David Evans and Elsie Fox

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DAVID was the second youngest child of FREDERICK and ROSE EVANS.  Although christened David, he was often called SAM in the family (reason unknown).  Like the rest of the family he is assumed to have been born in ST LEONARD’S SQUARE, KENTISH TOWN.

David was considered to be the clever one of the family.  As a young man he constructed his own radio (with batteries that had to be lugged round to a shop in MALDEN ROAD for re-charging regularly).  Denis remembered the look of wonder on his father’s face when he first heard the radio working.  Pre-war DAVID worked for the railway companies in an office that reconciled the various fares across the network at a time when the lines were privately owned.  Accordingly if a passenger’s journey took them from one company’s train to another their fare had to be apportioned to each company.  It is believed this office was in KING’S CROSS since he remembered seeing THE MALLARD pulling out for its record breaking run in 1938.

David’s sister, Nell, and her husband, were, at one time, managing a newsagent’s shop in LEIGHTON ROAD, Kentish Town.  Sometimes if they wanted a Saturday off, David used to stand in for them.  This was how he met ELSIE SHEILA FOX who used to come into the shop to buy her father’s tobacco.

DAVID and ELSIE married in June 1930 in ST PANCRAS. They were both 22 yrs old at the time.  David seems to have left home by then as his address is given as MONTPELIER ROAD, as is Elsie’s (although in different houses).  One of the bridesmaid’s in this photo is certainly Elsie’s younger sister, DORIS.  The identity of the others isn’t known. The young man is probably Elsie’s older brother, FREDERICK FOX (she had 2 – the other being EDDIE (Edward) FOX). It seems possible that Frederick was the best man.  David certainly didn’t ask any of his brothers to perform the task. In fact only his parents, Frederick and Rose, and his youngest brother, DENIS, were asked to the wedding, and there are no other photos surviving of the occasion.  The Evans family seem to have believed that the Fox family considered themselves above them as Mr Fox Senior had an office job (he was a railway clerk).  Whether this is true or not, we’ll never know now, but they certainly didn’t mix socially.

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Rose Evans (nee Higgs)

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Rose Higgs circa late 1930s

ROSE EVANS (Nee HIGGS).   Date of this photo isn’t known but it is probably some time in the thirties.  Writing on the back shows it was sent to her son Harry and his wife (“to show you how beautiful I am” – said ironically we’re guessing).

There was a rumour in the family that someone from Rose’s side of the family had gone to Australia and opened a tannery business which had been very successful.  Who this was has never been established.  Her only brother (as far as we know)  WILLIAM HIGGS seems to have spent his life in the St Pancras area and in an early census is shown as a working in stable.

Although she was small Rose seems to have been feisty.  One night she had taken a jug to the pub to collect her husband’s beer (beer could be bought from the tap – it was taken home and heated up with a red hot poker when Fred came home from his shift on the buses) when she came upon two men beating up a policeman who they had already knocked to the ground (it should be remembered these were the days when London policemen had to be over six feet in height).  Rose stood over him with the jug as her only weapon and invited the two men to come and have a go at her instead.   Whilst she was distracting them, the policeman managed the reach his whistle and blow it to summon help.    She was awarded a certificate of commendation (or similar) by HOLMES ROAD POLICE STATION for her bravery.

FLORENCE GRIFFIN CIRCA 1935

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Florence Griffin circa 1935

Both these pictures are probably circa 1935/36 and show FLORENCE GRIFFIN who has now left school and started work.   In the left hand picture she has left the school uniform behind and has started to dress fashionably (albeit on a tiny budget); an interest that stayed with her all her life.

Florence would have left school at fourteen 1934.  Initially she worked at a small engineering company on the corner of FORTESS GROVE in Kentish Town.  This street was the home of her maternal grandparents and, on other occasions, Florence had lived there in a rented house with her mother and sister, Mary. However as a young child Florence had suffered from a mastoid in her ear.  This was operated on by a doctor on the kitchen table at home and he succeeded in puncturing her ear-drum leaving her deaf in that ear for the rest of her life. As a consequence Florence was super-sensitive to sound and found the din in the factory hard to deal with.  The owners of the factory suggested to her family that perhaps she wasn’t suited to factory work and she left there. She then went to work for a baker’s shop somewhere near ROYAL COLLEGE STREET in Kentish Town.

The right hand picture is around the same period.  Although it is hard to make out it shows Florence on her first independent holiday with two of her friends (Florence is on the right).  An Aunt, remembered as Auntie Lou by Florence, owned a boarding house at the seaside – possibly in Southend.   Whether this was her mother’s sister or her mother’s aunt (both called Louise) isn’t clear.  When they arrived for a week’s holiday, the aunt quoted a rate for their stay.  Pleased to discover it was less than they’d expected, they went out and spent their money.  Only to find out the next day that the rate quoted was per day, not the week.  Despite being a relative, Aunt Lou made them leave early when their money ran out!

Florence Griffin at school

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Back to FLORENCE GRIFFIN again.   She looks about 12 in this school picture, which would put it about 1932/3.  Florence is in the centre at the back, in front of the drainpipe.

The school was ST JOSEPH’S IN HIGHGATE.  She’d been sent there in response to a promise made to her (deceased) father but she hated the place.  At that time the girls were taught by nuns and whilst, in later life, she acknowledged some of them tried to help her, she mostly found them strict and unkind.  Because the family lived in the Kentish/Camden Town area she had to travel up a very steep hill to the school and was always late (a habit she retained all of her life!) and getting the cane.  When her younger sister, Mary, joined her, things became worse because Mary had short legs and trying to drag her up the road made Florence even later. This problem was eventually solved when Mary was transferred to ISLIP STREET SCHOOL. Florence however stayed at St Joseph’s until she was fourteen.

Most of Florence’s memories of the place were negative.  Apart from the cane for being late, she also recalled the day reading suddenly ‘clicked’ and she read perfectly when asked to do so, only to be accused of cheating and memorising the passage.  And also the exclusion from the annual sea-side trip.  This consisted of a trip, by coach, to the sea once year.  However the rule was the girls had to wear their full uniform for the day; because Florence’s mother was too poor to buy the entire uniform she was excluded from the trip – as the nuns were aware of her situation she always regarded this as an example of their un-Christian behaviour.

The family’s poverty meant that Florence was entitled to a free school dinner, which she had to go to nearby school to eat (I don’t think St Joseph’s offered cooked meals at that time).  On the way back she would sometimes call in at the house of a friend, VIOLET STORY (STOREY?).  Violet’s mother cooked a full dinner at lunch time (as most did at that time) and would give Florence a serving of steamed pudding which was received with much gratitude as during those childhood years she was often hungry.

Violet is also in this picture.  We believe she is the dark-haired girl standing behind the kneeling girl who is fourth from the right.  Although she doesn’t look it in this picture, according to Florence, Violet was a very pretty girl with violet eyes to match her name.

After school Florence used to look after a small boy (who she described as ‘horrid’) until his mother returned from work.  It was her job to make him marmite sandwiches for his tea.  For this she received six pence a week.  Five pence of that went to her mother and the other penny she could keep.  It was often used for sweets.  A sweet-shop on her way to school had a half-penny dip system.  Paper was rolled tightly into spills and put in a jar.  For a half-penny you pulled one out and got whatever sweets were written on it.  Sometimes it was blank so you lost your money; at other times you’d get two ounces and occasionally you hit gold and got a whole pound of sweets for your money.  When Florence hit the jackpot she was caught eating one in school and the entire bag was confiscated – another black mark against the nuns as far as she was concerned.

 

 

Harry Evans circa 1913/14

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HARRY EVANS was the fourth child, and third boy, of Frederick and Rose Evans.  He was born around 1900.  This picture may have been taken to mark the fact he had left school and started work (since they weren’t a family for photos) in 1913/14.  Harry would eventually become the father of those three small children pictured with DENIS in an earlier picture on this blog.

Harry had a talent for engineering.  In WW1 he joined the Royal Navy and we know he was shipped out to the Dardanelles but by the time his ship arrived whatever reason they’d been sent out there for had finished and he never disembarked.  For part of his time in Navy he was in the branch that would later become the Royal Air Force and worked as an engineer on the planes.

After the war Harry worked at a bus garage in CRICKLEWOOD.  Again on the engineering side.  However one day he got into an argument with a foreman who called him ‘a bastard’.  Harry took this term literally as an insult on his mother, hit the foreman, and walked out.  A fellow worker at the garage had already moved down to Kent and joined the EAST KENT BUS COMPANY.  He wrote to Harry that there was plenty of work down there for engineers, so despite the Cricklewood garage asking him to return (a mark we suspect of his talent as a engineer), he moved to Kent where he spent the rest of his working life with the East Kent.  He was such a good engineer that he could actually start from a plain slab of metal and make the tool or part he needed to carry out a repair if necessary.  The company had a mobile workshop that was sent out if the bus broke down.  Since their routes also covered London Harry used to get back to visit Kentish Town occasionally, when he would suddenly appear in his mother’s kitchen carrying a large sack of Kentish potatoes and announcing he couldn’t stay long because he had to get back to the van.

ALBERT (MICK) EVANS

 

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Albert is seated in the front row of this photo, third from the left.  Although he was christened ALBERT EVANS, he was always known as MICK.

He was the third child of Frederick and Rose Evans.  MICK was always close to his older brother, FRED.  Mick was the quiet one of the pair, whilst Fred was the trouble-maker and the leader.  On one occasion the two of them dived from the metal roof girders in the PRINCE OF WALES SWIMMING BATHS in KENTISH TOWN and were both banned from the baths thereafter (or at least until the supervisor had cooled down).

Both of them worked at the Bus depot in HARMOOD STREET, Kentish Town.

The brothers joined the Army during the First World War.  At some point (the story is that they actually came back from France but this isn’t certain) they were granted a week’s leave and came home to Kentish Town.  At the end of their leave, Fred declared he was going to have another week.  Mick returned to his unit and to France.

MICK was riding on a horse drawn gun carriage when it was hit.  He lost both his legs.  A friend carried him back to a field hospital where he died on 8th August 1916. When the news reached ROSE she apparently went crazy, smashing up things in the house and threatening to sue the War Office.

The sign behind Mick reads ‘62ND BRIGADE R.F.A. ‘C’ BATTERY’ however the War Graves Commission shows that when he died he was a Gunner attached to ‘B’ BATTERY 167TH BRIGADE.  He is buried in DERNANCOURT COMMUNAL CEMETERY, which ironically enough is near a place called ALBERT.

FRED was eventually picked up and charged.  He was posted to MESOPOTAMIA where he helped with the mule trains.  As Field Punishment for failing to return from leave on time, he was lashed to a gun wheel in the sun for five days.

MICK was twenty when he died.  FRED lived to his nineties.  There’s probably a moral in there somewhere.

For many years the Bus Garage in Harmood Street had a memorial to their war dead outside the depot, which included Mick’s name (as Albert).  The area is now redeveloped and the whereabouts of the memorial is unknown.

(All that is actually left of Mick is one very small, tattered, picture.  Our thanks to Neil at www.image-restore.co.uk for bringing him back. I’ve posted the original photo below so you can see what he had to work with.)

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why am I doing this?

I often ask myself that question.  These people weren’t important; they didn’t discover anything, invent anything, have any special talents, make loads of money, marry anyone famous.  They just led ordinary little lives, doing their best to make their families lives as good as possible and striving not to hurt anyone whilst they lived their lives by the rules they’d been taught.  They weren’t great lives or special lives and already the sounds of their voices are slipping away and the little details that formed the basis of their memories are fading.  If I don’t do this then one day they’ll just be images in old photos that are discarded on rubbish dumps or discovered in old handbags in charity shops.  At least this way if someone comes across them they may, at least, search for their names, and find their stories.

DENIS EVANS 1938

G A Dunn football team

This is DENIS EVANS in 1938 when he was twenty years old.  He is third from the left on the back row (including the chap in the hat).  Denis left school at fourteen and started work as a delivery boy for a local grocers.  He seems to have fallen out with them after a month and left. A man living opposite them in ST LEONARD’S SQUARE (Mr Butler?) was already working at G A DUNN & CO in Kentish Town and told Denis they wanted a boy to help on the delivery van for the London shops. He started immediately and spent the rest of his working life at DUNNs (apart from the period between 1939 – 1945). Even though he only spent the first six months or so on the van before being moved inside the warehouse, he could still recite the locations of the shops eighty years later.

DUNNs had their own sports ground in MILL HILL (it later became a garden centre and is now built over).  DENIS played for both the Football and the Cricket teams.  This picture shows the 1937/38 football team.   The teams often played both Saturday and Sunday matches and on those occasions they’d travel to the ground by bus on the Saturday and sleep on the benches in the changing hut overnight.

Lizzie Griffin

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LIZZIE CHIPPERFIELD/BURKINSHAW has now become LIZZIE GRIFFIN.

This picture was taken in LONDON ZOO at REGENTS PARK.  Lizzie is in the front on the right.  She worked in the kitchens there, probably washing up, and the rest of the women are almost certainly the other kitchen staff.   The date is somewhere in the mid to late thirties.  Her younger daughter, Mary, remembered running over a small bridge into the park after school to go and see her mum in the kitchens.

Lizzie was remembered by her daughters as a person who was always cheerful despite her lack of money.  She also had a restless spirit and many times her daughters would come home from school to find Lizzie packing up and announcing they were moving.  The little family moved around a series of rooms in Kentish and Camden Town, sometimes for no good reason.  On one occasion Lizzie kept insisting she could hear feet coming up the stairs; once even throwing open the window and calling to a passer-by for help because someone was breaking in (he ignored her!).  So the family moved on.  It later transpired that what she could hear was the next-door neighbour’s German Shepherd dog running up the staircase on the other side of the wall.

Florence Griffin circa 1932/3

Florence Griffin circa 1932

This is FLORENCE in her dancing costume.  She was learning a kind of tap at a local dancing school which put on amateur shows.  This must have been during a period when the family were slightly better off since normally there would not have been any money for lessons.  As her father died when she was young (about 7) her mother was left with two small children and no money.  Whilst there were family members around on her mother’s side, they don’t seem to have provided much support and LIZZIE was left to fend for them all.  She did this by taking menial work that others didn’t want such as black-leading grates, whitening steps, and general washing up.  FLORENCE remembered many times when they were hungry and wondering when their next meal was coming from.  One Christmas Day dinner consisted of boiled potatoes and a slice of corn-beef.

FLORENCE’s dancing career was very brief.   This was the first show and she was so nervous she was sick in the wings and couldn’t go on.  That was the end of the dancing.