Tuesday 19th March, 1963

Leonard to the family:

Dear Alec June Susan and Carol,

Once again many thanks for your interesting letter and the enclosures from Susan and Carol – quite good drawings from both of them. Also thank you Alec for magazine also received this morning same post as a letter.

Very glad to hear Mrs Baker is keeping up and at this stage it would seem the shock is gradually receding which is a good thing. It will take a long time though to get back to normal and we know that you have been able to make a few journeys over to Ealing to see her. Expect she looks forward to your visit. For the time being then Mrs Baker has decided to remain at number 17 and try and make a go of it. One thing about this it will occupy her mind and help the days along. She evidently wants to be independent if she can and we hope the arrangement is a successful.

Very sorry to hear of Peter’s misfortunes – there is no let up by the Police. Either you are in the right or you are in the wrong – there are no halfway measures with them. It is most unfortunate it was an expectant mother in the other car and we hope there have been no after effects – or is it too early yet to say? Presumably the car was not overdue for test when this  accident occurred.

Poor Carol – we assume it was her last polio injection that upset her and we do hope she is alright again now. Can picture her going around holding her arm. Still game however for a trip in car to shops and Ealing – perhaps these journeys help to take her mind off it.

Yes the paper was finally stuck to the wall and not to me. I had to use a plumb line quite a lot and as paper reached from ceiling this was a bit of an effort. Now we are waiting for some felting to arrive from Challicoms for a surround to the carpet and some curtaining from Lewis’s of Bristol which mum then has to make up. Mum must tell you in her own words all about both items.

Noted marble clock keeps stopping and going. Does it want cleaning or overhauling do you think? When grandfather Atkins was about he looked after the clock as if it were a baby and kept it in excellent condition and we were not allowed to touch it.

Yes double glazing is alright but if you do this up go the rates. It is an item which is liable to cause re-rating. Personally I think it is more effective than the erection of a conservatory or glass porch but the latter is is what you want badly to stop some of the draught and also to give you a nice little place additional to your present accommodation. We do hope you will be able to have it put up this summer ready for next winter blast.

Your office not very well lighted then and must be a bit stuffy too at times. I take it you have to use electric lighting all day. Seems very strange your section has little work to do. Surely they knew this when the job you applied for was advertised? Not satisfactory to any of you really. Perhaps the powers that be are hatching up some big scheme to be tackled.

You asked if we have had any rain. Torrents of it and last Sunday for our trip to Lyng it proved to be the filthiest journey we have had by road for many a long day. It poured down for both journeys and the potholes – now numerous after the frost – being full of water 1 could not judge how deep they were consequently every now and again we dropped right into them with a splash and jolt. Anyhow Don and Joan were very pleased to see us and we had a most enjoyable time. Don not too good with his breathing and the least exertion cause him to double up and rest. They asked after you all and were sorry to hear that June’s father had passed away. There is already an invitation for all of you to visit them when you are with us in the summer and Joan gave us two Easter eggs to bring up to Susan and Carol. They have just finally decided to give up most of their poultry and keep only a few. They, like us, are beginning to feel the work is too much for them and Don certainly cannot do the hard work such as cleaning out the fowl houses that he has been doing for years.*

Incidentally the Jim Mead who has died was best man at Jessie’s wedding. Perhaps that will bring him back to your memory. He was 60 and single but lived in one of the farm houses attached to the farm he and Jessie’s husband worked. The latter now has the lot to see to and it is possible they will move into the house now vacant as it is a better one than their present home.

I see you all went over to June’s friends at West Drayton on the 10th inst. and had a good time as also did the children. We wondered if the girls had been on to you for some garden of their own but you are evidently going to anticipate them by taking down the wire around the plot at bottom of garden. Are they still keen on the seed planting? Note you will be able to have a few days off duty at Easter. If it is alright with June and yourself we could travel on the Thursday from here and possibly return the following Tuesday which is Carol’s birthday.

Mum and I went to Bristol yesterday (Monday) to get some curtaining (already mentioned) and I had an appointment with Pictons the opticians for sight testing. I had about three quarters of an hour with the optician and I was most pleased when he told me my sight had not altered since the last visit which was several years ago. I had thought it was weakening but that must have been due to being a bit off-colour in health. Anyhow I have decided to have new frames and, in the case of the the “distance” glasses, larger lenses. Whilst in Bristol I also bought myself a good wristlet watch – my present one has not been up to scratch for a long time and I made up my mind several months ago that I would eventually treat myself to a good one. The old one I can now use to some extent for work on the garden or other rough work. We also bought from Lewis’s two armchairs to replace those in the dining room and these will be coming down on Thursday this week. Fortunately it was a much better day than Sunday and we went up by bus.

In the afternoon (we got home about 2 p.m.) I dropped a line to Don re: our Sunday visit and we had late dinner and then put our feet up for the evening. I managed to pack up the runner beans for Geoff last Friday afternoon and got them away the same day and hope they have reached him by now. He sent me some geranium cuttings – arrived this morning – but package was badly smashed although it looks as if all contents were intact. It is to be hoped the beans reached him in better condition otherwise if packing broke he would lose the lot.

Talking about green stuff mum got fork this morning and found a nice lot of carrots in garden and I dug up the last couple of parsnips. We brought back the cwt. potatoes from Lyng which we had ordered at digging time and I paid 18/6d [approximately £23.50 in 2023 currency]** for them. Mum also has some eggs from Joan at 3/6d per dozen.*** Being a nice morning I started to dig up some old Brussels Sprouts plants and forked over the ground. Then I planted the shallots with about 72 shallots in a row. After dinner I had a just dug out a small trench for a row of peas when down came the rain again and I had to abandon work for the day hence this letter being typed this afternoon. I’m glad to have made a start however. Before coming indoors I potted up all the cuttings of geraniums received from Geoff. By the way Don let me bring back four gallons of cider so I’m all right for a drink night-times for a few weeks.

Norman Baker says he will fetch horse in a day or two and bring him down again later in the year when possibly all the fruit has been gathered.

Understand Don has some trouble with the roof of their house owing to snow getting underneath. The guttering too also came down.

[Letter continues Wednesday 20th March, 1963]

*Knowing of Don’s frequent respiratory ailments it seems more than likely that he was suffering recurrent bouts of psittacosis. His father was similarly afflicted, and he too kept chickens and other fowls. Add in the fact that both were railwaymen at a time when steam was the motive power and soot an occupational hazard, and you have a powerful recipe for disaster.

**My calculations suggest this would be roughly half what one would pay in the shops at the present time.

***Roughly comparable with the top price one would expect to pay for organic eggs in 2023.


Tuesday 1st January, 1963

Leonard to the family:

Dear Alec June Susan and Carol

Many thanks for all your letters received this morning – quite a good one from Susan and another good effort by Carol. Glad to hear you all had a good Christmas and that the girls particularly enjoyed themselves. After all it is really a time for children. We spent it very quietly and just as well we did considering the hectic time we have had since. First however to your letters. 

Sorry to hear you fell down in Melthorne Drive and hope no ill after effects. What do you wear between home and station? A good pair of Wellingtons is the best proposition, carrying ordinary shoes to put on in office. These will not I know prevent slipping up but they do keep out the wet and protect the legs if you have to walk much through snow. 

Your trouble with snow in garage somewhat similar to mine – more later about that. Pleased to hear you all liked the bit of “Christmassing” you took back from Clevedon. As we said at the time we wish it could be more but so far we have not had a premium bond come up or touched the pools.

Your comment re chicken from Lyng some time ago. I’m sure it was intended as a present and again I’m sure you have done nothing ‘wrong’. I imagine Don and Joan felt they could not repeat the dose. Between now and next Christmas they will have to sort themselves out as to what they are really going to do in the future but we shall not be disturbed if they cut us out of the arrangement. They have a very big call for poultry at this time of year and can pick up a nice bit of money by selling the birds ready for table. 

The typewriter he has bought obviously is a good one but why pay so much for one at his time of life and almost on the point of retiring – seems such a waste of money to me but Don has to have everything new with a capital N. I could say a lot more but perhaps this is enough for the time being. 

Thank you June too for your letter – we are glad the roaster* came in useful and can only hope it was successful. Glad you were able to have your mum and dad over on the two days although not for very long. Yes I’m sure it is with mixed feelings you are looking forward to the 16th inst. – we do hope the move will be effected satisfactorily and that everything will be alright at Eccleston road. 

Hope Susan got through her letters in good order** – it was a very nice one she sent us. Carol too was not left out – she made a really good effort. Fancy Christopher starting school next week. They are all growing up – even the little girl next door here – Ruth – we can see such a difference in her already. 

Yes we felt the same about the horse as you apparently feel by your letter but we are assured he is quite alright this weather. No grass can be seen at the moment and Norman has had to bring him down a couple of bundles of hay which we dole out to him daily. Mum still takes him some bread and sugar and does he like it – starts smacking his lips as soon as she is in sight. Norman Baker told us yesterday the horse is 28 years of age. He does not work it nowadays but keeps it for sentimental reasons as he learned to ride on it as a very small child and his own children also learned to ride on him. 

Since our last letter we have really had some bad weather. Last Saturday night we had a blizzard here and this continued well into Sunday day, and after that the east wind continued making things doubly worse. Snow all over the place about 3 ft deep along our drive to garage and 2 ft deep between house and front gate with considerable drifting. Outside the front gate and right across the road the snow was as high as the front garden walls and cars and milk lorries were in real trouble. In our garage I found car with 6 inches of snow on roof and it was 6 inches thick on side of car nearest the small door. On the shelves there was a coating of 2 inches on books and tins etc. and on the floor inside small and big doors there was about a foot of snow. Never seen anything like it before. The snow must have drifted through the small spaces between corrugated asbestos roofing sheets and the tops of the upright walls. Cannot get car out of garage at present and in any case could not negotiate the drive to front gate. Have cut a path about 2 feet behind between house and front gate and snow is banked up to a depth of over 2 feet on either side. Now we hear there is more snow to come and another blizzard tomorrow night. 

So far we have had no damp patches in ceiling of bedrooms but Heel next door has one already. This means snow has got under felting and is melting. Understand the roads around here are most treacherous and I can well believe it judging by the ones in the immediate vicinity. Last Sunday morning there were 12 people in church at 8 in choir at night 9 people in church and 9 in choir. We did however have 6 ringers in the morning and 8 at night. 

The ringers’ annual party was quite satisfactory and once again Mum had a splendid do laid on. 11 sat down at 9:30 p.m. but the vicar cried off during the afternoon on account of the weather.  Alec Parker two could not turn up as they were busy baking bread which was selling as soon as they could get it into the shops – a shortage apparently. Les Garland had to go to Frenchay Hospital to see Mrs Garland who was taken ill Christmas Eve and he did not get home until 9:30 p.m. and felt too fagged out to come on here. Feltham was working and Ted Caple never comes along. The curate brought a gatecrasher (a student staying with him) and of course he had to hear about the “seagulls”***. Incidentally he drinks nothing but Scotch whisky. I told him now he was in Somerset he would have to learn to take the local beverage – cider – commonly known as agricultural wine. Did not seem to take kindly to the suggestion. The party finally broke about 1:15 a.m. this morning but mum had already gone to bed. When we came out of Belfry at 12:30 a.m. it was snowing again so this morning I had to have another go at clearing a pathway to front gate. The drift along the drive had deepened but we had to get through it to feed and water horse who was waiting for his usual. We had asked Roy and Mrs Hewitt to tea tomorrow (Wednesday) but I had to go down there early this afternoon to put them off indefinitely. In any case he could not have got round here. Mrs Marshall will not venture outdoors on her own and someone has to go with her to feed the fowls – afraid of falling down and not being discovered if on her own.

continued on Wednesday 2nd January 1963

*I wonder if this is the Pyrex chicken roaster, now in my possession, that I inherited when my mother downsized to a small flat towards the end of her life.  I certainly don’t remember her ever using anything different.

**I remember Christmas and birthday ‘thank you’ letters as being a time of terrible trial and am not remotely surprised that these seem to have gone out of fashion since!

***I suspect this may have been some ‘shaggy dog story’ regularly trotted out for newbies, but I have no definitive information.

Tuesday 16th May, 1961

Leonard to the family:

Dear Alec June Susan & Carol

Many thanks for another newsy letter and drawing (from Susan) received today. Thank you very much Susan – it is such an important day for you isn’t it? Five years old today – how do you feel? We have been thinking of her quite a lot and pictured her telling all her school friends “I’m five years old today”.

So you have all but finished the cupboard in front room and find it is a good alternative storage place for wine – have you put a lock on it? You would want one if you kept it in Cornish’s house here. He knows where to find it and does when Mrs Cornish is out shopping etc.

Noted June not keen on broad beans – I must have misunderstood your previous reply on the subject. Am hoping we shall have a few carrots ready for the girls – its those I’m bringing on in one of the frames.

Yes you seem to be having a very busy time in the Work Study Section and I expect you are looking forward to your holiday – which reminds me the weather this week although dry so far is very much cooler and not nearly so pleasant as when we were away. Hope it will improve by the time you start off.

To get to Exmouth from Clevedon I suppose the shortest route – and the one we took a couple of years ago – would be via Cullompton, Pinhoe and Countess Wear (near Whittlesea)* but another way is via Honiton then on the Sidmouth road as far as Sidford then turn right to Newton Poppleford then left to get on to the Budleigh Salterton route. I reckon it would take 2½ to 3 hours direct Clevedon to Exmouth. Yes Tiverton to Exmouth is an hour’s run – 26 miles – but one has to get through the City of Exeter which at times can be very difficult.

So you have had mussels – I hate the things but enjoy cockles. Frankly a bucketful does not go very far once they are shelled but it’s worth it to go out and gather them. The best time to go out is about three hours after full tide has turned when the cockles are left stranded. They quickly burrow down about four inches and remain there until the tide returns. Incidentally as soon as the water has left them uncovered the gulls get busy as usually at this moment the shells are open and cockles feeding.

Regarding the sketch I sent you I meant ti have indicated that from the point shewn where you enter the area until you reach Morton Road** the distance is approximately one mile perhaps just under. Yes there are plenty of facilities for the children and given nice weather I’m sure you will enjoy the holiday. It is a place Mum and I like very much and you may remember Mum telling you it was her first place away from home – in Tuckers a big shop near the main shopping area.

No I don’t think Mrs Cornish had any cause to examine the fruit trees. At the moment the horse is away on the farm doing a little work but we expect it back any day now to get on with the job of clearing the grass.

So Susan was not very energetic when she went to the front on the first occasion – thought she liked washing. How is school going? You did not comment this week.

Can remember the name of Clegg at the wedding but am afraid I cannot picture Mr & Mrs Clegg now. There were quite a lot present including all the Uncles and Aunts and it would be difficult to recall them all. Still we expect you were glad to see them once more although perhaps did not anticipate seeing them at that particular time.

Note more friends visiting you this coming weekend. As you know Geoff and family are coming down on Whit Monday. Down on the 9.5 a.m. Paddington and back on the 4.35 Taunton – a very long journey each way and only just over five hours here but we shall be very pleased to see them.

Glad to hear you think three of the rose cuttings are pulling through. Fresh shoots should however be soon showing. Am afraid the slugs ate most of that clump of Chrysanths you gave me but it is possible I shall save one.

Since writing the above Norman Baker has brought back the horse so have been down the field to see him in safely.

Not a lot of local news this week again. Had local election on Tuesday last and the Labour candidate got in for this ward although the Conservative candidate polled more votes than the Conservative winner last year.

Your rhubarb brew should be alright – there is quite a lot of the yellow variety about but generally it is not quite so sweet as the red or raspberry kind. The addition of lemon balm leaves would improve it in any case. I’ve strained off my parsnip wine into the two sweet jars you gave me – filled one up and nearly filled the second. It is clearing very quickly and the taste is quite good.

When I next write Don & Joan – later this week – will tell them we shall be calling on them, as invited, on the afternoon of Wednesday 7th June. We asked them to look up this week while Don still on leave but they say they are very busy but would like to run up later on.

Bill Aston went on outing last Saturday and said that the happiest people present were the retired members – all the others were grousing about this and/or that. The lunch was not up to standard either. However he had a most enjoyable time and got back about 10.0 p.m.

The ground here is still like lumps of concrete and I’ve used hosepipe a lot to water runner beans and keep bath full. The greenhouse takes a lot of water carrying. It does not look as if I shall get much success with my second row of peas – not up yet and they should have been showing a week ago. I am fairly certain the soil is too rough altogether this year but must try once more. Picked peas are better than those you buy in a tin.

Found a thrush nest last week with young ready to fly – in fact they went next day. The nest is in the hedge between Heels and our garden within about four feet of the house. I had noticed the parent birds about for some time and thought nest was in Golden Privet hedge but could not find it. Anyhow unless Heel removes it shall have at least one to show Susan & Carol although the birds have flown.

Well I think this is about the lot for another week.

All our love to you both and lots of kisses for Susan & Carol.

Mum & Dad

[Scrawled at top of first page as if in afterthought: “?Time at Wincanton 27th May”]

*’Whittlesea’ in this context is the bungalow where Leonard’s parents/Alec’s grandparents, Tom and Emily Atkins, used to live. Its name was not taken from the railway station in Cambridgeshire, but instead from the town in Victoria, Australia, where Tom’s sister Mary Maud lived with her Chinese market-gardener husband and their descendants. It’s impossible to know when contact between the two branches of the family was lost, but as Mary Maud and Tom died within six months of each other (she in late 1940, he in April 1941) it would be fair to suppose that it was at some point during the war. Alec did have vague recollections of ‘packages’ from Australia being delivered during the war, but in later life treated the ‘Chinese relatives’ as a bit of a silly rumour incapable of proof. As far as I know his researches never uncovered the existence of that particular branch of the family, nor indeed of Mary Maud herself.

**I suspect this would be the first ‘two centre’ holiday we had. We stayed one week with a Mrs Le Dieu, presumably in Morton Road, and this looks very much the sort of establishment we were in – although obviously very much improved since those days.

Emily outside ‘Whittlesea’, about 1936

Eva to the family, on the remaining three-quarters of a sheet of Leonard’s writing paper:

Dear Alec June Susan & Carol

Very nice drawings this week. I believe we’ve got nearly twenty altogether. We have been very busy tidying up this week. This weather is lovely & hope it will last for your visit to Exmouth & here.

Spencers have not sold their house yet, it seems to hang fire somehow. I believe they are asking too much for too little. Gibsons have not moved into Drewetts house yet although they are doing extensive operations inside the house. All the Capels have gone to Holland & Germany for a holiday.

Somebody has got me on cleaning the lectern for a few weeks while they are busy. Mrs Cummings is out of hospital but can’t do much yet so may be doing the mags again this time.

We had a good journey to Morlands Rug factory at Glastonbury. The first five minutes was a bit revolting as we visited the tannery but after that it was A1. The loveliest rugs & bootees & slippers, they didn’t slip us any only a few samples of sheepskin all colours. Some were going to make puffs of the pale colours. They gave us a nice tea however.

On June 1st we shall be going to Cannington Farm Institute then on to Taunton for rest of time & Maynards & tea.

The horse is back with a difference, he has had a fourpenny all off & looks a bit bald after what he was.

Well I think this is the lot. Note that I have allocated the singles for the girls so you will not need the cot mattress.

Love from Mum & Dad

Wednesday 3rd May, 1961

Leonard to the family:

Dear Alec June Susan & Carol

Many thanks for letter received on Tuesday and thank you to Susan for your drawing of an Acorn House. Glad to hear June is better again. A letter from Geoff this morning says he has been home ill with a cold plus – whatever that means – but apparently he is alright now. Also said that Phasey collapsed on the first corridor last Thursday morning with coronary thrombosis and they only just managed to get him into St Mary’s Hospital in time to save his life but this may not be news to you.

Susan still enjoying her first days at school then – noted request for Mummie to take her again and an invitation to a party already – what a lucky girl. Yes it certainly must be a bit different in the house with only Carol about and as you say you see her without the influence of Susan – a chance for her now to develop her own personality which she will in due course.*

Re: cider – I think I said Don brought up 12 flagons and as a flagon holds a quart my calculation is that he brought up three gallons. Note you may fit in a visit to Lyng if convenient to all whilst you are with us. We shall see them when we return from Exmouth as we are calling to pick up a strawberry net Don has no use for.

Have turned down Office Outing this year – it is a bit soon after our visit to Exmouth and I can find another use for the cash.

I used to get a copy of the Railway Gazette weekly direct from publishers when at Temple Meads and I passed them on to the Chief Insps. The accounts of accidents were most interesting.

I like your point about the Bays and Main Line Platform – am afraid they are all dead ends.

Yes the horse is still with us but Mum gets a bit annoyed when she sees him tearing a few small twigs off the fruit trees and eating them – it means one or two less plums for us presumably. He has access to the river and drinks there occasionally – no fence there but he does not make any attempt to get through the water. He now likes to stretch his neck over the wire fence and get the grass on next garden (Cummings’ old place) and as the posts were a bit weak I had to put a couple of new ones in this morning to stop his caper – the grass on that side of the fence must be much sweeter than ours.

Have not been round with bucket and shovel this week for one reason and another but must do so early next week when we get back home. You mention ‘hot beds‘. That’s why I’m putting all collections in one of the frames together with lawn mowings. Enough strength there to blow the cover off.

Mum’s visits to the field are to see how the fruit is forming and to try and judge whether the season will be good – poor or bad.

Note the carpentry work under way in your front room – the job will finish that corner off nicely. If only we were within reasonable distance I’m sure I’ve enough wood here to finish off.

Sorry to hear of your holdup with car last Sunday. Only a small item but unless you can quickly diagnose the trouble it’s just as bad as if the axle had broken. It’s another experience and one of the first things you will look for if you are stopped on the road again. Sounds like a bit of a Job’s comforter but you know what I mean. It’s most annoying though especially when you are visiting friends and your timetable is upset.

I finished the bathroom on Monday and cleaned up Tuesday morning. It certainly looks better for the doing. Now Mum has to get some different curtains to match. The big bedroom will have to be repapered now the Electrician has done his worst but shall probably leave this item for a month or two until work outdoors eases. The ground is still very wet and we are getting a lot of rain but I managed to cut all the lawns today with motor mower – put in another row of beetroot and started earthing up the potatoes. The runner beans sown in boxes a couple of days before we came up to Ruislip are crying out to be put into garden but I’m afraid they will have to wait until our return from Exmouth. Broad beans by the way are beginning to form and should be available when you are here. Does June like them?

Have heard the cuckoo several times this last fortnight but he was later than last year. So far I’ve not been able to find any birds’ nests in the garden but am sure there must be two or three somewhere. I hope I can locate a couple for the girls to see. Naturally we are looking forward to having you all with us again for a holiday.

Cornish came over this morning when I was putting in new fence posts and I then went over to his place for a look round. Still plenty of weeds and generally in a mess but he has some crops growing well – must be the poultry manure he uses on the ground.

Have not heard from Richings since our visit to Weston but I think he takes his motor driving test early this month.**

Good idea picking up a few barrow loads of earth from the field – will help you to build up the lower side of the lawn but to complete the job you will have to make many journeys with the barrow.

Local election here next week but not much enthusiasm about. I noticed from National Press you had yours a few weeks ago. The comical part of the Clevedon Election is that the Secretary of the Liberal Club – a man named Thomas – is putting up as a Labour candidate. His argument is that the club is a Working Men’s Club and non-political.

I do not think I shall put any more yeast in the Parsnip wine – just let the present lot finish the fermentation then bottle it up. Where do you get powdered yeast? Grocer of chemist? I’ve always used Baker’s yeast to date but as you know it has to be bought fresh for every occasion.

Your journey last Sunday – apart from holdup already referred to – must have been rather interesting although no doubt plenty on the road. We had a lot of rain here both morning and afternoon – drove me home early in morning when walking round the Hill with Bill Aston. Incidentally he has been on the Hill with a wheel barrow where the ponies and donkeys are grazing.

Well I think this is about the lot for another week but will drop you a card from Exmouth during the weekend.

All our love to you both and lots of kisses for Susan & Carol.

Mum & Dad

*Oh my goodness, what Machiavellian horror of an older sister suppresses her sibling’s personality so ruthlessly? And how wonderful of the parents and grandparents to psychoanalyse them in such detail when they could – like lesser (normal) people – just have accepted each day for what it was and taken their children in the same light!

**This might be a good moment to mention that, although they both had driving licenses, neither Alec nor Leonard ever took a driving test. Leonard learned to drive before tests were introduced in 1935 – presumably he got his first practical experience during the 1914-18 war but I have found no actual evidence to support this – and Alec certainly owned a motor-bike during the 1939-45 conflict as we have diary entries to prove it. It appears that driving tests were suspended for the duration of WWII, probably on the basis that most people who learned to drive then would be doing so for military or war-related purposes and it would only slow down the progress of the war if they all had to be tested by a civilian authority as well. In any case there was no attempt to make up for the missing tests after 1945 and so Alec – along with millions of other drivers of the same age – returned to the peacetime roads without ever having taken a test. Fortunately the very few accidents he had thereafter were of an extremely minor nature – and Leonard is not known to have had a ‘prang’ of any sort until the late 1960s!

Eva to the family on the remaining three-quarters of a sheet of Leonard’s paper:

Dear Alec June Susan & Carol

Many thanks for drawing of the acorn house & what or where is the other to be seen I mean the sunshade & armchair & the television stand.

More people are going in to look over Spenser’s house, trouble is they don’t like the small kitchen. They have had their house painted all over now. White with blue door & gate. Bushel’s house is all cream, ours will be the oldest one presently.

Weston-super-Mare is worried about all the teddys & their girls coming into the town & spoiling it for the nice families but I don’t see how they can stop them now.***

Our bath room looks nice & clean now only needs a few fresh articles to make it look smart. It is moss pink walls & duck egg door & wood work except where the tiles are then the woodwork is white. We shan’t be able to do the rest of house until the autumn, there will not be time.

Glad June’s cold is better, have got a sniffel [sic] myself. What can you expect when it’s hot one day & cold the next.

Mrs Cummings going on all right & yrs truly delivered the mags. Don’t know that I should fancy doing it regularly, it’s hot work.

Well I think this is the lot now except the drawing for the artist.

Love from Mum & Dad

[Illuminated with two small biro sketches, one of something round on a plate with the words ‘This is a pudding house’ and a fork, knife and spoon with twisted handles marked ‘Whose are these?’]

***What the linked Wikipedia article doesn’t make clear is that these groups now had enough disposable income to be able to afford cars and motorbikes of their own and were able to have cheap holidays in traditional sea-side resorts which were usually only too glad of the money. (Some camped or slept on the beach, of course, but some stayed with landladies or in caravans and brought money into the town – not to mention whatever they spent on beer, chips, slot machines, petrol, etc.) People on the whole weren’t used to seeing high-spirited youngsters in large groups and were naturally afraid of them – especially as a ‘yob culture’ developed which included vandalism, spitting, fighting etc. This sort of thing continued through the ‘Mods’ and ‘Rockers’ battles of a few years later, and has since devolved into large music festivals, cheap flights to Malaga, and hen nights in Hamburg. The problem hasn’t gone away, it’s simply been transported elsewhere. NB: June’s brother Peter was the closest thing the family possessed to a Teddy Boy; he certainly had the hair-style and the clothes. In fact he was a dead ringer for the singer Joe Brown and was almost exactly the same age.

Wednesday 19th April, 1961

Leonard to the family:

Dear Alec June Susan & Carol

Many thanks for letter duly to hand on Tuesday and we were both very eager to see how Susan got on during her first days at school. Apparently she did not mind but Carol did – for a minute or two at least – but now she has got used to being on her own. Susan was soon in the wars then by falling down and skinning her knees. Glad Carol enjoyed her birthday festivities now it will soon be Susan’s turn. Looks as if she has a pal already at school – makes all the difference even to small children to have a special friend.

Glad to hear you have now got a shade and the lamp is complete. Strange you should get it at Eastcote – this was the first time we missed going there when on holiday with you. We like the shopping area there very much and with a car it is practically on your doorstep. Note Susan tied her shoes on to wire support of lamp – presumably for good luck but I don’t suppose she thought so when you had dealt with her.* We imagined they would try and celebrate the rearrangement of the beds in their room but Father & Mother apparently took a dim view of the idea.

Fancy mothers having to listen to the headmistress for half an hour when their children go to school for the first time. Quyite a good idea no doubt to get all the gen but this is the first time I’ve known anything like this to happen. Hope June did not think she herself was starting school again. Anyhow they were happy days when you look back upon them.**

We had another letter from Uncle Joe at Tiverton this morning asking us to go down early in May for a long weekend as we cannot manage Whitsun so have decided to go to Tiverton on Friday 5th prox. and on to Exmouth the following day for a weekend at the bungalow.*** Last October they took a coloured snap-shot of Mum and I standing either side of the car and sent us a copy this morning. It is a lovely shot, one of the best we have seen for a long time. Must remember to show it to you in due course. We have asked Don & Joan to come up next Sunday the 23rd inst. and they have replied accepting so let’s hope it will be fine & warm. I understand he is bringing up another consignment of cider. Sorry about that last bottle of yours. Query was cork loose.

You are quite right about the donkeys. Apart from Salthouse Fields the paths around Wains Hill have to be negotiated very carefully now-a-days. I see there are also about half a dozen ponies and one carriage – something like the 6.5 p.m. Special but called the ‘Spaceship’. Nothing like being up to date.****

The horse in our field is getting along alright and what grass he does not eat is trodden down so same effect – for me – is attained. Have been round with the wheelbarrow a couple of times and it reminds me of years ago when I used to go out on the road – with others – with a Tates sugar box on wheels and pick up for your Grandad’s allotment. No motor cars in those days but plenty of horse carriages.

Chettiscombe and Chevithorne are two little hamlets with rather long names but both are somewhat picturesque and are only a few miles out of Tiverton. Halberton is a village roughly halfway between Tiverton Jun. and Tiverton.

We think Joe & Lydia do fairly well in letting the bungalow but if you own one of these it is much more convenient to be living somewhere near so that you can pop down occasionally – particularly at changing out weekends – to see how things are going on otherwise damage and breakages cannot be debited to any specific boarder. In Joe’s case there is someone they know well in residence on the Dock throughout the year and he does what is necessary.

I managed to get grass cut last Saturday afternoon. The garden soil is still like concrete and most difficult to work. Incidentally I unrolled the hose just after dinner today and about an hour later it started to rain and continued raining remainder of day. I bought 10 tomato plants yesterday & put them in the ring culture bay of greenhouse. These will provide the early tomatoes and my own plants the sequence. Runner Beans (in boxes) are coming up and I’m trying to get the ground ready for transplanting. The first row of peas is a failure – seems to be an annual event – something eating them as soon as they come up. Now trying some in a box for planting out later.

Going back to your letter again what a nice lot of presents Carol had for her birthday. I’m sure she had a wonderful time and what a novel idea to have a ‘birthday’ chair at Sunday School.

Our new neighbours – in Cummings house – were busy during the weekend putting a cement wash on the walls and it looks very nice. The people next door again – Mrs Drewett’s – are also there daily painting and papering but they have not moved in yet.

Thanks for the promise of more plum wine – it’s excellent. Have you tried the cherry I brought up – quite a pleasant taste to it. Cornish looked over yesterday afternoon & I gave him a drop of the orange which he admitted was good. The parsnip is still working under fermentation lock and I shall let it continue indefinitely.

On TV the other night we saw a primary school in which children were assembled for their first day and it was very amusing. One thing we saw was the issue of a beaker of milk complete with straw. Does Susan get any milk at midmorning? Rather looks as if she does as I notice the milkman who delivers it is named Baker.

Has Peter has his car put right yet? Hope no ill effects to Mr & Mrs Baker consequent on their unpleasant journey on Easter Monday.

Well I think this is the lot once more. Hope you are all keeping well.

All our love to you both and lots of kisses for our big school girl Susan and our three years old Carol.

Mum & Dad

*Leonard is clearly expecting the result of this innocuous-sounding prank to have been a ‘smacked bottom’, which was no doubt the case. I leave it to you whether the punishment was appropriate to the ‘crime’.

**It’s nice to know that for some people school is a pleasant experience and not an unmitigated hell of bullying during which the best a parent can come up with is ‘I expect you started it’.

***A bit of unravelling to do here. Firstly, business custom used to be to use ‘inst.’ for the present month, ‘ult.’ for the previous month and ‘prox.’ for the coming month. Since Leonard learned his business habits before and during the First World War it is really no surprised that he was still using them forty years later. (In the same way the present writer simply cannot use a single space after a full stop; having been taught to use two, it’s quite immaterial that the convention has changed; it’s as ingrained as breathing and could only be altered by a global search-replace.) Secondly, the early May Bank Holiday (often described as May Day but only occasionally falling on 1 May itself) did not exist until 1978. What Leonard refers to as ‘Whitsun’ is the holiday surrounding the religious festival of Whit Sunday which tended to float about in the calendar between late May and early June, depending on the date of Easter. Secularising the public holiday means that it became pinned to the last Monday in May – as the early Bank Holiday is pinned to the first Monday – which makes planning a lot easier for people who are not otherwise tied to a religious calendar. Proposals to move the early May Bank Holiday to October and celebrate Trafalgar Day instead have so far been unsuccessful; adding Trafalgar Day as an extra Bank Holiday would probably be more successful!

****Ooooh, boy, here we go down the rabbit hole! Trapnells of Weston-super-Mare (now Weston Donkeys) have run donkeys on the beach at Weston for generations. Clearly at this time they had also expanded their activities to Clevedon, although the two resorts are very different in character and it has to be doubted whether it was really worth doing. Apart from putting individual children on individual donkeys, they also ran carts or carriages with seats for the very young or those unable – or too nervous – to sit astride a donkey, and the carriages were always themed around whatever children were interested in at the time. Leonard’s observation of a “6.5 Special” ride no doubt ties in with the BBC TV series Six-Five Special which ran from 1957 to 1958 but which may possibly have been recorded and repeated in subsequent years. The Spaceship was no doubt the one in the photo below, taken at Weston-super-Mare the following year, named after ‘Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future‘ (which future was apparently the 1990s!) who was very popular in the ‘Eagle’ comic at the time and is still enjoying a protracted afterlife amongst his devoted fans.

Eva to the family on the remaining two-thirds of a sheet of Leonard’s writing paper:

Dear Alec June Susan & Carol

Many thanks for letter. I expect the girls have been much occupied to do any drawings this week so much excitement about. We are now going to Exmouth May 6th for week end will be spending the Friday night at Tiverton then go down with Joe Sat. morning & expect Lydia will come in afternoon unless she gets time off. Her boss is negotiating the purchase of another shop as all those in Bridge Street are scheduled to come down to widen the road soon.

May is a busy month for me. On 15th we go to Glastonbury to look over Moorlands Factory where they make the sheepskin rugs & slippers etc. Whit Monday the Headstones***** will be down for day. June the first we go to Cannington Farm Institute & afterwards they will dump us either to Bridgwater or Taunton for tea. Mr Horton Coleridge Vale Road’s son is engaged I don’t know if you know the girl Janet Hart of Kenton Road Harrow.

It’s been drizzle on & off all day, I haven’t got any gardening done but Dad has been busy all the day. I wish it would get a bit warmer so that we can leave off jumpers.

Well I think this is all for now, hoping to soon hear the next school budget.

Bye bye for now.

Love from Mum & Dad

*****Presumably Geoff, Stella, and their daughters, who all lived in a house at Headstone Lane! I’ve never heard this expression used before – it will be interesting to see if it turns up again.

Thursday 13th April, 1961

As previously mentioned, there should be a letter from Alec to his parents for Sunday 9th April 1961 but it seems to have vanished – and, although I have an undated partial letter floating around loose in the box, it is very unlikely to be from this particular date due to its contents.

Leonard to the family:

Dear Alec June Susan & Carol

Many thanks for letter received on Tuesday with all the latest news. It does not seem a week ago yesterday that we left Ruislip after our holiday – time just flies. Thank you Susan & Carol for your very nice drawings – we have been thinking of you this week going to and from school – Susan to stop and Carol to come home again. How do you like it Susan?

Weather here typically April although Monday was as bad as Easter Monday – kept raining continuously until 4.0 p.m. All outdoor work at a standstill for days including grass cutting. The lawn has not been touched since the day before we came up to you.

Note you were soon busy on the decorations after our departure and I expect the front room now looks very nice after your efforts. Can quite picture the rearrangement of the twin beds in the girls’ room – are the young ladies pleased with it? No crayons taken to bed presumably. We are still waiting for the electrician to come and rewire the house then have a spot of painting and papering to do here.

Am enjoying your plum wine – a wineglass full dinnertimes but it’s nearly gone now. Some of the best home brew I’ve ever tasted. By the way I did not think to pay you for the sweet jars when you handed them to me so will put right in due course.

Note Susan had a booster injection last week – expect she has fully recovered by now. What a wonderful thing these injections are – never heard of them in our time and we caught one illness after another until we were almost immune from the rest. Let’s hope they work on Susan. Should just like to peep in on her in the classroom – have you had a full report from her of her doings?

Had a call from Norman Baker last Saturday morning “Could he come down & put up fence & bring horse along?” Replied Yes and he duly arrived with posts & cross pieces and barb wire. The horse (Joey) is 26 years old and quite docile. Norman still uses it at horse shows for playing Musical Chairs on horse back. So far he has not made much impression on the field but his appetite is good and he eats quite a lot of grass. Am hoping it will save nme some of the work with the scythe later on. Will report progress in future letters.

I see in last week’s Mercury the Council have agreed to donkeys on the Front this summer for the children. In fact the animals are already here and foraging on Wain’s Hill – something else for Susan & Carol to see at Clevedon. I think I read they are to be used on part of Salthouse Fields.

Last Sunday morning just as I was about to go over to the Church for ringing the telephone bell rang – Mrs Richings Weston – said she had phoned four times over Easter. Told her we did not hear as far away as Ruislip. They wanted su to go and see them again so we went down yesterday afternoon and after about two hours prowling around the shops – Woolworths etc. – we called on them at 4.0 p.m. Left again about 9.15 p.m. and home just before 10.0 p.m. Mr Richings I gather is now learning to drive a car and is he passes test proposes to buy one. Also heard that Michael had taken a test at Reading & failed. He was home for the Easter holiday & returns to Reading on the 29th inst.

You mentioned the Peach cutting in your letter. I’ve not put it in garden yet – have however repotted it as it needed a larger pot. Not made up my mind so far as to most suitable site.

The Parsnip wine is still working under fermentation lock but it is getting clearer – a lovely golden brown colour. Richings says he is going to make some as he has a lot of old parsnips lying about which otherwise would be dug back into the ground. Note your cider getting low – am sorry cannot replace just now. I still have a crop on hand and have a glass most nights at suppertime.

Have started to get greenhouse ready for tomato plants & am still in doubt whether to buy a few or not. Mine are coming along nicely but may be about three weeks behind the time I usually start picking so may buy 8 or 10 just to give that earlier picking and make up complement with own plants – the next fortnight will decide.

Hales have delivery vans over the South of England. They leave the bakery with fully loaded vans and are away for two or more days. I’ve seen them at a number of places distant from Clevedon. Still it must have been a bit of a surprise to see one of the vans so close to Queen’s Walk.

The chrysants I brought back are still looking nice & fresh and I’m more likely to get them to take than you will the rose cuttings which are most difficult to strike. Still you must let us know what happens. The tendency apparently is for the cuttings – if they are not going to take – to turn brown from the top.

It was a nice compliment to get a copy of the report on C.P.C. sent to you by the B.J.C. – something to look at when the children are in bed?

Carol’s birthday on Sunday – three years old – as I said before How time flies. How does she get on without Susan to play with? Query keeps closer to Mummie.

Had a letter from Tiverton yesterday asking us to go there at Whitsun and on to the bungalow at Exmouth for a few days but as Geoff & family are coming down here on Whit Monday we had to decline the invitation but we may be able to go down at the close of the Season. We understand they are fully booked up at the bungalow from the beginning of June – nice work. John & family have now moved from sharing a house at Chettiscombe to the school house at Chevithorne – the school now being closed. It is a mile or so further away from Tiverton but he has a little car to get to & fro.

Between somewhat heavy storms today managed to put in remainder of potatoes but soil was like a wet cake mixture. Have quite a lot of plants of one sort and another waiting to be put in but ground is so wet that very small seedlings would be swamped so they must wait for drier weather. Got 50 lettuce plants out last weekend – working from concrete path – and am protecting them nightly from slugs by putting flower pots over them – so far with success.

Well I think this is the lot for another week. All our love to you both and lots of kisses for Susan & Carol.

Mum & Dad

From Eva to the family on the remaining two-thirds of a sheet of Leonard’s paper:

Dear Alec June Susan & Carol

Thank you for the nice drawing you sent. I am putting them with the others. We have been pretty busy since coming home. I tore strips off the milk people & the next time they forget me will change, but they simply pass the buck from one to the other.

Had a good chin wag at Weston for a few hours. Michael was there but his fiancee had just gone to London en route for Italy with the school. She is at a boarding one & getting £7.5.0 [roughly £168.50 in 2021 money] plus food not bad at 24, she is two years older than Michael. They are thinking of marrying Mr R says but he won’t be able to earn for a year if he passes his finals in July. Mrs R was interested in news of the children.

I bought some small check material & made a skirt on Monday & Tues to wear it to Weston on Wednesday. Wish we could work as quickly as you in the decorating business, it takes up time when you have to stop & get a meal.

I get on with the horse alright, take him some sugar lumps & he tries to see into my pocket. He is being made a fuss of by the neighbours so hope he won’t go overeating.

Wonder how Susan got on with her first day at school. I bet June missed her the first time. You will be having plenty of ‘school’ in future. I must leave a space for a drawing.

[Biro sketch of the school (front elevation with clock tower) and a little girl with hair ribbon, pleated skirt, cardigan and odd shoes, and randomly a flying book.]

Love from Mum & Dad