Bob's Memoirs - 1930s - 1
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The 1930s

On April 26th 1930 Dennis, my brother, was born. This was a very important event because now I was no longer an 'only child'. Dennis was born at 74 Bushey Mill Crescent, and I was able to see him soon after his birth. Because he was asleep and I had no previous knowledge of babies I asked "How long is it before babies open their eyes?".

Mum with baby Dennis in 1930 Needle our dog in the 1930s
Mum with baby Dennis.

Dad bought us a puppy which we named Needle (after one of the dogs at 109 Hunny Hill, Newport, Isle of Wight). Needle was part Greyhound and part Alsatian, but Dad said he was a Heinz dog (Heinz food's slogan was "Heinz - 57 Varieties"). He grew into a sleek dog with Alsatian markings but floppy ears and very large paws. Dad was now calling him "Old flannel foot" because he could pad along quietly like a well known cat burglar and jewel thief of that time. He was a softie with children, but displayed his teeth like a wolf if he was shouted at, or had cigarette smoke blown in his direction. When Dad used fixative on charcoal designs, Needle would inhale methylated spirit solvent which got into the air and he'd become quite intoxicated.

Needle was in his element in water, which is surprising because Dad "taught him to swim" by throwing him in the river. At the Bushey Mill Lane bridge over the River Colne, Needle would attract people who would watch him swim underwater and bring to the bank bricks from an earlier bridge. At home he would escape from the house if he could, and once out he could jump the front gate with ease. Needle would live until 1943 when he lost the strength in his legs.

1930, which had started so well, was also a year of misfortune. The cotton industry was hit by a slump and Dad had a 50% cut in salary. We had to cut down on all spending, and payment of the mortgage on the new house had to be re-negotiated, so that for a number of years only little more than the interest on the loan was paid. Part of the house had to be sub-let to Mr & Mrs Mayes, Len and Maud. They stayed with us for a few years and their son Lenny was born at our house. In spite of the difficulties those were happy years. Mum and Mrs Mayes became good friends and knew each other by the nicknames Sally and Janey. 'Janey Mayes' is a name my son Mark well remembers.

Joyce and Vera King, me and Joan Humphreys holding Dennis, 1930
Joyce and Vera King, me and Joan Humphreys holding Dennis, 1930.
Me with my brother Dennis, c1934. My Mum and Dad, c1934, by the French windows at 74 Bushey Mill Crescent.
Me with my brother Dennis, c1934.
My Mum and Dad, c1934, at 74 Bushey Mill Crescent.

One day I was instructed by Mum to go, after school, to Uncle Percy's greengrocery shop, which was at the corner of Leavesden Road and Jubilee Road, where my cousin Jennifer aged about three would be ready in her pushchair for me to bring home with me, where Aunt Emm would be waiting for her. I hung back after school because I did not want my friends to see me doing what I considered a feminine task. They were waiting for me further down along the road, and oh how wrong I was. Jennifer was pleased to get so much attention, and my friends envied me for a having a "little sister" like her.

Although I was a complete failure at sports and games I did well in most subjects, but when time came to sit the examination for secondary school education, the 'Eleven Plus', I failed. Most children were able to try again but I was 12 years old before the next examinations, which disqualified me. So next I attended Alexandra School which is between Ridge Street and Judge Street in North Watford. Unlike my previous school, Callow Land, it was for both boys and girls. Most of the time there I was in Mr Camburn's class and he was a good teacher who expected hard work, but it was the happiest of my school days. I should have left school at 14 years of age but due to high unemployment I was advised to remain at school. I was able to spend most of my time drawing and painting. One day a week I attended the Art School in Queen's Road, Watford.

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