Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Discovering my grandfather: Sepia Saturday 162

I have gone with the 'men in hats or uniform' theme this week and actually trying to uncover some of the puzzles behind the photograph has been very interesting.

Thomas Welch and friends

The man on the right was my grandfather, and this photograph was taken during the Second World War, sometime in the early 1940s I would guess, when he was in his early 40s. I knew that he did something in London during the blitz, but I never really knew what. However, there were a few clues in the photo.

The first clue is the letters on the cuff of the uniform; ARP. This stood for 'Air Raid Precautions' and was an organisation set up just prior to the outbreak of WW2 with the aim of protecting civilians from the dangers of air raids. They were responsible for issuing gas masks, air raid shelters and managing and enforcing the 'blackout'. Volunteer air raid wardens were recruited to do this, and at first I thought that this was what my grandfather had done. However, when I looked for photos of ARP wardens the unforms didn't look quite the same.
Clue number two came from the hat. Wardens had tin hats, but this one looked rather different.

Further investigation lead me to this:
This is the uniform from the St John's Ambulance and you can see my grandfather sporting a uniform very similar to that of 1950. During WW2 The St John's Ambulance volunteers acted as ARP ambulance attendants, and their job was to aid casualties, search for survivors and remove dead bodies.
What struck me from the photo was that despite this gruesome job, they all look quite cheerful and they look impecably smart! No sign of a high visabilty jacket anywhere! My grandfather did take this role quite seriously and he would have done this in evenings, after doing his day job as a postman.


Friday, 25 January 2013

Story of a shopkeeper: Sepia Saturday 161

This is a picture of my father Arthur, although I never knew him when he looked like that!  By the time we were born he was older and more mature and not one to want his photo taken!  He was, however, still a shopkeeper and for the first two years of my life we lived in the flat above the shop where he worked.

I can't remember whether it was the flat above what is now the estate agents (the yellow fronted buidling) or the launderette. At the time it was a grocers shop and I'm sure I remember my father calling it 'Perks', although I can find no record of such a store. He also mentioned it being called 'Liptons' (as in the tea) and Liptons was part of a chain of stores that formed Allied Suppliers. 

My father started as a grocer's boy when he was 14 or 13 years old and by the time he was 18 was one of the youngest shop managers in London. He worked in stores all over North and Central London, before settling down to this store, in Canons Corner, near  Stanmore. In the early 1960s it was still an old fashioned grocers shop, with a service counter, a manager and a host of shop assistants. My father always muddled up the names of the girls that worked for him! When he married my mother he used to sometimes call her by the names of his employees as well, which did not go down too well!  However times were changing, the supermarkets were coming,and the small grocers shops were no longer profitable. The Canons Corner store was closed and he was  moved to various stores around North and West London, usually for a year or two, as a temporary measure. Finally in 1972 Allied Supplies was taken over by Caversham foods, and about that time my father was made redundant, after more than 40 years of service. He finished off his working life as a security guard in the British Library.

Caversham foods was eventually sold to Safeways and in recent years the Morrison's group. My father had a pension from them, which he left to my mother after he died. It was a tiny amount as a widow's pension, but he always laughed about it before his death, as my mother was much younger than him and they ended up having to pay it out for 26 years!

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Cold weather and hot water

I have to report another milestone in our housebuilding project, and that is the installation of permanent hot water. Since arriving we have been heating water using a very small 15 litre hot water tank; the kind you use in a caravan. It has been adequate and we have managed to heat up enough water for a quick shower or a bowl of washing up, but it was inconvenient. With the arrival of our permanent electricity supply we were able to think about our permanent supply. After much debate we decided to opt for something Ian tells me is called a 'thermo-dynamic water heater'.

Basically it is a small heat pump that extracts excess heat from the house and used it to heat up a 150 litre water tank. Ian saw a bargain on 'Le Bon Coin' and it arrived before Christmas. However there were a few glitches with the installation and it was not properly installed until this week. After a few days to 'run in' we are now enjoying the luxury of warm water from all the hot taps, showers where you don't have to turn off the water half way through to ensure you don't run out, and not having to wait 40 minutes for the water to warm up before we can take a shower. As you can see from the picture, it's a big thing!

It seems to have arrived just in time as the cold weather has arrived. It isn't as bad as in England at the moment but we did have some snow overnight and lots and lots of heavy rain. The bottom field, where we walk the dog, was flooded this morning and the river was completely full and had burst it's banks in places. Normally it is a small trickle at the bottom but when full it is between 1.5-2 metres deep.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Sepia Saturday 160

A more difficult one this time; to find an old photo where the background is more interesting than the subject. I don't think that I have quite succeeded. Firstly it isn't sepia, secondly it isn't that old (from 1985) and thirdly for me the people in the foreground are an important part of the story.

The woman in the photo is Loris. She is from Minnesota and she was my mother's American penfriend for close to 65 years. They met on two occasions. The first time was in the 1960s when Loris came to London and stayed with us. We took her to see all the sights and it was probably the only time we got to see them ourselves. We walked over London and Bridge and at the time it must have looked a bit like this.



This is the only picture I could find of it from the 1950s (it was being sold on Ebay)!
In 1967 the bridge was replaced by a new one and the old one was carefully demolished and sold to Arizona. Rumour has it they thought they were getting the more iconic Tower Bridge.
Loris and her husband made a point of visiting it again, in its new location and sent the photos to my mother to show her!
On the back of the photos she scribbled the following:
Loris and Oliver, October 1985, London Bridge, Lake Havasu, Arizona.

Monday, 14 January 2013

The sky

I seem to spend a lot of time looking at and photographing the sky. It really is rather spectacular here although I suspect that is just that we have nothing getting in the way of the view. This was the scene a couple of evenings ago. It had been cloudy and grey all day and the weather was just breaking.

January 2013

Sunday, 13 January 2013


2013 has got off to a sluggish start in terms of blogging, but in fact most of last year was a little slow. My postings appear to have dwindled to 2-3 a month and have mainly focused on progress reports of the house interrupted by dealing with the death of my mother.

So, it's the time of year to reflect on where the blog is going for the next 12 months. I discovered Sepia Saturday and like the idea of contributing to it for the next year. I have 'inherited' a whole load of family photos from my mother and at the moment they are sitting in a big box. Some have been scanned but there are lots more! I have always liked the idea of recording family history. Who knows but someone might find it interesting and of value in the future, and if not I will just enjoy the telling! However, I don't want the blog to become just a reflection on the past, so I will try and also keep posting updates and thoughts on the present. I might try and make them more visual by incorporating more of my own photos, as I practise with my new camera.

So, here's looking forward to a new year in colour, sepia and maybe even some black and white!

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Sepia Saturday

I found this blog the other day and decided to have a go! This is a picture of my Grandmother on holiday!

Thanks for all the comments. I'm getting the hang of this now and realise the idea is to write something to accompany the picture!

We did not find this photo until after my grandmother died. I would guess she would have been about 16 years old and it was probably taken about 1910. I don't know where it was exactly but I would guess somewhere like Brighton or Southend. They lived in London and wouldn't have travelled much further for a holiday.

We (my sister and I) giggled when we saw this photo. Nan had always been rather short and stout, but delighted in telling us that when she was a young girl her waist was so tiny you could get your hands right round it!

I will also visit all your posts and add some comments so be patient with me while I am learning the ropes!