Tuesday, 23 April 2013

The last writings from my mum's book 'Fatherless'

Although the committee members were not seen very often, those and the staff were responsible for the safety and confidence of every orphan who passed through the orphanage.It is great that through the Old Scholar Association it is able to continue the good work of Andrew Reed the founder.To keep the years and memories alive and still be able to help some children as we were helped.  Many since leaving the school have moved to various parts of the world and  have kept in contact with the association by producing all the memorabilia they had for the museum.

During the last few years at the orphanage the girls were allowed to grow and curl their hair.  After many experiences with styles the ones that became easy to handle was the pageboy style, this meant turning the curls under towards the face all the way round.

The routine was slightly different when becoming a prefect.  You became more aware of responsibilities and the upbringing over the years at the orphanage would be appreciated in adult life. There are some special memories which remain with Margo, one mistress Miss Norton she remembers mostly.  She must have felt for us children, as she was always very understanding and kind.  Another favourite was to take it in turns to get the juniors to bed at the required time.  Margo didn't mind doing this for the mistress as she always got on so well with the younger children.  She would tell them stories before settling them down and even taught them a prayer, which she knew, although she never has found out where she learned it.  The juniors say this prayer every night and would pass it on to new juniors from the infants.  I wonder if they taught their own children this prayer.

I have since read in a recent Rosabeam of an old scholar who taught her children and grandchildren this prayer.This has made me very proud.

Margo’s Prayer.
God Bless Mummy and Daddy and all my little friends and help me to be a good girl, For Jesus Christ Amen.

Ghostly stories would be a favourite even in the senior’s dormitory.  The girls would take it in turns to tell many at bed times.  Margo would make up some spooky stories and the next night the other girls wanted her to continue.  However she managed to continue her story no one will ever know, especially Margo herself.  Perhaps being young we have a more imaginary mind than when we are older.

I have wondered over the years about how the orphanage managed to continue with finances.  Helping orphans over the years obviously cannot be carried out without the help of monies.  Even now children still need help and it cannot be done without financial help.  Relatives would make some payments for their children and it has been learnt over the years since reading the history of the orphanage that charities have helped in many ways, charity runs were organised and monies have been donated.  Perhaps the farm crops were of help in that department.  So much good over many, many, years have continued helping children in need with somewhere to live owing to the loss of a family member.  As we live our lives and perhaps our children ask us about our times when a child, we may realise that being an orphan spending so many years living and being educated in a home without a family home, wasn't so bad after all.  My daughters would listen intently when they were younger to my stories and couldn't believe how different life was compared to their own childhood.  My husband and I have always been very close to our family, and I wanted our daughters to have the love I missed out from as a family. It can be understood that it isn't possible for teachers and mistresses to give out love to so many.

Chapter Five – Looking Back.
To look back over 52 years is hard to remember as an orphan how you came to terms with life at the school, sleeping, eating and being educated there.  It cannot be compared with a home life.  There were good times and bad times, rules and regulations we shall all remember.  Having a good education, a warm bed, regular meals, people looking after you teaching you good manners and respect, how to keep yourself clean, duties to show you how to make beds, darn socks etc, etc, maids, cooks, a sanitarium, a church and most of all – Your Number.  Don’t get me wrong we were being cared for because of situations.  We accepted the air raids like everyone else, planes dropping bombs, fire bells going off, sleeping in a shelter in the meadow and when home for a holiday, seeing peoples homes nothing but a heap of rubble.  Children adjust, we all know, but how would our children today cope with those happenings?  We many look back at our life at the orphanage with good or bad memories, but it was our home.  Now as old scholars we  try to keep those memories alive, keep in touch where possible with those we grew up.  Being thankful for a safe upbringing.  Today there are still children out there who need help and with our association we can give help to them knowing what it will mean to them in later life.

One day in March 1948 Margo was walking through the meadow for the last time heading along the path to the local railway station never to walk that path again.  She was leaving the orphanage to go out into the world.  She wondered what life was going to be like for her later on, what courage she would have to face beyond the school, would there be more rules and regulations to learn.  The world appeared to her very large and frightening and she did have some instances to overcome in her first job, but after about 18 months she made her first decision on what capacity of work she would want to do.  She wanted to work in an office.

Perhaps other orphans found life easy to deal with when leaving the orphanage, but Margo had found it very difficult to relax with the strange crowds of people when she left school.  She was working in a well-known London hotel learning hairdressing.  Her wages were 18/- a week and her bus fare over the week cost 10/- so after giving her mother some money she relied on tips from clients at the hotel.  The man teaching her was a Mr Gee.  He was a big dark haired man, very kind and popular with film stars who would follow him around to have their hair done.  American stars would bring their own shampoo and colours and always gave a good tip, which he would share with Margo.  One actress was the daughter of a family who owned theatres in London.  She was married to a well known comedian – George Robey, who would sit beside her while having her hair done.  Many times he would entertain the men in their department, but his wife wouldn't let him go out on his own as he would walk across the road without looking.  One girl, also learning at the London hotel became good friends with Margo, her name was Pamela.  They would both go dancing every week at the Streatham Lacarno where big bands of today would be playing.  After watching the dancers they quickly managed to get enough courage to stand waiting for offers to dance, which was great fun, and Margo met her first boyfriend there.  Her journey home meant a tram and two buses, which didn't always get her home when her mother wished and was always in trouble when she did get home.  Dancing was always an enjoyable outing for Margo and only gave it up when she got married, as her husband didn't dance.

One day Margo hadn't received a tip to make up her bus fare home.  Her mother had phoned and wanted Margo to go home early to pick up her sister from the nursery as her Aunt had died.  Margo had to get her bus fare home and was short of one penny, laughing she was asking the other staff to loan her that penny, “what are you laughing for” they were asking, not because her aunt had died, but because she wanted to borrow a penny.

The founder a Mr Reed after many a challenge to obtain ground, got the land and with financial help managed to get the building of the afore mentioned orphanage started.  The first stone was laid in 1841; this began the remarkable story, which allowed many orphans to spend their childhood there over the years.  I am honoured to be able to write about my years at the orphanage, which during then in 1939 to 1948 had all facilities available for the care of health, religion and education.  It obviously cannot compare with a home life, but we were lucky to be well looked after under difficult circumstances during that time.  The school continued until well in 1980 when unfortunately money became the problem and the history of the orphanage is being kept alive through the Old Scholars Association as I have already written about, so those of us who were fortunate enough to experience a safe childhood during the war must be forever grateful.  I am only speaking in my writings of my feelings, others might not feel the same about their childhood, but then I am writing my years as an orphan.

This journey on the bus Margo would take every day to the hotel, she would be thinking of the years she spent at the orphanage as she found if difficult not to, it had been her home for many years during her young life.  It was to be 50 years before her story was to be written.  Many mixed feelings were felt about those years and the girls she has grown up with, what was she to do now?  In time Margo did make friends although she has always kept in touch with two from the orphanage.

Chapter Six – My Employment and my Marriage.
Margo’s first office employment was in Kensington.  She began on the reception desk, dealing with all clients, taking telephone calls and passing them through to the various offices from a switchboard as it was then in the 1950’s.This is probably the beginning when Margo learnt to be at ease with people.  When her younger brother Freddy left the orphanage, he wanted Margo to help him find employment in London and it was then Margo was itching to change her job and get employment into accounts.  Together they looked in Westminster, London.  Margo saw a vacancy in Victoria Street to work with an accountant; she applied and got the job.  The company’s name was made up with part of both the two directors.  The company dealt with four companies including their own.  Margo’s first day at this company was quite a shock as the job involved sorting out the four companies invoices, which were piled up on the floor of the account’s office.  She was rather worried about that job,but actually enjoyed doing it as she learnt so much.  She had to sort out the paperwork into the different companies, then separate into bought and sales.  The next thing was to start the bookwork/system as it was back in the late 1940’s.  The director’s eventually sacked the accountant and took on a more mature man to take on the accountant’s position. Margo stayed with that company for many years as she thoroughly enjoyed working there.She would catch the workman,s train and get into the office before anyone else,sort out the mail and have it ready on everybody,s desk. A good system was carried out monthly on all four companies.Ledgers covering each company’s bought and sales.Balanced monthly, accounts paid, sales ledgers balanced monthly, statements sent out.  The directors were great to work for; they gave us a rise twice yearly and at Christmas would take us all out for a meal, and then back to the office for more celebrations.

When the family moved to Kent in 1949 whilst Margo was working for this company, she continued to travel backwards and forwards by train.  In 1953 Margo got married and the directors and staff gave her some wonderful presents.  As her husband had signed up in the Royal Air Force, it was later after a few months Margo left her job to move to Bath and be near her husband.  She took another accounts job until they were moved to Andover where their first daughter was born.

After four years Margo’s husband was out of the RAF and during the years that followed, in between having babies, she took other accounts jobs, but none could ever be compared with her first.

On a personal note and looking back again, it is hard for those growing up in a family environment to understand how different your life was living in a home with so many other children, only seeing your brother or sister from a distance.  Going home now and again to return after a few weeks, stirred up the emotions, which were always there.  As children it is natural for a disagreement, but with no mother to comfort you, maybe only girls feel that way.  If the reader was an orphan perhaps he or she can understand this explanation.

When Margo left school in 1948 there was never the closeness with her own mother, maybe the gap was because of those nine plus years growing up away from her.  Margo continually tried to get close, but found it very hard.  When her mother reached into her 80’s, she was always in touch by telephone for one reason or another as Margo lived in Sussex.  Eventually she chose to live near Margo and her husband, which gave her the chance to take care of her mother until her death in January 1999.

On a personal note, I think there were many many more untold stories that Mum would have liked to put down on paper but some were too painful.  I do hope that you have enjoyed my mums words and perhaps if you have a story to tell you should write it down for the world to share

My wonderful parents and Mum happy at last on her wedding day