Thursday, January 15, 2015


I left mum and dad enjoying their honeymoon before returning to settle into their own home and return to their busy working lives at the Sugar Commission.

Excerpt from 'THE CLOCK OF TIME" by Gertrude Ruston (pp 39-43)   (All pictures included by me to lend a touch more reality to the story).

"All too soon we had to return as we were due back on duty at the Commission.  The little break had been most enjoyable and we were now looking forward to settling into our own home.  We had engaged a housekeeper as I continued to work, and she took care of Len and looked after the cleaning, washing and cooking.  She was recommended by an aunt of mine and was most reliable.

Rations were not generous and there were times when Mrs Williams found it difficult to provide an interesting meal.  We only had a very small butter ration and Harry insisted on us having individual butter dishes to be sure that nobody had more than their fair share".  (Note: Yes, that does sound like something dad would do.  Not being mean but just wanting to be fair).

Occasionally it was possible to obtain a few herrings without coupons, and I particularly remember one such occasion when the housekeeper opened the fish out flat and poured cheese over them, forgetting to remove the bones.  As you can imagine, the bones were practically cemented in and it was almost impossible to find a few scraps to eat.  Harry's language was terrible!!!"  (Maybe the herrings looked somewhat like this?)

"It was arranged that Mrs Williams have Saturday afternoon and Sunday off each week, and we thoroughly enjoyed having our home to ourselves at the weekend.  I enjoyed cooking and used to make pies and cakes on Saturday afternoon.  Len used to like to make weird and wonderful things with the scraps and we had fun together.  Unfortunately Harry became annoyed when Len chose to stay with me rather than go for a walk with his father, and I was accused of alienating his son.  He was obviously jealous of us both and it became necessary to walk carefully and, as far as possible, keep strictly to duty."  (Note:  Although I loved dad dearly I do have to admit he did have a jealous streak which showed even itself in minor ways while I was still living at home up to the time of my marriage.  Nothing too serious but it was definitely there).

It was arranged that Len should come home at the New Year when we returned from Eastbourne and his cousins Cecil and Reg Alder, came with him.  The children came quite regularly to visit us, and it was good for Len to continue the close association with them.  Unfortunately the link was broken when we left for Australia. " (Note:   Many, many years later mum received a letter via the Red Cross in London from a member of the Alder family wanting to make contact.  As it was Len's family more than hers, she handed the letter to Len and, manlike, nothing was done about it.  I was very disappointed as such mystery surrounded dad and his family that I may have learned from them the reason that he never had contact with his family after he left for Australia).

{Here I have left out a large section mainly dealing with people that mum and dad knew and it has little bearing on their main story except for the influence one of the sons had on Len.  It was more or less mum saying how she felt about these people.  I will however tell of what took place involving Len.}

"............there were four children in the family, the eldest of whom was Vic with whom Len became involved.  He was about 11 years old and certainly not a good example for Len to follow.  He told Len and the other boys the most outrageous stories of having killed bears in Austria and other parts of the continent and the children took them all for gospel.

One day we discovered that the boys were going around drinking milk from containers left outside houses by the milkman. 

 We also found that Len had acquired some money from some unknown source (possibly from my handbag or Harry's pockets) and that he was smoking, ass as the result of the friendship with the incorrigible Vic.  The headmaster of the school sent a message asking Harry to go to see him but he decided it would be better for me to see the headmaster.  I was told that, either as a prank or persuaded by Vic, Len had collected all the rulers belonging to all the boys in his class and put them in his desk, and nobody could get any explanation from him.  It was possible that somebody else may have done it to get him into trouble and we never discovered what exactly had happened.

 We talked it over and decided something had to be done to cut the link between Len and Vic.  Harry saw the local policeman and asked him him to give Len a fright.  He gave the boy a good talking to and locked him in a cell for a while. and I think it had the necessary effect."  (I am sure poor Len would have been quite frightened being 'locked up' even just for a short time).

"The best solution seemed to be to send Len to a good boarding school, not an easy task in war time but we succeeded in getting him enrolled in a Catholic college (similar to Christian Brothers in Australia)l where be became a good scholar and gave no trouble.   At this school we had to allocate a certain amount of pocket money which was handled by the master in charge.  If the pupil worked well and was well behaved he received full pocket money, or a graded amount if the report was not so good and parents were advised accordingly.  Len received his full pocket money, which would seem to confirm that his misdemeanours were due to bad influence.  He enjoyed the school and remained there until we were ready to leave for Australia in 1920.  He was not obliged to become a Catholic."  (Note:  Nor was I obliged to become a Catholic when I attended a Catholic college in Perth from age 5 to 11.).


On November 11th, 1918 we were told that the Armistice had been signed.  We all went made.  After four years of war it was necessary to let of steam and all those who could get there went up to London.

I remember Harry, Len and I standing near Trafalgar Square while it teemed with rain and the gutters were running with water.  We were wearing raincoats but our feet were wet and nobody worried about shelter.  

People took over buses and cars, filled up with passengers, and drove anywhere, and we all joined in the excitement.  King George V and Queen Mary drove through the streets in an open carriage, and entered into the spirit of thanksgiving which was so prevalent  It was very hard to believe that the war was really over, that Germany had been defeated, that the boys would soon be home, and that only the final cleaning up, gathering of records and signing of papers remained to be done.

Restaurants were over crowded, and it was only through Harry's knowledge of London's by-ways that we were able to obtain something to eat in a small cafe off the beaten track.

We were beginning to feel tired and, as we had a small boy with us, we decided to go into one of the theatres.  I cannot remember which but here too players and audience alike were overflowing with patriotism and joy,  The Union Jack was everywhere and special songs were sung by players and audience alike.

About midnight we wandered around trying to find some means of getting home in a mad world, but we did reach home and I still cannot remember how we found transport.  Then the pneumonic 'flu swept through the world, probably the aftermath of war, and it was said that this killed more people than the war itself.  There was a terrible death toll.  One by one families were being smitten, and one heard daily of one's friends and tradespeople dying or being very seriously ill.

In our family my sister Amy was the first to catch it.  She became very ill and my brother-in-law was sent home from France as they feared she might die.  As a last hope the doctor asked permission to try one of the new drugs on her and she rallied.  However, it was essential for her to have oxygen.  The family and the doctor tried to obtain some, but without success.  Then someone remembered that I had been secretary to the Managing Director of the British Oxygen Company at one time, and they decided to ask for my help.

By that time our housekeeper had left and Harry, Len and I were all in our double bed with 'flu.  Ted came along and asked for my help and I could not refuse although Harry was not happy about it.  Ted had a car at the door so I got out of bed and went with him to see my former boss.  He very kindly allowed us to have two cylinders of oxygen for Amy which undoubtedly helped save her life.  Fortunately I did not suffer any ill effects.

To start with Harry and I took it in turns to prepare such light meals as we were able to eat, and then Harry became really ill and the doctor, coming in every day, was worried about complications.  By this time Len and I were able to get about and were convalescent.  On the other hand, Harry had pleurisy and pneumonia. and I was glad I had some nursing experience from my VAD days.  The doctor asked about Harry's family hisotory, and it was only then I heard of several of his relations having died from T.B.  The doctor thought there was a risk that Harry would not be able to stand the cold climate of England in the future and recommended him to a warmer part of the globe."

It is beginning to look somewhat serious for the little family.  What decision will they make that will bring big changes to their lives?  If you would like to know the answer to that question watch out for the next episode which will be coming to this blog very soon.


  1. Oh I have to know what happened. Len's going to the boarding school more than likely saved him from being in one of those cells permanently he was certainly heading down a bad path. I can only imagine being in the street in that crowd I would have been scared i think. Hug b

    1. All will soon be revealed Buttons. Len turned out to be a very respected businessman in Perth so perhaps that wee sojourn in the cell did the trick.
      I think that crowd would have been quite claustrophobic. I remember when the war in the Pacific finished I was at school but not a lot of excitement. Perhaps an anti-climax as the war in Europe had finished months earlier.

  2. Frightening and exciting times to live through. How wonderful you have this book that chronicles the journey.

    1. Very extraordinary times I feel. It is good that mum set this out in her book for future generations to read. I am valiantly trying to write my life history just for the family. It's a case of start, stop, start but hopefully I will finally get there. My life is so mundane compared with that of my mother's.

  3. The Spanish 'flu was horrendous. Surviving this was miraculous. Until next time?

    1. I think even though they had been through rationing mum and her folks were reasonably healthy and intelligence will also help in cases like this epidemic. I am thankful they all survived.

  4. Hari OM
    OHhhhhhaaaa.... Mimsie, you tease!!! YAM xx

  5. My mother emigrated to Australia at least in part because they had been told that my youngest brother wouldn't survive another English winter. He was a very sickly boy for a long time - but is tough as boots now.
    I am loving your mama's story. Thank you Mimsie.

    1. Seems Oz is a good place for sickly people which is great.
      I am so glad you are still enjoying mum's adventures and thank you for your kind comments.

  6. I've heard stories about that flu epidemic, whole families were wiped out in Australia, and I imagine everywhere else too, mostly in the poorer communities where crowding was more prevalent.
    It's so easy for young boys to be led astray, I'm glad Len was removed from Vic's influence. My own grandson went to CBC and also was not required to become Catholic, nor attend the Mass they held there, but he did attend along with his best friends and when asked why he said 'free food'! ha ha, he'd gone down the aisle for communion to get the wafer!

    1. That 'flu epidemic was dreadful and so many of the poorer people were wiped out by it.
      I enjoyed my time as a day scholar at a convent and I think they teach children right from wrong (or they did then when the nuns were the teachers).
      I loved the story about the 'free food' and the wafer. Had a real chuckle over it!