You may have noticed from my previous blogs that I tend to write a lot about my paternal ancestors, particularly those on my paternal grandmother’s line. This is mostly due to the fact that my dad’s family are the storytellers. Whenever we get together, there is always talk of the past and how life was ‘back in the day’. But today, I am going to tell you a little about my maternal line.
I’ve written about my grandparents, and how they met (in my blog Chance Encounters of the Past Generations) and even told the story of my maternal grandfather’s mother Christina Perry née Vinton/Wilkinson, but I’ve never really had much to say about the Bush line of my family tree. This is mainly because my maternal grandmother doesn’t remember a lot from the early part of her life. My Nanna and I are very close, chatting every week over the telephone, but whilst she is always happy to talk about the good ol’ days, she just doesn’t have a great memory for these things.
I am extremely lucky to still have both of my grandmothers; and in recent years, when visiting, I have recorded conversations (with their permission of course) not just to document what they have to say, but also because I know that one day in the future I will find great comfort in hearing their voices again. During these conversations I don’t ask the standard questions such as ‘What were your grandparents’ names and dates of birth’ but things like ‘Did you like school? What was your favourite dinner? What did your home look like?’. Unfortunately, my Nanna says it just wasn’t important to remember stuff like that – however, I am ever hopeful that I will jog her memory one day and something will pop into her mind! So until then, here are a few recollections from my Nanna’s life that I’d like to share with you.
Betty Jane Bush was the first child born to Alfred John and Ellen Mary Ann Bush (née Bennett). Ellen had had quite a few miscarriages, and following the problematic birth of Betty, was told by doctors not to have any more children as next time could prove fatal. Alfred and Ellen didn’t listen to this advice, and went on to have five sons: Michael John (Mickey), Barry James, Robert William (Bobby), John David (Johnny) and Richard Alfred.
Alfred and Ellen were very good friends with a couple named Albert and Ada Sandrof (née Medson) – their daughter Joyce and my Nanna became best friends. In fact, they were evacuated together during WWII, to a farm in Wales. Nan didn’t like it all and was rather glad to be home three weeks later. Joycie married Godfrey (Geoff) King, and she and Nan remained good friends throughout their lives, but sadly lost touch a while ago.
Nan remembers going to the station every morning to greet her dad after finishing his nightshift working at Fords. She recalls how he limped down the road back to their home in Cromwell Road, East Ham because he ‘suffered with his feet’. Alf was a hard worker, who was always tired. He worked in garages fitting parts on cars, drove heavy goods vehicles, and during a time before Health and Safety as we know it, frequently sustained injuries. He once had a near-death experience when a very large, heavy garage door fell on him.
My great grandmother Ellen (affectionately known as Nell) would often send Nan to Green Street butchers to ask for a cooked sheep’s head for Alf, who would request that the eyes be left in. They kept rabbits and a couple of chickens, but didn’t have enough time, or space, to grow any veg.
In her teens, Nan looked forward to going to the pictures on Sunday afternoons. She and her friends would draw lines up the back of their legs with an eye pencil, and being good looking girls, would often attract attention from boys, who would inevitably ask them out. She remembers once being saved from a rather enthusiastic young man who had offered to walk her home. As he attempted to gently steer Nan towards a nearby alley, Mrs Puck’s dog barked madly and frightened him off. Nan didn’t find the experience upsetting, he was just a nervous, naïve lad trying his luck – she found the incident rather laughable.
I hope to have more stories about the Bush/Bennett families to share with you soon, but in the meantime, I implore you to speak with your living relatives and record their stories before it’s too late. All too often I hear the comment “I wish I’d listened more“. When you do discover something new, I’d love to hear about it, so do please get in touch.