The Auntie Doris Years: 1909


It had been thirty one years since Frank Winfield (FW) Woolworth had opened his first shop in New York State, USA. In 1909, he came and opened his first shop in Britain. Liverpool was they obvious choice, partly because it was the English City with the closest links to America, and partly because the people of Liverpool don’t really know what they want, but they like shops full of all varieties of cheap tat. If there are any scouters reading this, I’m only joking. It’s just that my Raymond’s cousin Gloria was a scouser, and she used to swear by Woolworth’s and get all her stuff there, clothes, shoes, make up, the lot. and you could tell an’all. In a bright light, she looked like Coco the ruddy Clown. Part of it was her personal taste, but a lot of it was Woolworth’s quality.
I can say that now without fear of reprisals, because there aren’t any Woolworth shops any more, but at one point there was one on every ruddy High Street in the country, and you could literally get anything from them. Not just clothes and make up, but books, records, sweets, tools, household electricals, toys and games, all ruddy sorts. Only back in 1909, they probably didn’t sell many records, because 78s were new technology, so they were probably still stocking wax cylinders then. I used to like that about Woolworth’s, you could still get cassettes there when everywhere else was selling them ruddy CDs. Which was useful, because my Raymond wouldn’t have CDs in the house. Because he was too ruddy mean probably. But they used to have all my favourites on cassette any road, Jim Reeves, Mario Lanza, Joseph Locke, Winifred Atwell, the lot. I think they even still had a few Harry Champions on wax cylinder, but my father had made my mother throw out her wax cylinder player when they got married, on account of it being sinful.
I’m not really sure what books they would have had in 1909 either, but I bet you could get a few HG Wells’s in there, and maybe a JB Priestly or two. They used to like being called by their initials in them days. HG Wells, JB Priestley, FW Woolworth, WG Grace, there were a few of them at it. Only the posh ones mind. Ordinary people weren’t even allowed to be Herbert, William or Charles, they would be Bertie, Bill or Charlie. Anyone from round our end who used two initials would have been given ruddy short shrift, they would have probably been given a clip around the lug hole for having too many hairs and Gracies an’all.
Apart from the minister at the chapel. They used to let him get away with it. His name was Leonard George Albright, but it used to say L.G. Albright on the board outside. My mother used to say that the L.G. really stood for Lord God and she used to call him Lord God Almighty. But not when my father was around. He once heard her say it and got so cross with her that he popped one of the veins in his neck, and had to go to bed for a day and a half. So she was a bit more careful after that.
Auntie Doris’s top pop hit of 1909: “Oh I Do Like to be Beside the Seaside” Florrie Forde again. She was probably under the influence of that Skegness sailor. Well, she was under the influence of ruddy well something, any road.

The Auntie Doris Years: 1908

My Mother got her first taste of work in 1908. She was sixteen, and she got a job cleaning at a local doctor’s house and Surgery. Dr Poultice and his wife were a nice couple who worshipped at the local Nonconformist Chapel, and were happy to provide an opening for a young lass of sixteen. She always said that they related her more like family rather than someone who worked for them. As a treat that summer they took her out to Withernsea on the train. Mother had never been on a train before and said that she found it most thrilling, with the scenery rushing past, and the rhythmic click clacking of the wheels and vibrations of the engine ensuring that she was flushed and short of breath with excitement by the time they arrived at the station by the seaside. Doctor Poultice had showed some fatherly concern ant attempted to calm her by placing a reassuring hand on her knee, but his wife, sitting opposite, had taken exception to the gesture and dug him in the ribs, with the end of her umbrella.
As it can often be, Withernsea was a bit chilly when they arrived, but this didn’t stop them taking a walk on the beach and savouring the fresh North Sea air. Everybody believed that sea air was good for your health in those days, and if it was a bit damp and chilly, all the better for invigorating your vital fluids and clearing out your pipes. That was what Dr Poultice said, any road, and what with him being a Doctor, who was my mother to argue with him.they had a high tea in a cafe on the front, and the Doctor gave her a penny to buy a bag ob aniseed balls to give her parents when she came back. Apparently they were ruddy disgusting, and ended up in the bin. My mother always preferred those buttermints. But I don’t think you could get them in Withernsea in 1908.
Down the coast in Lincolnshire, Skegness was doing really well out of the trains. I bet you could have got buttermints there, and barley sugars an’all probably. It was becoming a top seaside destination, with the Great North Eastern Railway running regular day trips from Kings Cross Station in London. Of course, they had to convince the London people that it was a good idea to go and stand on a chilly beach up North, and they did it with one of the most famous holiday adverts that the world has ever known. They didn’t exactly hide the fact that the place was usually cold and damp, they used the phrase “Skegness is so bracing!” And put it on a poster with a picture of a grinning old pipe smoking sailor dancing down the beach with his arms stretched wide in a thick wooly jumper and scarf. They got this bloke called John Hassall to paint it, and gave him twelve guineas for doing it. Despite how successful the picture was he never made much more money out of his art though, and when he died, about forty years later, he was skint. He had probably spent all that he made on Whisky, women and buttermints. These days there’s a statue of that fisherman at the station in Skegness, but you would have to change trains a few times before you could get to it from Kings Ruddy Cross though. Southerners! They have far fancier places than Skegness to go to for their holidays these days, like Brighton, Eastbourne and Hastings. None of them are as bracing as Skeggy though. Which is hardly surprising, as they are all a lot nearer the ruddy equator.
Auntie Doris’s pop hit of 1908: “Has Anybody Here Seen Kelly?” By Florrie Forde. A funny story, that wouldn’t have been so funny for the poor lass Kelly stood up. The rotten so and so.