Last week I published the first part of Freda's story 'The Early Days'.
Today I am sharing the second part where Freda tells about her parents. Clearly Freda had a very happy home life where, although things weren't always easy, there was always plenty of love.
My mother was born in London and was in service when she met my father who was
working in The Strand Hotel where he had joined his uncle. Mother was a lovely lady and
was called Christina Alice Mary Floyd. Her father gave her a nick name when she was
quite small, it was Chummy. He said it was because she was always chummy to everyone.
From that time on she was always called Chum by her brothers and sister, to the nieces
and nephews it was always Aunt Chum. I really think she would have answered to Alice,
but the name was never used at any time in her life. I must add it really suited her,
everyone was welcomed with open arms; her home was a haven for anyone who needed
help and her brothers and sisters loved her very much.
I consider myself very lucky to have so much love lavished on me. I do know that
sometimes I didn’t deserve it and was duly reprimanded at such times.
Mum and Dad fell on hard times in London with two children to support and dad was out
of a job. My sister Eva, who was very small, developed rickets and was in Great Ormond
Street Hospital for many weeks. They were told she would only live for a few weeks or
if lucky a few years. However she duped them and lived until she was 86. With all this
trauma coming at once, mum and dad decided to come back to Taunton. This was a big
move for Mother who, as a little girl, had been sent to Watchet to live with her uncle
Nicol but she was never happy there and never wanted to leave London after that.
I was always pleased to hear Mother tell of her time in Watchet. She told of the
time when she took her uncle’s lunch box to him. He was the driver of the old Mineral
Line train and he would let her on the footplate as far as Washford and then she would
walk back along the line. On Sunday Uncle Nicol was a Methodist Local preacher and his
wife, Mother’s Aunt Jane would take her along to the chapel. Mother had always been
deaf and used to fidget in the pew not knowing what was happening and Aunt Jane would
pinch her to make her sit still. It put poor Mother off going to church for many years.
Running errands all the time while her cousins were at home, made her feel very isolated
and she could not wait to get back to London. Now she was off to Taunton, never having
met any of father’s family. But they came and managed to get a little cottage in the Brick
Yard in South Street. Unfortunately, being deaf, conversation was very limited and she
was not accepted very well and added to that, she was a Cockney!!! The family settled
down and father found a job at McFisheries the fishmongers in the High Street, wages
10 shilling a week plus food.
Mother was left with the 10s to pay rent, feed herself and Marjory and Eva who
were growing fast and had to be clothed too. I have heard Mother say that very often by
mid-week the money had run out but she always managed to feed the girls, but often for
herself she would have to make do with a slice of bread spread with lard and there were
times when father would keep a shilling or two for his glass of ale.
They struggled on and although Father knew nothing of the fish trade, he caught
on quickly and a year or two later McFisheries opened a shop in North Street. Father
applied for a job and as he had some experience, was offered the job of head salesman
and that resulted in a higher wage. It was then that the house in St Augustine Street
came up for rent and Mother went for it and we have lived there ever since. Furniture
could not be afforded, just the basic table and chairs. The front room (now a lounge) only
had a palm stand in the window with an aspidistra in it, so that the room looked furnished
from the outside. After about three or four years I was born.
When it was time for me to go to school Mother looked for work. Taunton was a
good town for work as there were two or three factories making shirt collars for men etc
and although mother had always been in service she managed to get a job at the Pool Wall
factory which stood at the top of High Street and made Radial shirts which were very
well known throughout the country at that time. She had to be trained never having
worked a machine in her life but soon became a ‘button holer’ and was quite good at it.
She was a good worker and she worked on piece work and became very efficient and
found friends there too. I was taken to school and then it was off to work, quite a step.
She would rush home lunch time to get our meal and then back again until she left at six.
It was a long day but from then on there was
always food on the table and gradually the house became furnished.