Thursday, August 30, 2012

Advertising along Rodbourne Road

Today advertising is big business as firms spend huge budgets on promoting their products. While celebrities  supplement their income persuading us to eat everything from crisps to luxury frozen meals, sports stars can earn seven figure sums from sponsorship deals and endorsements.

We tend to think of advertising as a modern phenomenon, one of the evils of a media dominated lifestyle, but it was ever thus.

An early example of the flyer, fodder for the recycling box today, was produced by Smith, Nash, Kemble and Travers 'wholesalers and retailers,' who in 1779 informed their customers of a sugar shortage due to 'the loss of Grenada.'  And by the beginning of the 19th century no entreperneurial opportunity to advertise was missed from bill boards to sandwich boards and of course, newspapers and magazines.  Swindon newspaper proprietor William Morris called his broadsheet the Swindon Advertiser, because it did just that.

Regent Street was a proliferation of advertisements on shop fronts, awnings and the sides of buildings but if you thought these days of TV and internet advertising had eclipsed more traditional forms of promotion you would be wrong, as a walk down Rodbourne Road soon reveals.

For more photographs of Rodbourne through the ages visit the Rodbourne Community History Group website.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Birthday Greetings

In the 1950s, when greetings cards were relatively modest, dad always bought my mum a big card in a box for her birthday and at Christmas.  Not big compared to those on offer today, but a box none the less.  His careful, rounded handwriting embellished with curls and loops conveyed the emotions I seldom heard him utter. The printed verse, often running to several inserted pages, said what he couldn't. The card, a padded confection of bows and bells - well, perhaps not bells - was always received with derision.  However mum kept them - in homage to the money they had cost him rather than the emotion expressed within them.

Nothing in my parents's relationship was straight forward, but then how could it be?  There was too much sadness and too many secrets - and considering they had both experienced such deprived and lonely childhoods, a surprising absence of compatibility and empathy.  Mum wanted someone with ambition and drive.  Dad wanted emotional security and the love he had missed out on as a child.  Sadly neither could provide what the other needed.

When my parents home was emptied after my dad's death it was left to his much loved cousin Harry to undertake the clearing and disposal of their minimalist bungalow.  I had gone awol from our warring family many years previously and could not be entrusted with such an intimate task.  Harry, uncomfortable with this the last loving act he could do for my dad, asked me if there was anything I would like.  I would have liked to sift through their belongings to see if there were any letters that might explain our unfathomable history, but I knew there probably wasn't anything.  I wonder now if all those cards survived.  So I took the photograph tin and was grateful to have that.

It was several years later that I received a surprise package from my cousin Sheila, the daughter of Harry's sister Kitty who had also recently died.  Going through her mother's belongings Sheila found a bundle of postcards, among them a few precious birthday postcards exchanged between my branch of the family.

Without the accompanying envelopes there were few clues as to when or to what addresses they had been sent.  By careful calculation I was able to come up with an approximate date - 1937/8 -  for most of the cards.  This was the last year my dad and his brother John spent in St Mary's Home for Boys, a Catholic orphanage in North Hyde.  The majority could have been sent no later that 1938 as their sister Frances had died earlier that year and John celebrated his 12th birthday in May.

But even here there were more unanswered questions.  My grandmother left my grandfather in 1935, pregnant with a seventh child who may or may not have been his. I had always believed that was the last contact she had with her children until she found my dad and John through the Salvation Army Family Tracing Service in the 1970s.  But among the carefully preserved cards are one to both my dad and John, signed mother.

Perhaps the most poignant card for me personally is the black and white one the children sent to their grandmother.  My dad was christened William George, but always known as George while his brother Richard John also went by his middle name.  This card is signed from Frances, Willie, Dick and Pat.  I can't help wondering if these diminutives were the names by which their mother called them, rejected along with her when she deserted them.

Dear George
Just a card to wish you a Happy Birthday and may you have heaps more fond love Frances xxx

Dear George,
Here's wishing you every thing thats Good and true With health and Happiness Too on your Birthday Love from Dad

Dear George
Wishing you Many Happy Returns and May you live to see lots More Love from Brother John

Dear John Here's wishing you Everything thats Good & Lucky on Your Twelth Birthday With Love from Dad

Dear dad
Just a card wishing you many happy returns heaps more to follow Your Loving Son George

Dear Granny
Just a card wishing you a happy Birthday and may you live to see many more love from Frances Willie and Dick Pat xxxx

Dear George
Just a card to wish you a Happy Birthday and heaps more to follow all the best from Mother

Dear John
Just a Card wishing you many Happy returns of the day Love from Your Loving Mother xxxx

You might like to read 

Dad's Story 

Dinah Watts Devizes 1824

I wasn't the daughter she would have been ...

Monday, August 27, 2012

War Weapons Week

Despite the growing deprivations on the home front, hard pressed Swindonians were asked to dig deeper into their pockets as Britain entered a second year at war - and the response was phenomenal.

"It does not matter how much we women detest war, we cannot shut our eyes to the fact that in this war women and children are in the front line," May George, Swindon's first Lady Mayor 1935-36 wrote in a letter to the Evening Advertiser.  "Let the women of Swindon show what they can do to help in the defeat of the enemies of everything that we hold dear."

Just days before the town's War Weapons Week was to begin, ten people were killed and several others injured during an air raid on October 20, 1940.  Houses in Rosebery Street took a direct hit while a second bomb dropped in the middle of an adjoining road.  Local residents were commended for their great fortitude and the calm way in which they responded to the emergency.

If ever the people of Swindon needed an incentive to get behind the fund raising initiative that Sunday night air raid provided one.  The initial target of £200,000 had been doubled to an ambitious £400,000 before the week had even begun and by Tuesday the Town Hall indicator already stood at £92,316.  Three heavy weights had got the fund going with both the Midland Bank and the Pearl Assurance Co Ltd each donating £25,000 and the Prudential Assurance Co Ltd £20,000.  Local builder E.W. beard contributed £1,000 while Gorse Hill boys'school added £26 1s 10d to the effort.  Individual donations included those of Mrs F.M. Bays £37 10s; Mrs R.E. Kent £98 and Mr A Kent £37.

"Your money can be converted into bombers and bombs, and should soon be the means of knocking the Blitzkreig right out of business," the Advertiser reminded readers.

On Wednesday the total had risen to £170,950 putting Swindon well within reach of its £200,000 original objective.  Among the latest local employer to step up to the plate was the GWR with a mighty £20,000 followed by the National Provincial Bank with £10,000.  Builder A.J. Colborne and JP Mr A.A. Drongoole both gave £1,000.  Garrard employees invested £663 10s and not to be out done the New Swindon Industrial Co-operative Society contributed more than £900 to the town's mid week total.

"Today three more bombers were placed in position over the target area, making a total of 11 and a goodly number of wicked looking bombs," reported the Advertiser in Thursday's edition of the paper, referring to the Berlin industrial scene pictured on the Town Hall Indicator.

Saturday's newspaper headline announced the running total had reached £326,006.  In a tremendous final effort Swindonians set the Town Hall indicator ablaze with £349,154. As promised a new picture was displayed with bombs raining down on a burning Berlin.

The launch of Swindon's War Weapons Week watched by the newly inaugurated Mayor Alderman F.E. Allen accompanied by W.W. Walkefield MP and other local dignitaries.  Brig. General M.A. Studd DSO, MC takes the salute as the procession sets off from Regent Circus.

A Nazi Dornier bomber, on loan from the Air Ministry, was on display at the Town Hall car park.

A reference to houses bombed in the recent air raid.

A patriotically decorated number 22 Corporation bus travelled around town advertising the week's events and serving as a mobile information point.

Crowds gather to watch promotional films shown from a cinema van outside the Victoria Road post office.

The final total on the Town Hall Indicator.

But it wasn't over yet.  In mid December Mayoress Mrs F.E. Allen presented the mothers of eighteen babies born during War Weapons Week with a Post Office Savings Bank Book containing an initial deposit of ten shillings.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Swindon Mela

The doom laden weather forecast failed to dampen yesterday's 10th Swindon Mela where a multitude of Asian food, craft and alternative health therapy stands, plus traditional music and dance acts, managed to squeeze into the Town Gardens along with some 20,000 visitors.

Swindon's multicultural festival attracts visitors from across the South West and organisers are rightly proud that the Mela has always been a safe, family friendly event.

On the Showcase Stage Kizzy Kukreja introduced a wealth of local talent including the Bollywood Dreamers and the vibrant Swindon Stars while on the main stage in The Bowl a host of established stars had the crowd on their feet.  From up and coming Punjabi vocalist Lovely Singh to award winning Navin Kundra, who kept the audience entertained during a cloud burst.

And even when the predicted storm arrived festival goers continued to party.

Peacock Dance by children from the Tamil Association

The Swindon Belly Dancers

South Indian Cinematic Dance by the Swindon Stars

One of the many food stalls

Frances and Tracey representing Swindon Libraries

The Bandstand serves as an Information Point

You might also like to read

By the Bandstand

Jake the Juggler