1920s Birthday Postcards

Jennifer Tonks (nee Smith) enjoyed my Christmas postcards from the 1920’s that I submitted. My mother kept over 30 greetings cards (some hand delivered) from that era, many quite sophisticated with Sister, Cousin or Mother printed on the front. As my mother’s birthday was on Epiphany, 6th January, I am submitting some typical examples of the birthday postcards. The one with the cat is again from her friend Hilda with a simple message: “Dear Nellie, Just a line to wish you Many Happy returns of the day from your loving friend Hilda”. This card is addressed to Miss N Terry and referred to my mother on this occasion.

Hand embroidered cards
My grandmother and mother were both named Ellen Ann Terry so there was confusion; my grandmother was usually called Nellie or Nell and my mother Nen or Nin but these names often got transposed. The card with the archway reads; “Dear Nen, Just a card wishing you many happy returns of the day of your 21st birthday, with love from Emmie and George and Georgie”. My mother was born in 1906 and George was my mother’s brother. Two cards in the collection are hand embroidered and originate from Paris although probably purchased in Brighton.

A widow for 31 years
My grandmother was relatively poor. My grandfather had been ill for some time and died on 18 May 1921. She rented a house at 12 Bonchurch Road and worked in a laundry nearby. She later took in washing and had a copper in the scullery with the fire underneath. She was a widow for almost 31 years and died on 16 May 1952 when I was 8 years old. The house had gas lighting, open fires, a black range, irons that had to be heated on the range, no hot running water or electricity, an outside toilet (I still dislike spiders to this day) and recycling of paper took a different form then. The gas lighting faded when a shilling was needed in the slot meter.

Happy childhood memories
I remember sleeping at the house in winter with a stone hot water bottle that could burn your toes, gas lighting that made wonderful patters on the ceiling and the glow of a coal fire. Health and safety was not thought about and I drifted off to sleep quite happily. I remember a very comfortable feel about going to sleep and the same was true of family life in my grandmother’s house generally. The cards somehow reflect that. In our family Christmas decorations were always left up until my mother’s birthday but had to be taken down that evening as it was considered bad luck to leave them up after the three Kings had arrived at Epiphany. My wife and I still leave our crib set up until the day of Epiphany.

Comments about this page

  • Hello Dennis, I loved them once again. What a difference to today’s offerings. Absolutely lovely. I lived very near Bonchurch Road, Clayton Road. There is a four year difference in our ages. In fact you are my brother Roy’s age. I wonder if we knew each other? If you would like to explore that possibility, my email is jennifer.tonks@yahoo.co.uk

    By Jennifer Tonks (nee Smith) (06/01/2009)
  • Hello Dennis, l am also a 1944 baby. I can remember when l was 7/8 moving to May Road, to what was discribed a a Cottage. l might say at this point it was the most cosiest house.
    I remember the black range, the surface blackened and the hearth whitened more or less every day. Roast beef and potatoes cooked in the fireside oven, very tasty. Chestnuts roasted, kettle always on, spit irons to do the laundry, and a warm welcome when you got home. Then there came wash day; in the scullery was a brick built boiler which dad laid a fire to heat the water, lovely in the winter, but summer- phew! The old mangle in the garden, and bringing in the washing as stiff as a board in the winter. The traipse to the outdoor loo, and of course the Argus.  Frozen pipes, slugs, darkness till dad put a light, and the Cemetery at the back.
    In winter time there was more ice on the windows inside than there was outside. But as l said, the parlour of this house was the cosiest l have ever known.
    Things did not change much when l got married in 1962, l think things started to change about 1968 when modernisation started to creep in. We worked on a self convert home, put in a bathroom, had a Dean gas boiler, cooked by electric, but still froze in the winter.

    By Sheila Jones (06/01/2009)
  • Thanks Sheila for those additional memories which are very familar. The houses needed an enormous amount of work; clearing and lighting the many fires, sparkguards, regular sweeping of chimneys, cleaning, using the heavy mangle plus the small “wringer”. For many years I had my grandmother’s old stick for stirring the washing in the copper and the end of it was bleached white; I used it to mix up wall paper paste. I still have her old long cobweb brush which was essential for some houses of that era. It is quite useful in our local Church. The outside loo and frozen pipes bring back memories or should I say nightmares. The “guzunder” was useful for night times of course.
    I remember paraffin heaters too; smelly and smokey at times. The old radios and large Ever Ready batteries/accumulators fascinated me. It is amusing to go to museums of old shops and houses; it all looks quite modern to me if I put my mind back just a bit.
    Two of our local schools had burst pipes this week and I had to fetch our two young grandaughters as there was no running water. I am sure we must have progressed.

    By Dennis Parrett (07/01/2009)
  • Hi Sheila and Dennis, I was born at Brighton General in 1944 also,we lived in Ewart Steet.  I remember everything you have written about. I used to love the smell of the washing my mum used to do in a big bucket on the stove. Also, I remember the gas lights we had, my mum use to sit for hours making them, very fragile as I remember.  Did you wear a little white bag round your neck with a little camphor crystal in it?

    By Maralyn Eden (07/01/2009)
  • Hello Maralyn, I too was born at the General, and went to St John’s Infant School (or was it called Sussex Street School?). Then we went to May Road, and l went to Elm Grove School. It was at May Road l had double pneumonia. l remember camphor and Wrights coal tar, kept the chest clear and everyone else in the house. I also remember sitting with mum making gas mantle bags, somtimes she made little dollies for us out of them. Such cheap pleasures!

    By Sheila Jones (07/01/2009)
  • Hi Sheila. There are some pictures of May Road in the James Gray Collection available on the web, and of course many other areas of Brighton.

    By Dennis Parrett (17/01/2009)
  • I was born in 1946 at 5 Blutcher Brighton. My mum’s maiden name was Colyer. I never knew my grandad; my nan who lived in the same house never spoke about him or did my dad. Don’t know if in some way we might be related to these people.

    By David Terry (09/11/2011)
  • Around the age of nine I remember being given a whole box of cards such as these, including bible texts and book marks. I cherished them. They were kept in their box and now and then I would file through them and enjoy the colours and patterns some of which were embossed. I’m sorry I don’t still have them.

    By Sandra (10/11/2011)

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