Mum, what’s a trolleybus?

I settled in to work at the district library and sometimes at its small satellites. I travelled to work by trolleybus! I’ve added a photo because I think there will be very few people who will remember these quiet buses. As you see, they are powered by an overhead electricity supply. My journeys were made a bit more unpredictable because there was a sharp right-hand corner about midway on the way to work and often one or more of the arms flew off the wires as we made the turn. The bus conductor (there used to be someone whose role was simply to take the fares) had to jump off the bus, retrieve a long, hooked pole from underneath the bus and try to get arm to re-connect to the electric cable.

I think the highlight of 1965 was the return visit of Françoise. I had invited her to come and stay without checking with my mum and auntie but, as soon as they met Françoise, they fell in love with her, as did the rest of the family. We had a short holiday in Llandudno during her stay.

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Auntie Doris, Françoise and Mum outside our house in Bingley

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You can see the goosebumps from here!

1965 also saw my debut as a member of the Bingley Amateur Operatic Society. We had been regulars at their annual show for many years and I had cherished the ambition to join them for some time! A brief audition saw me admitted to the chorus in time for the November 1965 performance of “The Merry Widow”. I loved the dressing up, the makeup and the performance.

I almost forgot to mention that I had more disastrous ‘A’ level results! I abandoned ‘A’ levels at last and started out on the long road to becoming a chartered librarian….

The rest of the year that was … and some teenage angst

I decided that I would leave the family photos for the moment. I have seen my parents through their courtship and the early days of their marriage and now they are waiting for an arrival! They won’t have to wait much longer!

In the meantime, I’m picking up where I left off at the end of my inaugural trip to France. I returned to disastrous ‘A’ Level results but was still able to start my first job.

I was going to be a library assistant at a brand new library in a suburb of Bradford. This was the time when public services were growing! They were also open long hours and I regularly worked until 8pm and most Saturdays. Females wore disgusting green coveralls which left us unpleasantly warm in the summer! But we were a group of young, new starters and we had fun together.

The only problem, as far as I was concerned, was that it was just down the road from my aunt’s house and my mother had negotiated a deal with her to provide me with lunch every day. The meals were lovely but I really wanted to be sitting, eating sandwiches, with my friends.

It was here that I had my first date, with one of the young men I worked with. We went to see “Goldfinger”. It wasn’t a success. I thought I quite fancied him but realised I didn’t. He thought I was cold and unapproachable. I thought he just isn’t fanciable after all!

Today is the day when parliament will vote on the Brexit proposals. I wonder what tomorrow will bring?

Another side of Bradford

I always thought that my family were fairly typical of Bradford’s working class inhabitants in the early to mid 20th century. Both my grandmothers had to cope with tragedy when they were young mothers.  Grandma Falkingham was abandoned by her first husband and left destitute with three little children. She met my Grandpa when he to returned to Bradford from the north east and a disastrous marriage. They set up home together, added my father to their family and eventually opened the cycle shop where I was born. Grandma Fordham had also been left with a small child when she was widowed less than five years after her marriage. Her second husband, my grandfather, had been a baker and then worked on the railways, latterly as a foreman porter. Mum and her sisters worked in local mills as weavers.

So, I was shocked to read, in two books by Harry Leslie Smith, the campaigner who died recently aged 91, about the absolute poverty in which some Bradford families lived.  In his book “1923: A Great Depression Memoir”, Harry describes a life, in Bradford and elsewhere in Yorkshire, where nothing is certain – not food on the table, not your home, not even the presence of a parent. People lived their lives hand to mouth, doing whatever work they could get, “flitting” from one place to another when they couldn’t pay the rent.

How lucky my parents and their two families were. They may have lived life at a fairly basic level but they obviously had certainty, even time for leisure. They had steady work, they had a home and my paternal grandfather must have made a success of his cycle shop because his son was able to carry it on and provide a certain level of comfort for us.

Here are my two amazing Grandmas – both strong women, as was my Mum.

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Grandma and Grandpa Fordham, with Mum

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Grandma Falkingham (left), with her sisters, Edie and Ada

Family goings on

It looks as if my family was having a good time before I arrived. They were out and about and enjoying life and being no more grown up than today’s group selfie posers, with their “careless” posing amongst the bracken

L to R (Back) Grandma, Mum, Grandpa, Cousin Gladys, Auntie Elsie, Auntie Doris
(Front) Dad (hidden amongst the bracken), Cousin Muriel
Auntie Elsie was Dad’s eldest sister and the two girls are her daughters. Auntie Doris (Dodo to every child in the family) was Elsie’s younger sister.
Gladys, Grandma, Muriel, Uncle Willie (Elsie’s husband), Dad, Auntie Dodo, Mum, Grandpa. I see that Dad is still rocking the Plus 4s and Grandpa is wearing a waistcoat, while the women are wearing strange hair nets.

That’s not to say that they didn’t go in for more formal photos…..

Here are my mother’s parents, her sister Violet and Violet’s husband, Edwin Craven (Uncle Eddie)
This is Violet and Eddie’s wedding in 1945. The people I recognise, apart from the bride and groom, are Uncle Willie Waite (Auntie Bessie’s husband and Mum’s brother-in-law), standing next to the bride, with his daughter, my cousin Kathleen, in front of him. Also seated is mum’s eldest sister Emmie.
I love this photo of Mum and Grandma.

I’ll have more to say about the Fordhams and Falkinghams the next time I post some family photographs.

Cuthbert on his birthday

Today I heard of the death of the oldest man in the United States. He was 112 years old.  Today is also my father’s birthday. He would have been 111 years old but, sadly, he died in 1956 aged only 49.

I’ve decided that I would take a look back to the days when he and my mother were a young couple “courting”. I realised that I’ve never looked at these photos in that light. I just remember my parents as busy people looking after our shop and keeping my grandma and I entertained. They met in the mid 1920s, when he was 17 and my mum was a mature lady of 19. They were introduced by my father’s friend Pat (who wasn’t a postman but a printer from Ireland), whose girlfriend at the  time was my mum’s sister, Jessie.

I’m not sure that the “Plus 4” was ever a great fashion statement but my father was seemingly besotted as he was still wearing them when I was a little girl in the 1950s! Happy Birthday Dad!!

And here are my parents as I have never really thought of them before, young and in love!

Dad’s older sister, Doris, was married to a merchant seaman and I know that she regularly accompanied him, so I think this must have been one occasion when mum and dad went to meet them when they were berthed somewhere on the east coast.

Jessie and Phyllis

I’m so pleased that I found these photos of Mum and her sister, Jessie, as I never met Jessie. She died in 1939 aged only 35, from breast cancer, I believe. If so, she was the first of the four sisters who all died from this awful disease. I wish I had known Jessie because, from the number of photos I have seen of them together, it looks as if she and my mother were close. They were certainly close in age, with only about a year between them.

When I checked the 1911 census, the older sisters, Emmie, aged 20 (Mum’s half sister from my grandmother’s first marriage) and Bessie aged 15 were both working as weavers. I know that Mum and her other sister, Violet (born 1901) also worked in a mill prior to their marriages.

Sarah and Louise – can you see a family likeness between Mum, me and the two of you? I can!

Phyllis (rear) and her sister Jessie (front)
Jessie and Phyllis

I am getting such a lot of pleasure from looking through these photos and studying the faces of my family more closely than I usually do. It is almost Christmas and today the whole family, plus my cousin, Susan’s family will be gathering at my house for tea. The people who won’t be seeing each other on Christmas Day will be exchanging presents. (I hope that we are allowed to keep them for opening on Christmas morning!) I will be looking at my children and mentally comparing them to the photos.

So that’s where I get it from

Unlike Dad, I have no photos of Mum when she was a baby or small girl. This is the earliest one I can find of her. She is standing outside the house in Eccleshill which became so familiar to me when we visited her sisters every week. A two-bedroomed house with no bathroom (the lavatory was at the bottom of the garden), the whole family, except possibly Bessie, who may have already been married, must have lived here. That is grandma, grandpa plus Mum and three sisters!

So, if you haven’t read my posts on 16 and 20 September, where I introduced my parents, this is Phyllis Annie Fordham, born 21 August 1905, the youngest of four sisters.

As far as I was concerned, she had all the qualities that a great mother should have; kind, gentle, supportive and very diplomatic. She had great inner strength and I aspired to be like her. There was just a short time, after my father died, when she became very ill (due in part to having to deal with the sale of our shop, I’m sure) and had to be cared for by my auntie.  But when she was becoming very weak as her cancer returned, she showed such a determination to carry on as normal. I once saw her appear round a corner after she had walked into Bingley and back. She straightened her body and put a smile on her face before coming into the house. It’s hardly surprising, then, that when our doctor said to me, “She’s going to die soon, you know”, I found it hard to believe!

She was my guide until I was almost 21 and I so regret that she was not there for all the wonderful times, the hard times and just every day when I became a woman myself. I wish she had met her son-in-law and her grandchildren. They would have adored her and she would have adored them.

Oh, and her lovely smile, of course. That’s where I get it from!