Monday, 29 December 2014

In the Kitchen.

Christmas is all over again for another year and I hope you all had a good time.  Here at Cleethorpes we enjoyed Christmas day despite our oven breaking down in the middle of cooking the Christmas dinner!  Our daughter and family had come for dinner and, as they live quite close, they were able to rush everything to their house to finish the cooking in their oven.
Modern kitchen appliances make life a lot easier these days but when I think back to my Grandmothers' kitchen I wonder how people coped in the 1940's.
In her kitchen a very basic gas cooker was the only "modern" appliance she had to cook on.  Although there was an electric light I remember her lighting the gas light late in the day.  
Housewives in the 40's tended to cook the same meals on each day of the week, this was in part due to the fact that there were no fridges or freezers so food had to be used very quickly.
Leading off from the kitchen was a pantry, a cool room used for storing all the kitchen food items.  On the back wall, at floor level,
A meat safe similar to the one
my grandmother would have had.
was a brick built shelf or step called the gantry.  On it was placed items that needed to be kept cool, butter etc and milk.  In the summer the milk bottles would also be kept here stood in a bucket of cold water.  They would only need to be kept for 24 hours as there was a daily delivery by the milkman.  Also in the pantry was a meatsafe, resembling a small cupboard it had panels of perforated metal in the sides & doors to allow air through but keep flies out!   
Other items such as tins and baking items would have been kept on shelves around the pantry.
Another essential appliance I can remember using myself was the
Blown up diagram of a mincer.
meat mincer.  This was a funnel shaped item that fastened to the edge of the kitchen table, leftover meat, cooked and uncooked was fed into the top and, on turning a handle would go through a set of mincing wheels and be forced out of holes on the side.  Minced meat would be used to make pies and
Sausage meat.

I said earlier that housewives tended to cook the same meals on each day of the week and from memory my grandma did the same.
A typical weeks' meals would be something along these lines:
Sunday:  Roast dinner and vegetables (beef, pork or mutton.)
Monday: Sliced cold meat left over from Sunday with Bubble & Squeak (cold mashed veg and mashed potatoes saved from Sunday and quickly fried).  Monday was wash day so there was no time to cook a full meal. 
Tuesday: Maybe a pastry pie or Sheperds Pie made with minced up
Showing how the
meat was forced
out of the mincer.
meat either left overs or a very cheap stewing steak.
Wednesday:  Possibly a stew of some of the stewing steak from day before with various vegatables all cooked in a large earthenware pot over the fire in the "middle room".
Thursday:  My granddad liked his fried food so Thursday was a fried lunch.
Friday:  This day was traditionally reserved for fish, we had plenty of it!
Saturday:  Another day for a fry up.  My granddad would wait until everyone had been served and then ask for some "dip" to be put on his plate.  This was the left over hot dripping from the frying pan containing flavours of fried tomato, bacon and egg!  He liked to dip his bread into this.  Not really approved of these days!!
The last thing that I remember in my grandmas' kitchen was the door that led to the cupboard under the stairs.  Because of the sloping ceiling in there it wasn't used for much at all, the gas meter was in there and a few items put out of sight.  What I do remember though is that every month or so my mam would stand us up against the wall, just inside the door and with a ruler placed on the top of our heads she would draw a line on the wall to mark our heights with our age and the date.  Over the years we lived there you could plot our growth rate by the measurements drawn on the wall.  I often wonder what became of those marks.....maybe they're still there?

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Obb Wool Socks & The Hallelujah Chorus.

Christmas at my Grandparents house was always a very happy time, the weeks leading up to it seemed to go on for ages.  There would be several trips to the toy shop to see everything on show, my mam would say "if you're good maybe Father Christmas might bring you one of those", referring to whatever must have toy I was looking at.  Of course, the next time we visited I wanted something else entirely!  I realise now these trips where to get some idea of what to buy for me.  There were a lot of things to choose from, toy shops in those days were a riot of colour and things that made noises or performed various movements after being wound up.

There were standard items that all kids received at Christmas, things like Comic Book Annuals, games compendiums, tinplate toys made by a German firm called Shuco.  These are now collectors items and fetch quite a lot of money, whatever condition they might be in.  Another modern collectable from the 40's & 50's is toy soldiers made from lead!  Although quite simply painted they were in fact quite accurate replicas of whatever branch of the armed forces they were meant to represent and were a must have for any small boy to re-enact battles and wars!  They were hollow and, being made from lead, not too tough, so in no time at all the soldiers heads came off!  This was no problem to us, just jam a matchstick into his neck leaving a stub protruding, force the head onto the stub and he was ready to fight again.

The ultimate toy for boys though was a train set, clockwork driven but soon to be superseded by electric.  Mine was an O gauge Hornby Double O set.  I played with with for ages, at least until dinnertime!!

We also received a chocolate selection box, on looking back I see now that after the Second World War finished sweet rationing didn't end until the 5th of February 1953 so my mam must have saved up her ration coupons to get us a selection box which must have required a lot of points.   

The great night finally arrived though and off we went to bed, the way lit by candlelight and to hang up our stockings at the foot of the bed ready for "him" to visit and hopefully fill it up.  Our stockings were obb wool seaboot socks that my dad wore at sea!  I still remember the feel of those socks, bulging with items such as an apple, an orange, some sweets (more ration points!) and small "stocking filler toys".

Christmas Day always followed the same routine.  My grandma would be up very early at some silly time to get the bird into the oven and start on the vegetables and other trimmings, the smells would start to drift up the stairs quite early in the proceedings.  In those days Christmas was the only day of the year that we had a bird for dinner, usually a chicken, and it would be made to last for several days.  These days people eat chicken in various forms at least once a week, but they don't taste anywhere near as good as those chickens did back then.

We weren't allowed downstairs until the adults had gone down and
then we always knew when it was our turn to go down.  My Granddad set up his wind up gramophone in the front room (possibly the only time that room was used between funerals!) and played the "Hallelujah Chorus" from Handels' Messiah at full volume!  Whenever I hear that piece of music I'm transported back to those wonderfully happy Christmases at my grandparents house.
Dinner was soon eaten and over and so, after requesting permission to leave the table, we would be allowed to play with our toys or read our "annuals", mine was the Beano and my sister usually got the Dandy.  We would swap later.
All to soon it was over for another year and so time to light the candles and return to bed.  
Christmas days over the years since have been spent in many ways, we've raised children of our own and now we are going through it all over again for a third time with our grandchildren.  
I hope you all enjoy your Christmas Day this year. 

Here are a couple of Christmas Card to finish with, one from the 1950's plus one that I've made.
Christmas Card from the 1950's, courtesy of
Ann Kennedy.  Please see her blog at
Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a
Happy New Year from David Bennett and
my little dog Suzi.

From an original watercolour painting by my wife Carole.

Monday, 8 December 2014

A Wartime Wedding and a life on the waves.

Last time I talked about the ancestors on my granddads' side of the family (the Connolly's) and the hard life they had.  This week I want to tell you about my fathers side, the Bennett's. 

My dad, George Alfred Bennett was born in 1920 into a fishing
An early photo of my stood outside
"Granny Bennett's house in Hildyard Street.
family and lived in Hildyard Street in Grimsby.  He had a poor upbringing, his father deserted the family to live with another woman in Hull and was never seen again.  This left my dad and his mum, who we always called "Granny Bennett" to fend for themselves.  He had a sister called Gertrude (Gertie) and to help out my dad did various jobs, before going to school, to supplement their income.

He would go to the local bakery at 5AM to collect bread to be delivered to houses around the area.  This was probably as a delivery boy but he also had his own firewood round where he sold firewood to regular customers.
One of the house he would make deliveries to was my grand
My dad (on left sat crossed legged) with workmates
outside the Service Farm Foods garage.
parents who were living on Albert Street in Grimsby.  He met my mother there and they became friends, later to marry.

When he left school, instead of going fishing as most lads did he started work at a farm delivery company and later became one of their drivers delivering food stuffs to farms all over Lincolnshire.
He joined the Territorial Army and went away most summers to the annual summer camp.  While in the territorials he learned to work repair and drive all manner of lorrys.  
 When WW2 broke out dad was on a summer camp and was in the
first wave of men called up to fight.  He went into the Royal Artillery ("The Gunners")  and, as he was a trained driver of military vehicles became a driver.  He was posted to India and Egypt and drove a variety of vehicles including tanks.

Like many young couples during the war my parents didn't know what the future had in store for them so in 1940 they got married.
Mam & dad on their wedding day, "Little Gran" on the right and "Granny Bennett" on the left.
They are stood outside Little Grans house I believe, see the tape on the bedroom windows.  This
was to stop glass flying into the room in the event of a nearby bomb burst!
 My dad was one of the lucky men who returned home safely after hostilities ceased but, like most men who served in WW2, never spoke about what he saw or experienced.  Any details I know came from my mam. 

A bit now about my mother, Kathleen, Rachel Connolly.  She was
My mam aged 18 in 1939.
born in 1921 in Albert Street Grimsby. 
On leaving school she had one or two jobs but a couple of those I remember her telling me about were at at a local bird/animal food firm called The Liverine.
She also tried her hand at Brading, that's the process of making trawl nets for the trawlers that sailed out of Grimsby.  When she married though she stayed home to help her mother with the house work which, as described in a previous blog entry, was a very full time job.  Remember, my dad would be away in the war for another five years so my mam continued living at home with her parents which was the usual thing for a war-time bride to do.  No point setting up home just yet!

After the war my dad was restless, I don't know if he returned to his former job driving the farm deliveries.  All I do know is that like a lot of men in Grimsby he "signed on" to become a fisherman on a Grimsby trawler.  He was always a bit of a joker so when he came home one day to say to my mam "I've signed on and I'm going to sea" she didn't take him seriously but soon realised he was telling the truth!  He sailed in a variety of boats doing different jobs and sailed to most of the destinations that Grimsby boats fished at.  His first job was as a "decky learner" learning the skills required for working on deck and handling the catch.  This was very hard work in all weathers.  The trawlers were coal fired steam driven boats and needed huge quantities of coal to keep them going, this meant somebody had to keep the huge boilers fed with coal and my dad became a fireman, shovelling coal into the boiler furnaces. 
Later on he decided to try to get his engineers "ticket" so trained and went on the course at Rushden Bucyrus engineering works at Lincoln where the huge trawler's engines where mostly built.  He got his ticket and became a 2nd engineer on steam driven boats.  In the following years diesel engines replaced steam and he retrained to get his "diesel ticket", 2nd engineer.  Finally he trained again and successfully got his 1st engineers ticket, known locally as "Chief Engineer" and got his own posting and his own engine room!
He sailed out of Grimsby until the late 1970's.  
In those boom times for the fishing industry fishermen had guaranteed employment and could pick and choose which boats to sail on and have a trip off if it suited them!  They could earn a lot of money but were only in port for two, sometimes three days so had to spend it quickly.  The fishing trips lasted for up to three weeks at sea with only two clear days at home before having to set sail back to the fishing grounds!  While at sea they worked continuous shifts of 4 hours on and 4 hours off, around the clock, for the whole of the time away! Hence the need to make merry while they could, they earned the nickname "3 day millionaires"!  It wasn't always profitable though, if the weather was rough or the fishing simply poor then the catch might not make enough money to cover the costs of the trip.  The crew might not get paid for that trip, or could even end up owing the company money, as they would be charged for the food they ate during the trip! 
For the most part my dad sailed for the same fishing company, H & L Taylors and spent the last twenty or so years in the same boat, the "Yesso".

The Yesso, entering the lock-pit after returning from it's latest fishing trip.
Most of the crew are on the bow, looking to see if relatives are waiting for them.
My dad however would be down below tending the engines for the last part of the voyage.  

Any fisherman had to be registered with the Port Authorities and undergo an annual medical to show they were fit for work.  They would be issued with a Port Record Book to allow them to sign on for service and all the boats they sailed on would be recorded in this book. Below is one of my dad's Port Record Books.

One perk they had was the "Bonded Stores".  This was quantities of tobacco, cigarettes, soap and other items that were bought duty free ashore, similar to airports, and sold to the crew at sea, beyond the coastal limits.  Most of it was brought back home as duty free and shared out amongst family.  One of the items was large tins of Quality Street Chocolates so my sister & I always wanted to know what was in dads' sea-bag when he came back from sea!  The other item dad brought home was FISH...LOTS OF IT !  When the fishermen went to get their pay for the trip they would also be given a generous allowance of fish to take home to their families.

Deep sea fishing was officially the most dangerous job in the world resulting in more loss of life and serious injury than any other industry, including coal mining!  
I will have another story to relate to you regarding the dangers of deep sea fishing but I'll tell that in a future blog entry.

This is the last part of my family history, the next few entries will be more of my own memories from my early life.