I was born in 1951 so all my childhood took place in the 1950’s. My father had returned from the war a changed man who no doubt found it difficult to fit into civilian life again and my mother had coped on her own as best she could. Then I came along. I think I was a mistake because I’ve heard it said a few times when I should not have been eavesdropping!
This is my Christening photo.
My mother always wanted a large family. She had three brothers of her own and, as the second eldest, took a bit part in caring for them because that’s what women did in those days – care for their men. She told me on numerous occasions how she was always mending their trousers or darning socks to say nothing of the washing and ironing involved. So she was used to lots of people around her all the time.
My father, on the other hand, was the youngest of three, the baby, mostly brought up by his much older sister – my Auntie Connie, who was thirteen years his senior. He went to the Grammar School in Dunstable, now Ashton and did well, hoping to become a chemist eventually. His dreams didn’t materialise, unfortunately for him, because his parents were not that supportive and he left school to work in various places in his home town.
My parents lived in rooms when I was tiny and my father worked two jobs to make ends meet. We didn’t have a house until I was about three years old. Of course I was too young to remember any of this. I only have one memory of being tiny and that was of riding in my pram with shopping all around me. I could have been two years old because children remained in their prams much longer in those days.
My mother didn’t like living in rooms. It must have been very difficult with a baby, sharing a bathroom and kitchen with people one didn’t know. My father would have been out most of the time, working so it must have been lonely too, especially for a Dutch lady whose family lived overseas.
The worst thing for my mother,as a foreigner in England, was her Dutch accent. Having an accent which sounded German so soon after the war had ended was a burden she had to bear. A lot of people thought she was German and gave her suspicious looks or ignored her all together. In addition she was not the first choice of wife by my grandparents, who would have preferred that my father had married someone from his home town.
Looking at my mother’s face in the picture above, I feel very sorry for her. She had just gone through five years of war and now found herself in a foreign country full of animosity to foreigners, without her close family and very much on her own. Despite all that she looks radiantly happy and full of hope, doesn’t she?
What are your earliest memories of childhood? How far back can you go with clear memories?