Friday, August 14, 2015

LFR 14 Aug Number 607

North Berwick, East Lothian, Scotland

Welcome to the Laws Family Register. 
A Child of the Twenties

A suburban childhood of the Twenties 

seen from the Ninteen Nineties

by my late father
 John Robert Laws 1921-2008

Part 8.


One faint memory of Green Lanes is of the buses with their cabs shrouded in wire netting to protect the volunteer drivers during the National Strike of 1926. What a good job there were no television cameras to encourage the attackers.

As well as the main shopping area in Green Lanes there were a few little shops around the railway station. The sweet shop was to me the most important and in those impecunious days many sweet shops kept a halfpenny and farthing box with a selection of sweets at those prices for kids with pocket money. It is a sign of of changing times that as I type this computer throws out the word Farthing as not being in the dictionary.

The dress of the period is familiar from photographs but the black and white of these photos does not tell us how much colours changed. These monochrome photos are perhaps appropriate to the rather drab colours of every day wear. Grey, black and white were definitely favourites except for special occasions. Green was thought unlucky by some though my mother had a brilliant green evening dress for one special occasion. Red tended to be associated with the immoral so one was left with brown and blue and usually dark at that. Even holiday wear was much less colourful, white flannels and a navy blue blazer being about the height of seaside fashion for Pater families. The ladies did much better with flower patterned fabrics. For better or for worse the mini skirt hadn't been invented and bikini was still the name of an unknown Pacific island.

Among the street people with distinctive dress the policeman stood out. A big man in his navy blue tunic and trousers, a leather belt around his middle with a bull’s-eye torch at the rear and his outfit completed with a proper Bobbies helmet on his head and big black boots on his feet for pavement pounding. Just occasionally his whistle might be heard shrilling as he chased some malefactor down the road. More often he was seen but not heard as he came by on foot or on his bike with his rain cape neatly folded over the handlebars.

Our family doctor lived just across the way in a sizable corner house. I saw him from time to time when I had various childhood ailments but his likeness escapes me. My mother always thought me thin and needing fattening up but rather doubting when the doctor included pork in his dietary recommendations. Anyway I ate like a horse the only dislike I can remember was the kidney in steak and kidney pudding. The doctor had installed a machine for 'sun-ray treatment' and my mother took me over to him several times for a dose of the beneficial light. It was some sort of ultra violet light emission which would now frighten a quack silly today but in small doses probably did neither good or harm.       

The twenties and early thirties were a period of innovation in the home. Discoveries made in earlier decades started to come to fruition as household hardware, consumer durables stated to flow into the home. It was only the first wave of course; the flood was released after the war onto the earlier infrastructure.
The first innovation in my world was the gramophone which ousted the piano-player largely on account of size I suspect as the reproduction from the brittle single sided records was less than good. We must have missed a couple of stages in this development as I did not see a cylinder  playing phonograph until  friend produced one from a junkshop a year or two later. Nor do I remember a Gramophone with a big horn on top. Ours had the horn hidden away in its polished woodwork and the only music from it which struck a chord in my memory was Toseelli’s Seranade.
The radio seems to have come at the same time as the gramophone not true of course, but a childhood impression. The crystal set was impressive hardware then even if the output that came through the earphones all the way from Daventry was erratic and to me uninteresting , Fiddling with the ‘cats whisker’ to try and coax  the best reception from the as of yet untamed crystal was much more to my taste.
The crystal set was not with us long; Soon battery powered sets with varying numbers of mysterious glowing thermionic valves took over with better reception and more to go wrong. Aerial poles sprouted at the foot of most gardens, harbingers of the later ugly skyline rash. Two batteries were needed to work these sets, a large HT battery which just wore out and had to be replaced and a lead acid accumulator which had to be recharged at the shop down the road, all this power made the use of a loudspeaker possible. It stood on top of the cabinet housing all the bits and its curly metal horn was now really audible.
For me change began with the coming of electric light, just the tip of the innovation iceberg as the electric supply network built up. In with the electric light came the electric points as we called the outlets, only one in a room to start with  just for a reading lamp perhaps. The radio, which we called the wireless with a wry smile, it had more wires than any other previous domestic item, was now released from the tyranny of the accumulator as mains powered sets arrived. The voice from the trumpet of your loud speaker no longer started to fade as the battery power ran down. It is odd to think that a considerably later innovation the replacement of the valve by the transistor, brought back the rechargeable battery but in a small and convenient form.

With the plugging in of the new radios the electric supply had started on its trail of removing chores from the household. The next arrival after the radio was the electric fire which rapidly penetrated into every home with electric supply and brought quick warmth. More flexible than the older gas fire was, it was even more useful before central heating became commonplace.

Following it up the front steps came the vacuum cleaner salesman, the first and probable the greatest beneficiary of the small electric motor in the domestic field, except the housewife of course. No longer were the clouds of dust raised as the bass broom worked its way down the stairs and through the hall to the back door. The volume of dirt in the house was reduced but the battle could not be won until the open coal fire was on the way out.

Somehow progress was slow with the electric cooker which did not really become controllable until my childhood was well into double figures. Gas and solid fuel cookers continued to spread dirt in the home but were the easiest and cheapest stoves to use and even now hold material portion of the market.

The only other innovation to compare with electricity was the motor vehicle. It had been invented some thirty odd years before, but development and cost reduction took time, and I was about four years old when my father bought his first car, a bull nosed Morris, built like a tank but a troublesome beast. It was 1925 and there were not a lot of cars on the road, the speed limit was 20 mph and although this lasted very little longer my dad managed to get fined for exceeding it before it was changed. Houses had no garages, and the car was housed about half a mile away where a garage proprietor had a few lockup garages besides his scruffy workshop. The Morris was only used at weekends and holidays and although it was a lovely toy for my dad I thought it a bit of a bore and escaped from it as soon as I was old enough to ride a bike on the road.
Perhaps the most innovative thing about our car was that my mother learnt to drive it, scarcely the done thing at that time. By the time I was ten she had one of her own, a little open topped Singer which was far more to my taste and could be pushed up to 60mph “Don’t tell your father!” 

The road system was getting some improvement in the twenties and a few new roads space was left for a second carriageway, often it got left for another thirty years.
At some point my father changed his Morris for a Chrysler which went much faster, too fast in fact to get round the Anglo-Saxon corners of East Anglia, where he wrote it off and landed himself in hospital for a day or two, seat belts were a much later innovation, after that he got a sedate Hillman which lasted the rest of his days.    

To be continued tomorrow


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Family Events from our database for today August 14th

If you are interested in anyone listed here, email us with the name, date and reference number, and we will happily do a look up, you might get a whole tree! 

Family Events
1768 - Birth: Matthew LAWS-4811, Rackham NFK UK
1804 - Marriage: Richard LAWS-124654 and Sarah SMITH-124655, Thatcham BRK UK
1807 - Death: William LAWES-58914, Knights Enham HAM UK
1814 - Christen: Jane LAWES-2119, Portsea HAM UK

                          Nelson's Flagship HMS Victory' moored in Portsea Naval Dockyard

1822 - Christen: Thomas LAWES (Lieutenant / Master Mariner HEICS) -394, 
1835 - Birth: William Campbell LAWS (Jappaner) -4814, Whitechapel MDX UK
1842 - Baptism: James Thomas LAWS-123439, Bermondsey SRY UK
1844 - Death: John LAWS-9187, Breckney Hill NBL UK
1860 - Death: James LAWS-124764, Westminster, Worcester Co. MA United States
1861 - Occupation: Augustus LAWS (Surgeon on Ship) -51783, 
1875 - Death: Charles John LAWS-125031, Hampstead MDX UK
1884 - Birth: Edwin Francis John LAWS (Railway Head Stableman) -29358, Chelsea MDX UK

                                                              Chelsea Pensioners

1885 - Birth: Hazel K LAWS-42312, 
1898 - Death: Mary Ann LAWES (Widow)-2438, Wimbourne Minster DOR UK
1899 - Marriage: Henry OMER-48100 and Amelia Elizabeth LAWS-48097, Islington MDX UK

                                                            Islington MDX UK

1907 - Birth: William Arlington LAWS (T4 US Army) -37725, 
1909 - Birth: Alberta LAWS-118618, 
1920 - Birth: William Frederick LAWES-121006, 
1922 - Miscellaneous: Alfred LAWES (Steward & Cook on Ship) -45869, 
1931 - Burial: Nellie LAWS-30916, Falkner Green Memorial Park, VIC AUSTRALIA
1935 - Burial: Thomas John LAWS-30918, Falkner Green Memorial Park, VIC AUSTRALIA
1940 - Admon: James George LAWS (Wood turner) -122898, 
1942 - Birth: Jimmy Lee LAWS (Areospace Boeing) -48629, CA Washington
1943 - Death: Charles Henry LAWS-48449, Minoa, Onondaga County NY USA
1945 - Miscellaneous: John LAWS-122851, 
1950 - Miscellaneous: Marie Beatrice LAWS (Spinster)-123008, 
1954 - Marriage: David LAWS-42089 and Irene COONEY-42090, Redfern NSW AUSTRALIA
1968 - Birth: Bradley Francis LAWS-38524, Parramatta NSW AUSTRALIA
2002 - Death: Irene LAWS-37777, 
2003 - Death: George Henry LAWS (Retired carpenter and farmer)-31022, Harris Regional Hospital
2006 - Death: Donald LAWS-50459, Chelmsford ESS UK

1814 - Birth: Maria GREEDUS (Dressmaker) -29085, Bethnal Green MDX UK
1853 - Birth: Alice M LANGILLE-122508,
1907 - Birth: Gwendoline Annie GIBSON-35223, Surrey Hills NSW AUSTRALIA
1910 - Birth: Leonard James Francis MCGRATH-117805, 
1916 - Death: George GIBBON-44253, Newcastle upon Tyne NBL UK

                                                  Newcastle Upon Tyne NBL UK

1940 - Birth: Gail F CARTY-167983, Syracuse, Onondaga County NY USA
1943 - Death: Eva HALSALL-119951, Richmond on Thames SRY UK

                                              The River at Richmond on Thames SRY UK
1960 - Birth: Prudence MAISEY-43838, 
2004 - Death: Mary Ruth EARLS-38185, Bend OR USA

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