The Parish Church of St George the Martyr, Waterlooville


Bare Necessities

Ruth King’s talk on 24 May was titled Bare Necessities. It was about knickers, how they have changed over the years, from very long white cotton ones to a thong or G String which is sometimes called a cheesecutter as well. Ruth had a ‘Golden Jubilee’ pair of knickers and is now looking for a ‘Diamond Jubilee’ pair to buy.

Women did not wear knickers until about 1800. Until then they wore a long garment like a nightie. It was called a chemise. After 1800 women also wore Drawers. Sometimes they came to below the knee or sometimes they were longer garments with frills at the bottom called Pantalettes.

We say a ‘pair of knickers’; that is because in the early 19th century, women’s underwear consisted of two separate legs joined at the waist. That is how it became known as a ‘pair’.

In the 19th century knickers were sometimes called Bloomers, this is so named after a lady called Amelia Bloomer. In time, long drawers also became known as bloomers.

In 1941 clothing was stamped with a utility symbol. The motif became known as ‘the cheeses’.

Going to the Privy (toilet) became very difficult for the ladies. They wore extremely long flowing dresses, and underneath was ‘open Drawers’ which were done up at the back by a button. They had feather stitch on the legs. The Privy was usually down an outside path, somewhere to keep the smell away from the living quarters. They were used in all weathers, rain or shine. Newspaper was hung on a nail on the door. Manor Farm has a Privy toilet. Sometimes the ladies would have to have assistance when going to the Privy. Their dress and petticoats would be held up whilst they undid the button at the back allowing them to sit down.

The Liberty Bodice was invented by Fred Cox in 1908. It was a fleecy knitted vest with nibber buttons, which were usually sewn onto the straps for the support of other clothing. These were worn by girls up to the age of 14, for fastening bloomers, underdrawers and suspenders. The undergarments were all hand sewn. In 1851 the Singer Sewing Machine was invented.

Knickerbockers are a type of men’s pants. They were worn for bike riding. They came down to the knee instead of the ankle and were very popular in the 20th century. They were worn by boys in the summer until they were considered adults, they seemed to be worn at first as a kind of sporting or outdoor wear.

Some of the ladies undergarments went around the room for us to hold and feel. They were very heavy and well made with feather stitch or cross stitch on them. The waists on them were very tiny. A 15 year old would have a 22 inch waist, then two years later when she was 17 her waist could be reduced to 13 inches by the corset which was worn sometimes over a vest. This corset was restricting, and caused many problems with the diaphragm and breathing difficulties.

Rise and Fall of the Berlin Wall

At a meeting earlier in the year Rob Hailey came to give us a talk and slide show entitled Rise and Fall of the Berlin Wall.

Rob was in Berlin in the 60’s and had to be very careful to keep his camera hidden, as he knew that it could be confiscated from him if it was seen. His pictures in fact came out really well.

On August 13th 1961 the Berlin Wall was erected and divided the city of Berlin for more than 28 years.

East German citizens were not allowed to leave the country without permission.

During the first days  many people tried to escape through the border but it became more dangerous. People tried to climb over the wall or the fences, they jumped out of their houses which were in the border area or tunnels were built to escape. Several people lost their lives or were killed by the Eastern Border Guard.

Barbed wire was erected on top of the wall and mines were buried and watchtowers set up, roads leading to the border were taken up. Dogs patrolled the area and automatic firing devices pointing towards the GDR territory could be triggered by movement.

Every vehicle was checked, as people tried to escape in the boot, but unfortunately at one time a sneeze was heard and was found out.

Two families being two husbands, two wives and four children bought material from different shops, as they couldn’t be seen to buy from the one same shop each time, the women stitched the material together and made a very large hot air balloon. They all got into the basket one day and managed to escape over the border.

171 people were killed or died attempting to escape at the Berlin Wall between August 13th 1961 and November 9th 1989.

The first person to be shot and killed while trying to cross to West Berlin was Gunter Litfin, a 24 year old tailor. He attempted to swim across the Spree Canal to freedom in West Germany on 24th August 1961, the same day that East German police had received shoot-to-kill orders to prevent anyone from escaping.

The main function of the checkpoint “Charlie” was to register and inform members of the Western Military Forces before entering East Berlin. Foreign tourists were also informed but not checked in the west. The German Authorities in West and East Berlin were not allowed to check any members of the Allied Military Forces in Berlin and in Germany. Checkpoint Charlie was removed on June 22nd 1990.

The life in the west was much better than in the east after 1948. West Germany including West Berlin had got financial help through the Marshall Plan from the USA.

Many East German citizens went to East Berlin and from there to West Berlin. Once arrived in West Berlin they stayed there or fled to West Germany.

Elderly Pensioners could travel to the West starting in 1965, also visits of relatives for important family matters and people who had to travel to the west for professional reasons, eg truck drivers, writers and artists.

The Fall of the Berlin Wall had begun with the building of the wall in 1961. However, it took about three decades until the wall was torn down. Thousands of East Berliners went to the Border Crossings. At Bornholmer Strasse the people demanded to open the border and at 10.30 the border was opened there. Soon other border crossing points opened the gates to the west.

Priscilla Barlow

Summer Edition 2012

St George’s Ladies Group