Alice in the pram as the May Queen
The sisters of Alice Reynolds: Edith, Sybil, 'Gossie' and Olive
My Dad was a very talented man. I was very fond of him, because he was so interesting; he was also a handsome, grumpy, frustrated man -
My Dad's father was called Gosden. He died around 1884, but my Dad's mother, Grandma Downer, spent her last years with us. I now realise she must have remarried after Grandad Gosden died, as I only ever knew her surname to be 'Downer'. I remember her living with us, in the back bedroom. She wore a bodice which had the most amazing buttons on it, in gold and enamel, featuring all different breeds of dogs. She also had beautiful rings on her fingers.
Grandma Downer died at the age of 85, at daffodil time. It was the first corpse I had ever seen. My mum was indignant that my father had removed the rings from her fingers, but of course it would have been wrong to have buried them with her, especially as our family was so hard up.
Who was his father?
My father had trained in London to be a tailor -
He was tall and well-
Life In Over Street
During the General Depression in 1926, there was a slump in the tailoring business and Dad -
Working with pianos
He could restore and clean pictures, French polish wood and tune pianos. He had a good musical ear, and could play the piano -
The wobbliest banister
Our house had the wobbliest banister in the street, I think; Dad had sawn it in half, so that he could get pianos into the back kitchen, which he used as a workshop to repair, repolish and tune them. When he had finished with a piano, he would advertise it in the Exchange and Mart and sell it. When the piano was out of the house, he would then fix the two ends of the wobbly banister back together again, but there was still a lot of movement.
Rabbit for the pot
One of his hobbies was clay pigeon shooting. He was an excellent shot, and had many silver spoons and trophies to prove it. When Dad went up country to measure farmers for breeches or coats, he usually took his 12 bore with him and he always brought back something for the pot. I was very fond of rabbit, although my Dad would knock these over with a catapult, thus saving cartridges.
Fishing from the Palace Pier
Sometimes we went fishing under the Palace Pier, where the sea sloshed through the grating. It was my job to keep the seagulls off the tin of lugworms.
My dad once bought a vintage car. It was a Renault, with a sloping bonnet and bucket seats, horn on the running board with the handbrake. I enjoyed riding about with him in it, but of course eventually it was sold.
Moneywise, my Dad was as tight as the proverbial duck, but he probably had to hold on to a certain amount of money for buying stock for the business. (Years later, when I ran my own antiques business, I soon learned the money I had was not all mine. There had to be an amount set aside for stock, travelling expenses, car upkeep, petrol and running costs, and of course the rent for the room. What was left was then mine, and sometimes it was very little, unless I had a lucky strike, when a meagre profit turned into a mega one! What a stimulating, adventurous business it was.)
The May Queen
When I was little, we had to make our own amusement. One year (1919) Mum had told the girls about the May Queen, a pageant which was held in the village on 1st May, as part of the Spring Fair, so that gave my sister Edie the idea to elect a May Queen in our family.
Although I was only three years old, I well remember the big discussion which took place in Nellie Goldring's front room. Because I was so little, my nose was on a level with the kitchen table and soon there were masses of white crepe paper all over the top of the table. The dresses were made, and my pram was decorated with paper flowers and ribbons and fans, and tinsel, left over from Christmas!
I don't think we collected any money -
A penny for the gas
When I was younger, my sisters kept the home going financially. I don't remember my mother receiving house-
My sisters were lounge waitresses at the Hotel Metropole -
In those days, a penny would buy quite a lot -
Feeding the gas meter
We had a gas meter high up on the wall between the kitchen and the scullery, with a voracious appetite, and the time when Mum had to ask Dad for money was a time to cover your ears. I used to sit on the stairs and listen to the exchange of words between my Mum and Dad:
"George, can you give me a penny for the gas?"
"A penny for the gas!" he would retort. "What do you think I am? Made of money?!!"
"Well George," my mother would say, "I'd like to make a cup of tea."
"Wait until the girls come in!" he would retort.
There would then ensue a violent row. All shortcomings would be aired and things dragged up from way back when. I used to wonder who would win. He did.
He would say, "Where's my hat?" and stick it on his head, go out and slam the front door. And all for "A penny for the gas!".
‘A Penny for the Gas’
Living in Over Street in the 1920s
By Alice Reynolds,
A former Resident
[Alice Reynolds lived in 11 Over Street from 1918 to 1934. This extract from her memoirs -
Alice at the launch of her book in 2011 at Waterstones, Brighton, See here for a review of her book by Anne Fletcher
North Laine History