Friday, October 03, 2008

Auntie Olwen

It will take me ages to find the very small photo I have of my Auntie Olwen so here's one of WRENS scrubbing the sides of a boat during the war. Not sure if Auntie "O" used to do such things but she did get rowed round Grimsby harbour by a sailor boyfriend she said- the nearest she got to any ships whilst she was in the navy during the war. She was just on the phone to me and it's hard to get a word in when she gets going - all about her childhood and the war etc. I expect I'll be like that when I'm 85 or whatever age she is.
She also told me about when my mother carried her into the Broadway cinema in Pitsea as "babes in arms" got in free. She was 7 at the time! My mother who must have been about 9 or 10 had some cheek! She spent the three pence entry money she saved on sweets. Olwen confessed it was very embarressing when the usherette came round and shone her torch on her and she had to pretend to be very tiny.
She also told me about Pitsea at length- a bigger place than it is now - having been swallowed up by Basildon New Town which did not exist in the '30's. They used to live in a bungalow down by the Station Hotel, opposite the market. I explained that the market has been gone many years. She seemed incredulous - "What, Pitsea market gone?!" Yes, and the cinema is now a Bingo Hall and has been for 25 years or more. "Never!"
Pitsea school is still standing and was "new" in the 30's she said- she remembers the teachers quite well- the four masters and the one lady teacher Mrs. Peace. I said I remembered only one teacher as her name was Mrs. Ramsbottom which always stuck in my mind and the howls of laughter from my mother whenever I told her what Mrs. Ramsbottom had been up to that day. I only went to Piteas school for a year back in the mid 50's , before the new Greenstead School was built in Basildon, just down the road. You had to walk miles down a concrete path , through fields and old bungalows to get to Pitsea school. As a five or six year old it was common to send children on their own to school in those days. With my satchel heavy with Shipham's bloater paste sandwiches ( if we were lucky!) or jam if things were a bit tight that week.

Auntie "O" also told me that she left school at 13 and worked in a shop in Southend for a while and then in Grays at the State cinema as an usherette. then she joined the WRENS ( Woman's Royal Navy Service ) . Or did she go to Grimsby to work in a rope making factory? Yes, that's it. She was told she could avoid being called up to fight if she worked in a factory doing essential "war work". But then joined the WRENS as she fancied the uniform and the sailors!

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