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Auntie Sally. . . A Godmother

Auntie Sally
Miss Sally Collins
Circa 1900 – 1976

JH’s first recollection of Auntie Sally is probably from when JH was first taken by Auntie Gert to the Firm of Jarvis and Son, the Bookbinding and Printing Firm at which Auntie Gert started her apprenticeship in 1922: This visit probably took place when JH was about 6 years old in 1947. But of course Auntie Sally was obviously present at JH’s Christening, and JH has no doubt Auntie Sally visited Maidenhead several times in the intervening years before JH reached the age of 6!

JH really is not sure as to whether Auntie Sally was first employed in a secretarial and administrative capacity - before AG started her apprenticeship in 1922 - by Jarvis and Son. However . . . JH thinks she can just remember meeting Mr Jarvis Senior [although presumably earlier in the Century he must have been ‘Junior’] – and observing Mr Jarvis Junior as young ‘& Son’. Also, JH recollects Auntie Sally typing swiftly on a typewriter whilst listening to Mr Jarvis Junior’s voice, recorded on a small blue disk which was played back on a machine that looked like a miniature version of my mother’s wind-up gramophone – although Auntie Sally’s electric machine did not require winding up (or a detachable handle to do so)! And . . . by the time I was visiting Auntie Gert at the Firm - whilst I was doing my Nursing Training in the 1960s - Mr Jarvis Junior had become Mr Jarvis Senior.

Auntie Gert and Auntie Sally became close friends: for a number of years, they spent holidays together down on the South Coast. I recollect receiving postcards sent by Auntie Gert from Bournemouth whilst I was doing my Nursing Training.

JH received cards and letters from Auntie Sally and can remember corresponding herself. On one occasion Auntie Sally sent JH some recipes, in particular for making a chocolate cake without baking:-

‘Another good recipe for an enthusiastic junior cook. Break four ounces of plain dessert chocolate into squares and melt it in a saucepan with level tablespoonful of golden syrup. Stir in four ounces of broken biscuits (arrowroot or rich tea biscuits are best) and one and half ounces of sultanas. Turn the mixture into an oiled sandwich tin six inches in diameter and level the surface. Leave the cake overnight before turning it out of the tien (sic). [JH has only just noticed the typographical error, undoubtedly not often made by this expert PA!]

A chocolate brownie under any other name! I still have this sheet of typed information, although it has got rather brown round the edges, and I have pasted the sheet onto a backing sheet. JH thinks that she asked Auntie Sally for the recipe after sampling her ‘chocolate cake’ at a party held at Jarvis & Son one Christmas: the recipe came together with instructions about making various sorts of crumbs:- white bread-, brown bread-, stuffing-, and cornflake-crumbs or crushed cornflakes:- the latter could be made into a flan base without baking . . .. In fact, Auntie Gert was a little put out by JH giving Auntie Sally another typing task (but JH did not realise that she would receive the recipe expertly typed out). Many years later, when my sister and I were emptying Auntie Gert’s House, I found a red book labelled ‘Recipes’ which I still have: there are only a few recipes inside written by AG, but . . . there was one for Chocolate Crunch – which had a few more ingredients to add than those in Auntie Sally’s recipe: no doubt rationing was long past! Perhaps the request for Auntie Sally’s recipe was made at the party . . . when JH asked for some orange squash, and was a bit puzzled when the gentleman - who offered her a drink - picked up a ‘random’ bottle and filled the tumbler, after putting in a bit of squash to be diluted: Auntie Sally pointed out to him that he had just filled the tumbler with gin! This incident did cause amusement amongst the assembled employees, but JH does wonder –now - if the whole glassful got thrown away, or drunk?

Auntie Gert took me to visit Auntie Sally at her home in East Ham: possibly I visit the house twice. As we walked towards the small terraced house, I had been ‘forewarned’ about the lack of domestic ‘amenity’, and various explanations had been given as to why this should be. The terrace had been built before electric light was the norm: presumably the occupants had had gas lighting. But . . . when Auntie Sally’s mother found the workmen drinking tea she sent them out of the house – never to return: so the upper floor of the house was never wired up to receive an electricity supply!
L-R Grandma Turner, Daddy, Ann being held by Auntie Bertha who is almost hidden by JH's shawl - JH being held by Mummy, Auntie Eve, Auntie Sally, Grandpa Turner (Daddy's step-father) Doesn't everyone look smart: but I note that the two Godmothers are not wearing hats!
Auntie Sally visited the Hipsey Family in Maidenhead, probably with Auntie Gert. In any event, she must have been staying with us in 1941 – as she is to be found in the photograph of JH’s Christening at which she undertook to be a Godmother – together with Auntie Bertha. I feel sure that Auntie Gert was not in this photo because she was taking the photo on her box brownie. [Box Brownie Cameras were made by Kodak but Auntie Gert moved to the ‘home’ of Ilford Films!]

One visit by Auntie Sally to Maidenhead stuck in my mind. This visit was to our new address in Furze Platt to where we moved from Woodlands Park when JH was 9 years old. I feel sure that both Auntie Sally and Auntie Gert were staying – which raises the question of how they were accommodated, because the house in Furze Platt only had two bedrooms. I do recollect a camp bed being squeezed in to A&J’s bedroom - as well as our two single beds - on occasions; and also I can remember Ann occasionally sleeping on the floor on the cushions off the new sitting-room suite if we had visitors staying overnight.

. . . I occasionally went out with Mrs Tomlin, our next-door neighbour, and her daughter Linda, and her brother (whose name has been forgotten) on a Sunday walk. We followed foot paths in the local countryside – some of which have now disappeared under new housing estates. We walked past several farms, and/or the brick kilns, and/or the ponds by the brick kilns where JH used to catch tadpoles (which were put in a totally inadequate small bowl in our garden), and JH used to wonder at the rafts of water plants (which could be identified by looking them up in The Observers book of Wild Flowers), and JH once found a dead dog (and I still wonder if the owner wondered as to where his pet had wandered). On this occasion we walked in a circle and came passed some fields near Ditton House. As we walked along . . . us children all stopped and looked at the farmer who was carrying, - on a long stick - the afterbirth of a calf which was walking in front of him on fairly steady legs; his (or her) mother was walking behind the farmer. We were all really interested.

. . . We walked back to our homes. I remember a circle of people sitting in the sitting-room of my house. I told them the story of the farmer leading the calf back across the field –with the afterbirth on a stick – and the cow following behind. Auntie Sally said something like ‘you don’t need to remember things like that’. What was said before or afterwards got lost in the general conversation but I felt upset as I thought I should not have spoken about this event which in actual fact filled me with - almost - a feeling of excitement as I told the adults something which filled me with interest. I have no doubt that I had some awareness of the way in which animals were born, and the fact that – after the birth – tissue and membranes were expelled from the mother [1]. In fact, there was the possibility that I had already seen a newly-born calf with a small length of umbilical cord still attached to its tummy. And . . . my mother had told me that – that was how I was made – when I asked about my tummy button: shortly after that I grew up to about 8 years old and so started to bath myself. Our father used to take my sister and I on walks on Sundays {before we moved next door to Mrs Tomlin} – and one venue was Norden Farm [2] near Maidenhead where I watched the cows being milked [When did milking machines take over milking cows by hand?] so I knew that milk did not ‘only’ come out of a milk bottle!
'The Desirable Plot' by Thelwell
[1] This was before the time when the Hipsey Family had a television, but JH has been reliably informed - by some pundit or other - that programmes about natural history became the source of information about mating, birth and death for a number of the younger generation who did not know that milk did not ONLY come out of bottles!

[2] Norden Farm now houses a Centre for the Arts, and is surrounded by a large housing estate.