On the left of the above picture as we look at it, is my little nanna, Ethel Mills (nee Davis). She is standing with a brother and sister. Her parents (my paternal great grandparents) are seated. They were a large family of some eleven or so siblings and my nanna was one of the youngest. She was tiny in stature and like so many tiny people, she was lively in nature. They lived in St. Albans, Hertfordshire and then later on moved to Luton where she lived for the rest of her life.
Nanna married Fred Mills and had three children – Connie, Herbert and Fred jnr. (my dad). Here is a picture of them on the beach somewhere, enjoying a day out perhaps. My dad is in the middle.
My nanna worked hard making hats for the thriving Luton Hat Industry, which is famous for its straw boaters. If you click on the link you can read more about the plaiting and so on…Later on my Auntie Connie joined her and one of my enduring memories was visiting them in their tiny house to find hats everywhere. They were stacked up in corners everywhere awaiting my nanna’s attention. She did the finishing – sewing on ribbons and bands. It was welcome work and done at home so it had advantages. I don’t suppose my granddad Fred liked having so many hats all over the place, but I never heard him complain.
Another memory I have of Nanna Ethel was the way she buttered bread. She used to buy milk loaves from the little shop on the corner of her street and then cut off the end. That done she would tuck the loaf under her arm and butter the bread there! Then she cut off a slice for each of us – usually my cousin John and I and one of my parents. It was customary to put treacle on it before we ate it. We rarely ate meat with the bread because meat was so expensive, but we did have cheese and if all else was missing – sugar.
I always went to my nanna’s on Christmas Eve in the morning, just when the excitement of Christmas was at its peak for me. I didn’t realise until much later on that the reason I went there then was so that my parents could go to town on their own and choose a present for me.
My nanna had a long life. She lived to be 95 years old and kept her health to the end. She was always cheerful and always busy and I have very fond memories of her to this day.
Here is a picture of my dad in his prime.