The continuing story of mum's life in England in the early 1900s. (I have been endeavouring to post this for three days but to no avail so here's hoping it will work OK today).
An excerpt from "THE CLOCK OF TIME" by Gertrude Ruston (pp 23-24.)
"Another Move and Off to College
Mother decided that it was time I left for college where I had been enrolled and, probably for all our sakes, she found us a new home at Stanford Hill in North London, which was within reach of her relatives and much more convenient for Amy.
By this time Amy had joined a firm by the name of Johnston Horsburgh and Co., Paper Manufacturers, one of her bosses being Edward Ferguson whom she later married.
My college was near Brighton. It was an excellent school and discipline was very strict. I think now that it was a good thing as it set the standard for our future lives. In due course I passed the junior and senior university examinations and hoped to become a medical missionary but my health let me down, and I did not pass the medical test. (NOTE: Although mum never told why she failed to pass the medical examination, I am wondering if that funny heart beat she had as a result of her bout of diptheria may have been the problem.)
My next choice was to obtain a position in one of the overseas consular offices for which I needed expert secretarial and language training, so mother transferred me to Pitman's Secretarial College in Holborn, where I became an efficient shorthand typist up to reporting standards. " (NOTE: Mum never forgot her shorthand and I actually have some notes she made in shorthand some years ago and I can actually translate them which proves how good her shorthand still was when in her 70s. She was also still a very good typist and typed the manuscript for her book on a portable typewriter.) "My French and German was passable and I started learning Russian (a terrible language).
By this time Amy had married Edward Ferguson and they were living in Alexandra Park, so mother and I were left on our own. I was then about seventeen and I went with mother to Ilfracombe in Devon for our annual summer holiday. It was a glorious place and we were thoroughly enjoying ourselves. Of course there was no radio or television invented then, but bands were everywhere and some wonderful concerts were arranged outdoors with outstanding soloists.
We were listening to an outdoor concert one evening when there was a sudden hush and someone in authority read out 'THE DECLARATION OF WAR WITH GERMANY". We were all advised to return home immediately and that was the end of my formal education making an entire change to my plans for the future.
War Changes Affect Us All
There was a great burst of patriotism and, optimistically, everybody thought it would be all over by Christmas, three months away.
Kitchener was in charge of the army and posters everywhere called on eligible me to join up.
By this time Amy and Edward had a small son named after his father and, so that mother could be near to them in this crisis, we moved to a small house in Alexandra Park.
I joined the V.A.D. gave service, part time, in hospitals, helping to turn some of our large country homes into emergency hospitals for the wounded. I was told that my name had been put down on the Woodbury Down Baptist Church honour board for services rendered. I was baptised there and a member of the church for many years until I married and, shortly after, went to Australia. In addition to V.A.D. work I had to earn my living. I became a secretary to a German Indent Agent named Hugo Becker, and it was then that my German became extremely useful. He was a nice old boy, had been n business in England for many years, and dictated each morning at a terrific rate a mixture of English and German, enough to fill a shorthand notebook. When he returned after lunch he proceeded to cancel most of what he had dictated and reduced letters to a few lines instead of many pages. I soon learned not to start typing until after lunch! He it was who trained my memory. Once I had heard an address he expected me to know it and I was not allowed to look it up, which made me memorise every one. Eventually, like the majority of Germans, he was interned as a precaution against spies.
My next job was as secretary to the Managing Director of the British Oxygen Company, which was extremely busy on was work. I remember with sadness one of the the clerks who used to bring me violets or other flowers at lunch time. He was a very nice man but somewhat of a "Mother's Boy". In due course he was called up and gave me, as a parting gift, an excellent framed photograph of himself. I had never been out with him - I doubt if he had the courage to ask me Poor Steve - he was too soft for the army and was killed as soon as he reached France.
I did not stay long at the British Oxygen Company as the firm's Secretary persisted in making improper approaches to me. He was a horror and a married man. Later we read where his wife had committed suicide by taking the children into the ocean with her.
Next I became a junior partner in a typewriting office, which was a wonderful experience, giving me all sorts of assignments on relief work and emergencies. I spent a short time in the London office of the South African Government and found the women staff members mostly middle aged and stuffy. One rather friendly woman of about 40 used to talk of going away for weekends and taking Marmaduke with her. I was intrigued and wondered what on earth Marmaduke looked like. It was not until I was leaving the job that I discovered that Marmaduke was her hot water bottle! I was asked to remain as secretary to one of the chief men but did not like the typing pool atmosphere.
I then went to Odhams Limited, Covent Garden, and, in the course of my work, came in contact with Horatio Bottomley, editor of "John Bull". He was an ugly man, not a bit impressive, and was notorious later, when he was in court charged with illegal financial dealings. He conducted his own case in court, but was found guilty and duly sentenced.
There were people of many nations passing through England at that time and it was certainly a test of skill to work for them. My knowledge of languages was most useful as continental people could mostly speak English but, when they became excited, they were inclined to revert to their mother tongue, whatever that may be.
There were times when, asked to work for a man ina hotel room with a soundproof door, one became a little nervous, and my first experience of this was at Claridges, the client being an American. I soon found out however that these business people were only too anxious to conclude their dictation at top speed and were probably unaware if the shorthand typist was old, young, comely or plain.
We used taxis for this work and lost no time in getting back to the typing office, completing the assignment and taking it back to the hotel, having carefully checked everything and wit the account ready for payment. It had to be "cash on the spot". Americans staying at Claridges constantly used our services and a great deal of the work was confidential. I became well known to the commissionaires at the various hotels, and was glad of the shelter of their large umbrellas when it was raining. It was nice to be treated as a V.I.P.
I recall while at the British Oxygen Company becoming friendly with their auditor. We both enjoyed walking and occasionally joined up for short working tours of twenty to twenty-five miles throughout the countryside around Carshalton and Cheam, stopping at one of the local pubs for refreshments. It was a purely platonic affair and we always went "Dutch". His first name was Jim but his surname quite eludes me. He was anxious to obtain his letters for accountancy and I was able to obtain my father's help for him, but was warned not to send all my friends along for similar privileges!"
I will leave mum there and next time will tell of her move to work for the Sugar Commission and more important changes in her life.