More of my Mother's Memories
When my mother was a child, holidays were rare. Her father worked shifts as a foreman for a chemical company and apart from Sundays only had one day's holiday every three weeks.
The family were well enough of to have an annual holiday in Blackpool, which was the usual destination for families living in Cheshire and Lancashire.
There were no suitcases, so everything needed for the holiday was packed in a large trunk, and a taxi was hired to take the family to the station, where they caught a train to their destination, a boarding house near the North Pier, which was considered the "classy" part of Blackpool.
My mother made friends with a girl called Cynthia, whose family always took their holidays at the same time. Cynthia's mother was lame, so she would spend her time sitting on a seat on the Promenade, while her father took Cynthia and my mother to Woolworth's to buy toys and sweets. When my mother was older, she discovered Cynthia's father had a series of lady friends, which meant he and his wife wanted to spend as little time in each other's company as possible.
One of my mother's earliest holiday memories was of soldiers giving out thick slices of bread and jam to the children, and saying "No thank you." when offered a slice, as she was accustomed to only eating bread, which had been sliced thinly. The soldier looked taken aback and said. "You're better fed than taught!"
A visit to the circus and the zoo at Blackpool tower was always a highlight of the holiday, as were the delicious ice creams sold by Italians. She claimed the best ones were sold with the slogan "Often licked but never beaten".
My Grandfather had a pipe and while a work smoked, a brand called "Thin Twist". , It gave him a rash, if he rolled it on his hands before inserting it in the pipe. (In those days, no one was aware of the serious health threats posed by smoking) He used a cream made by a local chemist, Sydney Bostock to treat the skin irritation, and never went anywhere without a supply.
Two ladies, who ran a bakery, were on holiday at the same Blackpool Boarding House. It was Wakes week, in Preston, where they lived, and all the mills were closed for the holiday, as were most of the local shops. One morning they came down, with their trunks packed and the younger one in tears.
My Grandmother asked them what was the matter. The elder explained that her friend had developed Baker's eczema, through working with flour, and was in such pain that they were going back home to Preston immediately.
My Grandfather had an idea and produced the tin of ointment he used for his tobacco rash, and begged the ladies to delay going home until the next day, while she tried it. By the next morning, her pain was gone and she enjoyed the remainder of her holiday. When she got home, she wrote to Mt Bostock and ordered a supply of the "magic" ointment.
As well as her holidays in Blackpool, my mother also had vivid memories of a trip to Bellevue Zoo near Manchester. Her mother was going to take her, but was confined to bed with a bad back, so went with her father instead, who allowed her to be more adventurous than her mother would have done. She never forgot the thrill of riding first on a camel, and then on an elephant, as she told me she never experienced anything else in life that compared with the camel's sideways lurching!
When my mother reached thirteen, she decided she was too old to go away with parents and instead accepted an annual invitation to spend the month of August with her Uncle Jack and Auntie Annie at Market Drayton in Shropshire.
These holidays were amongst the happiest times of her life, and she loved telling me about them.
Uncle Jack was a gardener at Peteswood Hall, and had to walk over a mile to work every day. The daughter of the house painted plates for a hobby and gave one to my Aunt and Uncle as wedding present. The family, who lived there, were very fussy and would reject any fruit or vegetables with the slightest blemish. The gave them to their staff, which meant an endless d supply of delicious fresh fruits and vegetables for my mother to enjoy during her visits, including peaches and grapes grown in greenhouses, which were quite rare at that time. Less exotic fruits were prolific and she recalled going to the market and seeing juice from unsold damsons running down the pavement like rainwater, and so much fruit, the trader's couldn't give it away.
Uncle Jack was offered the post of Head Gardener, which included a cottage in the grounds of the Hall, but turned it down, as Auntie Annie would have felt isolated and missed the company of her neighbours. They lived in a row of five cottages, with only one outside lavatory between them. The next-door neighbour was a formidable old lady called Mrs Lookner, who used to chase the dustmen away with a brush covered in whitewash! My mother liked her, though.
Uncle Jack had been in the First World War, and suffered from rheumatism as result of his time in the trenches. After his experiences, he never wanted to leave Market Drayton again, even to take a holiday. He brought home from France, a statue of the Virgin and Child, which was the only unbroken item in a bombed out house. The statue is still a treasured family heirloom.
Auntie Annie liked to travel, but had to content herself with trips organised by the local church ladies circle.
Uncle Jack would take my mother for long walks, a favourite of which was to a bridge, which was on the borders of three counties. He also showed her the church steeple, which Clive of India climbed as a boy, for a dare, when attending the local grammar school.
When her Uncle was at work, my mother enjoyed exploring the graveyard, which contains many gypsy graves, all of which are beautiful white marble angels. She could even remember some of the inscriptions.
" Miranda Stevens is my name.
England is my nation,
Market Drayton my resting place
And Christ is my station."
She also remembered seeing a tragic inscription on a grave of six young children, who died after eating matches.
Her Aunt and Uncle showed her where her mother was brought up, at the top of a steep hill, called Kiln Bank. Every morning, she had to go to the bottom for water and then carry it up again Her mother was raised by a childless aunt, which was the custom of that time, as the family was large and my great grandfather often couldn't work due to bronchitis, and my great grandmother had to take in washing and ironing to earn money.
Every one in Market Drayton used to take their bread to be baked in a communal oven.
It tasted delicious. It was a good place to live and my mother was always sorry when her holiday was over. She loved the area so much, that when she died, she left me instructions to bury her ashes there, under an old yew tree in site of the marble angels.