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Posts Tagged ‘ww2 childhood’

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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imagesAS84KQ72The three boys were getting quite a handful for Mum. They were not bad boys, but being boys they were noisy and messy. One of the windows at the back of the house had already been broken with their ball. The lawn had completely disappeared where they played football and had turned into an ugly bald patch. I think the worst for the neighbours must have been the noise they made when they were playing cowboys and Indians.

They would run through the house and out into the garden whooping and screaming, and shouting, Bang! Bang! as though they had a gun in their hands. Also, my brother George was in the habit of hanging out of the bedroom window shouting and screaming that he wanted to go with Mum every time she went out shopping.

I think now, with the memory of Dad leaving our house and never coming back, that he must have believed that Mum would do the same. Mum did not let him go because she knew that my two other brothers would want to go, and they were too much of a handful while she was shopping.

One other cause for complaint from the neighbours were the Saturday night parties that were a regular feature in our house.

images0N04S226On Saturday evenings Mum would usually go to the local pub with my elder sisters and their boyfriends. There they would meet other people and invite them home for a bite to eat and a sing-song, and by the time they left the pub a few more had joined the party.

As soon as they arrived back at our house the noise would start, with Mum thumping out tunes on the piano and all the visitors singing at the top of their voices. As they left – and this was always past midnight – they would shout their goodnights to one another. No wonder there were complaints. With hindsight, I think they were justified.

imagesFYJRM8S3Once again we had to get used to going to a new school, which was nearby in Stoke Newington. The short time I attended the school was very enjoyable, as all the teachers were helpful, and while there I made some good friends.

We were encouraged to enter the different sports, and for the first time I tried swimming and rounders. I was never much good at rounders, but I loved swimming and diving, and eventually was good enough to be in the school team and compete with other schools.

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untitljedHolmleigh Road was situated in Stamford Hill, in the North of London. It was a very affluent area, mostly populated by Jewish business people. They were all well dressed, and lived in expensively furnished homes. I can only guess at what their reaction must have been when my family arrived to live there.

Somehow, Mum had managed to keep a few decent bits of furniture, along with her piano, but the rest of our belongings looked quite shabby as they were carried into the house. When this was followed by Mum, five girls and three noisy, scruffy boys, we must have looked like the original neighbours from hell.

100px-Sewing_toolsIt was not long before Mum had her first argument with one of our neighbours. Their name was Mr and Mrs Rose, and they had a tailoring business. There were no children, but they had a live-in maid.

The trouble started when my brothers began to play football in our garden, and kept kicking the ball into next door’s immaculate garden. They had run next door a couple of times to retrieve their ball when the maid came out, and told them she would keep the ball if it came in the garden anymore.

untitlfedShe must have been watching from a window, because when the ball was kicked over again, out she came, and took the ball indoors before my brothers could get it back. My brothers were football mad, and the loss of their football was a blow to them. Mum said she would have a word with Mrs Rose when she came home.

In the evening Mum went next door to ask for the ball back, and Mrs Rose refused, saying that she had given the boys enough chances. We could hear Mum shouting at her from our garden.

It was not long after that Mrs Rose had a high wall built along the whole length of her garden. Mum called her ‘a miserable cow’, and in the end Mrs Rose must have had enough of our noisy family as they moved out.imagesUEQHMVZI

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