looking at a hole punch I have. I know almost nothing about its origins or age. Maybe somebody can tell me more.

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The punch is made of pressed steel mounted on a wooden base. The maker’s mark appears to be a transfer on the base.

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It is well worn, but clearly says East-Light in front of a rising sun emblem.

My best bet is that this dates from the 1940s or early 1950s so I estimate it at 60 plus years old. It still works and to prove it here’s a page it just punched.

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Now where do those little discs of cut out paper go? There must be storage space in the wood base and at the back of the hole punch there’s an openable trap door.

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This can be rotated around the screw that holds it in place.

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And there we see the little spout for tipping out the waste.

In terms of use, it doesn’t compare well against modern ones. It has no arm which can be set to ensure your holes are in the right place and it has no pointer to mark the centre between the two punches. I reckon these disadvantages make it very much a museum piece rather than a strictly useful item.

The Token Economy

February 25, 2015

The title for this piece is a phrase my dad used. Like all of us, he found he needed cash, but he was a believer that it was goods and services that really mattered. He referred to all sorts to do with cash and coinage as ‘the token economy’.

So this post will be a bit about coins and also about a pot I keep a few in.

This is my little coin pot.

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I remember buying this at a childhood jumble sale and loving it. I’m not sure my parents thought much of it but I still rather like it. It was made in India.

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Inside there is an assortment of coins, gathered and kept for no particular reason. I have picked out a few old British coins which I look back on with affection.

First, there are a couple of farthings.

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There’s a George VI and an Elizabeth II coin.

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These were quite small in size and tiny in value. To get a pound you needed 960 (nine hundred and sixty) of these little beauties. What made them favourites certainly wasn’t the heads side. The reverse had a delightful image on it.

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That wren – I loved it.

I believe the last farthings were minted in 1956 and the coin ceased to be legal tender in 1960.

My other old favourite coin was the threepenny bit. I barely ever came across the old silver version. The ones I knew and loved were the nice chunky 12 sided ones. Again I have George VI and Elizabeth II examples.

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These had different reverse or tails sides and I have to say I preferred the older one.

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The plant depicted is thrift – an appropriate icon for coinage. But the Elizabeth II coin shows a portcullis.

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This coin was swept into oblivion with decimalization in 1971. A coin worth one eightieth of a pound clearly did not fit with the new scheme.

But a few coins like these do bring back happy childhood memories for me. I think a few bits of the token economy are worth keeping. Oh, there is always a chance of a bit of token value accruing. The 1948 3d coin is quite rare and it could be worth £50 if it was in mint or uncirculated condition. As it isn’t, it won’t have much value.

Johnson Rag

February 1, 2015

This could sound like some kind of cleaning product. Let’s just say it isn’t. I’m not sure that Johnson Rag is a particularly well known Glenn Miller performance. I have a number of CDs and it doesn’t appear on them. But I also (and there’s no surprise about this) have quite a collection of good old 78rpm Glenn Miller records which I assume date back to the 1940s. Johnson Rag is on the other side of ‘Yes my darling Daughter’. Here’s the record label image002 Yes it’s on the HMV label And yes, it is a good tune. You can hear some of it by clicking the link below.

http://youtu.be/N86y7a9FotI

I’m sorry that my Dulcetto gramophone can sound a bit tinny. – I have never used it  to showcase a record before. It’s probably the wind up gramophone I have that is nearest in age to Glenn Miller’s recording. Even so it is from the 1920s rather than the late 30s or 40s. Sometimes little coincidences happen and finding this record brought a smile to me. It was the combination of record and the sleeve it was in that did it – so here’s the sleeve. image004 It’s in a sleeve provided by Hobson and Allen of Sheffield. The simple amusement I got is that I have a niece with surname Johnson who lives in Sheffield. A Johnson record in a Sheffield sleeve just seemed fitting.

The Queen of Sheba

September 25, 2014

According to the King James bible (1 Kings Chapter 10) The Queen of Sheba visited Solomon in Jerusalem and that version of the bible uses these words.

And she came to Jerusalem with a very great train, with camels that bare spices, and very much gold, and precious stones: and when she was come to Solomon, she communed with him of all that was in her heart.

Of course the word train meant a retinue or following – which is really what it still means but meanings are often forgotten and for many the word train, conjures up a railway train.

Jokes have often been made about the Queen of Sheba being an early railway user but in one case a name stuck.

I was looking through some teenage photos of mine and came across this one.

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It isn’t the best photo you ever saw, but units like this Southern Electric suburban one were known as ‘Queen of Shebas’ because they were deemed to be very great trains.

I now quote from another bible – one of my old train spotting books.

No further new suburban stock appeared until 1942, when a new four-car unit, 4101, was built to Mr. Bulleid’s design, followed later by 4102 to 4110. The bodies are built with steel sides and wooden roofs, and seat six passengers on each compartment seat, whereas all earlier stock only accommodated five.

It was that six a side seating which gave them the name great. They had a huge carrying capacity. Whereas similar, older trains had seats for 280 people, a Queen of Sheba could seat 456 – a massive load, by comparison.

I travelled only very rarely on a Queen of Sheba and I have to say they were profoundly uncomfortable. The 12 people in each compartment had to lock knees with the person opposite. The seats were very upright and narrow and it was all very cramped.

But they were designed to cope with the huge rush hour crowds in London – and actually, they proved to be a bit of a nuisance and designs soon changed. The problem was station time. With all those dozens of single compartments, potential passengers walked up and down the platform seeking a seat or a suitable compartment. Trains ran late because they spent too long at stations. Future builds took out the compartments and each coach became an open saloon with a central gangway. This meant passengers had less seats, but they could get on and then find a seat, or stand in the gangway. That enabled trains to keep to time.

But the Queens of Sheba served their time, running for about thirty years,

Here’s a better picture from the same train spotting book – and to my mind the old Queen looked far better in the plain green livery.

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And here’s the front of this – the first train spotting book I ever had – and an old one even then.

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It’s battered, but much loved.

A Family Heirloom?

January 11, 2014

I don’t think my family have much in the way of valuable possessions so I use the word ‘heirloom’ in no financial sense. Rather I am looking at an object with over 70 years of family history, recording an event from nearly 100 years ago.

The item is a clock and it was recently passed to me by my sister. I am generally the receiver of items that relate to our family and I did know this was coming. It actually arrived as a Christmas present.

The clock is a wall mounted Smiths electric clock purchased in the early 1940s. As such it is really rather ordinary although I very much like its art deco style and I always have, for I have known this clock for ever. It is made in a material I’ll call Bakelite

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Here’s the clock. The mains cable emerges from the top which seems a tad awkward these days. I have memories of a cable being taken off a light fitting to power this clock at one time. The white plastic coated cable will not be original and doesn’t quite seem in keeping. My memory isn’t clear, but I can imagine the original cable as being a rubber insulated, brown cotton covered pair of wires, twisted together. The knob at the bottom is for setting the time and, in theory, for starting the clock. The synchronous mo0tor used in this clock needs to get its rotor travelling at just the right speed to work. Once going it is very reliable and a first rate time keeper, but actually starting it does not seem to be at all easy.

Now let’s look at a clock detail – the metal plaque mounted inside.

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This is what makes an ordinary and inconvenient clock into something special and a family heirloom. Harry was my father. Dora was his younger sister, my aunt. They purchased this clock to mark Mum and Dad’s Silver Wedding Anniversary on January 28th 1941. The happy couple, my grandparents, had been married at St Stephen’s Church in Bexhill precisely 25 years earlier in 1916.

Grandad died in 1966 (soon after the Golden Wedding). Granny died in 1972. I’m not sure when the clock passed to my sister, but it is now more than forty years since it left my grandparents’ home.

Now it will be one of those things my grandchildren see when they visit us. Maybe one day it will hang on a wall in one of their homes and they can tell their grandchildren about ancient relatives they never knew.

The dustbin lorry

October 22, 2013

These days refuse collection is a high tech affair. Huge lorries pick up the wheelie bins and may weigh them, recognise who the bin belongs to and even keep records of it all. To cram as much in as possible a press compacts the rubbish into a tight, tiny space.

Back in the 50s a much more personal service was not a bit like that. A small lorry with opening side hatches can round. The dustmen (or refuse collectors) came around to your back garden, collected your bin, took it out to the lorry and emptied the contents via the side hatches and then returned your bin. Of course, at Christmas time they may have made some extra clattering noises to remind you they felt entitled to a Christmas box – a small some of cash for their kindness and hard work throughout the year.

I do not have a photo of such a lorry, but I do have a Dinky toy version.

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What a little beauty! I certainly had one of these lorries as a kid. It was old (as ever it was not new to me) and battered. This one – and I’m not sure if it is the same one, has been renovated by my brother-in-law who at one time enhanced his income by meticulously doing up such toys.

I have opened one of the side hatches for the photograph.

This is a Dinky version of a Bedford truck.

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The first version of this model came out in 1948 but they were popular and stayed in production until 1965. If this is the very one I had as a child then it will be an early one.

So what’s that big handle on the side for? Well, like the real thing this is a tipper lorry. It has a rear hatch and if you wind the handle you tip the refuse container and the contents can fall out of the rear hatch.image006

It’s a lovely model and thanks to Bill for doing it up.

A 1940s day on the Isle of Wight

September 23, 2013

Sometimes your luck is in. When we travelled on the Isle of Wight Steam Railway back in July 2004 it was a 1940s themed day. The railway, of course, is utterly delightful. It forms a part of the line between Ryde and Newport and on to Cowes and that was a route I knew and loved from train spotting days. But with the added 1940s theme it was a wonderful day even for non railway nerds.

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We can start in the forecourt at Haven Street where supporting vehicles were available to admire. I do not know if bus trips were available, but I expect they were.

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What a fine vehicle with an interesting history. She was new in 1937 and I quote from http://onlineweb.com/buses-coaches/JT%208077.htm.

This Bedford WTB with Duple coachwork was new to South Dorset Coaches at Corfe Castle in Dorset, and stayed with the company for thirty years.  It then passed to Adge Cutler of The Wurzels, who used her for band transport, but he was also interested in vintage vehicles, and took her to a number of rallies, including the London to Brighton Historic Commercial vehicle Run.  Following Adge’s untimely death, she passed to new owners in Gloucestershire in the mid 1970s.  She became semi derelict before passing to Pearce, Darch & Willcox, at Cattistock in Dorset who restored her, and recertified her as a PSV in 1987.  After two or three years the company and its modern coaches sold out to Southern National, but JT 8077 remained in the old garage until 1992 when acquired by John Woodhams Vintage Tours in Ryde, Isle of Wight. Very few WTBs survive today, and JT 8077 is the only known example in passenger service.

On the railway there was a demo ammunition train which pootled about.

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But it was the extras which made the day for me.

image008 A 1940s lady, complete with pram, enjoys a picnic.

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This is a 1909 Marshall steam traction engine.

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A couple of pictures of a 1940s motorcyclist

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A display of 1940s goods as a kind of shop counter.

But now you’ll have to forgive my nerdism. The Isle of Wight line has two of my favourite class of loco. Neither were in steam, but they are still fantastic engines. They are the 1872 designed A1x class of the old London Brighton and South Coast Railway – always known as Terriers. Quite a few were still operating in the 1960s. They had spent working life time on the island so there is a rightness about them being there.

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Number 11 was sold by the Brighton company and used on the Isle of Wight. She returned to the mainland and survived until 1963 when Butlins bought her as a static exhibit at Pwllheli. She returned to the island in 1972.

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Number 8 was also used on the Isle of Wight for many years before returning to the mainland. She was withdrawn in 1963 and became a pub sign on Hayling Island before arrival back on THE island in 1979.

Stations no more

July 24, 2013

As a kid train spotter in the early 60s, I used to visit stations and beg old luggage labels. They were of no great value – and still aren’t. They were just little slips of paper glued on to parcels so that the destination station could easily be seen.

Back in the 1960s, some of them, recognisably, dated back to the nineteenth century but today’s little collection all date from between 1923 and 1948 and were for luggage heading for stations now long since closed.

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We start with Bude, a small seaside town in Cornwall. Bude was at the end of a long branch line which opened in 1898. It closed in 1966 and residents of Bude now find themselves all but 70 miles from a railway station.

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Ludgershall is in Wiltshire. It was on the old Midland and South Western line which linked Andover in Hampshire with the Cheltenham area. The line opened in stretches at various times up to 1898. It was closed in 1961 (before Beeching). But the bit from Andover to Ludgershall is still there and may still receive some military traffic.

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Semley is also in Wiltshire. It was on the main line, west from Salisbury and heading for Gillingham and Exeter (and just possible Bude). Semley opened in 1859 and closed in 1966 but trains still rush through the old station site as they travel between London and Exeter.

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Waldron was on a line in East Sussex which was known as The Cuckoo Line. This ran between Tunbridge Wells and Eastbourne. The line and station date from 1880. Passenger services were axed in 1965 but the line remained open for freight until 1968. The station had numerous changes of name. From 1953 until the end it was called Horam.

This one is of special interest to me for Waldron was a village where my forebears lived.

And finally…

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West Pennard – it was a station on the old Somerset and Dorset line’s Highbridge branch. It opened in 1862 and survived until total line closure in 1966.

Just thinking about some of these places can bring back the sights, sounds and smells of a steam railway and the tickets remind me of the joy and innocence of a youthful train spotter

Meet the Relative – Great Uncle Joe

April 17, 2013

I have no recollection of meeting Uncle Joe. I was only aged three when he died and I’d suspect I never did meet up with him. He was a man who mattered to my dad and I’m going to let him do the writing – taken from his reminiscences.

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Great Uncle Joe in his Bandsman’s uniform

Now to Dad’s writing.

Turning to others with memorable influence I begin with Uncle Joe, Dad’s oldest brother because of his major influence on family history. With an age gap of nearly 9 years he cannot have been much of a childhood companion for Dad; he must have been out to work before Dad went to school. At the turn of the century Joe worked for Warburtons, the Uckfield corn chandlers. As new Bexhill developed, Warburtons opened up there and Joe was moved there. The Warburton family also moved. In my time they were active in the Baptist Chapel and there was a boy about 2 years older than me at the County (Grammar) School. I do not know dates or details but by the time my grandfather died in 1913, Uncle Joe was married with children. The family home near Buxted was broken up. Granny Frost and her unmarried children, Ruth, Obed and Mary moved to Bexhill. Joe’s brothers and sisters had probably moved earlier because only 19 months elapsed between Grandfather’s death and the outbreak of war and I cannot fit all I heard of my father’s life before the war into that short period. I know that he lodged with Uncle Joe and that Ethel Stevens had followed him to Bexhill. I suppose she had a living-in place but she was involved with the Frost family. I have a pre-war photograph of her and Dad out for a walk with Uncle Joe’s oldest son -Walter. And when his youngest (Ethel) was born in 1914 or 15 there was some birth complication and Mum played some part in dealing with it. Cousin Ethel reckons that she owes her life to Mum’s assistance and I expect she owes her first name to it.

Uncle Joe learnt to play the cornet in the Salvation Army. I picked up a somewhat muddled story that a key factor in his switch from his Baptist upbringing was an attractive Salvation Army lassie whom he later married -my Aunt Cissie (Cecilia Baker) -but I cannot vouch for it. By my time he had left the Army band and was first cornet in Bexhill Town Band; I saw him in that capacity when the band played in Egerton Park but he must left the band before 1930. Aunt Cissie remained with the Salvation Army to the end of her life but was not a completely regular attender.

I do not know when Uncle Joe left Warburtons -probably when he joined the army and served in an infantry regiment in France during the war. In my memory he worked for Harry Hoad -a pillar of Methodism and proprietor of an oil and hardware shop opposite the Sackville Arch. I do not know just how they were associated; it was not simply master and hired hand. The business depended on hawking away from the shop. Uncle Joe was the principal hawker and had a hawker’s licence. In my earliest memories he called on us every Thursday morning bringing supplies of paraffin, soap, brushes, polishes, pegs and the like -all this carried on a handcart pushed by Uncle Joe and his aide whom I knew only as Dennis. I took all this for granted but it surprises me now that they could cart enough to supply a fairly extensive round -probably 600 households. Later on they had a van with a large paraffin tank fitted under the floor. Dennis drove it but it was Uncle Joe’s round; Dennis was hardly a dynamic salesman. Sometimes they carried what would now be described as ‘special offers’ .I have a snapshot memory of Uncle Joe showing Mum a half pint milk jug with a pattern of violets, said to be a bargain at 6d (2.5 new pence) .I suspect now that Hoad had invested in a job lot of crockery ‘seconds’. I cannot judge whether Mum got a bargain or was conned but the jug came into regular use and I still have it. When I was a bit older I was sometimes allowed to join Uncle Joe on his round, nominally to help him. I could run little errands as when a customer wanted something he had not thought to take to her door. I could recognise most of the regular commodities and find them on the cart and later in the van. I became familiar with passages behind terraced houses in Sidley; they always called at back doors when they were easily accessible.

Towards the end of the round we ‘did’ Camperdown Road at the top of a rise at the north end of Sidley. The next street was down the rise in Turkey Road and a steep footpath led down. I was astonished on my first outing that they proposed to take the handcart down this path but a rope was produced and tied to the handle. With one of them holding the handle and the other the rope, both leaning backwards they took the cart down, untied the rope and were immediately back in business. The last calls were at Arncliffe Terrace the last working-class housing in that direction. There was no housing at all in my earliest recollections but speculative builders moved in as the years passed. The round over we turned towards Bexhill. I was dropped by Sidley Station and sometimes given two (old) pence which I spent on a bar of Fry’s chocolate cream from a cast iron slot-machine in the booking hall.

Hardware rounds like that filled a useful social niche away from town centres. Most shops stuck to a fairly narrow range of wares and the few in places like the Honies and Sidley were food shops. Soaps, washing soda and the like were often unwrapped and food shops hesitated to handle them. But for Uncle Joe’s round I think Mum would have needed to carry soaps, polishes and brushes from the town centre. There was a similar round in the rural area west of Lewes where Aunt Nellie lived (at Firle) .This man had a van hung round with pots, pans brushes and so on.

Uncle Joe had a long-term significance which I could not have foreseen. He was a gardener on a considerable scale and when I became a gardener myself (kitchen garden) the patterns implanted by Uncle Joe and Uncle Frank (of whom more later) played a considerable part. I learnt practical tips from Dad on his allotment but these two gardened to a higher standard and to greater visual effect given the advantage that their gardens adjoined their houses. I shall never be as good as either but a good deal of both is represented in our present garden. When I was very young Uncle Joe’s family lived in Chandler Road in a house adjoining the ‘Bexhill River’ which was liable to flood at high tide after heavy rain. I knew he had a garden not far away but I learnt where only when he moved to a larger house in Belle Hill. The geography was something like this. Station Road (which later became part of London Road) and Amhurst Road ran roughly north from Town Hall Square starting about SO metres apart but diverging gently until where they were crossed about 500 metres north by Belle Hill they were nearly 300 metres apart. There were gardens behind houses in all three roads but these left a triangle of between a third and half a hectare. Road access was from Station Road but there was also access from Uncle Joe’s house in Belle Hill and Harry Hoad’s house in Amhurst Road. Buildings there had probably been built as stables. Those nearest to Amhurst Road belonged to Harry Hoad, housing reserve stock, hand- carts and later the motor van. I believe Hoad had once had a horse and van but that was before my time. The southern end where the triangle narrowed was Uncle Joe’s kitchen garden which he had nursed since before I was born. The picture I carry in my mind of text- book perfect rows of vegetables may be larger than life, but it persists. I remember in particular rows of peas coming on in succession as gardening books say they should, including tall varieties, 2 metres high, covered with well filled pods. Dad never grew tall varieties partly, I think, because he could not afford the necessary pea sticks but mainly because they produced a luxurious excess when vegetables were plentiful and he was concerned for continuity- for crops in difficult periods -late winter and early spring.

Number 40 Belle Hill (since demolished for road widening) had a considerable garden mainly down to fruit, including a mulberry tree at the end of a small lawn where we just managed to play back-yard cricket. But Uncle Joe also looked after Hoad’s garden; I do not know how this was organised. Probably there was no formal arrangement and probably Hoad had a gardener who counted as a shop expense.

We spent a good deal of time with Uncle Joe’s family but the other members do not stand as high in my memory. The cousins were too different in age and interests. Aunt Cissie was a competent housewife but she never displayed the energy of my mother and she earned the disapproval of my grandmother (Granny Frost) and to some extent of my mother by reading novels of the kind now associated with Mills and Boone. They said it meant neglecting her housework; I cannot judge but acknowledge that she was not as perpetually committed to needlework and knitting and, apart from intermittent attendance at Salvation Army meetings, did very little outside the home. The boy cousins, Walter and Leslie, were 10 years or more older than me and Ethel about 6 years older so we never had a great deal in common. Walter was temperamentally a bit of a showman. He presented indoor fireworks at Christmas; they had more appeal before interesting items were banned because foolish purchasers did foolish things. He had a superior gramophone (acoustic) whose superiority I came to doubt when I was with HMV and I remember him making much of his records being ‘electrically recorded’ but I did not know what that meant and I doubt whether he did. I remember however that even earlier Uncle Joe brought home a phonograph and a collection of hollow cylindrical records about 100mm long and 50mm diameter. I understood even then that this was a museum object and I wish I had it now. The sound box and horn ran on rails parallel to the axis of the cylinder but did not rely on the groove in the record to carry them forward. A fine screw of the correct pitch and about 20mm diameter on a parallel axis was part of the machine and a half-nut meshing with it advanced the sound box. Lifting the needle and sound box from the record lifted the half nut from the guide screw so that the needle could be slid back for the start of the next record. Records often began with a spoken announcement: -This is an Edison-Bell record- which might or might not be followed by an announcement of the content. I am surprised how much I remember about it after nearly 70 years. I may have seen others in glass cases but have certainly never handled another. Perhaps there is something in the science-teaching assumption that handling apparatus fixes it in the mind. Walter was agent for another discovery -the stereoscope. The prime movers were a cigarette company who, by way of cigarette cards, presented stereoscopic pairs of cards portraying dinosaurs. They must have been made photographically from model dinosaurs in modelled backgrounds of Jurassic vegetation. One could send for an inexpensive stereoscopic viewer and Walter had one. I was fascinated both by stereoscopy and dinosaurs. Walter also took me to my first ‘talkie’ at the St. George’s Cinema in Bexhill. It did not hit me as a major innovation because, presumably on account of grandmother’s disapproval, I had so little experience of silent films. We were sometimes taken from school on Empire Days and the like to see improving films about the Empire plus (more appreciated) Charlie Chaplins and Harold Lloyds. I was only once taken by my mother and that was to see Charlie Chaplin in ‘The Circus’ .Thus Walter’s ‘talkie’ was a development from only 3 or 4 experiences of silent films and could not impress me as it did people who had experienced dozens of ‘silents’. Moreover I barely understood the main film -a ‘whodunnit’ called ‘The Perfect Alibi’ but I made the acquaintance of Mickey Mouse in a ‘short’ called ‘Mickey’s Choo- Choo’ in which Mickey Mouse placed a container of coal in front of the (American) engine which proceeded to eat it with its cow-catcher as its mouth. St. George’s Cinema in the Town Hall Square had been known before the war as ‘The Bijou’ and had been the site of some of Dad’s magic performances. It was the first cinema in Bexhill to convert to talkies with the sound based on discs. One could see them through the open window of the projection room above the foyer -discs about 350mm in diameter rotating just behind the projectors. Bexhill’s larger cinema -The Playhouse in Western Road -installed apparatus a little later for the Western Electric system in which the sound track was an optical strip on the film itself.

In 1929 or thereabouts Walter, with a job in the motor trade, hired a large car (a Cubitt) in which on one Sunday Uncle Joe’s family and our family visited relations in various parts of Sussex. We certainly visited Crawley where Aunt Mercy (Edwards, my oldest Aunt born 1878) lived in Malthouse Road. In Hadlow Down churchyard we looked at the graves of Hepzibah (my oldest Aunt of all except that she died in 1909) and alongside the grave of James (grandfather) who died in 1913. The graves were marked with wooden crosses at that time in good order. They were still there in 1960 but badly decayed and disappeared later when the church-yard was tidied up. Happening to pay a visit while the tidying was in progress I picked up from grandfather’s grave the small iron cross which sextons used to mark the foot of graves, clearly destined to join a scrap pile within a day or so, and I still have it Visitors often think it marks the grave of a cherished pet!

We also visited Uncle Sam {born 1887 and Dad’s closest companion in his childhood) .I do not remember much of his family but Dad took me for a short walk and a man walking past said ‘Good night Obed’ without stopping. Dad had left the area 15- 20 years earlier; he could just place the other man whom he had not known very well.

I have fewer early memories of the younger cousin Leslie who was a less assertive character. I remember hearing Uncle Joe tell Mum that he had got Leslie, who had left school, a job with Pratt’s the paraffin and petrol wholesalers later known as Esso (S.O., Standard Oil) .I used to see Leslie as driver’s mate {he was too young to drive) delivering paraffin to Goble’s shop at the corner of Havelock Road. It was not a high-tech operation. The tank lorry had large taps at the rear with hooks to carry galvanised carrying cans officially stamped ‘5 gallons’ .When they were full, driver and mate alternately carried two cans up the steps to the shop’s storage tanks. In due course Les became a driver in his own right and spent more time on petrol, of rising importance, than paraffin, of declining importance. Tanker lorries became progressively bigger. After he married {Nancy) in the 30s he lived just over the border in Hastings in one of the houses built in the fields where, in my earliest days, trams used to leave the road and take a short cut across the field while the road wound up and down a small cliff at the sea’s edge. Les took up sea angling and had a share in a boat normally beached at Glyne Gap. He once took me fishing from St. Leonards Pier -my only experience of the activity. I caught a few small fish which I took home and ate. I learned also to identify the weaver -a small fish with highly poisonous spines, edible if the spines were removed. I never caught one but I knew a man who got stung while shrimping and his hand was in a bad way for several weeks. During the second war Leslie’s job hardly changed except that he drove petrol lorries for the army in N. Africa rather than for Esso in East Sussex to which he returned after the war. The job killed him in the end. Leslie and Uncle Joe both died from carcinoma of the bladder a characteristic disease of people working with hydrocarbon oils.

Uncle Joe’s household in my childhood could probably be labelled sexist. I never knew the whole family go anywhere together. The males went places but the females never joined them whereas in our family, although excursions were rare, if anybody went we all went. Uncle Joe and his boys went to the Wembley Exhibition in 1924; I saw things they brought back but I never understood what it was all about. From time to time they went to events at the Crystal Palace -probably brass band events. They habitually went out with the harriers on Pevensey Marsh on Boxing Day mornings. They went to see Sussex play at the cricket grounds at Hastings or Eastbourne (Saffrons) .They sometimes took me to Saffrons and we stayed on to see shows at the Eastbourne Hippodrome. I remember a variety show in which one turn was provided by the famous comedy troupe led by Harry Tate. On another occasion we saw a play; Yvonne Arnaud was in it and I think the play was ‘The Improper Duchess’. Most years the men went out on massive black-berrying expeditions bringing home up to 25 lb {11 kilos) .Aunt Cissie turned it into pies, jam and jelly but she never went out with them. I cannot guess whether this was male chauvinism or Aunt Cissie’s preference. My female cousin, Ethel, was never involved in these male activities but this may not have been preference because when she married Jack Crittenden who was a cricketer she regularly went with him.

From time to time Uncle Joe and Dad reminisced about the area in and around Blackboys and I heard about locations like The Hundred House, Little England, Nan Tuck’s Lane, Pounsley, Rozers Cross, Shepherds Hill and Tickerage most of which a casual traveller would hardly notice (except that Pounsley is now a Youth Hostel) but they had obviously been significant. A few years before he died I drove Dad around minor roads in the area not accessible by public transport and he was obviously moved. He said of one unremarkable cottage where the family had once lived, ‘I never thought I should see that again’. I became aware for the first time of variations in pronunciation. The hamlet of High Hurstwood is about 3 krn north of Buxted and people today pronounce it as High HURSTwood whereas Dad and Uncle Joe always spoke of Highhurst WOOD. [I have met similar differences with my maternal relations for whom the seaside resort over the hill from Firle which most people call SEAford was always SeaFORD.

I suppose my last recollection of that family as I knew it in childhood was triggered 40 years later when after my father’s funeral (1966) we went back with my mother and Walter and Leslie sat side by side on the settee arguing as of yore. The years fell away because the sound was as it had always been.