Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Meeting, Dating, Mating

MEETING, DATING, MATING.

I’ve heard it said that the Devil makes work for idle hands.  Well, I think he also makes work for idle brains.  

Lately, I’ve been in a rut of nothingness.  I can’t seem to create anything for my ETSY store and I’ve not made any contribution to my blog.  Today, as I’ve been sitting on my couch idly staring into space it could only be the devil that has me contemplating the methods that today’s youth use to “find each other”, or otherwise make a lifetime connection.

When I hear about Internet dating sites, I think how different that must be from the methods used in my youth.  

I’m pretty sure my children know that their father and I met at a local dance hall.  The local pub and ballroom dancing were the accepted techniques for meeting a member of the opposite sex.  If you were planning on the dancing routine you needed to be able to dance, hence the Sunday afternoon “tea dances” were I good place to hone one’s skills in that department. 

So, as my thoughts traveled down this rabbit hole I started to wonder: How did our mother and father meet?   I don’t think I ever knew.  Did they meet at a pub?  Did they meet at a dance hall? Could they dance?  Yes, they could.  I know because Mum could do a very excellent “Charleston”, with knees and arms gyrating in perfect time to the music. 

Dad, on the other hand, in the kitchen, taught me (a very apprehensive and nervous 15-year-old about to go to her first Sunday tea dance) how to do the “Two-step”.  I remember him telling me to listen to the beat of the music and just let your feet follow. 
This dance should not be confused with the Western Two-Step, it was more like the Fox Trot, nevertheless, while it was not a dance that was popular in my dancing days, his advice still held true.

By the age of seventeen I had mastered the art of social ballroom dancing and had graduated to the night time occasions.  So, with Mom’s admonition: “Don’t let them ply you with port!” and my good friend Jean, I went connection hunting.

Every weekend, Jean and I investigated many of the Mecca dance halls across London including the Hammersmith Palais and the Lyceum in the Strand which had been converted from a cinema and still retained a sloping floor, but our favourite was the local Locarno in Streatham. 
This is how it looked when empty - can't remember ever seeing it that way!
So it was, that one evening I was walking down the stairs to the dance hall, as D was walking up, he changed his mind and his direction as he accompanied me down.
The Ladies and Gents were upstairs!
And so, it began.

This wouldn’t be a blog about the Covey if I didn’t include the other members.  I don’t know for sure how they met, so I have taken the liberty of approaching the female contingent to fill in the rest of this information.

I’ll start with the youngest member LLB.  They followed the tried and true British method of meeting in a pub, but beyond that, nothing is tried and true, it could have been, as his wife put it: Destiny!

The destiny part starts three months earlier in August 1965, when Mum & LLB made a visit to Canada.  Apparently, Mum was hoping that he’d meet a gorgeous Canadian girl.  Why she would want that I won’t even try to guess, but he didn’t meet anyone, they returned to England, so the point is moot.  Meanwhile, back in Canada, a real-live-gorgeous-Canadian girl is planning her extended visit to England, to stay with a cousin in Harrow.  Harrow is about 10 miles north-west of central London.  It’s famous for a boy’s school that was founded in 1572  by John Lyon under a Royal Charter of Elizabeth I.   Real live Canadian girl whom I shall call “Sh” visits her other Aunt and Cousins who happen to live a hop skip and a jump from our family home.  (Starting to get strange eh?). With the exception of the name deletion: I’ll let her words fill in the rest:

I went to the Bank of Swans with my cousin and saw LLB there, I never spoke with him, but I told my cousin I would like to meet him.   
The next weekend when I went back to visit my aunt I had hoped they might have set something up, but when I got there my cousin was out with his girlfriend, so it looked like my evening would be spent watching TV with my Aunt and Uncle.
I suggested to my Uncle that I would go down to the Off Licence in the pub and pick up some cigarettes for him, and when I got there LLB was playing darts w
ith his friends, I struck up a conversation, he walked me home, and the rest is history.  
Looks as if it needs a bit of a spruce up now.  Back then it would have been sparkling new!
Once I met LLB, I soon moved to my Aunt’s place.

When you're in the throes of destiny it seems you just have to stay put and let life come to you.
One of the things I'm noticing as I'm writing this blog, is how young we all were, when we made such life affecting decisions.  I was a teenager of 17 years of age when I met my husband.  Fortunately, I knew everything then.  It’s only as I’ve aged that I’m getting a clearer picture.

We go now to our second member LB as told by his wife “S”

I had just turned 15!  We met at the Fair on Clapham Common. I was with a friend who knew one of the boys in the group.  We had a good time as a group.  Around 10.00pm LB asked if anyone needed a lift home, (On his scooter) I was already late so that would really help.  I was wearing a pencil-tight skirt, got on and couldn't get off.  He drove me home and had to help me off. 
He asked me to go to the Social club the next night and I agreed.  He was smart, charming, funny but considerate.  Also, cute to look at.  He hasn't changed! 

The fourth and final story comes to us from LS.  As you will see she has both favourite meeting venues covered,but then again, she had two opportunities to do so.

How I met husband #1....whilst living in girls hostel...I was approached by a girl to help her out...she was really interested in some bloke and had arranged to meet him in the local pub...when she got there, he had brought his friend with him and said, unless she could get a date for the friend they would be moving on.....I agreed to be that date....the rest is history....

How I met husband #2.....I was still married to #1....had the boutique and at the end of the day, did not always go straight home to the happy homestead.....this particular night Chris and I went to listen to a jazz singer that we really liked...after,  I said I would drop her home and then carry on home myself.......She was not ready to go home, so asked me to drop her off at a local private club ...
Image taken directly from the family album.

’The Banana Factory’ (mingling, bar/dancing)..when we got there...she said, “just come in with me in case there’s no one in there I know”....I did...met Don.....

the rest is history....

Just to round out all these little stories, it seems that LS has the low down on where the originators of this little Covey met:

I really think Mum met Dad ...wait for it....in a pub!....She evidently went to the Loo...when she came back he was sitting at the table with her friends....she may have had her eye on him before she left for the Loo...

Enough said!



Sunday, 14 April 2019

Oh, How Things Have Changed!


OH, HOW THINGS HAVE CHANGED

In this day and age of technology, you only have to be about ten years old to be able to make that statement.  Imagine what it’s like from my prospective!

When I was ten years old, I could not even imagine what 2019 would look like.  Telephones had been invented but were not widely available unless you had pots of money, same goes for television, maybe someone had one but until the war’s end I’d never heard of the miracle of pictures coming through wires. But I’m not really thinking about these huge advances, I’m thinking more along the lines of everyday items that today’s households take for granted.

Paper was invented in China about 100BC, but it wasn’t until 1250AD that it reached Europe, so it’s no surprise to me that I grew up without the knowledge that paper could be used in more inventive ways than producing a newspaper or writing down a grocery list. (And please, don’t think I’ve missed out the obvious toilet paper – I haven’t – that’s what we used the newspaper for!)  Eventually, Izal toilet tissue found its way into our household but whether that was an improvement over newspaper is debatable. Izal paper was like hard-shiny-tissue paper.  It crackled when you touched it!


So, if that was what was available for rear-ends then I can assure you that the quicker, picker upper of today’s paper towels for household spills was very far in the future.  We used dish clothes or rags.

Food shopping was nothing, I mean nothing like shopping today.  When I was a child, supermarkets may have been up and running somewhere, but not where I lived.  Shopping was done locally.  

Vegetables were bought from the greengrocer, bread was bought from the baker, and the general grocery store was where you bought everything else.  The greengrocer weighed your potato and carrot purchases and then looked at you with a knowing nod as he said “Where dya wan ‘em luv?”.  


This of course indicated that he expected you to have brought with you a suitable container for carrying them home.  Usually, this was a shopping basket.  This same scenario played out wherever you shopped.  No one yet had thought to supply paper bags, and plastic bags had not yet been invented.

So, in this tremendously deprived environment it’s hard to believe that our little Covey was the first on our street, maybe in our borough, to proudly hang blue-totally-plastic drapes in our front window!

The war was over at the time of this memory because we no longer had brown sticky-tape criss-crossing the windows. But it's not a good solid memory.  I don't recall how they arrived in our front room. I don't know where they came from.   If they came from the same supplier as the doomed towels then Mum must have kept that information to herself or they would never have seen the light of day.  I have a vague recollection that we were told they were presented as a gift from wherever she worked at that time.

These were made of the miracle substance PLASTIC!  It was all shiny and very, very blue. It had no pattern, it was just blue, imagine a rather thick garbage bag but blue, very blue.  These drapes had no hem, no finished edges of any kind.  I can’t recall how they were hung because the standard method of the time was to thread a piece of string or elastic through a top casing then tie the ends to a couple of nails.   This stuff could not be sewn, and even if it could’ve been, Mum couldn’t sew. 

This is the closest approximation I can make.

There was another caveat with these valuable lengths of plastic: the windows could never be opened.  Well, they could be opened, but we didn’t dare. English windows did not or do not have insect screens so it would’ve been an easy task for anyone to reach through, give a good tug, and steal them.

I never knew where they came from, nor do I know where they went. But they must have gone, because BS recalls blue velvet drapes from which she cleverly made herself a skating skirt. Perhaps they did get stolen.  I like to think that they were re-cycled and they are still with us.
After all, it's said that plastic lasts forever.






Sunday, 10 March 2019

What's Up?


We all know someone who always knows what’s going on: what’s available, what’s for free and where to get it.  

In this day and age of course it’s not that difficult; if you keep abreast of the nightly news on T.V., perhaps have a twitter feed, and have a few notification apps on your phone, you’re good.

But what if there was no television; no internet; no phone?  Of course, I’m referring to my childhood in general and my mother in particular.  

We had a radio (providing the batteries were charged!) to hear the latest news.  Mainly though, we had “word of mouth” (that’s where one person speaks to another person).  This might be a bit of a foreign concept in today’s world of “word of text”, however it worked rather well at the time. It was the reason that as soon as the butcher had a supply of liver in his shop window, within five minutes there would be a line-up around the block.

When Mum was younger, she was gregarious, outgoing and friendly which probably meant she must have been an expert W.O.M. person.  That’s how come she knew when to send me to collect the supply of concentrated orange juice from the local government offices.


As I’ve mentioned before, we didn’t stay full time in London during the war. Courtesy of our government we took trips to various locations throughout Britain as evacuees.  One of these trips was to Birmingham.  Please don’t ask me why we were evacuated to Birmingham which is about a two-hour drive from London and is a major industrial area, it’s very close to Coventry, which had the hell bombed out of it during WWII, just take my word for it – that's where they sent us.  My memories of this place are very sparse and are mainly centred around my youthful fashion sense and the group of women known as the Women’s Voluntary Service or WVS. for short.

These ladies, aside from making jams and doing all kinds of good deeds, also distributed clothing to needy evacuees, as it says on their site: “Children bombed out of homes – needed clothing!”


I know for sure we were never bombed out of our home, but that wouldn’t have stopped Mum from applying for free clothing once she knew about it.  Hence my memories of Birmingham.  A place very similar to the official picture where we were all fitted with suitable attire including a pair of black lace up shoes for me that I considered to be extremely ugly.
Don't remember ever looking this smart!
No doubt you’re thinking that free clothing was a real bonus, and it was in more ways than you can imagine.  At the time, clothing, like almost everything else, was rationed.  That meant that the coupons that might (with a heavy emphasis on the might) have been used to buy us clothing, could now be sold for hard cash; a much more desirable commodity.

Mum’s creed was: “If you can’t be rich and you can’t be lucky then you’d better be wise.  It more or less meant: Keep your wits about you, be street smart, don’t be taken in by false promises and stories, look out for number one, and try to finagle your way to the front of the line if possible.

This last piece of advice was a very tricky maneuver but fortunately Mum was very good at it.

Eventually. Wartime came to an end, rationing was being phased out, slowly, slowly, life was returning.  However, we were still a family of six living in a bottom floor one bedroom flat.  


Not that we were alone in this condition; Hitler’s bombs had flattened vast areas of London and many more families were in similar predicaments. Mr. Google tells me that at the close of WWII Britain faced its worst housing shortage of the 20th century. An estimated 3/4 of a million new houses were needed in the United Kingdom. But materials and labour were in short supply. 

Most rental accommodations in London were owned by the local municipal government, otherwise known as “The Council”.  Therein an austere group of bureaucrats were put in charge of making housing waiting lists and checking them twice, or as many times as they considered proper.  We were on such a waiting list!  I’m not sure what choices the “Waitees” had, but I do know that some people were assigned to Prefab houses, and some were sent out of London to satellite cities, but the preferred option was to stay in London, close to schools, shops, jobs and other familiar surroundings.  

But that meant you had to be on the “lucky” list to get a brand-new brick built flat in a low-rise apartment building on a council estate, with all mod con, such as a bathroom with a bath and running water, and every room with that great unknown: central heating!

Mum certainly believed in luck, but as I’ve mentioned, she didn’t depend on it.   She liked to give it a little nudge.  One of her nudges in this regard was to make regular visits to the local council offices with all four of her children in tow to plead her case and ask if her family’s name had come up yet?   Her question of course was accompanied with copious and constant crying and much hand wringing.  I’m pretty sure that the council employees ran for cover when they spied, once again, Mum and her brood coming through the door.  Four unruly children and a blubbering mother.  


What could they do?  I know what they did in our case.  They put us to the top of the list.  We were the first family to move into a three bedroom council flat with central heating and all mod con!




Sunday, 3 February 2019

Some Interesting Reruns



Stumbling Down Memory Lane


Writing this blog it constantly amazes me to discover where these memories spring from.  Certainly not from my cranium.  I’ve found that when I have an urge to put words to print it’s because someone else has reminded me of an event that may have lain dormant in my memory file.  That of course is what has prompted this posting.


Once again, the indomitable LB is heavily involved in this memory sparking.

On a recent, very snowy, very stormy day, he arrived at my door with a DVD containing almost three-hours of Super Eight movies that he had taken throughout the years.  It was a marvelous gift at a perfect time.  The storm was blasting outside causing all kinds of havoc, whilst I, for three hours, was cozy and warm watching reruns of my life.  Naturally, most of the footage revolved around his immediate family, as it should, but there were enough pieces of the entire Covey to warrant my attempts to extract portions (with the help of my friendly tutor YouTube) then send them via email to all and sundry.

The “all and sundry” part was O.K., the “sending by email” proved to be a little more difficult.
It seems that Gmail has limits to the size of videos it will accept.  While YouTube, Facebook and Vimeo have other restrictions.

Meanwhile, Google suggested that, though they recognise their e-mail restriction is a bit off putting, I might like to try sending my efforts to that great-big-cyber-cloud in the sky, that they call Google Drive.  My first go around was not a success for every recipient but I’m getting a better handle on things now and the only drawback at present seems to be that Google would rather have everyone take a number, get in line and don’t push.

The entire DVD starts off with a visit to Clapham and a little peek at the local pub.  I was hoping to be able to insert a video here.  Sorry not possible as once again there are size restrictions.

Click on this link:
https://drive.google.com/open?id=12P6h9Ig2N-feZDWkU6LSyiDx8SEG2gun

Time to come back from the pub - 
PARRINGTON HOUSE
click the next link:
https://drive.google.com/open?id=1HVyX5ER3P_EDmOeHoLJL-CRL2LiV3mcK


This following video is not in chronological order - it jumps forward to 1980 - I inserted it here because it makes me feel good when I look at it. 

There's a new purebred dog in LB's household.  Those of you who remember a previous posting will recall the story of wartime BoyBoy from Coventry.  The dog in this video is the first replacement for that long ago canine.  Strangely enough, his name is BoyBoy also!
As anyone (especially LB) can see, this is a fine specimen of an Airedale Terrier! So fine, LB decides he is worthy of  a chance to show his mettle at a local Dog Show!  
LB is nobodies fool.  He has watched those shows on T.V.  and he has noticed that the handlers often have an uncanny resemblance to the dogs they prance around the show-ring with.
Airedale Terriers have a beautiful tight curly coat of hair.  LB doesn't!  He needed to bring his game up a notch, and he needed to practice.  So he did.
He had his hair permed and he practiced the prancing.  Watch the video, you'll see how it's done.
As far as I remember - he did show the dog, and he did win a prize.
Here's the link:
https://drive.google.com/open?id=1Af6LPIv802KuxjNWkttWF7cxq5UpBBGV

There's lots more video mining that can be done from this DVD but for now I'll close with the video, that most of you have seen, of the fun day we all had at the Dubois' farm.

This is the link to the Dubois Farm Picnic;
https://drive.google.com/open?id=1qfRIiw25Ag_Fp4aijglNWC7sfwKA21G9


Some of the things I liked about this video are:
Lisa's skill twirling a baton.
Craig's not so helpful skill of pushing Stan and George into the "Bobbing for Apples" pool.  And then of course, just when you think he is going to play with the darling little baby who is quietly wandering around kicking a ball, he takes the ball and kicks it away!
The big smile on Suzanne's face when she is presented with a bottle of champagne for winning the Scavenger Hunt. I wonder if she ever got to drink any of it?
Leah ignoring everyone as she rests peacefully in her mother's arms. 

I appreciate all the “thank yous” that have been extended to me, but it should be noted that I didn’t take these wonderful Super Eight movies, nor was I involved when LB and Rob converted them to a DVD format, so all of the original thanks go in that direction. 

And, to all of those who sent their thanks with the caveat that the videos made them cry!  Hey! That’s wonderful.  It means that all your bits and pieces are working as they should.  Personally, having watch this DVD over and over again in order to extract these short episodes, I think my tear-duct tank has now emptied and dried up.





Saturday, 29 December 2018

Christmas Get Together


Oh my!  How our Covey has grown!

Christmas Day 2018, and quite a few members of this rarefied group were gathered together to celebrate the season, reminisce about the past and generally remind each other of the love and admiration we share.

We celebrated the season by eating as much delicious food as our stomachs could accommodate, then after a suitable interval, we consumed more.  All thanks to the hospitality of LB’s eldest daughter and husband.  

After Secret Santa had sprinkled gifts to everyone there was a very special surprise gift given to the hostess.  It may have been special because it was 30 years old. Or perhaps it was because it was an entirely cheap tacky little candle holder that had been given as a joke so many years ago. 
First given:  

                                                                                   1988 - Phyllis to June 
 1989 - June to Phyllis  1990 - Phyllis to Laura  1994 - Laura to Sarah  1996 - Sarah to Stan  2005 - Stan to Sue  2018 - Sue to Maia 



Or, it might have been the little orange notebook that accompanies the gift and must include some words from giver to receiver, or, maybe because we had all forgotten about it, until it was found in a drawer of LB’s office. Whatever the reason, seeing it again brought a tear to a few attendees.  Also, it seems to have been much loved throughout the years because apart from a small broken corner it's still in one piece.


Of course, the other result of something like that is that it kick-starts a ton of memories.  And this day was no exception.  We resurrected all the old chestnuts that I’ve detailed in previous blogs.  

We must have had a lot of parties when we were younger, so many memories centred around them.  Laura recalled her father and I compiling a list of invitees where we would decide if someone was worthy of being invited.  It seems there was a standard which had to be reached.  Someone who sat in a corner and didn’t mix was unlikely to make the list for a second invite.  A person had to be ready to look silly, after all, so many of our parties included a “dress up” feature, as evidenced by the “Tramp Party” to welcome LLB and his new wife to Canada.

A new memory reared itself from oblivion: that of kite flying.  I’m sure everyone has memories of flying a kite sometime in their childhood, but I wonder how many have flown “Indian Fighting Kites”?  In much later years when I read the fabulous novel: The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, I was able to immediately imagine how these kites looked and acted all because of the 1967 summer of the kites.  David had often told stories of kite flying during his youth in India.  So together, David and LB made fighting kites.

This making was no mean feat.  LB knew about English kites both large and small but making this little fighting kite took lots of discussions and lots of trial and error.  But finally, the master piece was born.  I remember when David took that thing to the sky, dipping and diving as no other kite I’d seen, it drew many, many neighbourhood spectators.


If you’re at all interested in making one of your own you will find the instructions with the story I wrote in a Childrens’ Annual in 1983:  Https://www.abebooks.com/servlet/BookDetailsPL?bi=931502699&searchurl

Me showing off for the local newspaper.


Or, faster than making your own – just talk to LB – he will whip you up one immediately!


Saturday, 17 November 2018

Yes I Can, Yes I Can.



I CAN DO ANYTHING YOU CAN DO BETTER

We’ve all known at least one kid who lived by the mantra “My Dad Can Do Anything!”  In case you didn’t know such a person, I’d like to introduce myself.  I wont waste time reiterating again all the things my Dad could make or fix or invent, he just could, and he did them all without the help of YouTube.   Eventually, my brother LB took over the mantle and things continued as the world decreed.


It’s impossible however to live around this kind of ability and not be influenced by it.  Secretly, I’ve harboured the thought that I belonged in that rarefied air. After all, in my younger days I knew how to manoeuvre a saw, paint a wall, and in some cases, I’d detail “How I Did It” and sell the instructions to a magazine.  There was also the time when I did something that no man, I’ve ever known, was able to do: I laid a basement tile floor when I was eight months pregnant!  Naturally, I could also sew, knit and cook, those were standard skills for my birth time.

Nowadays, while my brain still insists that I’m capable, my body knows better, so I don’t do much in the way of any physical construction type of activity. Nevertheless, that “I Can Do Anything” mentality still resides in my genes and constantly nag, nag, nags me and cannot be ignored.  Unfortunately, the advent of YouTube has only worsened this problem.  


I watch “How To” videos constantly but I try to confine my watching to "An Anything” that can be accomplished from a sitting position.  This leaves me with an amazingly large selection from which I come away with the feeling that not only could I do that but I could do it better!

Which brings me to August of this year when my brain went off on a crazy tangent due to this being the month of one grandson’s birthday.  I’m at that stage of life where I no longer know what are the must have gifts that the younger generation covet, so I usually resort to “coin of the realm”.  But for some strange and unknowable reason I thought that an additional little hand made gift by me would be a wonderful idea.  I can’t remember what came first; the YouTube instructions for making rubber stamps or the thought that what every masculine teenage boy requires is a rubber stamp of his face!

Firstly, let me share with you the following information: number one, I’m writing this in November; number two, I still have not achieved said rubber stamp, and finally, let me dissuade you from the idea that DIY is cheaper than purchasing “Anything” from a store!

To get started on my project I first purchased a slab of required pink carving rubber, plus a set of carving tools and a stamp pad to try out the finished product. Armed with a photograph of his gorgeous face and my intimate knowledge of Photoshop I achieved a wonderful reverse mirror image that just needed to be transferred to the carving rubber. 

This proved to be a little more difficult than the YouTube videos would have me believe, but I managed it.  All that was required next was to follow the contours of said sketch with the darling little carving implements so that unwanted areas were excavated and areas that would represent his face were left intact.  

I did succeed in producing a face but unfortunately not one that would be recognised as being a family member.  

I did not give up. Obviously, the YouTube instructions were wrong. 

However, because I’m a great believer of the Robert the Bruce’s advice: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” I once again turned my attention to my dear friend YouTube.  And, as luck would have it, I discovered the motherlode.  I didn’t need carving skills, I needed a hundred dollars worth of PhotoPolymer gel, 



https://www.colop.com/b2b-solutions/systems/polymer 
an ultra-violet-light manicure machine, 

https://www.ebay.ca/itm/36W-UV-Curing-Lamp-for-UV-Nail-Gel-Nail-Dryer-4-Bulbs-with-Sliding-Tray/182654527491
some glass plates, some foam tape for damming, and the many, many videos by a charming Brit who lives in Spain.  
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC79-vHDfB3Bi6vrkBL2f_ig
Of course, it would be better if I possessed a laser printer, but that was overcome with the help of my local Staples store.

I’d learned that attempting a face as a first project was perhaps a little ambitious.  So, I’d decided that just a “Name” stamp would be an admirable first try.  Luckily, his name has just four letters so this would be a great beginning endeavour.

Finally, everything was to hand.  I could no longer procrastinate.  Re-watching the videos was not going to help.

Timing sheet in hand.  Gel suitably encased in a black squeeze bottle. Yesterday was the day.  I poured; I timed; and I ultra-violeted.  And there it was: my crowning achievement.  A very cute piece of solid polymer gel, that if it contains even a hint of a name, I can’t see it. 



Surely, there must be something I can do with all that PhotoPolymer gel I have.  I’m going to leave this writing for now so that I can go check on YouTube.  You never know!


Tuesday, 23 October 2018

STAY in TOUCH


STAY IN TOUCH

What did we do before automated telephone answering?  Before call waiting?  Before voice messaging and texting?

I’m really ancient so I remember life before those times.  After all, I did most of my living in the modern age, in the 20th century. Everything was so “up-to-date” that a film studio took it as part of its name. It was, as Dickens might have said: “The best and the worst of times”.



The worst times were the two World Wars, and even though our little Covey did not have a personal telephone   I’m pretty sure that telephones can be included in the best of times. Very few people had receivers in their homes.  Urgent calls were made from those darling red boxes that were on every street corner.

Today, children all come equipped with the mandatory smart phone Velcro strip on the palm of their hands.  Then, our hands only contained balls or skipping ropes and the occasional jam sandwich.  When we left the house, we were free.  Free from parental interference, free from contact of any kind.  If parents needed to contact their children they used the tried and true method that had worked for epochs: open the front door and yell! Our dad was a little different. He was not going to strain his voice.  If he needed us, he’d whistle. And believe me, if we heard that whistle we’d run as fast as we could to get home before he needed to whistle again.

My own children experienced similarly freedom they just had to be home by the time the street lights went out or when they were hungry – whichever came first.

As a teenage I had a short tenure (actually I lasted a day!) as a telephone receptionist for a lawyer’s office in the very esteemed Lincoln’s Inn Fields in London England. Why only a day you may ask?  Well, the telephone I was charged with operating was one of those wire and plug contraptions that you’ve only seen pictures of.  Actually, I was quite bright and intelligent, but, after I’d connected and disconnected all the wrong people, it was obvious to all that my future did not lie in this direction.

Overall, it was a solid learning experience; I now knew that while telephones would be fine for personal interactions, I should avoid them as a career choice.  So I did.

Eventually, I made my way to Canada which was a much more up-to-date environment for telephone communication.  Telephones were one size fits all, they were black and they were boring, but everyone had one. 
If you’ve ever wondered why telephones have letters as well as numbers there was a period when the alphabet was needed and it certainly wasn’t for texting. At that time, a telephone number in Toronto consisted of three letters which corresponded to the area, plus three numbers.  So, if you were in the WALNUT area your number might be WAL230.  All accessed with the handy dandy rotary dial.

If you had a direct line you paid more for the service than if you had a party line but it was worth it because you didn’t have to worry about a chitty, chatty neighbour tying up the line when you needed it.

Time marched on the way it always does.  Populations grew larger and telephone numbers grew longer. Rotary dials gave way to push buttons.  Colours became ubiquitous, (pink being the favourite of teenage girls).  And through it all, when you made a call a human voice answered.

If you called a friend who was engaged in a conversation with another friend, then you’d get a busy signal.  That was your signal to put the phone down, go about your life, then call your friend later.  Calling a business number was a similar experience.  If the answerer was busy with someone else on the line, you would be told so and asked to “hold on one moment please”.  Either way, you did not need to spend endless time holding on to phone that is either playing useless messages or dreadful music.

That was a time when telephones were a good thing for me, because they enabled me to make some extra money which, we badly needed to survive.  We had been in Canada long enough to have a telephone and for me to become completely comfortable with making and receiving calls.  I had a nine to five job every day in an office with no chance of earning more money, so what was I to do. 

The answer was to get an additional job. So, I became a telephone solicitor.  Yes, I left work at five o’clock grabbed a sandwich and a drink, took a streetcar to become one of those very annoying, uninvited, life interrupters. 

In case you’re thinking this was anything like today’s telephone soliciting – think again.  It wasn’t.  This was no big marketing company domiciled in a far-off land.  No.  This was a room on the second floor of a downtown building, run by a woman who was on the forefront of telephone advertising.  The room, known as a ‘Boiler Room’ had space for about six women all armed with a page from the local telephone directory, a pen and paper, a rotary telephone, and a script that I still remember today: “Good evening.  You have just won a free dancing lesson to the Arthur Murray dance studios.  Isn’t that wonderful!”

Not everyone who received that greeting, thought it was wonderful.  Many, many thought it best to slam the receiver down with a thud.  Then there were the erstwhile comedians who described the dreadful injuries they had to their extremities that prevented them from dancing.  Generally, though, I learned a great skill and although I was appreciative of the bonus I received for selling the highest dollar value dancing lessons to one poor guy, I never felt right about it and had to keep telling myself: “That’s the name of the game”!

In due course, husband got employment, and I was able to find a higher paying job, so telephone soliciting became a long-ago memory.  So why is it poking around in my brain today?  Well it could be that I’m required to enter the 21st century.  I need to learn the vagaries of today’s telephone.  My landline will soon be a thing of the past, and that tiny little computer that I can hold in the palm of my hand will be my only (albeit constant) contact with the world.