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Saturday, August 5, 2017

Old Times.................

I have been talking about my childhood and my village when I was young. I still have a few things I had wanted to write down while I was thinking of it. I may have said all this before but I don't remember. The early years in the village I remember the gas lights in the High Street. We love looking at the old pictures and remember it all with rose coloured glasses I have no doubt. I will be honest and say that the houses that were torn down, that amounts to just about the entire village, they were damp and probably not worth the expense of repairs. Still, they could have tried.
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I remember old Victorian wash houses in the back of some of them. The water being outside as well as toilets that were the old hole in the ground kind. The biggest loss was the Tithe Barn. When that farm was sold to put in a new housing estate it was the biggest shame. A huge old Tithe Barn, 400 to 500 year old timbers.
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My Dad wrote down some of his memories for me. The village had not grown or changed a lot during his days until mine. We had a village police man, Trevor Davis. We met him due to an incident that happened in Dunstable. My dad and I were in Dunstable shopping I assume, who knows, I just tagged along. Anyway, we were crossing the road on a Zebra crossing and a car did not stop, it almost hit us. Someone got it's number and at some point the police came to our house. That's as much as I know. It so happened there was a young constable who saw the incident so it was a no brainer. Trevor Davis came to see Dad about the report. They hit it off and after that he was a regular visitor at our house. He would do his rounds on his trusty bike, all the kids called him Speedy. I won't name names but several of the boys on Bidwell Hill got to know him really well, so when he was there he would stop in for a cup of tea. It became a ritual that when he did his evening run down Bidwell Hill to be sure the Red Lion was closing on time he would stop in on the way back. Especially in Winter when it was cold. Mum would make him a cup of tea and Dad would top it up with a good shot of whiskey. I bet some times he would be quite warm on those cold winter nights. The Red Lion or The Old Red Lion.
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Trevor Davis took his family to live in Australia when everyone was emigrating. My Uncle Cecil and his family went too. There was an offer back then that many could not refuse. A new life and job guaranteed if they had a young family out in Australia passage paid if they would stay five years or something like that.
In Dads day the village copper was kept very busy with his family. Dad says that he was often dragged home by the ear to face the wrath of his father Burt.
Maybe the world would be better if the police were allowed to do that these days. No need of guns when they had the kids under control from an early age.
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One day Dad was being a little pest along with his brothers when he ran out into the road. He was knocked over by a car, he was unhurt but when he got up and brushed off he was thunderstruck to see The Duchess of Bedford bending over him. She was very concerned and they took him home to his parents who would no doubt be all a dither being visited by the Aristocracy. The Chauffeur would have presented him to his Mother and checked over to be sure all was well. She followed up a couple of times to be sure he was OK. He never forgot that as I am sure my Grandmother didn't either.
The Village Pond.
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I remember so many changes in our lives back then. I remember the polio epidemic when we were told to avoid stagnant water (think Blue Waters) and streams. (Washbrook) one young girl caught Polio and so it was a threat we understood. We got vaccines on a lump of sugar. Shots came much later. The sugar cube was not bad. We were used to getting Cod Liver Oil on sugar lumps. Think "a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down......" yes it does. When the dang Smallpox vaccine came out it was a much different story. We went down to Doctor Millers surgery and he rolled up my sleeve dabbed it with alcohol, broke a glass test tube and proceeded to scrape the skin off my arm. He then blew the vaccine into the scrape and scraped it again. I do remember holding on to the door nob and kneeling on the floor screaming (no doubt) it was a green door.
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My Dad was a real little devil. The things he did back in those days would put a child in jail these days. Back then the village copper took care of things in his own way. Some of his stories are funny but still, that family had to have been the bane of the village copper. Boys could be boys back then and families helped each other out. I know my Granddad would go out poaching sometimes to get the family through tough times and my poor Grandmother must have had a hard life. She was a trooper though. The village was made into a camp for the soldiers during the first war and were camped on the village green. They made trenches back of the Tithe Farm so they could practice trench warfare.
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At some point my Grandparents had soldiers billeted at their house. She always kept a large pot of stew on her stove that had stuff added to it all the time and was a constant on the black wood stove in a very large fire place. I loved that house. I guess I got attached to houses. I have probably talked about this before as well, but that house was huge. The bathroom though, wow, concrete floors and bare brick with gaps under the door that led to the porch where the toilet was, at least it was a flush toilet.
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My Grandmother had 4 boys in the army during the war, all away. Some fought in the desert and my Dad went to Singapore where he was taken prisoner. The boys did not like their father from all accounts, they didn't like his drinking and his treatment of their Mother but I feel that he too had a hard life. The boys were by all accounts difficult to say the least and he had a large family to feed in a very difficult time. If he had to resort to poaching then things were not easy. Thing is my Grandmother would have to go down to the pub to get his paychecks before he spent it all in the pub. His brother Buster Hines raised Aylesbury Ducks and worked on the farm down Bidwell. Mr Greens farm. The days after WW1 were probably more difficult than after the 2nd war because things changed drastically after WW2. Women had been used to working outside the home and there was no going back. Before that a lot of women worked at home in their spare time (as if) plaiting straw for the hat factories in Luton. Whole families would do that for money to help out. Life was hard enough.
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My Mother worked in the local Laundry for some time before moving on to just about every store in the village at one time or other. My dad worked 7am to 7pm most days and on weekend would do gardening for people. He liked that. He started out after the war as a lathe operator and ended his working life as the buyer for his company. He was shop steward and rep for the labour union. He loved politics and ran for local office at one point. My Mother did not like that.
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So from the time I was young I had to stay at someones house before and after school. At first I stayed next door with Mr and Mrs Tompkins. Thinking back I must have been a fussy eater, I hated her pot roasts. They stick in my mind for some reason. Later I was able to stay at my friend Sylvia's after school and I didn't like her mums cooking either. So I must have been really a brat come to think of it. Then Sylvia and I fell out one time and I went home. Mum came home to find me in the outside toilet during a thunder storm. After that I was allowed to stay home on my own. Mrs Bird would pop around sometimes to be sure I was OK.
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The neighbours were like that. Everyone helped everyone else. Everyone was close. In fact when I got appendicitis Mrs Bird rode with me in the ambulance, my mum was "squeamish" and met us there. She tended to avoid situations like that. I was sick one time and in trying to get out of the bedroom I threw up on the wall. Stood at the top of the stairs and called for help. Threw up again down the stairs, Mum came to see what was up and threw up right on top. Poor Dad had to take care of us both.
Mrs Bird was a trooper, she called in on the elderly and did shopping for people who were not able. She wore slippers all day because her feet hurt and she had an old baby pram that she used to cart the groceries back and forth. When I had Laura and was unmarried, my Mother disowned me, I went to London to a Mother and Baby home (another story) and yet, the neighbours all rallied around me and supported me when I came home with Laura. Thats how it was back then. It took a village to raise a child.

3 comments:

Nancy C. said...

Love your memories! You tell it so well! I recall a census that had my Hines or Whiting living on High Street and that they were Plaiters and launderers and gardeners.

Merlesworld said...

It's nice to go back into the past and dwell for a time.
Maybe you should write a book your childhood was very interesting.
Merle..................

Magic Love Crow said...

Very interesting Janice! A great read! You were a picky eater! LOL!