My mum Rene (Alice Irene Flitney née Harding) died in 1999. When my brother, sister and I went through her things we found an envelope full of old newspaper clippings and other bits and pieces. We looked through the papers and put the envelope away, but those yellowing pieces of paper keep whispering of half-forgotten times and places. Places like Butlers Cross, Stoke Mandeville, Aylesbury, West Wycombe, Little Kimble, Wendover, Ellesborough, Southcourt and Princes Risborough.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Guards Menswear, London and Basingstoke in the 1960s.




The prompt for this week’s Sepia Saturday is Bobbies, bellies, bums, brushes and beards. 







I'm not sure what the collective noun for a group of bellies is. A bouquet of bellies was the best I could come up with, but I also like a bevy, a bulge and an embarrassment! Anyone got any better ideas?

This is a photo of me with a group of work friends and colleagues about to join the carnival procession. The year was 1969, and the carnival was in Basingstoke, Hampshire. I'm standing in the front row fourth from the right (in front of the cooking pot!), with my friend Annike to my right and Rose our office manager to my left.

It took weeks and weeks to make the paper flowers, grass skirts and palm trees, but it was a lot of fun! A couple of low bridges on the way to the town centre played havoc with the trees. It was made even worse when we set off along the route because the lorry in front of us was complete with a fully operational water canon! The boys on that float thought it was hilarious to soak the girls on ours. This was in the days when you jammed lots of people onto small vehicles not like the ‘monster trucks’ in use now.


We all worked at Schneider’s (Guards Menswear) so goodness knows why the chap on the back of the lorry thought it was a good idea to remove his trousers!








Since 1843 Guards have trousered the well-dressed man. Guards in the modern mood, with many refinements born of this long experience, are available in remarkably fine Worsteds, Gabardines and Twills...









When I started working for Guards, the business was located in Durward Street, Whitechapel, but it wasn’t long before they moved to Basingstoke. The 1960s saw lots of businesses moving out of the city into ‘overspill’ towns as part of the Greater London Plan. I loved the excitement of going ‘up to London’ by train and was sorry when the time came to move. Now of course, I wish I had taken more notice of my surroundings. I have a vague recollection of a tall building, an old-fashioned lift and the office where I worked. I assume there must have been machine rooms and cutting rooms, but I honestly couldn't say.

Above: Durward Street in the 1960s, practically unchanged from 1888

My memories are more about the girls I worked with, many of them born and bread in that part of London, and the places we visited in the lunch hour. Market stalls, pubs and shops were the things of interest back then.  How I wish I could return to my seventeen-year-old self and take a proper look around!  I do remember being nervous on the walk to and from the underground station, especially on murky evenings. My head was always full of stories of Jack the Ripper, London smog, dark alleyways and gruesome murders. Durward Street (formerly Buck's Row) was close to where the body of Jack the Ripper’s first victim was discovered.

Police Constable Neil with the Body of Mary Ann Nichols in Buck's Row, Whitechapel

The Gloucester Citizen 08 September 1888

The scene of the crime is not far from Buck's-row, where the woman Nicholls was lately murdered. The discovery was made by John Davis, living at 29, Hamborough-street, in the yard of which the body was found. Mr. Davis was crossing the yard at a quarter to six, when he saw a horrible looking mass lying in the corner. While he was gone to give information to the police, Mrs. Richardson an old lady, sleeping on the first floor, was aroused by her grandson, and looking out of the back window saw the body lying in the yard. The throat was cut from ear to ear, and the deceased was lying on her back with her legs outstretched; her clothes were pushed up above the knees, and the body was ripped up from the groin to the breast-bone, the heart and liver were torn out, and the remains were lying in a pool of blood...

I had no idea this post was going to turn out to be quite so gruesome. It’s amazing the twists and turns these stories take.  Something that surprises me time and time again is how one thing leads to another.  Every time I set out to research one member of my family, I find myself meandering around lots of dead ends and dark alleyways – much as I did here!

Follow this link to read more Sepia Saturday post.

35 comments:

  1. That’s quite funny at the end and I wonder if you are gearing up for Halloween. I like a bulge of bellies as a collective noun, but all the girls in your wonderful photos don’t have bulges and the ‘bevy of beauties’ is a more apt description.

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    1. I will take all of that as a huge compliment, thank you! Halloween has been on my mind lately, perhaps that’s what directed me down that dark alley! :-) Thanks for leaving a comment, Barbara.

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  2. What a clever take on the prompt picture. I had to look twice to figure out how you fit that in. It looks like you gals had a lot of fun - not only in the carnival procession itself, but in making all your costumes. I could see from picture #1 to picture #2 (in color) what you meant about the palm trees. They did look a bit weathered from one to the other - probably not only from the overpasses but the boys on the float in front of you squirting water back at you. What churls! But it appears all went well anyway. Fun post . . . well, except for poor Mary Ann Nichols. (gulp)

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    1. Thank you Gail, we did have a lot of fun. It was one of those special times I will always remember. A year later my son was born and I was no longer working, so it really was a once in a lifetime occasion. From then on we stood at the side of the road waving as the procession went past, still fun times but not quite the same as being involved. They certainly were churls (I love that word, must try to remember and use it at some time) Yes, poor Mary Ann. I was shocked when I read the newspaper report. I knew the stories of course but had never read the cold, hard facts before.

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  3. How about a "bouquet of blossoming bellies" ?

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  4. I can hardly believe it. The dignified Brits letting loose and dressing up in grass skirts I do hope it wasn't a cold day. Sounds like you had fun. Well done.

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    1. Well, it’s lovely of you to say we are Brits are dignified, but we do let our hair down from time to time. I was surprised when our office manager Rose joined in. Her work outfit was always the same - twin set, pearls, sensible skirt and court shoes so seeing her in a grass skirt was something of a revelation. I’m now the age she was then (mid 60s), and I’m full of admiration for the way she pulled it off and looked wonderful doing it.

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  5. The idea of Sepia Saturday is "inspiration," so wandering from the photo to those memories of your work days is to be expected and welcomed. I thoroughly enjoyed this post.

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    1. Thank you Wendy, I really appreciate your lovely comment. Barbara.

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  6. Good for you for baring your belly on that float, and having pictures to remember and share it for us as well! And I know that your office really had side effects from doing something fun together also. At least you weren't "belly dancing." Tee hee!

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    1. Oh my goodness, belly dancing might have been a step too far :-) Thanks for coming over for a visit, Barbara.

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  7. What great memories and wonderful costumes. At my age it would be an embarassment of bellies but in 1969, I'd say you all looked pretty good. The guy without his pants must have just gotten caught up in the moment. Most enjoyable.

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    1. Oh I agree with you. It was one thing then but a completely different thing now – an embarrassment indeed! I’m so pleased you enjoyed the post, Barbara.

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    1. I rather like that, thank you! 😊

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  9. Ooh yes....Sepia Saturday certainly takes you on lots of twists and turns! Great story.

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    1. You can say that again Alex! Thanks for your comment, Barbara

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  10. From belles to a jack the Ripper victim is quite a story. Recently I believe they have identified the identity of the killer.

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    1. I read something about his being identified by DNA but then another report said it wasn't the case so I'm not sure. Thanks for calling in, Barbara

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  11. Barbara, you commuting to 'Smoke' is something I would never have guessed about your past. Did you read the 'Times' too?
    Lovely pictures of the carnival. Afraid I never got to enjoy such fun with my work mates, although 'Crossing the Line' could be quite amusing. So long as it wasn't you getting the treatment.

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    1. Hi John,
      I don’t think we were in touch very much during this time. I started work as a shop assistant in Odiham and then moved to Radio House (a TV rental business) also in Odiham. While there I trained as a Burroughs accounts machine operator (the forerunner of the computer) and learnt to type. That enabled me to get a couple of jobs in London. I worked at Guards for a while and at The AA (Automobile Association) in Leicester Square. I thought I was quite the bee’s knees ‘going up to town’ but I didn’t take to reading The Times!
      I'm looking forward to reading about your working life - there are big chunks of time I know nothing about.
      You are obviously home safe; hope it was a good journey. Barbara.

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    2. Yes, home again and slowly getting back to normal thank you. More in a "Yorkshire Post" later.

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    3. Thanks John, I shall look forward to it. I've got the next part of Sue's story ready to put on later this week, and then another I've done, so no hurry.

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  12. I love this take on the theme and what a great pair of photos! Really neat how so many joined in on the float, and the guy without trousers is too funny - maybe he just wanted to join in.. someone should've gotten him a grass skirt too!

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    1. I think we probably needed a bigger float, but it was still a lot of fun. I honestly don’t know why he removed his trousers, in fact, I didn’t realise he had until I looked at the ‘photo. It just shows how observant I was back then!

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  13. Hawaiian skirts in London seems strange but it was a carnival...quite a contrast to thoughts if Jack the Ripper haunting the lanes and alleys of London.

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    1. Hi Pauleen, anything goes at carnival time but considering how cold it was we might have done better choosing something that required more clothes! I had no idea I was going to end up with Jack the Ripper when I started the post it just evolved that way. Oh dear, my mind is obviously in turmoil. :-)

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  14. Definitely belles, not bellies! My son-in-law was born in Basingstoke, and his family still live in the area.

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    1. It’s a small world! Our son was born in Basingstoke, but he lives in Australia with his wife and two children. He met his wife (an Australian) when he went there to work, and he’s made it his permanent home.

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    2. Likewise, as our daughter is Australian. They originally met here but didn't get together until she went to the UK to work. They now have a baby and a house in London, but I hope they move over here one day. Either way it's a long way to visit! The name Kiddle doesn't ring a bell by any chance?

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    3. I hope our son and his family move back to the UK one day too. We’ve visited them in Adelaide four times, but the journey feels longer each time we do it.
      I don’t know anyone named kiddle, sorry. Our daughter in law's maiden name is Briddon. She has seven brothers and sisters some in Adelaide and some in Brisbane – I don’t suppose you've ever come across them?

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  15. Hi Barbara
    Enjoyed this post and remember the photo's. What lovely figures all you ladies had ( you still have by the way!). Wished I could have been there to see the float in person. Scary to remember how hard up Bob and I were at that time, struggling along with 4 young children. I remember thinking how brave you were going up to Town to work. xx

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    2. Hi sue, not brave - just stubborn, mum and dad were dead set against it.
      I think the 'figure' was always less than perfect, but thank you!
      I remember those days, you and Bob were hard up, but they were still good years. I always loved visiting. xx

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I really appreciate your comment. Thank you!
Barbara x

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