Continuing my interview of lifelong Blantyre resident Mary Owens, aged 99. This follows on from previous parts 1 to 3 earlier this week. This part explores Mary’s recollections as a young woman and the years just following WW2.
I asked Mary if she remembered going to the pictures (movies) as a young woman. She replied, “I did go to the cinema. There was a small picture house on Glasgow Road. In the beginning, they had wooden benches then comfortable seats were installed. I remember one time sitting in the back row of the seats and my father sat at the opposite end, far away from me”, she said with a little sadness. Why that happened was not explained but it could have been simply parents letting children sit with their friends. She continued, “The Children’s matinee cost 1p and I remember once, when it was time to go into the pictures, I had dropped my penny. I never got to the pictures that time.”
Reflecting on other visits to the cinema, she added, “I also had piano lessons. My teacher would play piano for the silent movies and it was funny watching her gallop along on the piano trying to keep up with the films! It made us all laugh so much.” Mary’s eyes lit up remembering this event.
I then wondered about love and romance within Mary’s lifetime, though she mentioned trips to the cinema were only with friends and family. Exploring this a little further, I asked if she ever went dancing? “There were no dances in Blantyre but I did go to different dance halls in Glasgow. I thought nobody would want to dance with me. There was a girl I knew who went dancing in Hamilton and for a while she never got a dance. Then somebody came over and said it was because she was stuck in the corner. That stayed with me, something I did too and I always got disappointment over going to dances.”
Knowing dancing was a large part of popular Scottish culture in post WW2 years, I wondered why Mary continued to go to dances if she didn’t particularly like them. I soon found out the answer, was that she actually liked dancing, but perhaps not the process of choosing dance partners. “I went to dancing lessons afterwards. One man asked me to dance and he seemed really pleased (with my progress). However, I never saw the man again, the only one who said I was doing well”, she remarked this time with a little visible regret.
Following the war, the Owens family left Maxwell Crescent, moving into a large flat on Auchinraith Road nearby. It was actually 5 or 6 houses which are still there today. Mary told me with some amusement, “I’ve a funny feeling my father bribed somebody to get us into one of those houses. I remember it well. We had to go up some stairs and our family lived together. We had a bit of a garden at the back. We grew potatoes, raspberries, rhubarb in the garden. Some potatoes had to be stored and we grew so many, we couldn’t use them all and some had to be thrown out.” I later learned from Katrina, that the family background were market gardeners.
“I remember when a coalhouse was built by my father. Whilst being built, people were watching and hoping it would fall down. But my father wasn’t stupid, he was a very clever man and knew what he was doing. A woman whose son was called Tommy, built a wall nearby, and it collapsed.”
Continued on final part 5 tomorrow….
Mary is pictured as a young woman. In the other photo is her mother Kitty with Hugh Senior.