Vera’s Life: Part Ten

This is the tenth part of a fiction serial, in 776 words.

The last Christmas before she left school, Vera’s family celebrated together in the whole house. Albert had made the best of his days off by painting all the rooms, and trying to make the two separate homes into one. Clara’s old scullery and kichen was now converted so they could all eat around the table, and that left a proper parlour at the front which was only used on highdays and holidays. Upstairs, Vera now had a nice big bedroom, and Albert and Elsie had what used to be the living room, across the front. Vera’s old room was spare, for when Teddy came home from sea on leave.

Vivian and Roy came round with the boys, and Elsie even invited Uncle Ernie for dinner. Though she conveniently forgot to extend the invitation to his Chinese friend. Vera thought it was the best day she could remember. Nobody argued, there was plenty to eat, and Ernie made everyone fall about laughing with his saucy jokes and cheeky songs. He even brought Vera some stockings as a present, telling her she was a young lady now, and would soon be out in the world of work. Albert had gone to Mr Lewis’s shop the day before, and asked him round for drinks. Colin had gone to Spain to fight with the International Brigade, and nothing had been heard of him since. With his wife long dead, they felt sorry for Mr Lewis, but he declined the invitation anyway.

Later on, Roy said he would give Uncle Ernie a lift home in his sidecar, and there was more hilarity as he tried to squeeze into the thing. He ended up on the small pillion seat instead, with his arms wrapped around Roy as they waved him goodbye.

On her fourteenth birthday the next January, Vera sat and thought about how she would be leaving school at Easter, missing out on the holidays, and starting her job. She still felt like a little girl sometimes, even though it was a long time since she had played with any toys or dolls. As it was now 1938, she realised it wouldn’t be too long before the start of a new decade, and she hoped it was going to be the best one the family had ever known. And she couldn’t help thinking about Colin, as that war in Spain was still going on. Colin’s side was losing too, according to the reports they heard on the radio.

Then before Easter, Germany took over Austria. It was on the BBC radio, and Vera watched as her dad sat shaking his head. “I don’t like the sound of this one bit, Elsie love. I reckon that Hitler bloke won’t be happy until he starts another war”. Elsie cleared away the tea cups, muttering. “You’re always on about something, Bert Dodds. Just leave all that stuff to Mr Chamberlain and the politicians. They will sort it out”. Not really wanting to think about any wars, Vera went up to her room to read. But she soon took down her atlas, and looked up Austria again. Then she looked at Czechoslovakia, as they had been talking about that country too. Her feet felt chilly, so she flipped the candlewick bedspread over them, wondering if Colin would only get back in time to have to go and fight another war in Austria.

Leaving school was something of an anti-climax. She just went home on the last day before the holidays, and never went back. There were no real goodbyes, or fond farewells. Another girl from her class was starting at the jam factory the next Monday. Her name was Janet Reid, and although Vera didn’t know her that well, she came up to her as they were walking home. “See you on Monday, Vera. Your mum works there, don’t she? She gonna look out for us then?”. Vera told her that her mum would be at work, but too busy to worry about new girls. Janet smiled. “We’ll just have to look out for each other then”.

Elsie got her daughter up early, and walked with her into work. She found her time card, and showed her how to clock on and off. “You have to do that at lunchtime too, don’t forget. And you’ve got your money for the canteen, haven’t you?” She then took her to meet Mrs Oliver, who was going to show her what to do. Janet was already with her, and winked at Vera when she saw her. As they walked into the main factory, Vera could hardly believe the noise in there.

She was sure it would drive her crazy.

25 thoughts on “Vera’s Life: Part Ten

  1. And so it was for life in the factory for young girls. Really sad. It was the same here, too. I do hope Vera and Janet become friends. I worry about Colin, and the war is looming. Well done, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You paint a clear picture of reality back then, I have a manuscript from an old Aunt (adopted orphan of my great, great grandfather) who was born in 1898 and her childhood story is a bleak one.
    I visited a few factories whilst training as an electrician, the punch card clocking system was still quite common in some of the factories we working in. Its interesting that Frags mentions ear defenders as even in 1984-5 we were never given them or any other safety equipment and I did work in textile factories, tanneries, iron smelting works; all hellish noisy and or dangerous places.

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    1. I am very happy to hear that it sounds authentic. Most of it is based on distant memories of my relatives talkng about life before and during the war, though some is also from my on youth in the 1950s. The factories I mention all still existed when I was at school.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  3. (1) In an unrelated story, the kitchen was converted so that JC and his disciples could eat their last supper at the table.
    (2a) Uncle Ernie told saucy jokes about soy boys from China.
    (2b) Uncle Ernie bought Vera some sheer lace thigh high garter belt stockings, but didn’t specify what kind of work she would be doing.
    (3) Bad citation: “Vera still felt like a little girl sometimes, even though she now spent her time playing with sex toys and inflatable male dolls.”
    (4) “Colin’s side was losing too…” Never show your back side to the enemy. (Take note: “¡Retirada!” is a loser’s battle cry.)
    (5) “Just leave all that stuff to Mr Chamberlain and the politicians. They will sort it out.” And so, the 1940’s was destined to be a peaceful and prosperous decade—the best one the Dodds family had ever known. (What else did Elsie predict?)
    (6a) Vera’s “feet felt chilly, so she flipped the candlewick bedspread over them…” Later in life, whenever a punter gave her cold feet, she counted on her knotty bedspread to warm up to him.
    (6b) Bidding farewell to punters was something of an anti-climax.
    (7) Janet Reid followed in Vera’s footsteps, and became known as “Jam-It” Reid.

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  4. I do remember my maternal grandmother lamenting that they did not have ” a proper parlour” when they moved from Bayfield, Wisconsin to Washburn, Wisconsin. Grandma, although descended from Bostoniana, also lamented the lack of a “Commons” in both towns. I vividly recall the noise in theJam Section of a food processing plant I once worked. Warmest regards, Theo

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  5. Ah, yes, factory work is not for everybody! I was a time clerk once in Baird’s TV factory in Bradford and my job was to collect those time cards, from which their wages were calculated. White collar workers were not popular on the shop floor!

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    1. The only time I had to use a time card was when I had a school-holiday job in the Airfix toy factory in Kent. I once forgot to clock in after lunch, and was stopped 30 minutes wages.
      Best wishes, pete.

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