A writer on local history has been in touch with Retro to see whether readers want to become involved in his latest project.
Professor Bryan Woodriff, who lives in Middlesex, wrote: “I wonder whether you might like to join with me in another local history project. You may remember the three books about Shire Green and district which I produced in the early part of the last decade, sometimes with the help of others who wanted to add their own memories?
“Well, for some years I have been of a mind to develop these ideas even further because so much of the story of our early lives and experiences has been lost during the intervening 60 or more years up to now.
“When I look back at my own past and the friends with whom I used to spend my time, the games we used to play, the tales we used to tell, the books and papers we used to read, the school teachers and lessons we used to endure or enjoy, the way we spent our weekends, Sunday school and/or church, what our home life was like, what we listened to on the wireless, what our food was like, what the shops were like, how we coped with the war and the bombing, how we travelled about, the hobbies we used to have, the places we visited, our youth activities, the parties we used to attend and, most of all, what our friends were like and why we got on with them – hundreds of stories pour into my mind, but when I share them with my grandchildren, it so often amuses them that they think they are fairy stories and that I am making it all up.
“Only last week I had a call on Skype from two of my grandchildren who had been given the following task for their homework: “Describe – who is the oldest person in your family? Ask them questions about what their school was like, what their home life was like, what they did in their free time, and discover any other interesting things about this elderly relative”.
“Fortunately I was able to help them fulfill their homework tasks but I was also able to refer them to the three books I had written to put my personal answers into context.
“So it seems that this aspect of family history is becoming part of this generation’s primary school education, although my two grandchildren – a boy and a girl – had great difficulty understanding how different it was for us then, just as so many of us encounter difficulties in understanding the needs and experiences of our grandchildren today.
“So, the reason for this letter is to ask you whether you would be kind enough to consider writing about 2,000 words (equals one page) about your own childhood (up to and including secondary school) and include a picture or two of yourself at the age you are describing.
“So much has changed since the years of my childhood, through the years of my own children’s childhood and is still changing during the childhood years of my grandchildren, so our memories of the toys we played with the the story books we enjoyed reading, the visits to Father Christmas and the stocking we hung up to receive our special presents, are all invaluable memories and souvenirs of occasions when time stood still and left a picture in our mind’s eye.
“I do earnestly hope that with what I have written above, I will have encouraged you sufficiently well enough to persuade you to share with me, and with others, some of your earliest special memories.
“I had begun to write down my earliest memories just after I had completed by third book Shire Green, Wincobank and Beyond in 2006 but everything came to a stop when my wife Maureen died suddenly in 2007.
“I also had two other books on the stocks, one dealing with the schoolboy memories of my primary and secondary school life – not quite a Tom Brown’s Schooldays nor a Billy Bunter – but the history of one school, founded when we were born, as well as of a marvellous secondary school, no longer with us, as seen through the memories of many of its former pupils.
“This should not prevent those who attended other local schools or secondary schools from contributing their own reminiscences because the local story is wider than restricted to my own memories.
“I do hope you would like to join me in my next book of Shire Green (and Wincobank) reminiscences.
Please drop me a line. I shall hope to start collating the memories from July.”
To contact Bryan, write to him at 40 Priory Road, Hampton on Thames, Middlesex, TW12 2PJ or email firstname.lastname@example.org