Florence Weston's Memoirs

I was born in the year 1916 on the 24th January in a little village outside Secundrabad in the South of India. I have no idea of the name of the village or even if it had a name, all I remember it had no running water.

My Dad used to work for the railway and we were constantly on the move. He used to travel on one of things which move on the railway lines and are hand propelled.

When I was about eight we got a lovely house in Jamshedpor and my Dad got a job in the Tata Iron and Steel company as the head of the railway. This was miles away from Secundrabad about four days journey away right near Calcutta.

My Sister Win & I had not had any education yet. We started school at 11 yrs & 10 yrs at a school run by Sisters in a place called Nankum which was near Ranchi the Summer headquarters of the Government.

We used to start school in January & not come home again till about sometime in December. We spent all our holidays at school as home was about 500 miles away. I don’t remember feeling any resentment about this as we were kept well occupied the whole time.

I spent five years in this school and had a marvellous time what with being good at games & at my lessons I got on very well. We were educated & looked after by religious Sisters called I think St Denys Sisters.

I do not remember much about my childhood except to say we never really got any Christmas presents – dolls etc. It always used to be something useful. One of my red letter Christmasses was when an Uncle of mine came to visit us. When we woke up in the morning and looked under the bed there were beautiful dolls that had joints and moved their legs and hands had hair & were dressed beautifully. Chocs & sweets christmas – stockings – the lot. It was marvellous. We never had another Christmas like it.

At about 11 yrs of age I remember visiting our relations in Secundrabad. My Grandfather on my Dad’s side had married for the second time and both of them were staunch Methodists & everything was very religious. He used to come around early Sunday morning asking us to accompany him to church & I used to go with him because I had found out that he always treated the people or rather children who went to church with him.

It was a revelation going to the Methodist church because you would be sitting & listening to the Parson when suddenly one of the worshippers would stand up and shout what he or she think of things in general. It was quite entertaining.

By the way my father had six brothers – Newton who was a headmaster, then my Dad, then Dennis, Benjamin, Gerry & Lincoln. Sisters Mary, Winifred Queenie & Molly. They were all Sisters in a hospital or Head mistresses. I did not know them very well. The only two or rather 3 I remember were Dennis & Benny who lived with us for a while and Molly who looked after me in Bombay.

At the age of 15 I left school and my Mum & Dad sent me to train as a nurse in a hospital in Calcutta. I was very green and had never seen and had never seen a man in the nude so when I was told to tidy the bed of a black man who was very ill I took one look and then ran back to the sister to tell her we would have to change the bed clothes as he had done something. Silly me they had a good laugh.

Another time I was given the job of giving a man a bed bath I took my basin of warm water, soap & flannel I did not know the resy of the ward were watching me. I took his top garment off and thought to myself he was very hairy and it too late to worry because I put the soap on and got so much lather I had the most awful time getting it off. Everyone was in stitches but I eventually managed it.

A lot of other things happened and in the end I decided it was not for me. But I came home with more knowledge of the human form & much wiser.

At about 22 I was packed off to Bombay to stay with my youngest Aunt Molly. She lived in a flat looking over the streets leading to the Gateway of India. I started work in a Maison for selling Dresses etc to rich people who could afford to live in the Taj Mahal hotel, the poshest in town.

I worked very hard & my Aunt & Uncle looked after me very well. The flat was 3 storeys up & and I used to lie on the balcony & watch the prostitutes at work across the road. It was very interesting.

I had three sisters & a brother now and as I had been away from home very much I only knew my elder sister Win, she was the kindest & loveliest person that ever was. After Win there was myself then my brother Lloyd, sister Dorothy and sister Ivy.

My parents were now getting worried about the state of India and wanted to send us to England & they would follow later.

My sister Win had married a policeman called Ed Davis and his relatives lived in Gateshead near Newcastle & my brother was sent over first to live with them and find a place for us.

We that is Dorothy, Ivy & I came over in 1938 and we were shocked when we saw Gateshead and more shocked when we saw the house we were to live in. A toilet that was outside, no bathroom only a zinc tub, no proper Kitchen and anyway none of us knew how to cook as it had always been done for us, and we had never done any laundry so it was quite a job. We were like people on show as we dressed better had more money and spoke better. When I went to the shops by the way I used to dress in slacks & paint my toenails & fingernails and they had never seen anything like this and we caused a lot of interest.

We all found Jobs mine was in a Superstore called Binns and I was put in the Langerie Dept.. I was hysterical when I saw a pair of combinations the girls used to come and feel my hips as they all wore corsets and I did not. And some of them had false teeth and mine were all mine & in good condition.

I met a man in the air force called Joe and he used to take me to corner cafes and pictures and what I looked forward to was tea with his family on Sunday afternoons. It used to be cold meat and something they called dripping, which was lovely & different then the present day stuff.

By the way by this time we had enough money to rent a lovely flat in a better area & furnish it very well with carpets & the lot for £25. We even had an indoor bathroom & a nice kitchen.

My Dad was a great sportsman. He used to keep 2 horses for polo & won many cups. On one instant he was playing & the strap that holds the saddle on the horse loosened & Dad was hanging on upside down but he was lucky. He was good at all sports.

My mother was a very quiet woman she did not do anything great. She loved nursing.