My mother and father married at the end of 1941, I was born in 1943, and my little sister, Judy, in 1944, eighteen months later. I think it must have exhausted our mother to have two children quite so close together. In 1946 my mother and father got divorced. I often wonder if the marriage ended because we were born so soon into quite a new marriage. Too late, now, to worry about that!
Both our parents and grandparents smoked – it was the norm, as was alcohol consumption. We didn’t really notice the drinking – after all, we, too, drank liquids several times a day – but we noticed that all the grown-ups put white tubes into their mouths and set fire to them, making smoke come out of their mouths. Judy thought this was great and decided that we should have a go. (She had a strong personality, even at the age of three!)
Patty, right; Daddy above, right; family friend, left of Daddy
We lived in a nice house on Sunset Avenue and along the side of our house ran Charles Street which we always described as an alley because it wasn’t paved and had no sidewalks, but just had little stones to stop everything from getting muddy when it rained. There were quite a few house on both sides of Charles St., I believe, but I was quite young the last time I was in Charles St, and I could be wrong! Anyway, at the end of Charles St. was a big tree which we used to go and hide behind. It was there that Judy led me one day, then pulled out a package of cigarettes and a book of matches. Just as she has seen the grown-ups do, she took a cigarette out of the package and put one end in ther mouth, then tore a match out of the matchbook and scratched it across the little sand-paper piece on the front, and put the resulting flame to the end of the cigarette! Once she got it alight, she took a big puff and blew out smoke just like mommy and grandma Ethel did!
Of course, being older, I had to try it and was just as successful. And so started our weekly visits to the ‘Smoking Tree’.
For some reason, no one ever noticed how cigarettes just seemed to vanish. Then, one day, our mother and her new husband, Bill went away for a few days’ vacation to a place called Cape Cod. (We didn’t have a clue where it was or that Mommy and Bill had gone away on their honeymoon).
We couldn’t find any cigarettes in the house. (I imagine that whoever was left to look after us didn’t smoke.)
Just down the street and around the corner into McIntire Avenue, and up the road a little was a shop called Bloxham’s We were allowed to go into Bloxham’s to buy popsickles or candy and had, on occasion, gone in to buy cigarettes for Mommy. So, off we went to Bloxham’s to buy some cigarettes “for Mommy”. “Oh,” said Mrs. Bloxham, “is your mommy back from Cape Cod?” We said she was and Mrs B said, “I’ll just call her on the phone.”
I seem to remember that we didn’t go into Bloxham’s for months!
Why am I telling you this? Well, first of all, because I remember it quite well despite its being around seventy-five years ago and secondly because it just goes to show that even quite young children notice what is going on around them. For instance, in the photo of Judy and me with our father, above, you can see how I felt about the day. I wasn’t much more than three years old at the time but I knew that my Daddy was going away and possibly not coming back. Judy was just eighteen months old or so and I doubt that she was concerned then. Later in life, our father’s leaving us affected her greatly and me to a lesser extent.
(Above is a post I wrote some time ago. I don’t think I posted it and have no idea why.)