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The Day Before Yesterday: 36 – Taking Romeo More Seriously

...It was bad taste to let a lady pay even when wages were low. You went for walks if money was scarce. Men always walked on the outside of women and gave up their seats to them in the buses. They linked arms when 'going strong,' as it was called....

Gladys Schofield recalls her courting days.

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I was getting to know the fair young man more and wouldn't have blamed him if he had looked elsewhere as I still was wary of men, but who would blame me? Did I attract the worst? So I asked Cliff one day why he was attracted to me, and his answer surprised me. "Because you've got innocent eyes," he said.

Well, I thought, if that is the attraction I might risk a night out with him. Goodness knows he has been patient.

So we arranged to go to see a film. He said later he was afraid to get close to me for fear I would think he had the wrong intentions, and nearly walked at the other side of the road so he wouldn't startle me. On this occasion he didn't put his arm around me, as was the custom in the back seats. He paid for my ticket and bought me a bar of chocolate.

It was bad taste to let a lady pay even when wages were low. You went for walks if money was scarce. Men always walked on the outside of women and gave up their seats to them in the buses. They linked arms when 'going strong,' as it was called.

As no calls had been made on my modesty, we went for a walk another time and he later confided, "I dared not stop, for the same reason as before, and was bursting to take a nature call." We had walked miles that night.

When we had a date I would often wash my stockings and dry them, holding them near the fire, as I needed them to dry quickly. Mum would say, "You will suffer in later life, wearing damp stockings." She was right.

You always wore, or appeared to wear, stockings and I hadn't many. If you bought a few pairs the same colour you could mix and match when you got a ladder in one. You could repair a ladder with a hair from your head, threaded through a fine eyed needle.

Beaty started to date a young man in the weaving shed too. He was about three years older than her. It seemed a lot to me but they got along fine together. We sometimes made a foursome in the early days. New swimming baths had opened. We all went there, though swimming was not the men's strong point, and other times we just walked in the fields and woodlands. Being with Beaty made me feel more confident, but I soon realised their courtship was well ahead of ours. I began to accept the arm around me to draw me close as we watched a film together.

I had not received any sex education from my mother, and it still was not taught in schools. I had learned more from my friends as we talked amongst ourselves. No wonder I was scared. The only thing Mum said when I had a period was, "Keep away from men. If you have a baby, you will find yourself in the workhouse." If she meant these words to scare me, she certainly succeeded. Dorothy didn't make me any wiser either, so it seemed to be a subject not talked about.

How do you cope with emotions? These seemed to play a big part in our growing up. No one had informed us on how to deal with this problem and keep us from getting into trouble.

My parents were anxious to meet the lad I was spending so much time with, so one evening I took him home. Dad greeted him, as only my Dad could, by remarking when I introduced him "Oh, so this is the lad you are wearing your shoe leather on, is it?” “Pleased to meet you, lad," he ended.

Mum started mothering him and was always trying to fatten him up. I could have told her it was impossible. He became a constant part of the family after that, calling for me and watching until I reached the gate safely before heading off home. Someone else was always stood at that door too. We would chuckle as we stood saying goodnight, Dad would appear and glance in our direction.

I had met Cliff’s mother and would sometimes walk in the direction of his house. One time I bumped into another boy I used to know, his hair still tousled and fair. "I hear you are going with a fellow up there," he said, pointing up the hillside.

"Yes," said I, "we are seeing each other".

"He's no good for you, Gladys. If I was you I would keep away from him."

"Oh, thank you for the warning," I answered as my feet took me up the hill. He watched me go, and I knew he still cared for my well being.

This was a time I began to take my young Romeo more seriously, though as far as he was concerned, I was his from the first glance. The loss of his father was not working too well with his mother, and she now was seeing someone else and was moving out of the family home, as they often do today. Cliff needed somewhere to stay as it was impossible for him to stay there alone.

This is where my Aunty Miriam came to the rescue again. She often had rooms for paying guests. Some came time and time again, when they were on contract to do jobs in the district, so I knew he would be well taken care of. She had a single room empty and said he could stay at a fixed rate every week.

This worked out well. He didn't have as far to go to work. He could now relax more and not have the responsibility he had before and be the boy he hadn't had a chance to be.


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