Rosina Ridley

Dog Bites and Dancing

By Peter J Stoker

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Rosina Ridley' page

Photo from WRVS Heritage Plus Archive

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Rosina Ridley' page

Photo from WRVS Heritage Plus Archive

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Rosina Ridley' page

Photo from WRVS Heritage Plus Archive

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Rosina Ridley' page

Photo from WRVS Heritage Plus Archive

Rosina Ridley (n é e Cowan) is a Londoner by birth but moved to Crawley with husband Ken in 1954.  They have been married for 54 years and have two daughters and five grandchildren.

A dog bite leads to hospital heaven!

I lived on a street off Tower Bridge Road called Beehive Cottages with cobbled streets. There was a communal wash-house. We used to play around the lampposts. When I was two, I went to see my aunty. She had a cat and a dog. I was playing with the cat, when the dog bit me. They walked me from Tower Bridge Road to Guy's Hospital and I had a lovely surgeon. I spent two weeks in the wards and because my mobility was not affected, I got to distribute all the toys to the children in bed. I didn't want to go home; I was having such a good time!

Remembering Grandma

Out of my grandparents, I can only remember grandma. She was elderly; she must have been about 90. I only remember the one room. It was very dark in there and smelt musty. Her place was very cluttered with lots of bric a brac. There were stuffed birds in domed cages. I used to go with mum to visit her. I was quite young, must have been about 10 or so. My mum didn't have me till she was 40, so she was much older. My mum died at 86. She had me late because of the First World War. There was a war gap of 12 years between my sister and me.

London memories

We stayed in that street till I was 12, then I was evacuated, and then my mum moved to my aunty's house in Beckenham, where I joined her after the war and stayed there till I was 16. We were bombed out in London and so had no home to go back to. At 16 I moved back to London to work in an office. Before I was evacuated, I remember the shrimp and jellied eel man coming round on Sundays, ringing a bell singing "cockles and mussels". We used to go round on skates, and there was a shed where the fishmonger used to keep the ice for the fish, we used to take the used ice and skate on it.

Evacuated to Devon

I was first evacuated to Hope Cove in Devon. I was billeted with three girls at a hotel but lived in a room above the garage opposite. I remember the firemen using us for a practice taking us down outside on the ladder; very exciting. We used to walk through the hotel kitchen and finally complained as we were living on a diet of bread and jam, whilst the paying guests had real food. Fortunately they realised being on the coast was not a good thing so we were moved to Topsham in Devon. The first billet was awful but I was transferred to a lovely couple with a small boy who let me take home his teddy bear he had lent me. I remember writing plays which I got my friends to perform. We were again moved as we were still near the coast. I moved again to Milber village outside Newton Abbot. They were very good to us up at the village. I went to school there. My first stay there was with a woman making money having children, and soldiers billeted and we were sleeping many in one room.

Back to London - just in time for the doodlebugs!

My mother came down to visit with a puppy as the bombing was bad and we went round the village to find it a home, so I was able to see it grow up. Mum found me a nice couple whose son was away at the war. She had a funny idea of me not washing my hair but combing starch into my head! Mum brought me back but the V2s were coming over then. I was then 14 and Mum had to let aunty have the house back and found a house in Lewisham with a bomb shelter in the garden we could use. I was evacuated to many places including Newton Abbot, but ended up coming back to London just in time for the buzz bombs. I first went to the OldKentRoadSchool, but when we were bombed out, attended the BeckenhamGrammar School for two years. Then we came back to Lewisham, London.

School Days

I went to a school on the Old Kent Road, London, but I can't remember the name. I used to be given a bottle of milk in the afternoon, and then we would have a sleep on little cots at the school. I didn't wear a school uniform then till I was about 14. At 11, I went to a school in the Elephant and Castle, London. I had to get the tram or walk. When we went to Beckenham in Kent, I was 14, and I went to the BalgowanGirlsSchool there. We wore a navy velour hat with a green and gold school badge on it. We had to wear a green and gold tie, with a navy skirt and blouse. We also wore a navy blazer with the school logo on it.  I had a brown leather satchel with straps. My name and address was on the inside. I've still got it actually. On the front were my initials: R.E.C. We didn't have to carry much though, as we had lockers at school, not like they do now. I used to take my exercise book, fountain pen, and a long tin box for my pencils. I used to have a ruler. I didn't take lunch as we had that at the school canteen. The school I went to in Beckenham was next door to the boys' school. We used to hang over the fence to talk to them.

Tea and biscuits fuelled bus driver Dad

When we did get bombed out, whilst I was evacuated, we had someone's empty house in Lewisham, they went to war or something and it was empty, so we just moved in. There was an old fashioned cooker and a kettle always on it. There was a little carpet and a favourite cat called Bubbles. There was a big table in the middle. My dad was a bus driver. I used to get up in the middle of the night to go to the loo, and he used to be sitting at the table eating rich tea biscuits and drinking tea before an early shift.

Chinese vases - and the Ovalteenies!

We used to eat corned beef and mash. I loved it! There was a cane chair that used to get covered in fluff. I used to pick it all out and it was the best game, I thought it was magic!! There was a wireless - and we listened to the Ovalteenies programme - and a cupboard for crockery. There was a window looking to a neighbour's house, and the door went to the garden where we grew runner beans fruit and there was also an air raid shelter.  It wasn't noisy as we didn't use the front room, so we were cut off from it. There were stairs in the hall leading to the cellar for coal. We had an indoor toilet. There was lino on the floor. The scullery was concrete-floored. As I mentioned my dad was a bus driver, which before the war was considered middle class. He earnt a fiver a week when the average wage was two or three pounds a week. We had big Chinese vases in our front room, a piano, and pictures of the family.

A view of the Coronation

I travelled to Beckenham each day and finished my education and became a short-hand typist. Luckily I got a job in a bank in Pall Mall and travelled up on the train: even in those days you had to stand. I saw the Coronation from a good balcony in the bank. I stayed at the bank for 11 years.

Ghost (Bike) Riders in the Sky

My husband-to-be, Ken, had to finish his apprenticeship as he was only 19, and then did two years National Service. Ken has a moustache in the photos from that time, as it was quicker not to shave for parade every day during National Service, but I made him change it when he came home. Me and Ken had a cycling holiday in 1949 when I was 21. The popular song at the time was 'Ghost Riders in the Sky'; we all used to sing it whilst we were cycling.

Sixty years - and still dancing!

We brought our wedding forward from June to January 1954 as they had rebuilt the Methodist church at the bottom of my road which had been bombed and as Ken was an old boy officer in the Boys Brigade, wanted him to be the first to be married in the new church. Ken and I met dancing nearly 60 years ago. I attended a class in the school and Ken was in the Boys Brigade downstairs, and the boys came up to join in the class. We are still dancing.

Marriage - and the move to Crawley

We moved down to Crawley on our wedding night 1954, the sun had shined on our wedding day but Crawley was covered in snow. We had very good neighbours who had lit the fire every day and kept the place dusted. It was very funny as when we arrived she invited us in and the room was crowded. It was a bit embarrassing and finally someone said I expect the young couple want to go home. She explained next day that it was a one-off party!

World of work

Ken was employed at the Edwards factory whilst I became a housewife, with occasional agency work, whilst the children were at school. Other jobs included secretarial work at Manor Royal. We have lived in the same house for 52 years, and bought the house twice: once by renting, and once with a mortgage. Ken moved to work for Edwards as an apprentice with hands-on training in technical research, learning 'common sense' abilities, which he still uses now.

A cheeky colleague

We used to ride to work in Manor Royal on our bikes. We got a brand new house as Ken's firm, Edwards, moved from Sydenham. I've got a photo of APV (a factory firm in Crawley) staff in Crawley, 1954. I'm in the front row, and there is a man on either end of the photo who is the same man. He just ran round to the other side whilst they were taking the photo, so he appears twice!

A good circle of friends

It was hard leaving our parents but we used to visit them or they us quite often. We had a nice circle of friends, all in the same boat, so we baby sat for each other so were able to continue our dancing. Unfortunately Ken was made redundant after 36 years service and only got back what he had paid into the pension fund. Luckily within four weeks he got a job with British Standards in London and for 16 years travelled up by train every day so it was a long day for him. On the bonus side as secretary of an international committee I was sometimes able to accompany him abroad when our daughters were older (and both married young).

Voluntary work

I worked at the Station Road WRVS Meals on Wheels, and have had many voluntary jobs helping with a club in Langley Green, in a hospice coffee shop, a church coffee shop, and lots of voluntary work. I also worked for a while at Rediffusion from where I receive my pension for the last two years of my working life. We still live in Langley Green.  I have always done voluntary work, helping with Meals on Wheels and care work for Age Concern when the children were at school. I have run the Friday Group in Langley Green for 35 years and for about 12 years have been on the Committee of the Friends and Neighbours Club. On Mondays I help at the Hospice Coffee Shop and am involved with activities at St. Paul's MethodistChurch in Northgate. I did temping work so I could be home when the children finished school for the day. So I saw the inside of quite a few firms on the estate, sadly very few remaining.

A life well spent

I have been quite active over the last 52 years and enjoyed every minute; we have had our setbacks of course, illnesses and the like, but we are still together which the main thing is. The girls have given us five delightful grandchildren between them. We have always kept cats and of course support The Cats Protection League. We also support Relief to Romania for a special village. We love gardening and of course holidays. All In all it has been a life well spent.

This page was added by Peter J Stoker on 03/03/2008.

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