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Friday, 27 December 2013

The Book of Me - Toys and Games

This  post was prompted by Julie at Anglers Rest  and  her  series " Book of Me - Written by You", where she asks us here to describe our memories of toys and games.  

I was a "dolly girl" -  I loved my dolls and soft toys, which, as my mother was a dressmaker, were the smartest in the street.  With my best friend, Carol, we would wheel  our prams up and down  and put the dolls in their cot (an old box), with a crocheted blanket and lace trimmed pillow and quilt cover, again  courtesy of my mother, or set up the doll's tea set for a tea party.

My dolls were not particularly sophisticated, though I had one that said "Mama" if you pressed it in the right place.  My mother made rag dolls, but my very special doll she made me in 1953 for the Queen's Coronation, with a long fur trimmed purple velvet train, and embroidered, beaded dress.  I so wish now I had kept it as a family heirloom.   

I had a "Last Doll" for my 11th birthday, which seems in today's lifestyle, really old for a doll. The inspiration came from the book "Sarah Crewe or the little Princess", by Frances Hodgson-Burnett, where Sarah was given a grand doll with an extensive wardrobe on her 11th birthday.  I saw the book serialised on television and decided that would mark the end of my "dolly" era - it didn't really,  as I went on to collect costume dolls.

I cannot remember having a teddy and cannot recollect the soft toy I am clutching in this photograph.  but I did have that popular 1950's toy (and now very politically incorrect) a golliwog in  black and white checked trousers, a red jacket and bow tie - again made by my mother.   

We got a new jigsaw every Christmas.  The one I best remember was of a winter scene of skaters at the White Horse Inn, near Salzburg in Austria - 45 years later I actually visited the inn on holiday.  Games were popular such as dominoes, snakes and ladders, ludo, tiddlywinks and colouring books and join-the-dot books.

Getting a pristine notebook to write in, was a delight, as was a blank scrapbook to show off my collection of scraps and a new pencil case, with new pencils, rubbers and sharpener to take to school at the start of the fresh term.  The really classy one that everyone wanted was wooden where the top swivelled round to show the bottom compartment - the only drawback was it was heavy in your satchel. 

I remember being  given (from the TV series) a Muffin the Mule and a Sooty puppet and these formed a major part of the "make believe" games we played. Puppet shows were a favourite pastime with the clothes-horse and a sheet, as the theatre and simple glove puppets made from felt and bits and pieces from my mother's trimming box.  I was usually the script-writer  and heroine (of course) and my brother did the sound effects, with  my father the hero or villain role and my mother and aunt the audience.  At Christmas, led by my father  we usually put on a play for the family.  The one requirement was that should wear a long dress with a stole of my mother's, or as a maid wear a doily with streamers  on my head.  As you can gather,  I liked dressing up.   

I enjoyed playing at shops, so a toy till , with play money  was an ideal choice.   We also played at libraries, so I was in seventh heaven to be given a date stamp - and I went on to become a librarian!

Books remained one of my favourite presents for anytime of year, with Enid Blyton at the top of my list.

For my brother it was  meccano, marbles, his train set, Dinky cars and Airfix models.  Outside, he had his pedal car and football, whilst  I had my tricycle and skipping rope to practice  "crossovers" and "bumps".   Yoyos and then hula hoops  were a great fad in the playground - no doubt rejected these days by the "health and safety" brigade.

Looking back, toys seem very simple compared with the range today's children have in their crowded toy boxes, but none then  needed batteries!  I have happy memories of what we did have.  

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Sepia Saturday - In the Christmas Spirit

Sepia Saturday give bloggers an opportunity to share their family history and memories  through photographs.
Where I live there is little opportunity to find old postcards, so I was delighted to come across this delightful picture in a recently opened vintage shop in a nearby town.  I'll be keeping an eye open for  more. 

I cannot remember having a Christmas stocking as a child, though we always hung pillowcases at the foot of our beds.

An apocryphal story was told every year of my mother and aunt, as children, waking early and delving in the dark into their Christmas stockings. The house at that time did not have electricity and they thought they had come across a box of chocolates and opened it up to eat them before breakfast. But to their dismay they found them too hard and later discovered it was a box of dominoes!
Some more festive card's from my collection:

A card from Germany

The postcard above, sent in 1877,  was in the family collection of a distant cousin.  The verse reflects  Victorian maudlin sentiment of the time,  
but it is still a lovely picture.  

With best wishes to all my blog readers
and a big thank you for all your encouraging comments

One of the many tableaux around the German Market
 in Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh 

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Tombstone Tuesday - A New Headstone to Remember my Ancestors

The headstone of my great grandparents James and Maria Danson of Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire was a sorry sight when this photograph was taken many years ago,  The  text could barely be deciphered.  The cemetery office was able to supply the following text:  

In Loving Memory of James Danson
Who……………1906 aged……years

And of H……..son of the above
Who died ….8th 1907 aged ……years

Also ……..Danson R.A.M.C. son of the above
Who was killed in action in France…………22 years

Also ……..Maria, wife of James Danson
Who died …….22nd 1919 aged ……….years.
My family history research was able to fill in the gaps in this information on the stone.
In a lovely gesture, my mother's cousin, a granddaughter of James and Maria, has recently arranged for a  new stone as a tribute to the family.   

The new headstone stands in front of  the white stone to John, the second son of James and Maria who died in army camp in 1917.


James Danson (1852-1906)

No photograph has been found of eldest son Harry (1877-1907) 

Youngest son, George Danson (1894-1916),  buried in France

Martha Maria Danson, nee Rawcliffe (1850-1919)

Second son, John Danson (1897-1917)
"May They Rest in Peace"
Remembered by their Descendants  

Copyright © 2013 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved


Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Sepia Saturday - An Unusual Sight

Sepia Saturday give bloggers an opportunity to share their family history and memories  through photographs.

We are asked this week to think of strange compositions and spot the incongruous.  This does mean of course that you have to have your camera at the ready   - not always easy. 

Only one photograph in my collection seems to fit the bill.

Here is the "headless" lady walking  the picture frame to the auction house across the road.  

It made us laugh when we saw this sight on holiday in Munich, Germany and,  unusually so, I  had the camera at the ready. 


Click HERE to see other unusual compositions by Sepia Saturday bloggers.  
Copyright © 2013 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved

Monday, 9 December 2013

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories - Crafts

I come from a family of crafters on my mother's side, so I grew up encouraged to make little gifts for relations and followed  this through with my own daughter and now my  granddaughter. it began with making Christmas cards (be prepared for glitter all over the place!)  and then went onto calendars, bookmarks and decorated felt mats.

Above is one of my mother's creations, brought out at Christmas time.

When my daughter was little (and money was short),  I made felt or knitted toys (such as the Bronwie below),  collage nursery pictures for her bedroom and rooms out of shoeboxes to create a doll's house. 
Last  year our  granddaughter wanted a bed for her favourite "White Ted" (no longer very white!) so  Santa brought a home made  crochet blanket and a pillow & quilt.  
One of my early efforts were simple patchwork stockings which we still use today.   
Then I became a cross stitch enthusiast  - so here are some tree decorations.

To mark my daughter starting at the High School, I made a new stocking of various cross stitch motifs (not the easiest task to  work out the spacing)  with Christmas greetings in different languages - plus a tartan ribbon to reflect our Scottish connection.  This still comes down from  the loft every year.



For birthdays and Christmases I  always made my parents a cross stitch card.   Following their deaths, I discovered that they had kept them all, which I now have compiled into a scrapbook collection.


Finding a little something little to add to stockings was always a challenge, and home made bookmarks filled this gap beautifully.

When I was working full time, a gift to me of home baking was a much valued present. In turn my daughter appreciated a hamper of home made soup, crumbles, cottage pie and lasagne for the freezer when she was just home with a new December baby.    
The gift of time and tasks is also  one full of pleasure - my daughter has taken me on shopping trips to places I could not get to easily and I have done household tasks for her. The fun comes in composing a gift voucher for the task, so there is at least something of a surprise  to open on Christmas Day.  
For me, Christmas would not be Christmas without the enjoyment that comes from making something.   I recommends it! 


The Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories (ACCM) allows you to share your family’s holiday history twenty-four different ways during December! 
Copyright © 2013 · Susan Donaldson. All Rights Reserved

Saturday, 7 December 2013

The Book of Me - Snowy Tales

This  post was prompted by Julie at Anglers Rest  and  her  series " Book of Me - Written by You", where she asks us here to describe our snowy memories.

I have no winter photographs of my childhood - cameras must have been reserved for summer and I  can't say I have any memorable weather memories from my childhood either.  I was too young to recollect the notorious winter of 1947.

Winter 2013 in the woods
near Earlston,  Scottish Borders
I grew up in north-west England where winters were relatively mild, but this was the days before tights and girls then did not wear trousers. A Liberty bodice, skirt with short socks (short trousers for my brother), home knitted jumpers and pixie hood, wellington boots, gloves kept safe on string through my sleeves, plus a long scarf criss-crossed over my chest and tied at the back - this was the ritual dress for going out in winter in my early 1950's childhood.

I hated wearing  a Liberty Bodice - the rubber buttons were difficult to do and undo, and if the day got warmer you ended up all sticky inside it.    To those of you new to this bit of childhood underwear, a  liberty bodice was  simply-shaped and made of a warm, fleecy white fabric, with cotton tapes and rubber buttons.  It was noatlgic item for children growing up in the 1950's, but   went out of production in the mid 1960's.

At home in the 1950's,   there was no such things as central heating, so we huddled around the fire in the living room and kept the inner person warm with simple, hearty comfort food - roast meat on a Sunday, cottage pie on a Monday, sausages and mash, corned beef hash,  and steamed puddings, such as spotted dick with custard  or golden syrup sauce, and rice pudding (ugh!), with the weekend treat fruit pies or crumbles and chocolate cake.

Getting a cold, meant my chest being rubbed with Vick and a hot drink of lemon and honey - my mother's medicinal remedy for anything.

By 1963  (another  notoriously bad winter) we were in Edinburgh and I recall my moother worried at the non-arrival of my father from a business trip to London (before the days of mobile phones and instant communication).  He was stranded overnight on a train stuck in the Border hills, with an engine sent to rescue it also trapped..

In the late 1960's I was very proud of my fur hood, the winter fashion statement of the times,  with echoes of the  Dr. Zhvago film.

I  spent a wonderful  year 1965-66  working in Cambridge, Massachussets near Boston and this photograph brings back memories of the kind of winter I had not experienced before.

A picturesque image of  Harvard Chapel, Camridge, Mass.

From 1971 I have lived in the Scottish Borders. My daughter was born in January so an unfortunate time for planning parties. it was always  a question,   will relations  and friends travel  for  her party?  (I know the snow we get is nothing compared to outher coutnries, but this is Britain where the excuse is we do not get bad winters often enough to deal with them efficiently.  Still we went through the ritual of a birthday photograph

1975 - and Gillian not looking too happy for a birthday girl! 
 She is following my childhood trend of having gloves on a string1  


Then came all the talk of global warming, mild and wet winters (umbrellas the essential accessory) and the near decimation of the Scottish sking industry.  2001 was a blip with some of  the worst snow for years, and Hawick where we then lived  was cut off for three days and I could not get to work, with no buses running outside the town.  I resorted to creative  cookery from what was in my store cupboard and for the first occasion in years had time to make pancakes on Shrove Tuesday.    
Winter 2001
The pleasures of having a dog in winter

We had to wait nearly ten years for real winters to strike again, coinciding with the first two years of my granddaughter's life.   

She is enjoying it ( I think!)
Trudging home from nursery school - February 2013

Winter 2010 - the frozen River Teviot at Hawick, Scottish Borders


February 2012 and the postman adding a splash of colour

I have now reached the stage of rather favouring winter hibernation! to escape snows, unlike this heron - a familiar site on the River Slitrig in Hawic.  
Adapted from an earlier post of 2011.  

Copyright © 2013 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved

Friday, 6 December 2013

Advrnt Calendar of Christmas Memories 6 - Santa Claus' Many Faces

The Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories (ACCM) allows you to share your family’s holiday history twenty-four different ways during December! 
 I came across this little verse in a church magazine and it made me smile.  No source or acknowledgement was given,  so here it is:   

The Four Lives of Santa Claus

I believe in Santa Claus
I don't believe in Santa Claus
I am Santa Claus
I look like Santa Claus!

The modern term "Santa Claus came from the Dutch figure of Sinterklass, which in turn stemmed from the legend of St. Nicholas, a bishop and giver of gifts.

In ancient times, people faced hardship in winter and looked to the forces of nature to be benevolent to them.  A figure such as “Old Winter” or "Father Christmas" dressed up and visited houses, wishing goodwill on the house.  It was a time of feasting and drinking in the hope that these symbolic acts would influence the nature.

The traditional image of Santa Claus we owe to the American post Clement Clark Moore in his famous  poem  of 1822 "T'was the night before Christmas" which introduced the elements of chimney and reindeer;  to the artist Thomas Nast whose drawing appeared in 1861, and to the Coca Cola advertising campaign of 1931 which gave us the red costumed chubby, cheery figure we know today.  Father Christmas and Sand Claus became one.   
T'was the night before Christmas
Wen all through the house
Not a creature was stirring,
Not even a mouse................
My mother made this Santa Claus (below) many years ago for my daughter - just one of  many soft toys she sewed or knitted.  Santa is now looking rather tired, having also been passed onto my little granddaughter.  But he is still a lovely seasonal memory of my talented mother.



Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Sepia Saturday - Bobs, Waves and Rolls

Sepia Saturday give bloggers an opportunity to share their family history and memories  through photographs.

This week's main theme was Aprons.  My mother  was a great apron wearer and maker - from the wrap-around overall for wash day, and the pocket apron for carrying dusters and polish  up and down stairs to the butcher's apron style for baking to the dainty frilled waist pinny for serving tea. She made them all herself and was a stalwart sewer for any local fete or Christmas fair. But I have no photographs of her in her work-a-day wear.  

 So, looking at the lady on the left here,  I have focussed instead on hairstyles of the 1920's. 30's and 40's
The impact on the First World War on the changing role of  women saw an abandonment of the  traditional long hair styles of the Victorian period to the new short styles of the bob, finger-wave, Marvel wave, shingle and Eton crop, with their popularity continuing well into the 1930's.
 An elegant unidentified portrait in my husband's collection -
thought to be a relation of his great aunt Annette.  
My great aunt Jennie Danson  who sacrificed her long plait for the new look.

My mother Kathleen Danson -Jennie's niece,
though there was only 11 years difference in their ages.  

My mother again - with more waves this time

My mother's second cousins Elsie Oldham - "Elise" c. 1920's

I have told the story of Elsie before on my blog,  but it fits this theme so beautifully I could not help but repeat it.

Bobbing, Shingling, Marcel Waving and Perming", was the promise of my mother's second cousin Elsie Oldham in  this lovely evocative 1920's advertising  blotter.

Perhaps the French adaptation of her name to Elise was regarded as more appropriate for a hairdresser.   The business was conducted from the rather less glamorous setting of her home (below) with the large adverts  in the windows and on the pole outside  


The Oldham home in Blackpool, Lancashire
with the adverts in the window & on the garden pole.

In the 1930''s and 1940's  a  softer look crept in, with curls and waves all the rage, and during the war the "roll" was the defining style.  This was the age of trying to emulate  Hollywood glamour, despite the realities  of life during the  depression and war. 

My mother again - Kathleen Danson

My aunt - Edith Danson

Another new look for my mother who seems to have adopted an Austrian style, with what looks like  braids over  her head.  She was always very proud of her distinctive widow's peak.

Some typical 1940's looks from my mother and Aunt Peggy
My aunt Peggy Danson 

Copyright © 2013 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved

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have taken up this week's theme