Breakfast at 'Auntie' Ruth's

Dad was in the merchant navy throughout my childhood in the 1950’s, and was often away on long voyages. Mum was supervisor to a group of women who cleaned the big liners when they arrived back in port in Southampton. She would have to leave for work at 6.30am so during the week I would be looked after by ‘Auntie’ Ruth who lived across the road. She wasn’t really my aunt; she was a friend of mum’s. She had five children, the eldest, a boy, and four girls. The two elder girls were my friends.  Marilyn, who was a year older than me, and Doreen, a year younger. We attended the same girls junior school in Ludlow Road.

On schooldays, Marilyn would come over to my house to wake me at 7.30am, and after dressing in my maroon and blue uniform I would make my way to ‘Auntie’ Ruth’s house. A bowl of cereal - usually corn flakes or puffed wheat - and a cup of tea would be waiting, and I would join the others at the table.

'Auntie Ruth' bought Horniman’s tea. On one side of the packet there was a 2d stamp.  These you could stick to a savings card until it was full and then exchange for one pound. Inside the packet there would be a small picture card of an animal with some basic information on the reverse side, and for sixpence you could purchase an album in which to save them. I tried to persuade mum to buy Horniman’s tea, confident that the 2d stamp would be enough to tempt her but to no avail. She did however, start buying Brooke Bond tea, and I was delighted to find that they also inserted wildlife pictures inside the packets.

Breakfast finished, we children would form a line in the scullery beside the wooden draining board. Auntie Ruth stood in front of the large, stone sink which held a bowl of warm water. She dipped a flannel into the water, rubbed some carbolic soap onto it, and one by one we stepped before her to have our faces and hands vigorously scrubbed. After washing and cleaning our teeth, it was time for our hair to be combed and parted neatly, an often painful experience if the hair was tangled which more often than not it was. For the girls the finishing touch was a ribbon tied into a bow. Being a bit of a tomboy I hated wearing ribbons.  Needless to say it wasn’t in my hair for long.

All shiny-faced, and smart in our matching uniforms, Marilyn, Doreen, and I would begin our journey to school. We each had 3d to spend in Jenkins sweet shop across the road from the school. We would rarely take the bus even if it rained. It would cost us half our spending money. No! we kept a tight hold of our money for the treats, such as a Twinnies ice lolly, or a packet of Imps, that awaited us at Jenkins.

The End

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