Character Number Twenty-Six

And then there was Ellen Louise Banton.

Ellen Louise Banton was born on March 26, 1895 in Brentford, London.   She probably went to London schools in Brentford and nearby Acton and she told me she worked in some kind of munitions factory for some time during WWI or 1914 to 1918 when she was 19 to 23. We do know that she later worked in the Lyons Bakery at Cadbury Hall where Lyons not only baked thousands of bread loaves per day, but multiple meals and pastries for their many “Lyons Corner House” restaurants.  Her foreman there was Master-Baker Arthur William Dewing a widower.  On September 3rd, 1927 when she was 32, she married Arthur who was 45 but it is not known how long she was at Lyons or if she had some other job prior to Lyons.  Ellen and Arthur had two children, Doris Louise in April 7th, 1928 and Arthur George on May 11th, 1931.   I met Doris on VE-Day, May 8th, 1945 and, apart from a lapse of close to a year in 1946, have been with her ever since, hoping to celebrate our 65th wedding anniversary in July.

In 1954, Doris and I, with our 12 week old son, Nigel Kenneth, migrated to Montreal, Canada where I was to start my first job. In 1955, Doris’ brother, Arthur, who was a skilled house painter and decorator aged 24, came over for a vacation and never returned.  He and Doris knew Doris’ fellow Junior Air Corps cadet, June Campbell who had married a Canadian soldier after the war.  She and her husband Malcolm lived in Montreal but they also had a summer lake-side cottage that they let Arthur live in.  This left Doris’ mother Ellen alone, so with help from Doris’ cousin Frank Shardalow, she closed her house and left England for good.  Leaving her home in Claybrook Road, she must have recalled walking the street in the black-out of WWII with another lady helping to carry a large bucket and stirrup pump to put out fires.  They wore arm-bands denoting SFP for Street Fire Party or as the kids all called them, Silly Fools Party.   She must have also remembered the night when the whole family of four was sleeping in bunk-beds in an Anderson shelter in their back yard when a bomb took away the front half of their house.

We drove down to New York to meet HMS Queen Mary on which she had arrived after a six day voyage.  We went aboard and had a tour of her quarters and the beautiful dining areas before we drove her to her new home with us.  It was also new to us as we had moved from our initial apartment in which we lived with Doug Eyre as a renter.  We had found a rented house in west Montreal and had recently moved.  Doug, who travelled from UK with us, found himself a single apartment and Granny Glover started a long life of 24 years as our three kid’s live-in Granny.  (Our son, Nicholas Clive was born in Montreal in July, 1956 and our daughter, Melanie Louise, our first American, was born in August 1958 after we had moved to Connecticut in January of that year.)

Ellen was thrilled to be playing with two year old Nigel and holding baby Nick. It must have reminded her of seeing Doris take her first steps on the sands of Cromer, a popular east coast resort for vacationing families.  An amazing coincidence is that my mother told me that I first walked on Cromer Beach with she and my Dad on a holiday.  While living with us in Montreal, Connecticut and later, Atlanta she was able to watch (and baby-sit) our children grow, a grandmother’s dream.  The moves were not easy on her and she was caught up with all of us, living for five months in a crowded apartment in Atlanta when Nigel’s multiple electrical connections caught fire after first being soaked in our flooded basement.  The repairs cost $37,000 and for comparison, we paid $38,000 for the whole house originally.

We moved once again in 1972 when we went to Jacksonville, FL, leaving Nigel, aged 18. in our empty home awaiting the beginning of classes at Georgia Tech. About 1978, Granny Dewing began to have falls in her bedroom and, being much larger than Doris, she had to stay on the floor on cushions until I got home. As a result of this, we searched for a nursing home for her.  Homes in Jacksonville were all full but we found that a nursing home in St. Augustine had a vacancy.  Being about 20 miles down the coast, Doris only visited her about once a week but we saw her every week-end.  We combined trips to see her with the collecting of live shells, oysters, baby crabs and all sorts of marine life for our salt-water aquarium.  Granny became sick and had to go in and out of the St. Augustine Hospital.  It was about this time in 1979, that I had a new opportunity in Houston and I started doing regular commutes back home every other week-end.  This became tedious for both Doris and me so, with our children all gone to colleges, we decided to move completely.  We arranged to get Doris’ mother to Jacksonville airport where Doris met her and they flew to Houston.  I had found a house in NW Houston and also a nursing home for Granny in Tomball, only 12 miles from our house.  On getting her to Tomball and into her room in the nursing home 1200 miles from her other room, she entered and said, “Oh!  They’ve painted my room.”  This made us feel that she would be comfortable there.  The sad end to this story is that Granny died in her sleep two weeks later on February 6th 1980.  We had a small service for her and she was cremated.  She had a grave site reserved next to her husband’s grave in Sheen, a suburb of London near Fulham where she had lived for about 40 years.  One of Doris’ cousins arranged a burial service and her ashes were placed next to her husband.  When Doris mailed the ashes to her cousin, she was asked what the value of the package was for insurance purposes.  She could only answer with a nod as her tears were falling when the agent suggested $100.  As humoros as this sounds , I believe we should all give thought  to how we would answer the same question and I know that we would all have difficulty coming up with a dry-eyed answer.

2 thoughts on “Character Number Twenty-Six

  1. I had not read this one…they stopped coming to my email about 4-5 characters before this one. I still miss Granny very much and think of her a lot and her advice. When I was upset, she always said to make a cup of tea. Occasionally, she asked me to make her a “Shandy” of half giner ale and half beer! I don’t recall her living in that little apartment with us after the house fire. Dad has a great memory. I can’t believe that house only cost 38k around 1965. It was my second favorite after the Jacksonville house, probably.

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