The Parish Church of St George the Martyr, Waterlooville


18. The Sixties

About the Sixties I have very mixed memories, some good, some bad, some happy, some sad, and looking back they seem to have been inexorable and there was nothing I could have done to prevent me leaving my lovely home for good. I had never been really ill or encountered any serious illness in the family so was quite unaware of the anxiety and worries it can bring and very unprepared in the mid-fifties when my husband was found to have developed T.B. This before the war was the most dreaded of family ailments. He was immediately sent to a Sanatorium, where he stayed for about three days before arriving back at Tonbridge in a taxi; he had walked out of hospital and refused to return. The doctor was furious but eventually said he could be nursed at home provided he stayed in one room while he was having his treatment. We had plenty of rooms so this was no problem, one large room overlooked the garden facing south. He was not an easy patient and was always wanting to get up when bed rest was essential for the treatment so eventually he went into Guy’s Hospital to have a “Phrenic Crush” which collapsed the affected lung. When he came home he was supposed to rest again and no drinking, smoking, no games not even golf. I think he was quite good about all this and he bought himself a television set so it was a new toy at that time. He took his tablets and really behaved well so he duly recovered. The doctors were pleased with the results of these new drugs, the “Sulphonanides” that had been found during the war and used on the troops. Relief at last and we reverted to the old routine and making Switzerland a must at some time every winter.

The next blow came when my mother-in-law died quite suddenly, she was taken ill on Friday and lapsed into a coma while at the Cottage Hospital and died on Sunday night. I missed her greatly, she had a quick wit, a great sense of humour, spent most of her time doing wonderful tapestry, but I don’t think she had a practical thought in her head. She adored her son and was very good with him when he was ill. She always said that I shouldn’t work so hard, but never lifted as much as a tea cup, I might break it, you see, my dear, she would say to cover up her laziness. She was the last of the Edwardians and their exaggerated life styles.

Now we were into the sixties with their new type of music. It must have had something to have lasted until now when it is still listened to with pleasure. It took the place of Ivor Novello and Noel Coward’s music which had lasted since before the war. People were also changing, manners we were used to had gone, women were wanting to be equal to men as they had been during the war, and there was a feeling that “The world owes us a living”. The flower people emerged who seemed to live communal lives in and on other people’s property, children were free to do as they liked with no respect for anything or anybody and church was just a laugh and if you went to church you were a nut case. It was said that it took Hitler and his war to break the British Class system. It also had the effect of turning our world upside down. It was a thing we had to get used to as life would never be the same again.

Tony had now been at Tonbridge School for some time and had settled into living at home after years of his young life boarding at school. Now he had the best of both worlds, a certain amount of home life with his school and school house at the end of the garden. He was able to have his own room with plenty of space to entertain his friends and they could enjoy the privacy of playing their own type of records which I think are still worth something compared with todays. This room even had its own entrance where the boys could come and go during the day without disturbing the house. It had been part of the Servants’ Quarters in the old days.

There was always plenty going on at the school for interest, and watching school rugger on Saturday afternoons in winter was almost a must, also cricket in the summer when played at home, or on Sundays at any of the local villages such as Leigh, Penshurst, Southborough or Tunbridge Wells to name a few. Life really was very busy both work wise and socially. My sister’s children were also growing up fast. She had come to live in Tonbridge some years ago and had settled down wonderfully to bring up her family of four. She joined the Red Cross and did valiant work with the handicapped for many years. We had Jumble Sales, Bring and Buy evenings, Coffee Mornings, Street and House Collections, attending Fêtes, River Regattas and Gymkhanas at First Aid Posts, and Hospital rotas for helping on wards when we donned our uniform and sallied forth, also on certain Sunday mornings Church Parades.

Looking back on the political scene in which I had taken little part I find it interesting to notice all the ups and downs of political life. Macmillan who handed over the Premiership to Douglas-Home in 1959, said when he was visiting Africa that the wind of change was blowing through Africa, I think it also was blowing through the whole world. The Profumo scandal tore the Government to pieces and in 1964 Harold Wilson held a small majority which he increased in an October election in the same year and kept until 1969. As well as troubles there were many wonders. The Russians put a man in space in October 1957 and he flew round the world in 1½ hours having sped his tiny capsule 188 miles above the earth at 17,400mph. In 1961 Kennedy was having trouble with Russia over missiles that were found to be ready to be sent to Cuba which was a bit too near to Washington for safety, so he imposed a naval blockade on Cuba to prevent the ships from entering Havana. The world was glued to the radio for five dramatic days before Kruschev turned his ships back. The world breathed a sigh of relief! Two years after this John Kennedy was shot and killed in Dallas while riding through in a motorcade.

The winter of 1962/63 England had its longest spell of cold weather which lasted for ten weeks. There was a very heavy fall of snow in freezing temperatures which covered Kent and most of South East England. Villages were cut off with blocked roads and heavy drifts. There were many tales of hardships, but as usual it came down to manpower to clear the snow from the roads while planes overhead dropped necessities. It was a lesson to be learned and we have benefited from it in the south where we were not prepared for anything so drastic in those days.

1964, as far as I can remember was taken over by Beatle Mania, “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah”, the beat that these boys gave to their music and filled the air was far different from that which had been played in ballrooms throughout the Western world and when the English took it up the rest of the world of music followed.

Tony left Tonbridge to join the Navy in 1962 and started at Dartmouth on a ten year commission, had met the girl of his dreams and on a ski-ing holiday in Davos they became engaged after which he joined his ship and went to the far east. The years seemed to go by so quickly in the sixties as much happened in the world. Churchill died in January of 1965, somehow one seemed to think he was immortal, death came as a shock to all who remembered him in the dark days. There was a wonderful funeral and once again the television came into its own with Richard Dimbleby narrating the event and the picture in colour, it was a great spectacle, a worthy memory of a great man. The next memory I have of the sixties was when Ian Smith wanted independence for Rhodesia, but could not agree with Wilson’s idea of majority rule, so cut his ties with Britain. His government was then declared unconstitutional and economic sanctions were imposed on Rhodesia. It was sad for the English who lived out there for many years and had fought valiantly for us during the war. Another shock was the assassination of South Africa’s Prime Minister Dr Verwoerd in the Assembly. What was happening to the world?

At home, my husband who had recovered quite well over the years that one had rather forgotten about it. He had gone back to work some years ago and although he gave up playing cricket he always followed County and Test matches mainly from the pavilion, he played golf, continued to smoke so had a return of the old trouble. This time he had to go into Guys Hospital again to have the offending lung removed. This was a major job. He was in hospital for a month after which he recovered very slowly and I was told he might with care live another five years according to how he lived. I decided that I must have more time to look after him so sold our house in which we had had twelve happy years and took a small sweet shop close by. It was a small cottage like building of the 15th century with low ceilings and inglenook fire places, and mainly on the ground floor with three small attic bedrooms. What a change. We moved in just before Christmas and for the next year or two led a quiet life.

Tony was back again and stationed at Ports-mouth and now Jane and he decided to marry in August and look around for somewhere to live in the area and settled upon Denmead. Just prior to the wedding, HMS Wakeful was ordered to join the fleet in Scotland which was to be reviewed by the Queen, and the honour of representing his ship was given to him when he was invited on to the Royal Yacht to meet the Queen and her family.

Ruby Bullock

Autumn Edition 2010

Ruby’s Memoirs