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Sunday, March 08, 2009


I know this is nothing to do with gardening but Mrs Nesbitt ( ) posted about her dolls and I couldn't resist showing this photo (I can't do any gardening at the why not?!!!)

My sister Gillian and I are in the back garden at 4 Manor Road, London Colney, Hertfordshire in summer 1958. We had just been given our new dolls.... Rosebud teenage dolls. Bigger than Sindy dolls; but I don't think Sindys were out just yet although I may be wrong. Mine was called Rosamund....I've forgotten what Gill's was called....Marguerite comes to mind but that may be fanciful.

We lived on a large council estate and loved it. We were there from when it was built in 1952 (I remember clearly the day we moved in although I was only 2.)

Before getting this house we had been living in one room in Napsbury not far away, in the downstairs front room of a semi-detached house. I remember the room with its double bed for Mum and Dad, and three cots for us kids; me, Gillian and Paul, who was born when I was 2 years 3 months old. It was very very crowded.

In 1959 we moved away from here to a house in St Albans that Dad bought (with a mortgage) to get on the property ladder.

In this picture we are wearing dresses that Mum made for us. She used to buy whole bolts of cloth at the market and make our dresses and for our cousin too. So we had a sort of uniform!!! Actually all the dresses (including the gingham ones for school) were made from this simple pattern.....just a bodice, with a gathered skirt, and with bias binding around the neck and armholes. They were buttoned up the back and she sewed all the buttonholes by hand. She was not a skilled seamstress but these were perfectly adequate. This fabric was a lawn, which felt wonderful. These were our best dresses....the rocking horse fabric! I used to sew the hems and hem the binding on with her. I was always pretty useful with a needle, even at that age. When they were let down in length a piece of rick-rack braid was sewn around the worn mark where the old hem was.

She used to do our frocks on a sewing machine that she "won". One day an advertising card dropped through the letter box saying that so many of the postcards that were returned would be entered into a draw for a brand new electric sewing machine. To her immense delight Mum's name was drawn. The machine was a Helvetia and was used from then on to make all the clothes for us girls that she could possibly manage.

Note the haircuts! We always had our hair cut in the week before the new school term (so just three times a year). We had "urchin" cuts at the local Barber's. This was very short, almost like a boy's cut (but they had crewcuts!) and then it grew until the next cut 4 months later. As it got too long we'd wear grips to keep it out of our eyes....! I longed for long hair and plaits but as I was the eldest of what became a family of seven there was no way Mum had time for all that plaiting each day. We just used to run a comb through it and that was that.

Looking back I am so glad we had a "childhood". We had very little in the way of toys compared with kids today, and what we did have merited a special photo! Dad used to go on trips for work. He was a designer who worked for Elliott Automation at Borehamwood, working on the guidance systems and automatic pilots for aircraft, and other technical stuff. He used to have to go to Leeds from Hertfordshire sometimes (to a special packaging firm I seem to recall, although that may have been at Huntingdon.... and something else at Leeds) and the petrol money he was given used to be spent on things for the home like furniture and occasionally on us here. Mum still uses the melamine dining room table and chairs which were bought that same year.....goodness! it 50 years old now?!!!

Unfortunately I don't still have my doll. When you are the eldest of a lot of kids the toys pass down and are eventually broken and discarded. I have nothing from then except memories and photos....and some small ornaments (two Wade Whimsies ornaments of Disney dogs). This photo of myself and my wonderful sister is a favourite.
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At 8/3/09 4:17 pm, Blogger Fiona said...

Wonderful entry. Thanks for sharing your memories!

At 8/3/09 4:41 pm, Blogger mrsnesbitt said...

Wonderful! Love the hairstyles, I had one the same! lol!

At 8/3/09 10:20 pm, Anonymous Jodie said...

Auntie Lin, this is such a lovely post. I love that photo of you and Mum. You've got me all tearful looking at that. I wish I'd known Mum like you knew her when she was a kid. Keep posts/old photos like this coming!

At 9/3/09 2:56 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, my. A wonderful post! When I saw the photo, I thought it was my Betsy McCall doll! And more or less my haircut, too! And, me without a sister, my mother shared the dress pattern and fabric with the little girl down the street. Kids growing up in the '50s had a lot, even when we didn't have a lot!


At 14/3/09 7:26 pm, Blogger Jan and Steve said...

Oh I did enjoy reading this post. I was born in 1953 so a lot of it rang bells with me, particularly all the home sewing. At the age of 12 I remember making a pair of trousers for myself, under supervision I suppose, but I can't imagine a 12 year old being able to do that nowadays! I hope your back's a bit better now.

At 15/5/09 10:25 pm, Blogger Tatyana said...

What a nice, nice post! It brought memories about my own sister and our childhood. We didn't have many toys, too... I found your blog by accident,through one of my blog's followers, and I'm glad I did. You have such an orderly, tidy, well planned garden. Happy gardening to you and happy blogging!


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