Whose bottoms are these?
I talked to my local WI a while back, appealing to members to do two things:-
Who is the baby?
One, make sure that your photographs, in particular, the older ones, are labelled.
There is nothing worse than inheriting a box full of photographs and having to try to guess the identity of the ancestors in them. Indeed, some of the pictures may be of family friends, but with no identification these can be put down as genetically linked in ignorance by family members in the future.
Two, write your memoirs. By this, I don’t necessarily mean to write a chronological account of your life from birth, but more to write down some of the family stories you remember, snapshots of time, if you like. Perhaps have a pretty box and keep the paragraphs you write on notepaper in this. Make sure it is clearly labelled.
By now, you may be saying that no one in my family will be interested. But here’s the thing, it’s often when you have gone that family members wish they had asked you questions about your childhood, or your grandad’s war service. Think about leaving this simple legacy as you go along and then it doesn’t have to be a big chore.
When I gave my talk to the WI, my mother was in the audience – scary! Mom has been writing her memories down for me for quite a few years now and I read aloud a piece she had written about contracting diphtheria as a child. With Mom’s permission, I reproduce this below as encouragement for you to begin your own memoir/story collection.
Another positively identified photo
Properly labelled photographs allow positive identification
When I was six years old I really admired a boy in my class at school named Robert. He could wee up the wall in a pattern, I was fascinated. About this time, a lot of children were falling ill with an infection named Diphtheria.
One evening I was sitting on the settee in front of the fire, my throat hurt, I couldn’t swallow and the gas light was too bright. My mother had sent for the doctor, he tested my chest, etc. and gave me an injection in my buttock, it hurt.
Yes, I had caught Diphtheria.
The doctor, Dr Mitchell said I would have to go to hospital. Mom said, “No, they die in hospital”. We lived with my fathers’ mother, Gran Browning. She had her bed in the front room downstairs. Mom and Dad had the bigger bedroom at the back of the house and partly over the entry. My little sister Jill, two years old, shared the front bedroom with me.
Gran helped the midwife, Nurse Rann, after a baby had been born she stayed at the house for as long as the mother needed help. Mom sent a message (not many telephones in those days) and Gran came right home to live with me in my bedroom.
We couldn’t have contact with other members of the family so meals were left outside the door, I don’t remember much of that time. I must have been a bit better on Christmas morning, because I remember leaning out of bed to look across the top of the stairs into the other bedroom. Jill was standing proudly holding the handle of a dolls pram. I can’t remember what Father Christmas left for me unless they kept my presents till I was better.
My mother told me years later that she used to blow a powder, Flowers of Sulphur, down Jill’s throat and believed that was the reason Jill didn’t catch the disease. Time didn’t mean anything to me then, but I must have been out of danger because Mom and Dad were in the bedroom with Gran and me. Someone had put a Shirley Temple cut-out on the wall under the gas light at the side of the fireplace and Mom was fitting the paper dresses and hats on to the figure.
Panic, a smell of gas, the nail had been knocked into the gas pipe.
I wasn’t moved out of the bedroom, because I remember a man wearing a mask coming to repair the leak. Gran and I spent a lot of time looking at the sky and seeing objects and patterns in the clouds.
My last memory of that time was Jill and me at the bottom of the stairs, looking up at a man in a padded suit, hood and mask. He was pumping some yellowy egg smelling vapour into the closed sealed bedroom door.
I now know he was fumigating the bedroom to kill the infection.
I never saw Robert at school again, he was one of the children who didn’t return home.
EDITOR: Morton Gray has a new novel out available to buy as an ebook here.