05 February 2010


Aren't old photographs fascinating? This is my Mom and Dad's wedding picture. Dad was the eldest of six, the last was yet to be born. Look at the outfits worn by granddad and grandma on the left. And don't they look happy? Only the best man had a smile on his face ... perhaps he knew something they didn't. Here's a more modern one, taken when I was a child. The rest of the grandchildren came later. I've added the names for ease of identification.

And here's Mom and Dad on their own, you can tell by the style of photograph that it's an old one

Whatever the character of the photographs, they elicit forgotten memories that are worth savouring. Here are some of mine for your amusement.

My family on my Dad’s side was both musical and artistic. Starting with my grandfather who ‘played piano by ear’ the family members developed their own form of music, playing the piano, dancing or singing. Most were artistic … woodwork, craft-work, art or dramatics. Only now, as I look back, do I recognise the surfeit of talent in the family.

In view of the fact that I was a downtrodden child, with a mother who offered no praise or encouragement and constantly reminded me to know my place, speak when spoken to, and what will neighbours think when they look at you? (referring to my habit of leaving coats undone) I went through life thinking I had neither appeal nor aptitude. Only now do realise I wasn’t too bad at a lot of things, especially craftwork and writing.

My Dad was an artist, too, but although he was good at drawing his imagination and creativity was not with the arts. He was a whiz with wood. By trade a carpenter and joiner, if there was wood to be turned he was your man. He loved to surprise Mom and me, doing things in the home when we were out. New bits and pieces would appear. I particularly remember door handles, big and extraordinary works of art that were the talk of the neighbourhood.

As a child I was the proud possessor of a magnificent fully furnished dolls house, a dolls cradle, pencil cases, 3-tier needlework boxes, and a wonderful desk and stool, tongue and grooved to perfection. When I married he delighted in creating things for my new home, a radio stand that was an exact wooden replica of the bird bath, a cork topped, carved legged card table that was the envy of the family and fought over when he died. I still have the desk.


The youngest sibling, my Uncle Norman, was musical. I don’t recall him ever playing an instrument but he sure could sing. He had a fine voice that reached the rafters in church. From birth he was a sufferer of osteogenesis imperfecta, better known as brittle bone disease. Judging by his stunted growth you would not have expected him to have such a fine singing voice. He sang with a well known choir for years and was a popular member of an amateur dramatics group run by the church drama group. Nearly always the star of the show, people would ask if Norman had a part before they bought tickets. They knew they’d have a good laugh if he was in the show. He died two years ago, but his memory lives on for many folk.


Encouraged by Ann, Norman’s wife, who is acclaimed for her work with oils, Aunt Florence (see above) took up painting. She delighted in transferring images of her garden to paper, with which she taught me everything I needed to know about plant life. However, her special talent was marquetry, producing wonderful pictures from different types of wood veneer.


Three Scottish cousins played in the National Youth Orchestra, but the one who shot to fame was Susan: noted concert pianist, writer, and pride of the family. She was the first girl to enter the music faculty at Kings College, Cambridge, and is to this day a joy to listen to.

My musical career (said with tongue-in-cheek) started when Mom sent me for piano lessons given by an elderly professor of music, at any rate he seemed old to me. I did quite well, gaining two certificates from the Imperial School of Music. The third attempt would have been a doddle if the examiner hadn’t stopped me playing, pointed to a random piece in the sheet music, and ordered me to ‘start again from there….’ That’s when I realised he knew I was playing from memory.


I couldn’t read music … but my memory was fantastic.


The Professor was a dirty old man. He would sit beside his pupils close enough for legs to touch. He liked to squeeze young girls’ thighs as they played.

I was very young and shy and scared of adults, always fearing what they would say. I couldn’t fight him nor could I tell my parents. Mom would just accuse me of lying. My immature brain decided that if I memorised everything I could get away from him faster, hence the discovery of fraud at my music examination.

In those days girls kept that sort of thing to themselves. I guess we were ashamed to admit, actually to put into words that a dirty old man was stroking their thighs. How embarrassing was that?

The stroking didn’t stop at the thigh. I remember my skirt being pulled right up and fingers tugging at the elastic round the knicker leg. I remember making the excuse of wanting the toilet in order to jump off the piano stool and get away from him.

I began to miss lessons, played truant, naively thinking no-one would notice. One day I caught a bus into town, whilst at home the police were organising a search party. Oooo the hiding I got for causing everyone so much worry! None of that ‘are you all right’ rubbish.

But that, as they say, is another story.

If you've enjoyed this.... please go and read the blogs of other subscribers to Sepia Saturday


  1. Hoo-eee! Quite a bit o' talent there :) Not likin' that instructor tho' Wouldn't get away with that to-day, wot?

    And I'd like to have just one piece of furniture Pop either built or refinished. I still dabble in the wood-work and art ( and writing, of course ) :)

  2. Dirty old man indeed. These days I wonder what the parents would have said. You have some lovely family photos here; I don't think I have any photos of my ancestors where they're smiling even though they were happy.

    CJ xx

  3. that is do that to a child...i have a hard time giving any mercy...

  4. As poor as some people were after The Depression, they seemed to take better care of themselves and knew how to look neat.

    Your photos make excellent memories.

    Abe Lincoln Blogs

  5. I love old photographs and the stories that go with them. What a talented family you have. I was so enjoying your post, then you told us about your piano teacher which made me catch my breath. That sort of man was more common than people realised - I know, it happened to me too but like you I never told anyone.

  6. Interesting to see old photographs. Your family all look so neat and tidy.

    You were lucky to escape the piano teacher's advances. It must be awful to have to think 'what if?'

  7. Val, I don't think any of my ancestors owned a camera as I can't remember ever seeing their are blessed to have these.

    I sure don't like what happened at your piano lessons, if he did this to you, you know he was with the other students....I hope he got caught eventually, don't like him at all.......:-) Hugs

    PS: I think you look like your father.

  8. Lovely old photos. My Dad was the same, in that he had a talent for woodwork and drawing. He made many items that I still have.
    Sadly, I think your story about the teacher was all too common in those days, when Adults didn't want a "fuss" and Grown ups were believed over the child.

  9. Subby, I'm glad I still have some of Dad's work to remember him by. Keep dabbling, my friend.

    CJ, no-one seemed to smile on photographs, perhaps the cameramen didn't know how to say 'cheese' or 'smile please'

    Brian, don't bother being merciful ... I wish I could come across him now, he'd plead for mercy then.

    Abe,you're right. A lot should be learned from the older generations.

    Akelamalu, I'm sorry you had a similar experience and, yes, it was a common

    CW, I escaped, he didn't, more's the pity.

    Bernie, I believe the family had a box camera, I wonder what they'd think of our tiny digitals.

    Kath, there were real craftsmen then and they took such pride in their work. I'd forgotten the expression 'don't make a fuss' ...

  10. No wonder that you are a writer then, coming from such an artistic family.
    It is lovely to look through old photos. They had to stay so still as everything was slower then. The children must have thought it was an eternity.

    Nuts in May

  11. God has greatly gifted you
    I enjoyed visiting your blog
    God Bless

  12. Your photos are great and it is wonderful of you to share them with us. A very talented family indeed and you yourself got quite a bit of it. I am very sorry to hear about your experience with the professor and I hope he got what was coming to him. Take care.

  13. This comment has been removed by the author.

  14. I love old photographs too - and especially the traditional, posed wedding type.
    I don't have many from my family as my ancestors were all of modest means so thanks for sharing yours!
    Evelyn in Montreal

  15. Hi Yvonne:)


    It a great delight to see the old photos.They always bring back the old world charm and beauty. The style of their dress is something which we don't see in these days.How time changes everything and we live on our memories.

    As far as the old man is concerned, it is shameful. In those days parents would not listen to any complaints like this from little children. Now such things will become a big issue. People are more aware.

    I am happy you shared a small slice of your life in your younger days.

    Have a wonderful day Yvonne:)

  16. Great photos Val and I love the way they act as a springboard to memories and tales from long ago (even if some of those memories are not all that pleasant) You have certainly inherited the artistic and creative gene.

  17. A wonderful slice of family history, complete with great photographs. Your mum and dad look very relaxed together, with the dog at their feet.

    Sad to hear of your experiences with the 'professor'. Do these people have any idea of the damage they do?

  18. Valerie, I will endeavour to do just that ;). Didn't see your response to this, as it did not send thru'....blogger glitch!

  19. Wonderful photos. I wish I could have been there to hear one of Norman's performances.

    I also wish I could have been there to whack your piano teacher on the head! What damage this idiots do!

  20. Valerie, Your photographs are a treasure certainly, but I can imagine that some of those memories of being dismissed or disbelieved in such a dire circumstance are anything but!
    I'd love to corral all the dirty old men of yesterday and today and expose them for all to see. And I do mean expose!


  21. What beautiful family treasures! I especially like the gorgeous opening wedding photo. Your family is rich with talent. Delightful post.

  22. Yes...dirty old man indeed! Someone should have exposed him for the creep that he was!

    The wedding pic is wonderful! Love that the best man is smiling...I wonder if they did little tricks like decorating the grooms car and such back then. And I especially love the photo of your parents with the dog laying at their feet. Adorable!

  23. I can't tell you how much I've enjoyed this poignant, honest peek at your family.

    Your story of the piano lessons is awful, and I am so very sorry for that little girl you were... it points out that the stories behind our Sepia Saturday pictures are, of course, not all so happy. And as with all history, it's the complexity of it (bad and good and grey areas too) that makes it vivid.

    thank you for a wonderful post!

  24. Nice photos - I enjoyed your story!
    Ick - dirty old man...

  25. Great photos! I find it so ironic that we over praise our children today and build them up to better that they probably deserve and when we grew up we were to not embarrass our parents and not mess up to make the parents look bad. I know abuse also and it does affect the rest of your life.


If you're new to A Mixed Bag you might find something to interest you, a bit of mirth, a story or two, or some pictures. I'm so pleased you popped in, do leave a comment if you have time.