Chance encounters

Annabel and her friend Janette, who both worked in the Commercial Bank, walked home for lunch around 12.30 every day at which time the apprentices at Hastie’s Engineering Works were hanging around outside watching the passing show. Of course, they whistled at any pretty girls who passed! One chap called Jim spoke to Annabel and eventually they became boy and girl friend. Jim was also known as ‘Jiver’ McInnes because he was a terrific dancer. Together, he and Annabel were lovely, graceful dancers. Another day, the girls stopped outside a Church to see a bride and groom coming out. The photographer was a young man called Alec who started chatting up Annabel and Janette. He asked Annabel if she would like to go out with him but she said she had a boyfriend. So he asked Janette and, although they both thought he was just teasing them, she said yes. In time, both these encounters led to happy marriages. You just never know what casual encounters can lead to! John and I had our ‘casual moment’ which turned out to be the start of something big. Until he died, 65 years later, we were still stepping out together in slower fashion but with just as much pleasure in small treats as in all the travelling we enjoyed earlier.

Other casual encounters Annabel and I remember fondly were with our Uncles Bill and Jack, more often with Bill. I have spoken before of our Saturday afternoon walk round shops such as Woolworth’s. We often met Bill there and, less often, Jack. I was probably 3 or 4 when I was first given a silver sixpence (6d). It doesn’t sound much but in Woolworth’s every item was either 3d. or 6d. As an example, for many years Mum bought our summer socks there for 6d. a pair. White ankle socks with coloured banding round the turnover, just right for summer dresses. And of course there were lots of toys and books. Sometimes they would give me a shilling which was riches indeed! Annabel got the same treatment when she came on the scene.

Bill bought just about every magazine published, and books too. He gave us a complete set of Shakespeare’s works, some of which I read and some I didn’t! I especially disliked Macbeth which we had ‘done’ at school (probably because it was about Scotland.) I was told by Dad of one Saturday when Woolworth’s was so crowded that children were in danger of being crushed. So he stood me under the overhang of the counter and braced his arms either side of me until the pressure lessened. After the war their prices increased a bit, but it was still good value. We liked scrap books and filled them with pictures which we swapped with our pals. I wish we had kept them. Nowadays the ‘pound shops’ fulfil a similar function and fill the gap left when Woolworth gave up.

When I was tidying a drawer last week I found a couple of paper bags from the baker’s shop, which I’ve saved to keep nasturtium and other seeds when autumn comes. And I remembered the Sunday School trips of long ago when the wee boys, after they had eaten the contents, crept up behind unsuspecting victims. They would hold the neck of the bag between finger and thumb and blow it up then punch it to make a loud bang and startle people! Most bags are plastic now but perhaps there are still wee boys learning the art and frightening their wee sisters. It was my Dad showed me how to do it.

Nearly everyone wore hats pre-war, even little girls and boys. Girls had lovely straw bonnets with rose trimming on them in summer. When we moved to Greenock there was a hat shop nearby and I remember buying a green felt hat just like Robin Hood wore, with a feather at the side. It sort of sat on top of my head and I liked it. Thinking back, I wish I had a photo of me wearing it, it would have caused a lot of merriment at family gatherings!! Every girl had a ‘tammy’ sometimes called a ‘berry’, as in beret. Men’s flat hats were called doolanders. (Doo being vernacular for doves or pigeons.) They wore suits mostly, and business men wore bowler hats, all very formal. Casual dressing wasn’t much in evidence then.

As has happened before this post has strayed from my intention! So before it wanders off any further I’ll stop right here!

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6 thoughts on “Chance encounters

  1. Whether it’s a common place meeting or a gasp of breath that first meeting stays with us, doesn’t it? I met my wife trying to persuade her to join the Law Club at Uni – those amazing blue eyes and huge grin and Doctor Who scarf. Ah me. Mum and dad met when he pulled her off a table at County Hall on the Thames just as a doodlebug dropped and exploded one morning in May 1944. They’d not spoken before they were entangled on the parquet – dad wouldn’t have asked mum out (too classy) except at that moment. Chance, eh? Lovely memories as usual ladies.

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    • Thank you! Your parents’ memories are the most spectacular. I met my husband at uni too. He did NOT make the right impression on first meeting (long story) but we’re still here so he obviously made up for it.

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      • I think there’s a link there. I too let myself down early on but she magnanimously forgave me. I still cringe. And Dad was very proud, Mum less so. She was never happy playing the damsel in distress. She always insisted she was jumping down and he got in the way so that’s why they fell onto the floor!

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