Posts Tagged ‘family history’

braisedmince_91963_16x9My 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.

imagesH30OZZZEOne 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.

237CAB2900000578-0-image-28_1416914901607Below 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.

imagesM2MM130UAt 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.

main_networx_cleaning_1After 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.


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The first time I saw my future mother-in-law, Alice Bennison, she was leaning over and shouting abuse through the letterbox of the house opposite.

untitlewidIt was 1947, and we had been living in Holmleigh Road for a few months. Since the end of the war the lack of housing had become acute, and local councils had the authority to requisition any rooms they thought were vacant. This applied to private houses as well as council property.

The flat they had allocated Mrs Bennison was the whole top floor of a private house, and this included the only bathroom in the house.

The owner of the house was an elderly Jewish lady named Mrs Winter who lived there with her son, Alf. Mrs Winter was a small, frail woman with hunched shoulders. Her hair was still dark, which contrasted with her pale skin. She spent many hours peering from behind the lace curtain of her street door, but I never saw her out in the street and she never spoke to anyone.

Painting by Lithuanian Jewish artist Arbit Blatas (1908-1999 )

Painting by Lithuanian Jewish artist Arbit Blatas (1908-1999 )

Alf was a tall thin man with dark hair and a long nose, like a beak. He was a very gentle and quietly spoken person, and showed endless patience towards his Mother. Alf was more sociable than his Mother and would always speak to my family. Mum said that he had a lot to put up with as he cared for his Mother as well as running a business.

It was in the morning when the removal van pulled up with Mrs Bennison’s furniture, and Mrs Winter would have been alone in the house as her son was at work all day. She was obviously frightened and refused to open the door when Mrs Bennison started waving her fists and shouting at her through the letter box.

untitlpedThe men, who were waiting to unload, said there was nothing they could do, and told Mrs Bennison to call the police and let them deal with it. Mrs Bennison then started shouting at Mrs Winter that she was going to call the police.

The police duly arrived, and called through the letter box that Mrs Winter must let them in. She still refused, saying: “I don’t want those people in my house.”

My family were all peering through the window, and when we saw the police leave we wondered what they would do. However, they soon returned, but this time they were accompanied by Mrs Winter’s son. He entered the house and could be seen talking to his Mother. He placed an arm around her then led her away from the street door, and not long after he returned to open the door.

The furniture was taken in and the van finally left.

Painting by Yehuda Pen (1854-1937)

Painting by Yehuda Pen (1854-1937)

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untitledbrUnfortunately, our Mum started to suffer with chronic bronchitis which affected her breathing, and though she would never make a fuss, some days she would have to take to her bed.

Being the eldest girl not working, I would have to stay home to help Mum, and in the winter months I was often absent from school causing problems for Mum with the school authorities.

I also lost my place in the school team as they said I was unreliable, and I can remember how upset I was at the time.

Mum still had her job in the hospital but it was getting too much for her, and now that my elder sisters were working and helping with the household bills she decided to stay at home. As there were still eight of us to look after she had more than enough to do.

571957_mediumKath, my sister, had trained to be a secretary which I thought sounded very posh, and when she told Mum that she wanted to be a land girl, I was surprised. We all missed Kath when she left home to start her new life on a farm.

Kath was always a pretty girl, but after she had been working in the country for a few months she looked lovely; it must have been all the fresh air and food. It was while she was working away that she met her future husband, Den, who was in the Royal Navy.Women's-Land-Army-1917

My sisters were all growing up, and it was not long before Lil and Mary were both courting. They had met their boyfriends at the same wedding. They brought them home one night to introduce them to my Mum, and a very unfortunate beginning it was.

As there were no lights in our hall, any strangers would not know that there were three stairs halfway down the passage, and as we were all used to them we often forgot to tell visitors.

Lil and Mary came in with their new boyfriends, and there was no mention of the stairs. Then we heard such a commotion in the hall. First there was a cry from someone as they fell headfirst down the stairs, and then there was a terrible howl as whoever had fallen had also flattened our poor cat.

The man picked it up and said it was not dead, but badly injured and he would put the poor animal out of her misery. He then asked for a bucket of water and to our horror, proceeded to drown the cat. We were all so shocked that no one asked the man if he had hurt himself.imabges

Mum was standing there not knowing what to do or say when Lil said: “This is Les, my friend, and he is very sorry for what he did to the cat.” Mary then told Mum that her boyfriend was named Jim.

We did not expect to see them anymore after what had happened, but they still called, being very careful when they walked down our hall. My sisters eventually married Les and Jim.

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