Monday, 21 November 2011

Pregnancies and Burglaries

Part 6

I remember several of our maids very well, but one in particular (Gladys Medbury, later to become Gladys Brunton) who helped care for us when  was small and remained for some years a very important person in my life. I can never remember my mother putting me to bed, although I am sure she must have done sometimes, but as a young child it was always Gladys. She was a warm, humorous person, never lost her temper, and very inventive regarding games. She was expert ironer and I loved to watch her go about it – the shirts folded just so, the frills around the table-centres goffered neatly, as was her little afternoon cap. Her young man, Fred, was out of work for a long time but one day appeared in army uniform, which upset Gladys very much but I thought it was very exciting. She disappeared one day unexpectedly, but came back again and stayed for some time after that. Years afterwards I discovered she had expected Fred’s baby, but had a miscarriage and had to go into hospital for a while, but it was all hushed up – in the 1920s such events were kept hidden. I believe my mother looked after her well at this time and certainly she remained at our home thereafter for some time, before marrying and moving away.

I remember a maid called Mary Quilter, who also cared for us well, as well as doing the work. She went off to Australia to join a brother who had already emigrated. There was another Mary who was far more interested in flirting with the boys than in anything else and I am sure my mother never knew that when Mary took us walking over Wanstead Flats we were left to our own devices while she gadded around with the fellows. There was a Doris, who I remember as a good-looking, fair-haired girl, much given to singing all the up-to-date ditties of the time, and the young man lodger next door at 32 Sebert Road would join in, hanging out of his back upstairs window that looked into our garden. Two songs I remember particularly – “What’ll I do when you are far away, What’ll I do with just a photograph to tell my troubles to? When I’m alone with only dreams of you, That won’t come true, what’ll I do?”

Sweetheart, if you should stray
A million miles away
I’ll always be in love with you.
And though you find more bliss
In someone else’s kiss
I’ll always be in love with you.
The heartaches, the sadness
‘Cause I know tomorrow again we shall meet
I wish you happiness
But for me, sweetheart, I guess
I’ll always be in love with you.

When we moved to Claremont Road, we had a young girl named Dorothy Flux, who came from Wivenhoe and who was quite a country girl. She was mad on stage stars, particularly music hall artistes, and started me on my craze for autograph collecting. I acquired a pretty good collection, not exclusively stage personalities, but during my later teens lost interest in the hobby and like a fool, gave the book away to a  young friend working with me on the office staff at Lacrinoid Products. I had collected all Jack Hilton’s orchestra, Jack Payne, Louis Armstrong, Max Miller, the Houston Sisters, Leslie Hutchinson (“Hutch”) one of the boxing champions Jack “Kid” Berg and many, many more.

One childhood escapade lived with me for years but luckily no adult ever knew of it. I returned home from school one day to find nobody at home – very unusual, but it seems Mary had a rendezvous somewhere! I forced open the downstairs window to get in, but couldn’t push it up high enough to make an entry. Soon afterwards, Mary came back and seeing the open window, assumed someone had tried to get in. I kept quiet, knowing I should not have opened the window. Mary was scared and made me go in first, even upstairs to make sure nobody was around, until in the end I was even scared myself! My mother then came home and insisted on calling the police to make sure all was well. By this time there was of course no question of me telling the truth about the matter, and ever afterwards I had to listen to my mother relating the story of the attempted burglary and how they must have been interrupted while attempting it.