My Mum and Mrs Bennison soon became good friends, and helped each other out when they were short of money or food.
Hilda loved to spend time in our house, and would always stay to dinner when Mum cooked minced beef. I suppose she liked all the company. She was a very attractive girl, quite well-built and looked older than her years. Hilda was to become a great friend and wonderful sister-in-law.
One day, Mum told me to go over to Mrs Bennison’s and borrow a cup of sugar. That was my first meeting with my future husband, Ron. I was only fourteen and at the time Ron was twenty. He asked his Mother who I was and she said I was one of the Lees from across the road. Ron’s reply was: “That’s the girl I’m going to marry.”
I went back with my cup of sugar not knowing that my future life had just been determined.
Ron was demobbed from the R.A.F. and found work in a pharmaceutical factory. He started coming over to our house and by the time I was fifteen we were going on days out with my sister, Mary, and her boyfriend and future husband, Jim.
Ron and I were engaged when I was sixteen and we were married in 1951 when I was seventeen. We lived for a while with my Mum and then moved to live with Ron’s Mum. It was very hard to find rooms in London at that time so we were delighted when we had the chance to rent two rooms at the top of a three-storey house in Islington.
One room was quite large and the other quite small. There was a cooker on the landing and a tiny sink two flights of stairs down where the only lavatory was.
Below us lived Mrs Rosyn, who was quite old, and her son. On the ground floor was Mrs Brown who was well into her eighties and looked like someone from Victorian times with her long black clothes and her hair in a bun. Her kitchen was like ‘Hell’s Kitchen’. She had an open fire burning all day, whatever the weather, which she cooked her dinner on.
A couple of times she caught her clothes alight when she fell asleep. The walls and ceiling were black with smoke and there was dirt and grime everywhere. The table was never cleared, and there were flies all over the food.
At the time we did not have a fridge, so it was very hard to keep food fresh. If I was doubtful about any of our food, I would throw it in the dustbin. One day, I put a small joint of rancid beef in the dustbin and just happened to look out of the window when I saw Mrs Brown taking the meat out of the dustbin. There was soon a strong smell of beef cooking.
Our two rooms were soon looking lovely. Ron had decorated them and we had all new furniture, bought on hire purchase. We were very proud of our small home. I decided that I would make the rest of the house look more wholesome and proceeded to scrub the six flights of stairs and wash the banisters and lavatory.
After changing my bucket of water many times I reached the passage way on the ground floor. I picked up the door mat to shake when Mrs Brown came out of her kitchen and asked what I was doing. She then proceeded to lecture me on what part of the house was mine. She said if anywhere needed cleaning she would do it. I was quite upset when I went back upstairs. I had worked hard and looked like a chimney sweep – and that was all the thanks I got.
We had many problems while we were living there – burst pipes in the winter, trying to keep food fresh in the summer, and doing our washing in the small sink on the lower landing. However, we spent some happy days in our first home together.
I have now been married for Sixty-four years to my caring, loving husband, Ron.
I am also blessed with my two beloved daughters, Marilyn and Deborah, and their respective husbands, Tony and Neil, who could not be more caring and thoughtful. I am so proud of them all.