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Banburyshire Family History

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go back to the last page you were on Drifting thro' the years!

Muriel Wells

These are some of the impressions and happenings that have drifted through my mind as I wrote down memories to send to the List. They tumbled forth in glorious profusion, (and dare I say it ----- confusion)

Memories, here we go-----------

A childhood memory drifts in, of the Christmas in the mid 1930s when Joyce and I received a white fur tippet, complete with dangling fox head! Nowadays I think how repulsive they were, but then they were all the rage for grown-ups, and as we sallied forth on a Christmas morning walk, (no doubt to get us from under mother's feet), we felt very chic! We also carried our new red shiny 'leather' handbags, inside which was a pretty hanky with an embroidered cut-out corner. We were very fine!.

Maybe because I have always loved to draw people I was very conscious of the fashions of the day. Not because they figured in our own wardrobes, as they weren't marketed for children then, in the way that they are nowadays; but because our parents didn't have the money. The Duke and Duchess of York were doing State visits abroad and she was photographed wearing glamorous outfits, with ruching and all sorts of falderals. She wore cloche hats, but as the decade progressed the halo hat appeared. I liked that. To add to the glamour, Princess Marina of Greece joined our Royal family, and she was both fashionable and elegant. She loved to wear shallow crowned hats with wide brims, and this style took off. It was so attractive.

At child level, 1930s party fashion dictated a skirt made up of layers of frills and I loved mine, a pink dress which was recorded for posterity when I was photographed presenting a horseshoe to a bride as she emerged from the church.

Opportunities to 'live it up' came very rarely for my hard-working, cash strapped, parents, but I have the memory of Mum leaning over my bed one night, before going to a 'do'. She wore a turquoise-blue dress with an oyster draped cowl collar, and her row of pearls were separated by chain. She looked very pretty and smelt delicious.

I remember that the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret became increasingly the focus of interest, and newspapers and books published photographs of them with their parents and also at the little cottage they were given by the people of Wales, where they enjoyed being 'ordinary' whilst playing in it. They appeared in identical outfits, even at the Coronation in 1937, when by an unforeseen chain of events their father ascended the throne. They set the fashions for the junior set, and copies were soon in the larger stores, or being run up on the sewing machines at home, for the lucky ones.

Earlier in the decade, Joyce and I had had a succession of hand knitted dresses, with plain bodices and 'holey' skirts. I think it is the green wool with yellow flecks that I was wearing when I had my first school photo taken at 5 years old! I do remember a later model was in purple slippery yarn. The trouble with that one was that it stretched and grew with us! But mostly we had dresses stitched on Grandma's treadle sewing machine, which had half belts that tied in a large bow at the back and full skirts.

Usually a new one was made for the Paradise Primitive Methodist Sunday School Anniversary Day ---- an hugely important event in the calendar. We practised hymns for weeks and at the approach of the great day tiers of seating, right up to ceiling level, was erected over the front of the chapel, facing the pews. Great excitement reigned on on the day, a mixture of apprehension over the performances for which we'd been schooled, pride in our new finery and fear of the height to which we had to ascend --- and perch --- taking care not to move too much! It was a long way to fall! It goes without saying, that the family turned up in force, even those that had to travel in from a distance. Family did that in those days even though they had no vehicle and had to rely on the tram or 'bus service, often a tortuous route necessitating several changes.

Besides dresses Mum and Grandma made us liberty bodices, well strengthened with lines of tape, and ending in home-made 'suspenders'. These were to hold up our hand-knitted brown stockings. We longed for shop-bought suspenders and naturally hated our stockings!

A memory of the 1930s that does stand out is the Coronation of George VI in 1937. The whole country was in a fever of excited preparation and streets vied with each other with their decorations. Mum brought out a small barrel and planted her clothes-line prop in it. Then she attached lines going up to the neighbours' front- bedroom windows, on either side of us. Other lines went down to the fence. To these she attached red, white and blue crepe paper flowers. It made a colourful show. Mum's flowers were a work of art, and when she made them in their natural tones you could be fooled into thinking that they were real. I still have her 'flower' book.

All the streets in the Paradise area co-operated to have a joint Coronation party, which was held in the premises of the timber yard in Crabmill Lane. A great time was had by all, but for me the day was marred when as an over-enthusiastic little 6 year old I jumped up out of turn in some game and had to be hauled back to my chair! Oh the shame, for I was a sensitive little soul!

Shirley Temple figured large in our world in the 30s, fueled by our children's Saturday cinema sessions. It was Shirley who taught me a painful lesson. When I was about 7 years old I had piano lesson, which I didn't particularly enjoy. As we had no piano, I used to walk up to Grandma's in my long lunch hour and practise on hers. Diligence was sometimes rewarded by an ice-cream or a ha'penny for some sweets, which I ate on the way back to school. On this particular day I succumbed to temptation and bought a flat pack of chewing gum. I knew that I wasn't allowed it but in the pack was a Shirley Temple card. I rambled back towards school, took my gum out of my mouth to inspect it --- remember I was a novice at this! To my horror I got it stuck to my face and there was nothing for it but to run back to Grandma. She didn't scold me, but in retrospect I think that she cleaned me up extra vigorously --- you see it took scouring powder to get it off --- Glitto, to be exact. I also suspect that this tale went home, and they had a few laughs, but nothing was said to me. I had learnt my lesson!

The war years intervened, and although I have some vivid memories of daylight raids and the bombing at night, I won't relate them just now. Instead I will continue with my everyday trivia.

From the age of eleven the thing that concerned most of us girls was how to wear our deep pudding-basin-crowned school hats so that the brims didn't obscure our vision! The bolder ones made a tuck all around, just above the band, the more timid amongst us were content with a half tuck at the back. Of course authority frowned upon this practice and unfortunates had to smooth out the tucked area and plonk it back upon their heads --- with comic results! Fortunately many teachers turned a blind eye on this adaption of the uniform. One school had the traditional pleated gym tunic but a later one had quite a nice pinafore styled tunic. Even so school uniform did nothing to enhance our developing female forms! And our gym lessons were performed in our blouses and navy bloomers. Ugh!

There were strict rules about behaviour whilst wearing school uniform. Hats must be worn when travelling to and from the school. No food was to be eaten in the streets, and that included icecream. We were expected to give up our seats for an adult when the bus was full, but as this had been a family rule, too, it came naturally. Prefects kept a keen eye on us so it was as well to seem to be obeying the rules, or we earned a detention.

We weren't disobedient girls, although Joyce was the livelier and more high spirited, but there came a time when we rebelled. Our friends, many whom had left school at 14, were experimenting with make-up. Our father wouldn't hear of us using 'that muck'. For awhile we applied Tangee lipstick when we were at Girls' Life Brigade camps. Auntie often went to help supervise, but she elected not to notice. Nearer home it was a case of applying it with the dubious help of the streetlights, once well away from home.

When Joyce left school at 15, and I was 17. we rebelled in earnest, and one Saturday applied clear nail varnish to our nails, and waited for the heavens to fall! A whole day passed before Dad twigged it, but Mum took the wind out of his sails, by saying that she'd spotted the varnish hours before, and it had taken him long enough to do so!

We contented ourselves with that for awhile and then bought a Ponds sample sized lipstick each. Of course Dad objected again, but as Mum pointed out, we'd do it away from home and perhaps make ourselves look 'sights', so it was as well to see how we looked. Poor man, he was defeated by the determined females in his house on this issue.

On that note, I think it is time to stop reminiscing!.

Written by Muriel Wells