Thursday 8th September, 1960

Leonard to the family:

[Alec’s letter, presumably of Sunday 4th September, has not survived. NB: for a change, Leonard is writing on plain white foolscap.]

Dear Alec June Susan & Carol

Many thanks for June’s letter received on Friday last and Alec’s on Tuesday this week and not forgetting Susan’s splendid effort at drawing. Your week’s leave was a proper ‘washout’ and all of you must have had a terrible time coping with the many preparations for base of garage. Reminds me of time Don & Geoff came to Clevedon to build shed. They had a week’s leave and every minute had to be used or the job could not have been completed. The first day (Sunday) it poured so everything was turned out of front room and the sizing and cutting of timber was done there. We hope none of you had any after effects consequent on working in such weather.

Note from June’s letter you had a trip to wembley on the Monday and did a bit of shopping also a trip to Richings Park then later in week a long run to Westcliffe on Sea with June’s Father & Mother – how nice for them to be able to get away together for once – expect they enjoyed the day out even if not suited regarding bungalow. The map I have of the area shows Hadleigh but not Westcliffe. Which way did you go? Query north of London then South East. We hope they can get fixed up soon as that will be one worry off their minds and what a relief it will be to get away from the shop* and district.

Turning to Alec’s letter again I imagine he was glad to get back to work this week for a rest. I used to feel like that after a good week on the garden in the old days. Note position re: vacancy applications but no doubt you will keep us advised of any developments. Heard this week that Saunders of Yatton is going to Bridgwater (Spl. A) and that Norman Allen had an interview for two jobs at Transom House yesterday – had to see Hallen and Arthur Price.

Yes the bellringing is quite good fun and last Saturday at Portishead we had 10/- each for our trouble. Only two of the regular Portishead ringers were available and they were most glad of outside assistance. Our next one here at the Old Church is on Monday Oct. 3rd – wedding at St. Peters and bells at Old Church. The Old Church at the moment is upside-down, roof off (temporary galvanised sheeting to keep rain out) part of inside sealed off and piano being used in place of organ. All this due to renovations being carried out consequent on work of death watch beetle. Now feared that damage worse than first anticipated and estimated for.

Our house too is upside-down this week as we have Frank James and his assistant in repapering and repainting Hall & staircase. Fortunately since Monday weather has been grand & we can keep doors open & let paint dry quicker and incidentally to let some of the smell out.**

Assume by now you have completed minutes of meeting and had another trip to Cardiff. Presumably progress being made with the scheme in hand for Cardiff area.

Have you heard from Geoff and family since they returned from Italy? Should have been home again sometime yesterday.

Had a line from Don yesterday to say that Mrs Elston (Exeter) died on Sept 1st and that Joan and he went to funeral on Monday. Mrs Elston was a very great friend of Grandma Atkins as I expect you may remember.

Don & Joan are coming up to dinner on Sunday 18th inst. – in style presumably in the new Countryman. Have not told him yet that we have changed cars.*** Your LTA 259 now safely garaged in St Andrew’s Drive and cannot be moved again until it is covered by your Insurance. Quite safe where it is and in the dry. Radio Licences are not transferable hence the desire to renew in your name. We seldom used it when out in car and shall not miss it in the future. Must admit though that if anyone out for a picnic like you were at Richings Park it could be very enjoyable. Query any moves regarding your present car GJO 120?

Shall have about ten pints of elderberry wine in due course and you must have a bottle or two later on. An afraid it is too late now for you to think of getting any berries. The orange wine seems to be maturing all right but a little on the ‘sharp’ side at the moment – more sugar in due course – hope to bottle about nine pints.

Managed to cut grass on Monday but it was hard work even for the motor mower.

Bad luck on football pool effort – obviously wrong week to get an all correct line as you say – still the permutation is good.

Have now passed the 1 cwt mark with tomatoes and quite a number still on the plants to ripen. Runner beans practically finished except for a few odd pounds but I shall have several hundred for seed. Broccoli now turning in and even a few savoys are formed in the seed bed. There has been an unmistakeable sign of Autumn in the mornings down here this week and some fog but yesterday and again today we have had glorious sunshine all day and I’ve been able to get on with hedge cutting – the ground is still much too wet to get on.

A lot of work going on next door now-a-days – somebody there most of the time painting or hammering until 10.0 p.m. nightly. Today an electric cooker was taken in and fixed by Electricity Coy.

Susan made a very good drawing on her own – how did they react to the work being done in the rain last week? Or were they otherwise occupied? Note Pauline was with you part of the time so no doubt Aunty Pauly had a rough time.****

Have asked Don if any more cider available. How did your neighbours like the lot you took back?

Note you may be going Cardiff again next week and if possible will make Clevedon for a short visit. Of course we shall be delighted but, if you can, let us know in good time so I can meet you at station.

Mother has just picked up June’s letter and said she is going to reply later to look out June.*****

Not much more to tell you this time – hope you are all keeping well and that this break in the weather will enable Susan & Carol to get outdoors again.

All our love to you both and lots of kisses for the girls.

Mum & Dad

*There do not appear to be any photos of the shop – at least, I haven’t found any. I remember it as being narrow and dark, with an odd little triangular garden filled with nettles. I was told as a child that it was being bulldozed ‘to make way for an extension to the runway at Heathrow’, although a quick look at the map shows this to be patently ridiculous. It was clearly bulldozed at some point in the 1960s-1980s, though, as the address is now a branch of Aldi.

**Anyone familiar only with modern paint can have no real idea of how much paint – even emulsion – used to stink in the 1960s. It was foul, and it took a very long time to go away!

***This one-upmanship over cars is a seriously unattractive trait IMHO, but mercifully not genetic; as long as a car does what you need it to do, who cares what bells and whistles it’s got? (Although I must admit heated seats sound more attractive as one gets older.)

****Because looking after children is such an imposition. Good job there are women about to do it.

*****And yet more disrespect towards women; clearly a letter from Eva couldn’t have any value whatsoever and is something to be avoided if possible. The self-importance and belittling comments about other people get very old very quickly, don’t they?


The mystery of the missing brother

Teddy in approx. 1924 and 1944

Now we come to one of the sadder chapters of our family history, the story of June’s missing brother. That is to say, he wasn’t literally ‘missing’ – he didn’t go off hiking one day and never come back, or anything like that – but he was deliberately expelled from the family for conduct that has never been specified, and there was no remotest possibility of forgiveness or reconciliation for the rest of his life.

William Edward Frank Baker (Teddy) was born at 112 Tenison Road, Cambridge, on 26 March 1922, the first child of Frank – then a cinema manager – and Edith (nee Mullinger). There is a photo of him as a small child, certainly less than two years old, and then a gap in the record until he joins Lindisfarne College, Westcliff-on-Sea, in January 1934 at the age of 11.

I have a full set of school reports, which seem to suggest that he was ill during his first summer term and missed quite a lot of school, after which he struggled to catch up. His strengths were maths, ‘handwork’ (presumably carpentry) and, unexpectedly, French – although he clearly enjoyed larking about and was not particularly serious about his work. As far as his conduct goes, his headmaster – one Edward Daws – repeatedly refers to him as a pleasant and good-natured boy; not academic, perhaps, but practical and straightforward, and one who should do well in later life.

Of course, you have all worked out already what’s coming young Teddy’s way; he was born in 1922, and would therefore have been 17 at the start of the Second World War. In 1939 he was living with his parents at the Victoria Hotel in Wolverton (‘The New Queen Victoria’), and was described as an ‘Assistant Hotel Manager’. His father was the manager. Teddy’s parents, two sisters and his baby brother (June, Pauline and Peter) all lived there as well; so did his maternal grandfather William and his mother’s sister Nell – plus a barmaid, the barmaid’s child, and another couple who were probably lodgers. This is a household of ten people, and although the building is quite large it was operating as a hotel and may also have had letting bedrooms – which would have been more than enough to keep the family busy cooking, cleaning and otherwise catering for themselves and their guests.

Details of Teddy’s wartime career are not available at the moment; the MoD will not release them without the consent of the next of kin until 25 years after the individual’s death. He was in the RAF, he was not a pilot, and he served in the Far East; that’s all I know.

In 1943, Frank and Edith inserted a notice in one of the Southend newspapers (not yet identified):

BAKER: Of age on March 26th 1943, William Edward Frank (RAF) eldest son of Mr and Mrs Frank Baker, late of Strand Cinema and Mascot Cinema. Now of Tower Arms Hotel, Iver, Bucks. [2739A]

And then there is silence. We have Teddy’s own word (in a letter to Alec Atkins after Edith had died) that he ‘lost contact with his family in the 1950s’. June’s only comments about this ever were ‘he was a tyrant’ and ‘he broke his mother’s heart’. Alec went to considerable lengths to track him down via the secretary of the RAFA at Uxbridge in 1987, because Teddy had been left a small legacy in Edith’s will. Teddy decline to benefit, and asked that the money should be sent to the World Wildlife Fund instead. Alec was quite brusque, saying that he didn’t know why Teddy had remained apart from his family and he didn’t want to know, and there the correspondence ended.

In late 2003, June was contacted by an heir hunter in connection with Teddy’s own estate; Teddy had apparently died in early 2001 – about six months before Alec, as it happens – and there was a small sum of money to be distributed between his heirs. As Pauline had also died by then, and had no children, June and Peter shared the legacy between them; June was reluctant to accept the money, but recognised that it would enable her to help her grandson, Robin, so put most of it into an account for him.

And now there’s nobody left to explain how and why a family member was so effectively shut out that his death wasn’t known about until more than two years after the event. Nothing about Teddy’s school reports indicates a ‘tyrant’ in his youth; he was never in trouble with the police as far as I know, but until I can access his service record it’s impossible to know what may have happened to him during the war. My best guess at the moment is PTSD, which changed his behaviour, or possibly some involvement in the infamous RAF mutiny of 1946. Or, indeed, both.

Teddy never married, nor had children, and the rest of his life is a mystery. He may have worked for the RAF in a civilian capacity, as I received the garbled impression that he was a steward in the Mess at RAF Hendon, but unless I can make contact with someone who knew him towards the end of his life this is unlikely ever to be resolved.

I’ve applied for Teddy’s death certificate in case it sheds any more light on the subject, but at the time of posting this it still hasn’t arrived. I’ll update if there is anything of interest to report when it does get here.

Anyway, Teddy was a perfect example of the way the family as a whole tended to deal with problems – i.e. ignore them, and the people who create them, and simply make them go away. There was a similar case in the 1980s when they tried to magic away someone who did not fit their template for an ideal human being – but somehow or another, and to their eternal chagrin, I’m still here, and I’m the one who gets to tell the story.

I’m really sorry, Teddy, I wish I’d known you; I think we’d have had quite a lot in common!

Sunday 28th August, 1960

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad

Thank you very much for last letter, note you have gone back to the old paper.  What was the result of the experiment?  Carol soon shook off the effects of her car jaunt and was as right as ninepence when we got home apart from being a little tired.

Still no news of the applications. Saw John Welchman ( who went to L.M.R. ) last week and he told me that he had the tip off from his own Staff people that the bar had been put up against other Regions taking W.R. staff ( Work Study) and a similar bar also applied in the reverse direction.  This has damped his ardour a bit as he has been campaigning as hard as possible to get back to W.R.  The bar also applies to Manning who was the first to go. As you may expect those of us who sat tight are feeling a little smug now. I hare heard on the Grape Vine that interviews for the W.R. Out of Cats will take place on or about September 20th.  There is considerable amount of time lost when it is viewed from the pocket angle but I suppose from the Organisation’s point of view little time has been lost as the Section has not been set up yet.

The temporary assignment is getting me into contact with the nobs all right, I have to wear my best suit every day now just in case.  Next Tuesday I am going to Cardiff to a meeting with Pattisson, Moore Bennett and his two Assistants, Hankins and Alwyn Jones. We shall also have someone representing the Docks Manager and no doubt several hangers-on.  As I am on holiday this week, the interruption is not wholly welcome but never-the-less it is not the meeting to miss.

Sorry funds running low on the rose stakes – you will have to have a flag day ( Alexandra Rose ).*  Re Dahlias – went out and picked a large boxful of pink cactus blooms this mornng.  These I believe came from a tuber Geoff gave me and the blooms are about four inches across.  They are very good particularly as they make such long single stems.  Note your business day starts at 5-50am,  What a carry-on in retirement. I should be inclined to change Chimney sweep.**

Note your old car in for steering attention.  Mr Payne is wise to be so careful about steering in the London Area but I would not have thought there was anything amiss with its steering gear.  When I got the petrol and oil at Eastcote for you I thought how well it handled.  I suppose that was by comparison.  I must read up again the conditions to be observed when cars undergo a change of owner ship and will let you know what documents I need. No more progress on the garage yet.  Although I ordered garage last week they want me to fill in their official order form and so that has delayed things one week.  The order will go off tomorrow and I shall order some hard core same day.  I may ring round and get several Quotations, including one for the whole job. 

Had a laugh about Elford.  Note you have started some orange wine.  A tip worth passing on is to give the brew plenty of sugar.  I made some once and it was a good strong wine but very bitter.  I think there may be a tendency to sharpness that can only be counteracted by increasing the amount of sugar.  I shall have a look at the Elderberries promised tomorrow when we go to West Drayton, and pick some I hope.  You have been very busy on the wine stakes – I just do not seem to get round to it.

I note the pattern of your car. By looking at the back of several parked Austins I had worked out roughly what it looked like but you have as yet not said what colour model you have.  Saw one advertised in London Garage on Saturday for £461** but did not look to see what condition it was in or what year for that matter. 

Well we have news this time of the probable acceptance by June’s Mum and Dad of the latest offer for their property. Our latest news is that they have agreed to sell and to be out by the end of October.  Of course this creates something of a hubbub as there is the question of disposing of stock ( at retail price ) finding somewhere to store any furniture, deciding what part of the country to start looking for a house to buy and then finding one and buying it.  I think there is an attraction for Westcliffe on Sea but a reluctance to leave the London Area, where so many friends and relations live.  My own feeling is that all other things being equal the price of property at Westcliffe is likely to be much lower than here.  We shall await and no doubt assist developments.

Roy has had an accident in his car.  It happened last Thursday when he was stationary outside Leslie’s shop in Hanwell.  The brakes of a lorry failed when presumably coming down Cuckoo Hill and ran into the back of Roy’s car and damaged another car as well.  We understand there is substantial damage to Roy’s oar but it is for repair and it should be ready in a few days.  I do not know now he will get off for claim.

We have Pauling staying with us this week-end.  June and I and the children motored over to Battersea yesterday to see the flat and bring her back. The roads were shocking going over, I think we got mixed up with the Chelsea crowd. As Roy’s car is out of action shall probably go over again later in week to take her to their place.**** 

We had a short run out to Pinner Park again today and had a few minutes’ sunshine.  Host of the day has been very wet and depressing but it did come out warm for a half hour or so.  We had a short ride through Pinner and ambled back through Eastcote.

Have still not cut the grass, it is quite long now and soaking wet.  It will become a major operation if I leave it much longer.  Runner beans coming in nicely now but no sign of tomatoes ripening.  One pumpkin about the size of a tennis ball but nothing else to report.  Doug has completed fence down his left hand side of garden.

Well that is all for now except to wish that you keep well untill we hear from you again. Love from us all.

*Alexandra Rose Day used to be almost the equivalent of ‘Poppy Day’ in the UK, with people buying little paper roses to wear in their lapels and the proceeds going to charity. I hadn’t heard of the charity for many years and supposed it might have been wound-up, but on checking I see that they are still in business and are largely concerned with issuing food vouchers to impoverished families – which is great news.

**Would you indeed, Alec? Personally I would value a tradesman who turns up on time more highly than an extra few minutes of sleep; your mileage, as they say, may vary.

***The equivalent of just under £11,000 today.

****Can’t imagine why as the Tube was – and still is – pretty convenient for the journey!

Sunday 21st August, 1960

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad

Thank you for very newsy letter duly received on the dot. Note the change of paper but do not get the point of saving postage, – have you had to pay more than 3d on them up till now? You certainly seem to be unlucky with your visit to Almondesbury but then any visit is a risk this Summer. Note you have bought nine trees to be delivered in season.  When is the probable date of delivery? I imagine you have gone in for Standards or half standard as you already have some very nice, climbers and/or ramblers. On reading your letter again I see that you have bought bush roses and I am wondering where you win find to put them, – in the front garden perhaps?

I wonder what can have happened to young Ian. It must have been a worry for his parents. It must have been something out of the ordinary but as he will be coming home shortly could not have been very serious.

I cannot see how I can put Clevedon on the Cardiff route except later on when I shall be spending several days there each week. It does not pay to go down for the day as cannot get much work done. If I go down for three days or so, I could possibly pop over for a night provided the trains are suitable. I believe the 6-30 a.m. Weston is useful for getting back.

You have picked and sold an amazing weight of beans also tomatoes. It is quite staggering to think of 1.5 C.W.T. of beans.

Have not heard anything about Uncle Will since last we wrote to you but then we are not on the direct news line. We get our news second hand from Yiewsley.

I should not be at all surprised if the house at the bottom does not go for something near the advertised price. On reflection, although the house itself is not worth the money, it is set in good surroundings and there are immense possibilities in the place for improvement.

Still have not heard anything about my applications, the 0.M. job on the L.M.R. has gone down the drain but it was never really on as a possibility. I understand from the grape vine ( sources external to the office, also sworn to secrecy, ) that the out of category jobs in Work Study will be interviewed very shortly, and that the panel has been selected to do this. Three senior Western Region Work Study Men ( Operating ) are reported to be the leading contenders apart from anything off other Regions. Nothing about the B.T. C. Job. Should have thought that I would have got an interview unless this move has been squashed from above. Geoff told me early this week that he had high expectations as a result of his recent interviews.  That can mean anything from certainty to wishful thinking.

Re slugs, don’t for one moment think that the Dahlias have been left alone. A large number of the shoots never reach maturity. There are slug bites on all the lower leaves and many off the higher ones, and even flower heads have been nibbled at. The only veg they seem to steer clear of are the tomatoes, and fortunately so far nothing has attacked them. We want some sun badly as there is no colour in them yet. As said before I think you should do something about dahlias another year. They are dead easy money. The tubers multiply rapidly, and each year you have at least four times as many available fox planting as the previous year. The flowers grow themselves and only require the effort to pick them. I believe they fetch a fairly good price round these parts but you would know your local price.

Only had a few minutes to talk to Matthews so can not say if he has had any promotion since he Joined the E.R. He said he liked it very much and that he had never been treated so well. I wonder if it has occurred to him that his treatment is as a result of his new higher standing. A bit different from being one of the clerks.

So the deisels have at last reached Clevedon, You say the sound of the horn can be heard on your estate – I take it the drivers name is John Peel.

The sloe wine is nearly all gone – only enough for two more glasses. I did not water it but Peter liked it so much that he has had most of it and I have kept it for his infrequent visits. Had some of your Cherry this week end it was very nice. I am glad the Cosmeas have been brought to the flowering stage. They are not a very special flower but grow quite large and provide many heads for cutting. They throw their seed like marigolds so if you do not want them in same place next year do not let them go to seed.

We are both glad you have managed to select a car you both like. I know the new Austin Cambridge but I am a little uncertain of recognising the 1957 model. I expect you are enjoying the change. It is fortunate that you have been able to garage your old car as it would only have deteriorated outside. We may be able to take it away earlier than at first thought – more about that later. With the same post as your letter I had the O.K. from the Council to erect the garage. Although I only wrote them on August 9th they managed to present the details at the Council Meeting of 14th Aug instead of my having to wait for their September 14th meeting. I can now order the garage to be delivered, and the three to four weeks delay in delivery will enable me to complete the base. I have put the shuttering up and secured it as best I can against the destructive efforts of the girls. Next Saturday I shall be getting three cubic yards of hard core then during the following week ( when we are on leave ) I shall have the ready mixed concrete delivered in L cubic yard lots*. ( I expect it will need three ) With this out of the way the erection of the garage can be done in an afternoon and evening. At this rate arrangements this end will have been completed by the end of the second or third weeks in September.

We have had no one enquiring about the old car and I doubt if we shall. If I were to advertise it for £10 the result would still be the same. The ten year test has got them all playing safe. I paid nothing to Binding and Paynes for the examination of the car. They only told me what I wanted to know – which was the condition of the chassis. No further examination was made or report on any other part so I doubt whether they will make a charge.

Potatoes seem to do very well down in the new plot. I had a good crop here the first year I dug out the bottom plot. Something in the newly turned turf I believe – apart from leather jackets.

We have all been out to Amersham Common with Delph Roy and Christopher, Norman and Pauline. They picked us up about 11-00am and off we went in the two cars. Of course Carol was sick just as we got to Chorley Wood – all over June. This meant she had to take off her skirt and stayed wrapped in newspapers and macs all day**. Carol recovered enough to enjoy herself but she is a little off colour to-day. The common is a very popular place. There were few people there when we got there but by late afternoon many cars had arrived. Where we parked is the fairway of a municipal golf course – nice and wide so that the children had a long runway under full observation. Norman***, Roy and I walked nearly half mile down to a pretty pub only to find they had closed at 2.0 p.m. The scenery was good and the air pure so I expect it has done us all a lot of good especially as the sun came out and kept it warm and sunny all day.

Well there it is for now. Hope you are both keeping fit.  Love from us all till next time.

*(sic) – but on Alec’s typewriter it was necessary to use a lower-case ‘L’ as a ‘1’, so I assume this is what was intended.

**You really would have thought June would be smart enough to take a change of clothes with her, wouldn’t you, considering how often this seems to have happened?

***At the moment I have no idea who Norman was. Roy had a brother, but he lived in Germany so I doubt it was him. Norman may have been a boyfriend of Pauline’s, but if so he didn’t stay around long enough to make much of an impression.

Thursday 3rd March, 1960

Leonard to the family (on reverse of Table 58: Cholsey & Moulsford and Wallingford, Week days only (second class only)):

Dear Alec June Susan and Carol

Many thanks for the letter received on Tuesday with all the news and enclosures – quite a budget but very interesting. Glad to hear the young ladies escaped serious mischief during the past week but sorry you have had another lot of colds. It is very boisterous here today but a nice sun makes things fairly pleasant outdoors – have been quite busy one way and another but rain during night kept me from digging.

Yes you are right about the allotments behind Moggs – expect you remember getting on to the hill that way – short cut. Sorry Miss Baker not making much progress – the end of Winter usually has its effect on the older people but Spring is not far away now and already there are numerous signs that it is approaching. Yes Randle lived in Neweys house on the corner of this avenue opposite side to where Cummings now live. The chrysanths cuttings I’ve taken are of the indoor varieties only but you are certainly welcome to a few of these if any good to you.

Will one window frame be enough? Can supply a couple if desired but think could only manage one at a time. I remember talking about rose cuttings but we have not taken any this time and our new bushes – planted last year – are not in full growth yet – anyhow will keep this item in mind.

Am returning the show and price lists as desired – many thanks for sight of same. According to the monthly bulletin not many take a real interest in the affairs of the Society.

Norman did not hear any more about his applications for W/S* – seems to be really up against it at the moment. Expect you have heard that Leslie Edwards died this morning at 9.0 a.m. in St. Mary’s Hospital following a stroke in the Refreshment Rooms at Temple Meads on Tuesday. It is a real tragedy and his second wife whom he married last March is expecting a baby this month. Without doubt his fondness for intoxicants hastened his end which some of us at Bristol foretold long ago. All the same it is a tragedy. He would have been sixty next November I think. Now there will be another dogfight for his job.

Note your forecast of Guillebaude report but you say ‘out of category’ is not covered – this will of course automatically follow.

Understand Soole, Pierce & Griffiths all up to London recently for interview for Soole’s job which is being redesignated. None of them got it – an outsider and much younger man (former trainee) from Gloucester name of Dent got it, resulting in a lot of weeping and gnashing of teeth at Bristol.

Had a letter from Geoff this morning and reading between the lines as it were it looks as if he has not got any of the jobs for which he applied. At any rate some of them have been filled but he has heard nothing.

Your garden must look a bit of a wreck with Susan & Carol using it for a playground but after all there is not too much room for them especially when they start scrapping for the various toys.

I put in a long row of peas on Monday but it was a sticky job – ground still very wet. Today have been busy putting some edging boards between path and garden across bottom of middle piece of ground. Am anxious now to get a seed bed made and one or two lots of small seeds in.

We went to Bristol yesterday afternoon to visit Mr & Mrs Newman. He is still troubled with arthritis but having some special treatment which must continue for two or three more weeks. Not much if any improvement noticeable in him at the moment.

This coming Saturday we are hoping the Staceys will come down for the evening. On Monday 14th Mum and I hope to go to Exeter by train for the day to visit Heavitree.**

The rating authorities put up our rateable value by £1 in consequence of improvements to kitchen and incidentally our rates are now 22/6d to the pound. The improvement was well worth doing and we cannot grumble at £1 increase.

The lorrying of hard core to the sea wall has now ceased and a levelling machine has been busy this week. Understand the top and sides will be concreted when the hard core has settled down.

Mum wrote you a letter in the week which no doubt you duly received. Mrs Heel & Mrs Cornish with other members of Tickenham Women’s Institute went on the evening excursion from Bristol yesterday to see “My Fair Lady”. Heard this morning they all had a good time.

Assuming Pauline now recovered normal health by this time and hope Mr & Mrs Baker both keeping well.

Note possibility of W/S going to divisions – presumably this would come under development department in each area.

Will sort out some more string to bring up but it is in somewhat short supply at the moment.

No more now – hope you are all keeping well.

Lots of kisses for Susan & Carol.

Dad & Mum.

*Work study

**Leonard was actually born in Swindon and baptised in Weston-super-Mare but spent much of his childhood at Heavitree near Exeter.

Wednesday 30th December, 1959

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad

Herewith a line to thank you very much for week-end at Clevedon which was most enjoyable. Hope my stay did not disorganise local arrangements any.

Found children pretty rough when I got back. They both have catarrh and of course that means wakeful nights due to not being able to get breath. Carol took it particularly badly although Susan was not much better. They both had bad coughs and one night I sat up with Carol until 4-0am as she screamed the place down if she was laid down. All this of course with teeth coming through as well. Carol was coughing and spluttering all over me so it was not surprising that I caught it back. My cold was one of the specials and lasted nicely over Christmas. Luckily no cough developed, and it is in final stages now thank goodness.

Well with the Children ill June could not do her Xmas shopping (other than presents) until Christmas eve and I had to take her to Ruislip Manor that afternoon. There were lots of cars about as you may expect and the car park at the back of Ruislip Manor Stn. was all but full. While waiting for June to finish off the shopping I moved out so as not to get blocked in.

With the money Dad gave us for the children we bought a Dolls House and managed to smuggle it in to 84. It has had good use already and was certainly one of the star attractions on Christmas morning. Carol liked her Big Ears and Susan has dressed and redressed her new doll. I am afraid that they squabble a bit now and then but we have pooled all the toys so there are fewer occasions for it. After one such battle Susan started crying and came to me with the tale that Carol had scratched her face. Could not see anything.

We had intended spending xmas day on our own and Pauline ( who was staying with us ) but understood from Peter that things a bit quiet that end so he brought the lot over in his car. I tried to get through to wish you Happy Xmas at 7-50pm but after three attempts the operator said there was no reply. We assumed that perhaps you had popped out for a while possibly with the Astons. The next day we went to West Drayton for the day. During the early morning the Bashams and Great Grandma arrived from Southend. She is still very active and had not previously seen Carol. Coming home it poured and gave car a very good wash off. Had to go through a deep puddle near Cowley and was doing thirty at the time. Car coming in the opposite direction so no avoiding it. Water and spray flying in all directions.

On the Sunday Mr & Mrs Baker and Peter paid the arranged visit. Peter disappeared after dinner to meet his pals and I took the others back about 9-0pm. Weather continued to be bad. Generally speaking the girls have been very good over Xmas. They have had a deal of excitement and seen a lot of people but they behaved well and slept much better than for some time passed. June’s Mum has given them a dressing gown each and they look a couple of nibs. Susans is red with a Bambi on it while Carols is light blue with an elephant motif. Received a couple of ties and a pair of socks from West Drayton. Susan received a “T” Shirt and Carol a pair of Blue Shorts from Headstone Lane and they both have lot of puzzles and games from relations friends and neighbours. They have had so much as usual that I cant keep track of where it has come from.

Carol is talking a lot now although she says a lot of gibberish. Yesterday she came out with the following long sentence;- ” Bye Baby Bunting, Daddys gone to Roses Atishoo Atishoo Pop goes the Weasel. ” We ran over to Greenford to take presents over to Delph and Roy and spend a few hours with them. Christopher making great strides but does not talk much. To-day we drove to Ealing and caught District line to Sloane Square for the girls to have their hair cut at Peter Jones, Pauline met us and toted the girls round to see her friends and colleagues. The car is going really well. We have done about 175 miles since we had it from Peter. Yesterday June paid a visit to Greenford to have tooth extracted by dentist. It was a back tooth and caused some trouble in coming out. Broke off a couple of times. Susan, Carol and I sat in car until patient returned. ( Rained all the time ) Pain was very bad yesterday and although a little easier to-day Junes face is still swollen and puffed.

Hope you were able to enjoy your Christmas and possibly go visiting. By the time you receive this letter you will have the New Year supper for the ringers well under way. My regards to those of them that I know. Thank Dad for his letter duly received on Christmas Eve. Gave a couple of bottles of wine to neighbours. Have had no complaints so far. Peter has gone off with a bottle of sherry (H.E.B.) He seems to like it. So for that matter do Susan and Carol. Carol in particular takes big sips and keeps asking for more. We have to pour out some for her to drink.

Mother will be pleased to know that Sheila the doll she gave Susan last Xmas has a new wig. We glued it on and June made it some more clothes. (It was naked all the Summer.) We hid the doll in the piano so that Susan would not see. Now it has golden blonde hair tied in two plaits. Susan approves. We got a small Xmas tree and stuck it in a Walls Tin* in the approved manner and put it on top of the T.V. There have been one or two raids on the chocolate ornaments but that proved to be as safe a place as any. Wilkinson leaves us for Birmingham at the end of this week. Do not know who is in charge of what after that. Well will wish you a very happy new year and hope to see you soon.

Love from June, Susan, Carol and Alec

*This would be a Walls ice cream tin covered with crepe paper; as Frank and Edith Baker had a tobacconists/sweet shop at this time, ice cream tins and cigar boxes were often forthcoming. Two of the latter have persisted in the family to the present day.

Tuesday 13th October 1959

Eva to the family:

Dear Alec June Susan & Carol

Many thanks for both letters & Susan’s drawing, is that supposed to be me on one side?

Dad went into St Mary’s Hospital Bristol to-day to have a Hernia Opperation. He has meant to have had it done this last twenty years & finally made his mind up. He should not be there more than a fortnight if all goes well.

The decorators are still here & the place is an awful mess, ankle deep in dust in the shed from the bags. They are now plastering outside, but have to paint inside & fix the sink unit. Also the man has to fix another light as one will not be sufficient. If you see or speak to Geoff tell him that not to tell Don, as Dad will write to him in a few days. I am writing to Geoff but he may not get to read it until Wednesday is over. I expect Dad will have the operation that day.

How did you get on with the knocking down the larder, it will make more space there.

We had a nice lot of rain again but fine this morning. The ground is still pretty dry yet.

I have to be busy now weighing up some apples for Norman he is taking them to Cardiff on Friday, there is plenty to keep me occupied while Dad is away*. If you write it’s just St. Mary’s Hospital Bristol.

I expect Pauline had a lot to talk about when she visited for the week end. All the visitor have disappeared by now even at Weston. Mr Cummings goes into the hospital in a week or two to have his opperation I think I told you it was Goitre. They had him up on false pretenses a few weeks back then kept him a night & sent him home again. This was at Southmead. No more now hope you are all feeling better.

Love from Mum to all.

P.S. To make things brighter I had to send my aid away & the other one konked out so was nearly a week without a thing & couldn’t hear anything. Cost me £5.0.0. Hope your Mum & Dad are feeling better.

*Not least of which would have been the watering; their garden was huge, and productive (hence all the vegetable sales and sending apples to Cardiff) and I have no recollection of ever seeing a hose; they trundled down the paths with watering cans several times a day.

Sunday 31st May, 1959

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad.

Just a letter to tell you arrived back safely and Mum’s letter since received. We agree that the best date to come down will be on Thursday July 9th for the ceremony to be performed on Sunday July 12th, Perhaps you will be good enough to fix it up with the Vicar. We have asked Don and Joan but as yet have not heard from them. I expect they are waiting to hear the date. This week-end, I have fitted glass to the frame brought from Clevedon and have built staging immediately below the windows to hold seed boxes and pots. This will now hold eight seed boxes in a row and with the other shelf on the other side of the shed I can now house about sixteen boxes at once. Have patched the roof by inserting below the tarred felt the old lino we took up from our bedroom. A couple of roses have come out but the others are not far behind now. One of the Pinks is out, it is a pink one, and Allwoodi. with a ringed centre. No sign of any of the Dahlias Geoff gave me but I expect they will be through any day now. The Spirea you brought up and the two we transplanted are all alive but the latter suffered a severe check. Mother’s Dahlias are healthy but not growing very fast I expect they need some genuine rain. We have Eileen with us for this week-end and Susan of course has been quite excited. I am afraid Carol played up a bit to-day but as she did not get a sleep this morning I expect that was the cause. Grandma’s clock gaining now since I shortened the swing of the pendulum. If I release it a half turn I shall be about right. Carol not walking or even standing on her own yet apart from holding on to a chair or something. She is now walking along by hoisting herself onto hands and feet and going along with arched back. Have not replied to Don yet but must do so to-day or he will be wondering what has happened. There does not seem to be anything to beat the National Savings Certs for simplicity so will plump for that although I see today’s paper warns of a possible reduction in the rate of interest. It seems that Pauline* quite likes the idea of coming down to Clevedon for the week-end that the Christening is held and returning on the Monday morning. Have nearly drunk all the Elderberry Wine. You will have to make some more when the elderberries are next available, I don’t suppose there will be any about at this end. I have not made any more since I saw you last but have been accumulating empty bottles, I have so many now that I shall have to take the board up again and put some out of sight under the floor. Our neighbours just returned from a week’s holiday at the Isle of Wight. They say it is very nice there and nearly all of them are very sunburned. Well hope you are still as well as when I saw you last and not overdoing the gardening. Will close for now.


*June’s younger sister, at this time working in the shoe department of Peter Jones in Sloane Square and living in Battersea.

Dear Don and Joan

Thanks for circular letter of 25th May. Having ascertained that GWR Savings Bank however attractive is a “no go”, we are faced with the problem of finding an investment that is reasonably safe, reasonably simple in its operation ( from the point of view of the person making the investment,- presumably the Trustee) and having a reasonable rate of interest. The National Savings Certificates would seem to meet these requirements except in regard to simplicity of operation as when the period of the issue expires it will then be necessary to reinvest in the next or subsequent issues. From my point of view this method of investment is satisfactory but I am prepared to accept the decision of the Trustee as he has to carry the can back if things go awry. Nothing much to report from gardening front this end. Everything retarded by lack of rain. Grass which was in good condition early in year has withered already and there are many bare patches and cracks about 2 inches across. Have done a number of “Hatchet Carpentry” jobs lately and you may be interested to know that the spare window frame left over after Clevedon shed was built has this week been incorporated in the South Ruislip shed and glass fitted**. I have practically completely rebuilt shed since arriving here. No new timber has been used. There was quite a lot of poor quality second hand wood on hand when we got here but most of it was only suitable for the fire. However I was able to sort out enough to use. Apart from raising the level of one lawn about 9 inches to the level of the path thereby making the whole garden level, I have no major works to carry out now.

Susan and Carol still thriving, latter almost at walking stage. We have heard from Clevedon that Vicar is prepared to perform ceremony at Parish Church and we are going to ask him for Sunday 12th July.

Perhaps you will let us know if this date is convenient please. Grandma’s clock working well but gaining slightly, I hope to make the necessary adjustment this week-end when winding. Well hope you are both keeping as well as may be expected.


**One may ask how a window-frame (with or without glass) was transported from Clevedon to Ruislip. Two options occur: 1) it went by train as with all other parcels – entrusted to someone who passed it on to someone else etc. etc. etc. and then presumably brought home by Alec on the Tube, but I think this is unlikely. 2) Geoff – or someone else with a car – was able to deliver it. Other candidates are a) Peter, June’s brother – he was at the time working for a removal firm and may have been in the West Country on business; b) Doug Gray and c) Eric Benn, the other neighbour, who was employed by the BBC and ended up moving to Weston-super-Mare. This is the sort of extremely trivial question to which I would very much like to have an answer.