Auntie Doris’s They Died Too Young #32: Thomas Etholen Selfridge – Died September 17th 1908, aged 26

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Sometimes people get so wrapped up in an obsession, they are blind to the ruddy risks involved. Like my nephew Michael. Who became so involved with trying on the tights of the dead that the totally disregarded the possibility that his filthy behaviour could open a conduit between this world and the next, which would allow me to manifest myself through his body, eventually taking it over so regularly that he doesn’t know whether it’s Good Friday or Easter Monday, let alone whether he is a living 53 year old man, or a long dead 100 year old woman. But that’s his ruddy problem, we know which table our bread is buttered under, don’t we, readers?
Any road, Thomas Selfridges obsession was flying, and in the early years of the Twentieth century he had been up in airships, strapped to kites, on gliders and all sorts. His motto was “I wish I could fly!” So nobody was ruddy surprised when he teamed up with Orville Wright, the famous airline pilot, and volunteered himself to be a passenger in one of the planes that he was trying to sell to the US Army. (There was no such thing as the US Air Force in those days, because there weren’t all that many aeroplanes knocking about.
Any road, Orville took him up in one of them ruddy old fashioned planes made out of waxed cloth and sticks, only in those days it wasn’t old fashioned at all, in fact it was new fangled. They did three or four laps around Fort Myer in Golden Virginia, when one of the ruddy propellers smashed of and the whole kaboodle smashed into the ground.
That put the dampers on the day. Orville smashed his leg and half of his ribs and had all blood coming out of his nose, but poor old Thomas split his ruddy head open and never regained consciousness. He was pronounced dead soon afterwards, and was awarded the posthumous Iron Cross, or whatever they ruddy had in America in them days, for being the first man ever to die in an aeroplane crash.
His heroic actions paved the way for Glenn Miller, Buddy Holly, Jim Reeves, and hundreds of other ruddy idiots with no more sense than they were born with to defy the Good Lord and try and fly, rather than stay on the ruddy ground where they belonged.
I can’t understand the ruddy fascination with flying anywhere. If it was of any ruddy use they would have opened an Airport at Withernsea before now. But they haven’t, and they have ruddy loads in London; Heathrow, Stansted, Gatwick, Piccadilly Circus, the ruddy lot. And you can only catch planes to foreign places from them. Which just shows how much London thinks of the rest of Britain. If old Selfridge had known how things would turn out, he probably wouldn’t have bothered getting himself killed.
As it was, the Americans passed a law in his honour, that said that no one was allowed to ride in an aeroplane in future unless they were wearing a crash helmet. That didn’t last more than five ruddy minutes though. Now, modern airports the world over are full of Americans with cameras hanging around their necks, wearing golf trousers and sunglasses, and asking where the Starbucks is in very loud voices. Poor old Thomas, it looks like he died in ruddy vain.

The Auntie Doris Years: 1909

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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.