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Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Sepia Saturday - Dad's Typing Life

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

Immediately I saw this prompt, I knew  which photograph I would feature as a tribute to my father John Weston. 

Dad left school at 14  years old to work in a local grocer's shop.   Like many of his generation, he continued his education in a "self taught" manner.  He always had an interest in journalism and it was a familiar sight to see him seated at the small typewriter on his bureau, which had been a  wedding present from my mother.  He was either ploughing through the paperwork of his job as a sales rep. or keeping in touch with his sister and brothers  by letter.  

I can date this photograph to around 1961, as it was in our new home in Edinburgh.  Shortly after we moved there from the north of England,  my aunt (Dad's sister in law)  died of lung cancer.  Dad immediate stopped smoking and never touched a cigarette again.   

We moved around with my father's work from Blackpool to York and then Edinburgh,  with he and Mum retiring back to St. Anne's, Lancashire. Wherever  he went,  Dad threw himself into the local community - he was a people person, a "joiner" and  an organizer of fetes and festivities in the church and village - so out came the typewriter again for "to do " lists and press releases.   

In later life Dad was a regular contributor of  letters to local newspapers - my mother was not too happy about this as he could get in return political brickbats from people of divergent views.   He also prepared talks on a variety of topics  to present  to local societies and I have the originals of his typed scripts. 

Dad often talked about his boyhood and also of  his war time  experiences and I am afraid it did provoke the reaction “Not the war again, Dad”. We also used to joke about him being in the Intelligence Branch.  It was only later that we came to realise what a life-defining period it was and  I persuaded him to write (type) his memoirs.   

 A page from Dad's typing of his early life

Dad's  own words form the basis of two narratives I have written and they have provided much rich material for many a Sepia Saturday post.   I was so pleased to have these as I have very few photographs prior to him meeting my mother.  Sadly, photographs and memorabilia (including Dad's church choir and football team photographs)  were thrown out by the widow of his eldest brother, without any thought for other family members.

My father John Percy Weston was born in Bilston, Wolverhampton, Staffordshire  on 15th April 1912 -  a momentous date in many ways  as that was the night the "Titanic" sank on its  maiden voyage.    

Dad grew up in the small village  of Broseley, near Ironbridge, Shropshire, known as the birthplace of the industrial revolution with the building in 1779  of the first ever iron bridge.  

My father wrote  wrote: "We lived in a a house that was unique since it had an indoor flush toilet.....   

Dad worked at Coalbrookdale, in the power house. It was 35 minutes walk each way across the brdige -  no buses.  On a Sunday if Dad was working on what he called “grinding the vales in”, I came home from church at noon and had to set off to the works with his dinner, come back for mine and then go to Sunday school and church at night."

Ironbridge over the River Severn in Shropshire
Football was Dad's key interest and I have told his story in A Pigeon Sent the News  and  also in My Dad's Football Photo Discovered,  how a member of Broseley Local History Society provided me with my earliest picture of Dad  in 1926 (right).   

Dad gave a full account of his working life later in Leicester, Liverpool and then Blackpool as a commercial traveller and the "digs" he stayed in.   For a laugh,  take a look at A Hair Raising Drive  where he describes  his first 90 mile journey behind the wheel.   

 Dad on the left with his brother Charles 

My first narrative on Dad's life ended with his Dance Floor Meeting with my mother in Blackpool and their marriage in 1938.

Dad's own words again form the basis of the second narrative,  supplemented by letters written to my mother  in 1944 and photographs from the family collection. 

He served in the RAF Codes & Ciphers Branch  and was  seconded to General Bradley’s US 12th Army Group HQ. He wrote of his experiences in  landing at Omaha Beach in 1944, his advance through France and Luxembourg the Battle of  the Bulge in winter 1944  and then crossing into Germany.  As war ended in Europe, he was   posted to  Asia for his final months of service.  

"On the Monday morning we zig-zagged our way across the Channel  (to avoid enemy submarines)  and arrived off the beach at around 11pm, some distance off our landing point.  Sporadic  bombing went on during the night from high level German bombers. We slept where we could on the craft.  Just as dawn was breaking,  at 04.00am the captain started up the engines (there was quite a roar) and we moved in  fast to the beach.  The ramp was dropped, we drove off and we were in France!"  

 A letter to my mother written from Paris in 1944 

Dated on the reverse
Paris - Sept. 12th 1944

In  a typed letter home from Paris, Dad asked "I hope you have managed to have Baby's photograph taken".  

This was the photograph: 

Dad died in 2003 a the age of 91.   He would love to have  experienced the world of blogging and I like to think I have inherited his interest in writing and recording our memories.   Thank you, Dad.





 Click HERE to see how other Sepia Saturday bloggers 
have been busy with their typing fingers this week  


  1. I enjoyed reading your Dad's memories. My father wouldn't talk or write about his memories.

  2. I like the spirit of a man who jumps right in with the community and isn't afraid to speak his mind. I'm sure you have often reflected on the irony of how your dad's memories have contributed so much to your blog despite causing your family to roll their eyes many years ago. It's a real bonus to have a picture of him at the typewriter too.

  3. So fun to see you roll over from typewriter to the life of your dad, and what a life he had. And you tied it back together with your life as a blogger.

  4. You remind me, once again, with this lovely tribute to your Dad, that I should begin to write down some of the stories my Dad used to tell us kids about his days growing up. He had a very dry sense of humor and his stories reflected that which made them all the funnier. What's really funny is for a pessimistic man, he always told positive stories. :)

  5. We’ve talked before about the similarity between our fathers’ lives. As you know, mine was also a sales rep and that photo could so easily be him. Dad would come home and do his ‘writing’ on the family typewriter, and he would also be smoking away! Sadly I have no photo of him doing this but your picture brought back memories for me.

  6. I thought I had a photo of my father typing, alas, I did not. I like that you included the typewritten memory about his early days and Enid. A typewritten piece is so different from a computer piece.

  7. A very nice tribute to your father, sparked by the photo of him at his typewriter. I assume you were the cute baby in the photo he rquested.

  8. This was a fine memory of your dad's typing and writing. I think next to handwritten letters, a letter or memoir made with a manual typewriter retains an intimate touch of the writer. Something that's lost with computers.

  9. A really lovely post. Look at your beautiful mother.

  10. I loved reading your father's story! I can relate with you. Truly you must have inherited the love of writing from him.

  11. Thank you all for such thoughtful comments on my post. It was a lovely one to write as a tribute to my father. I was lucky that I had that photograph of him at the typewriter (originally a slide),for as a family we did not seem to take spontaneous snapshots and even fewer taken indoors.

    Family History Fun

  12. What a great post, Sue! Having those memoirs is SUCH a wonderful thing; that written connection to your past is priceless!

  13. So lucky to have that memoir - but argh! How can people throw out family treasures like that!?

  14. Sue, great photos and stories of your dad. However, I love that first photo of your dad. It is a classic and tells so much about the man -- It served as the backdrop for all the following photos. Thanks for sharing all of these memories with us.

  15. I enjoyed your whole article, but particularly the reference to the photo portrait in the letter, and that you were able to come up with that exact portrait. Well done, and thanks for sharing the memories.

  16. I like to think that my father would have perhaps written some notes about his life if he had lived past 65. Retirement can give you the time for pondering on the past. But I enjoy reading about your father's life,


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