haggis: (Celtic)
[personal profile] haggis
Grandmas Life
Grandma was born in 1922, the youngest by 20 years of a large family. She had two brothers and many adult half - brothers and sisters.

She lived in one of Astons famous ‘back to back’ houses, where the back court and wash house was her early playground. She was brought up with Winnie and Margie, children of her extended family who she considered her sisters.

She survived epidemics of diphtheria, and measles which took some of her schoolmates. Her father died when she was about 10 and her life was turned upside down.
Grandma and her mother eventually went to live with her eldest brother, Harold, and his young family. She was devastated to be separated from Winnie but she remembered taking her baby niece, Pauline, for long walks in a pushchair, as she swapped street life in Aston for the green fields around Pype Hayes.

Harold’s son Keith, Grandmas nephew is here today, as are Anne, Bev and Julie, the daughters of her nieces Winne and Pauline.

Grandma was a keen girl guide, enjoying the outdoor life whenever the opportunity arose. She left school at 14, the usual age for working class children, and by the outbreak of war was working in a local factory. By then she had lost friends and family to TB which was prevalent in the city.

Just before her 19th birthday, she enlisted in the ATS for “the duration of the present emergency”, and was attached to the Durham Light Infantry. She worked in the south of England as part of a group of clerks who were plotting the comings and goings of warplanes overhead.

She blossomed as part of a group of young women in the ATS. She made many friends. Wartime was an exciting and liberating time for her. She dreamed of a new life in the North East with ATS friends, but her family had other ideas. A job was found for her in Cincinatti Machine Tools a ‘state of the art’ American factory near Castle Vale Aerodrome, and she settled back into civilian life in the Midlands.

Perhaps it was just as well, because there she met Alf Elvis, a young machine tool maker, who teased her by calling her ‘Mavis-Davis’ whenever their paths crossed. He was a keen cyclist and invited her out for a spin. She decided not to mention that she had no cycling experience but determinedly set off on a 20 mile ride.

They were very different personalities. He was charming, volatile, romantic, a natural story teller and talented dancer. She was very quiet, determined, unshockable and calm. He wanted to take care of her and she was completely smitten. They were married on the first day of spring in 1953, every succeeding anniversary, he gave her a bunch of spring flowers.

Alf’s sister Pauline was one the bridesmaids and is here with her sons today.

Like many people in those post war times, the early years of their marriage was spent living with her in–laws. By the time they moved to their newly built home in Castle Bromwich they had a daughter, my mum Kate, followed three years later by another, Teri.

Grandma settled into her life as wife and mother. There were holidays in Wales and Skegness; summer days at all the local village carnivals – Castle Bromwich, Water Orton and Coleshill; a succession of pet guinea pigs and the weekly visit back to Pype Hayes to visit her widowed sister in law Audrey and her mother. There were also visits to the wider family scattered now across the Midlands.

In 1965, the family moved to Hazelhurst Road, a car was bought, and Grandmas mother came to stay for the last three years of her life. As Grandmas family responsibilities were lessening she took on a succession of part time jobs, finally cycling round the newly built Smith Wood as a home help.

The family were joined by a succession of pet dogs, Sheba, Leiba, Collie and Katie to supplement the guinea pigs and rabbits and stray cats which she could no longer pretend were ’just for the children’.

Grandma and Grandpa took up ballroom dancing again, foxtrotting, quick stepping and waltzing several times a week.

Grandma gave up work in 1974 after a mild stroke, which also stopped the cycling and the dancing. Teri helpfully took her mind off all this the following year, by producing her first grand-daughter: Joanne. Kate married, moved to Scotland and produced two more grandchildren - Emily and David. Grandma now took on the volunteer role of Age Concern rep for her street and joined the local Residents Association.

The round Britain holidays continued, now with Joanne on board, to Weymouth, Yorkshire and of course Scotland. There were also lots of dog friendly day trips with Grandpa , who had taken early retirement.

Sadly she was widowed in 1997, although she still saw a lot of Joanne who had by now provided a great granddaughter, Ellie who was three and just right for cuddling.

Grandma surprised us all by getting her first passport in her 80s and going off on a Norwegian cruise – she had apparently always wanted to see the fjords but reported that the male escorts were not as good dancers as Grandpa had been. With family help she also made other trips she had long wanted to do: visiting the Eden Project with her niece Pauline, visiting Durham – the place she had dreamt of moving to after the war, and taking a steam trip in Scotland with Mum, Teri and me.

As she became less mobile, she had to move again, this time to an adapted bungalow on Smiths Wood, where she spent the last eight years. Here she has been supported by many lovely carers, some of whom are here today, was able to come to the lunch club here at KEC and continued to enjoy days out in her wheelchair.

Another great grandchild Alex arrived on Grandpas birthday and she watched him carefully with and evident delight.

Grandma had a long life covering nearly a century and saw many changes in that time. Hers was not unusual, just an everyday tale of a quiet, little lady but worth the celebrating none the less.
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June 2017

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