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Saturday, March 28, 2015

LAWS FAMILY REGISTER Mar 2015 Number 468


Member of The Guild of One-Name Studies
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Welcome to the Laws Family Register. 

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A Child of the Twenties

A suburban childhood of the Twenties 

seen from the Ninteen Nineties


by John Robert Laws 1921-2008

Part 5.


Surely the most elegant piece of furniture stood opposite the fireplace behind the settee. A china cabinet to match the rest of the furniture, standing around six feet high by four feet six, with its mirrored back multiplying the pretty little collection of china and figurines. Although fragile in appearance it has survived a war and several house removals and is still with us, No doubt my mother lived in fear and trembling when I was in the same room and hence my feeling that the room was little used.

The front door of the house led into a normal hall and passage with a long red and green 'Turkish' carpet runner, over the linoleum which covered all our floors. The hazard of a slip mat guarded every door and a matching carpet strip ascended the stairs, held in place by gleaming stair rods, another regular chore. The wall of the hallway carried a wooden moulding about three feet from the floor, below which it was papered in a heavy moulded paper and painted. The wall above was papered in the normal way. As in all rooms there was the obligatory picture rail with pictures, of which more anon.

The stairway was straight and unremarkable, once I tumbled from top to bottom in a careless moment with no worse effects than considerable surprise. Going up or down in a more conventional manner could be aided by a substantial banister rail which was not however very good for sliding down on account of the newel post sticking out at the bottom. The stairs faced the front of the house and at the top a passage went on down to the back and a landing turned round to the front and led to the main bedroom.

As a small infant I had my cot in there with my parents but must have generally slept like a log as there are few memories of wakefulness. Perhaps it is just one winter of memory before I had a little room of my own. There were venetian blinds at the windows and an occasional motor vehicle would trundle past before I slept and its lights throwing the pattern of the slatted blinds on the wall and moved it round the room as it passed. It must have been that year that the electric light was put in. I was in my cot with some childhood ailment and watched as a rising and falling two light filaments were put above the dressing table in the window bay and wired up through the ceiling. What a pity to have missed the rest of the performance.

Each main bedroom had a marble topped washstand with a set comprising a hand basin, water ewer, soap dish, and toothbrush vase, in the double cupboard below were a pair of chamber pots in the matching pattern. This set was patterned with large red roses, but of these only the hand basin now survives. Being a large one, it has gone through a number of uses, from the earliest being I was told. My bath in the earliest weeks, to mixing Christmas puddings in succeeding years and holding wine much later. Now

Gas fires were fitted in the main bedrooms to provide a trifle of heat at bedtime and a brass jar of water stood in front to stop it drying out the air. Not that the furniture stood in any danger of drying out in those days although it was all solid wood, even plywood does not seem to come in, till much later. There must have been more furniture, but nothing built in except the larder and the dresser in the kitchen. The freestanding wardrobes were big since one needed plenty of clothing and were supplemented by large chests of drawers and blanket chests. Bedroom furniture was only slightly less ornamented than downstairs.

The beds varied through the plain iron, and the iron with brass knobs and fittings to the wooden headboard and footboard veneered in burr walnut which could not have been part of the original set up in 1912 as it did not match anything else. The bed springs of that day were a sort of lightly stretched steel spring fabric which became a hammock with the passing of years and can be consigned to the past without a trace of nostalgia. Sheets were white and cotton, or linen for the fortunate, blankets thick and numerous and the eiderdown de rigueur though with often no trace of eider ancestry. The white quilts were not quilted but of a heavy cotton material with an embossed pattern. These whites and white lace curtains fitted the general darkness of the furniture and decor as did the use of mirrors in the furniture and over fire places wherever possible.

I was moved into my own minuscule bedroom at an early age and the one thing that has stuck in my mind is the wallpaper. It had vertical pink stripes perhaps three inches wide with ovals holding arrangements of roses a little over a foot above each other and the stripes separated from the ivory background by thin silver lines. It is the only wallpaper I recall from that house but the bed was tight to the wall and I had time to gaze at it. In that room my Mother would read me a chapter from a handsome volume of 'Robinson Crusoe' or from 'Tom Sawyer' once I was settled in. Although occupying that room for five or six years it was never dark in memory. I can however remember reading under the bedclothes with a torch after the light had been put out so winter darkness did existSurely the most elegant piece of furniture stood opposite the fireplace behind the settee. A china cabinet to match the rest of the furniture, standing around six feet high by four feet six, with its mirrored back multiplying the pretty little collection of china and figurines. Although fragile in appearance it has survived a war and several house removals and is still with us, No doubt my mother lived in fear and trembling when I was in the same room and hence my feeling that the room was little used.


To be continued tomorrow

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Member of The Guild of One-Name Studies


With grateful thanks to Simon Knott for permission to reproduce his photographs on this site see :-http://www.norfolkchurches.co.uk/