Saturday, January 10, 2015

MY MUM'S STORY (continued)

We left mum musing about the way the two chiefs of the Sugar Commission used to enjoy scoring of each other and where she also told of becoming friendly with Harry Ruston.

Excerpt from 'CLOCK OF TIME' by Gertrude Ruston.  (pp 33-39) (pictures inserted by yours truly just to highlight different segments of the story).


In July 1917 Harry Ruston and I became engaged.  He was twelve and a half years older than I and many people did not approve.  When Harry asked me to marry him he told me that his wife died before we  met,  having been ill for a long time with dropsy.  Her two sisters had looked after their son during his mother's illness, and Harry had boarded with the eldest sister and brother-in-law, the Adlers, after his wife's death.  (Note:  Mum told me she had a very beautiful emerald engagement ring but I never saw the ring.  I am thinking it was possibly lost when their farmhouse was completely destroyed by fire before I was born).

Harry and I had similar tastes and were both very fond of good music and opera so, when possible, we went from the office to the West End shows which carried on through all the years of the turmoil.  There were times when were almost too tired to keep awake and, on one occasion, Harry slept through the whole of an opera after having spent an enormous amount to get good seats for it.  I did not wake him as I felt he needed the sleep more than the music.

One very busy Saturday morning at the office a young woman came up and asked to see Harry.  She made a great fuss because she had just heard of our engagement.  Apparently she had been very much in love with him for some time and was under the impression that he might marry her when he was free.  She made quite a scene, way obviously very upset, and embarrassed Harry considerably, so that he felt obliged to give me some explanation, as my office was near enough to hear part of the disturbance.  He told me that she was the sister of his best friend and he had never thought of marrying her.  I offered him his ring back but he refused to take it and she eventually left.

We enjoyed the period of our engagement despite the fact that we were very busy.  We visited the shows whenever possibly and I think we managed to see most of the operas and Gilbert and Sullivan light operas at that time. so that we became very critical.  I had to close my eyes when the leading soprano, despite her glorious voice, and obviously about 14 stone, when playing the part of a girl of sixteen.

We mostly took the two small boys out on a Sunday and as Len, Harry's boy, often wore a sailor suit and Eddie my nephew, was in a kilt, they attracted quite an amount of attention; there was only five months difference in their ages.  (Note:  I wish I had a photo of Len in his sailor suit but this picture will have to suffice).

We arranged to be married on 22nd December, 1917 so that we could have a few days honeymoon during the Christmas holidays.  We went house hunting and bought a charming three storey residence in Greyhound Lane, Streatham Common, S.W. London.  Unfortunately it was a long way from my people and from Harry's family and in-laws. but it was within our pockets and, before the wedding, we spent much time in getting it in order.  Harry's furniture was taken out of store and we purchased items needed to complete the home which had five bedrooms. dining room, drawing room, kitchen and scullery.  (Note: This is a house in Greyhound Lane which I imagine would have been something like that in which mum and dad lived.  It is described by the agent as a 'period' house so quite old.  It seems many of these houses are now converted into flats).

There were many problems connected with my marriage in wartime.  It was impossible to buy an iced cake, nor could we buy the ingredients.  After much searching and 'phoning I managed to buy the last uniced cake - a single deck - from a very well known firm of wedding cake specialists.  It cost me £5 (my week's wages) and mother iced it.  A home-made job but it looked quite nice stood up on a box, which was covered with a beautiful linen cloth, and it served the purpose very well.  (Note: I imagine the cake would have probably looked something like this)

My wedding dress was calf length cream lace, and it had a long narrow train falling from the shoulders.  I made it myself and was very proud of it.  My wedding veil was of real lace, full length, lent by a friend, as also was the orange blossom, which I wore round the back of my head.

My going away frock was of crimson velvet bought at Bourne and Hollingsworths in Oxford Street, and I had a full length fur coat.  I was not really keen on the crimson colour, but was persuaded into buying it by my sister, and it certainly looked very well indeed with my honey blonde hair.

We were not allowed to have cars for the wedding owing to the petrol situation, but Harry knew somebody with a car who agreed to take us to and from the church and, later, to the station for our our honeymoon, so long as I did not look like a bride in the car.  I can remember having to be disguised with my head covered to hide my bridal array.

The best man, my husband's friend, sent a telegram at the last moment saying he could not get there and my brother-in-law, who was home on leave, acted as best man, leaving my sister to give me away.  We were put down a short distance from the church, and Harry and I were picked up there after the wedding to avoid being seen as a bridal couple.  (Note:  I have often wondered if Harry's friend happened to be the brother of the young woman that had thought she would one day marry Harry and so he decided not to be best man to avoid upsetting his sister).

My mother did not go to the church.  She did not attend Amy's wedding nor mine.  Perhaps it was on these occasions that she felt my father's absence.  He was not invited, not did he send either of us a wedding present but, rather grudgingly, he gave permission for my marriage as I was underage.

The church was full of my old friends and everyone seemed to be very impressed by Harry in his hired top hat and morning suit.  I had a little flower girl and my sister's small son was a page boy in his kilt.  I was married at Woodberry Down Baptist Church, where I had been baptised.  (Note: This was Woodberry Down baptist church in 1883).

The wedding breakfast went off well although, due to rationing. we only had a small reception in our home attended by some of my mother's relatives and our personal friends.  None of Harry's people came along although they had been invited.  Unfortunately no photographs were possible but a friend took a few snaps indoors which were very indistinct.

We left in the early afternoon for our honeymoon as being winter time, it got dark at about 4p.m.  We were going to Eastbourne but had not told anybody of our destination.  The cab turned up to take us to the train and Ted, my brother-in-law, saw to it that our bags were duly loaded.  They had been carefully locked to prevent them being disturbed.

Then it was time for goodbyes and we were smothered in confetti and rice.  Again we had to be careful to protect the driver, but his luck and ours was out because the wretched car broke down about a hundred yards from the house.  The driver helped to carry our bags and we had to catch a bus or tram, I cannot remember which, to the nearest station.  With a fur coat on you can imagine how the confetti had stuck to it, an w were a walking advertisement for newly weds, and very embarrassed.  We eventually caught the Eastbourne train, found an empty carriage and disposed of the evidence.   (Note: This is Eastbourne about the time mum dad were there on their honeymoon).

It was an icy cold day and snowing when we reached Eastbourne.  Harry found a cab and we were driven to our boarding house to the music of bells on the horse's harness.  They sounded wonderful over the crisp roads - the clip clop of the horse's hooves and the bells.

The first things we were asked for on arrival were our ration card and found, to our horror, they had been left behind.  We had to send a telegram for them to be forwarded so the family soon knew where we had gone.  (Note: Not sure if this is from WW1 or WW2 but they would be very similar).

As soon as we opened our bags we realised that somebody had found keys to fit them as they were full of rice an confetti.  It took simply ages to do our best to clear it up, but I am sure we must have missed some of it.

While Harry was out of the room the landlady brought up her visitor's book to show me and pointed out that Harry had written in it some time previously that he and his wife had spent a pleasant time there.  Imagine my confusion and embarrassment!  The landlady may have thought I was Harry's light of love or even that he had married me bigamously.  Harry was extremely annoyed and refused to explain to the woman or allow me to do so.  (Note:  What an old busybody that landlady was and what a dreadful thing to do to a young woman who was obviously on her honeymoon.  It is quite likely that dad had been to that same boarding house with his first wife and, even if he hadn't, I still think that woman should have kept quiet).

I was in love with my husband and, despite the difference in our ages and the fact that both my parents, although giving permission for the marriage, strongly disapproved of me marrying a widower, we were very happy, although he could be extremely jealous.

The weather was kind to us on our short honeymoon, crisp, find and cold.  We both enjoyed walking and wandered around the historic district with its ancient castles and buildings.  We were warned that in one of these there was a ghost which appeared from time to time and people had been known to collapse there.  We lingered around hopefully, but the ghost must have known we were sceptics and we neither heard nor saw anything strange.

I will leave the happy couple enjoying their honeymoon and in the next 'episode' we will find them moving into their home and resuming their busy jobs at the Sugar Commission.


  1. Fascinating as always. Thank you Mimsie.
    And what an nasty woman that landlady was. She obviously just wanted to cause trouble. I hope that your mother DID leave confetti and rice for her to clean up.

    1. I hope the story still has some interest for folks other than myself. I am sure that woman was just out to cause trouble rather than being helpful. Mum didn't say whether she left confetti and rice to be cleaned up but knowing the way it gets into things I'd say there's a fair chance there were bits around the room.

  2. Visions of cream lace, crimson velvet and furnishing a house, how lovely.
    My mum&dad married soon after WW2 and also had rationing at the time of their wedding. They could buy ingredients for a party cake, but only one, so they married close to Christmas (so I was told) so as to be able to celebrate both the wedding and Christmas.
    I like the idea of the bags getting filled with rice and confetti, was a good joke. My own wedding dress still had bits of confetti caught in the lace on the bodice when I eventually gave it away about 23 years later, that stuff gets everywhere!
    I agree that landlady was nasty, perhaps she was one of those types who thrive on scandal and gossip.

    1. No matter how difficult it is at the time people will get married if they really want to which obviously happened with our folks.
      Perhaps that nasty lady told mum what she did just to see her reaction. I am sure when she saw the confetti and rice she realised they were a newly married couple.

  3. Hari OM
    Golly, permissions required, absence of parents, confusions of relationship.... I tell you Mimsie, this would make a FABulous film!!! YAM xx

    1. I've often thought mum' whole life would make a great movie. Lots of so many different things in her life until she was in her 80s.
      I hope there is still sufficient interest. I shall go on until the day when nobody comments and then I'll know I've done too much and I'll stop. xxx

  4. A lot of restrictions applied to weddings in the war days....

    1. Lots of restrictions to weddings and so many other aspects of life when there's a war on.

  5. I have enjoyed this Mimsie and like everyone else, think the landlady was a bit of a pill.

    1. Thanks Denise and I think we are all in accord about that being one rather nasty woman.

  6. Oh Mimsie your telling of this story has me riveted to my screen it is better than one of those soap Operas on the television. Oh I just wanted to kick that landlady. Hug B

    1. I am so glad you are continuing to enjoy mum's story Buttons and yes, real life is often much better than fiction.
      I am sure dad would have liked to kick that landlady as well. What a nasty old dragon. I appreciate you popping in so often. Thanks.