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More Stories - The Way We Were

From Contributor Hilda Graham:

My First Trip Home to England

I arrived in the U.S. in 1946, and must admit I soon got homesick and missed my family and friends so much.  In 1949 I was able to return to England for a visit with and be reunited with all of them. 

Anyone who had lived in England during the war years will remember how hard it was, due to shortages of food and clothing.  Rationing was very severe.  As a teenager during those years I recall wishing to have enough clothing coupons to be able to buy new dresses, shoes, pretty lingerie, all the things a young girl desires.  I might also add as a younger child I still had vivid memories of living through a depression.  As many others recall, this was world wide.

However, what I am leading up to is not a sob story but a somewhat humorous one.  As I have stated, I felt sort of deprived as a teenager as thousands of others did, not any one's fault, just circumstances caused by a war.  I was so excited when I first realized I was going to make this trip and of course still being very young I wanted to go in style -- clothing-wise I mean.  I was lucky to be able to go tourist class on the Queen Mary and take my two young daughters ages 4 and 2 years with me.  Unfortunately Eddie was unable to go as he had to work, and just could not afford to take the time off to go with us.

I had scrimped and saved and managed to buy a couple of very nice outfits for myself and made some cute clothes for my little girls.  I did splurge on one elegant cream coloured cashmere coat complete with matching shoes, purse, hat and gloves, the whole works.  Oh, did I ever feel dressed up!  I packed our cases and at the last moment decided I should take an umbrella, so Eddie and I went to buy one.  I was not too particular about this, but I still wanted something to complement my new attire.  Suddenly I spotted a cream coloured one with a gold and brown border that was perfect.  We bought the umbrella and I decided to leave it in the plastic it came in until I needed it.

Now back to my trip.  What a wonderful trip we had aboard ship, it was like being in a fine hotel.  The food was superb, no housework and being catered to at every whim.  A nursery for the children, parties and dancing every night, it was like heaven except Eddie was not there.

Upon our arrival to England my parents met us.  Oh, what a joy to be with them again.  My oldest daughter Yvonne was only six months old when we left England and they had never seen our youngest daughter Linda, so you see we really were overcome with happiness.

During our first few days we were treated royally, with our friends and relatives having us over for tea, special homecoming parties, the whole works.  I eventually got an invitation from one very special friend.  We had gone to school together and were very close, but her parents were quite wealthy, very haughty-taughty.  Anyway, I was to go with them to the theatre.  Ha!  Here was my chance to show off my special outfit; it was perfect.  I had my hair done in the latest style thanks to another friend who was a hairdresser and also a cosmetologist; my makeup was perfect.  Here I was all ready to go.  I would be very sophisticated, can you imagine this? <grin>

They came to pick me up and I felt quite at ease with the parents.  To tell the truth when I was younger they used to intimidate me, but not now.  The conversation in the car was fine as I had grown up a lot and was and was able to converse on their level.

When we arrived at the theatre her father came around and opened the car door for me, when I noticed it was beginning to rain.  Oh, thank goodness I had my brand new umbrella!  He offered his hand to me and I stepped out of the car, unfastened the little band that held it closed and opened it up for the very first time and immediately held it over my head, as I did not want to ruin my new hairdo.  As the mother and my friend got out of the car they looked at me with a peculiar expression on their faces, which I did not give much thought to.

umbrella.jpg (82146 bytes)When we got into the foyer of theatre I noticed a rack which was used to hang the wet umbrellas on.  As I lowered mine to hang it on the rack, to my utter dismay I realized that the gold and brown which I had thought was a fancy border was an assortment of horses heads, not merely a design.  I was mortified, as there went all my elegance and sophistication in one short moment.  My friend and I broke out into laughter and could hardly control ourselves.  Her father came over, and realizing my embarrassment, he put his arm around me and whispered in my ear, "You really do live in Texas, don't you?".   Click photo to enlarge

While driving home from the theatre I was invited to dinner the following Sunday.  So all was well that ended well.   I still have the umbrella, a little worse for wear -- come to think of it, I am also!

Copyright Hilda Graham 02/07/2003  

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