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A Shout From The Attic: Return To Zin - 10

Continuing his autobiography Ronnie Bray recalls working in Bournemoth in the early days of his married life.

My first every visit to Bournemouth was when as a missionary in 1956 I was transferred from Southampton where I laboured with Kelvin Thomas Waywell, a Canadian from Toronto. My new companion was Elder Hone, from Pleasant Grove, Utah. We spent most of our time looking for a property the Church could buy to convert into a meeting place. From there, I was transferred to Bristol, Cheltenham, and back to Southampton.

I ended my mission in Southampton in March, and travelled back home to Huddersfield. Harry Summersell married Esmé and me in the Bradford Woodland Street Chapel on 5th May 1957. We lived at Longroyd Bridge in a three-roomed flat, and then moved to a flat at the side of the house with one room on each level.

We moved from Huddersfield to Bournemouth some time in 1957 before Andy was born because Esmé wanted to be near her mother, and I concurred, because Esmé had just turned twenty when we married, and much of life was new to her, as it was to me. Andy was born at New Milton maternity hospital on 2nd February 1958.

We rented an upstairs flat on Fenton Road from the couple who owned the house and who lived downstairs, and were living there when Andréa Leslie Bray entered the world.

I worked as a van driver for Gardner’s of Bristol Ltd., who were distributors of foodstuffs to retail shops. When Andy was
born, the staff clubbed together and bought her a beautiful outfit.

When Esmé was in the maternity hospital, there was a problem with transportation. New Milton was a long way from
Southbourne, and the bus service was skimpy. One night, another new father asked me if I would like a lift back to Pokedown, and I jumped at the chance. He drove an ancient Riley Nine that was in perfect condition.

The young gentleman was kind enough to arrange to pick me up on Christchurch Road, below the traffic lights by Pokedown
Railway Station every visiting night, and take me back afterwards.

After working for Gardner’s, for whom I drew a warehouse plan to ease traffic, etc., I got work in a greengrocer and florist
shop on Carberry Crescent, Southbourne. The owner was a nice man, gentle and pleasant, and he brought out the best in me.

His daughter was a noted swimmer heading for the Olympic Swimming Teams. Her name was Pamela. Sadly, the shop was not doing well, and I often found the poor man in the back room sat on an upturned fruit box, his head in his hands, in a morose mood. He was not cut out for business. Eventually, he could not afford my wages, poor as they were, and so I looked for work again.

The Labour Exchange in Bournemouth was short of jobs for unskilled persons, such as me, but there was an opening for a chauffeur. The Job was to drive elderly Mrs Pollecoff around, and keep the car gleaming. She was not hard to get on with,
although the advertised weekly wage offered in the Exchange was eight pounds, she talked me down to seven. It could rightly be described as a pittance, but it was better than nothing.

Esmé was a good budgeter and an expert seamstress, and now and then she made a few pounds doing alterations. She made an under-blouse for Mrs Pollecoff to wear under a lacy blouse she had bought. Mrs Pollecoff characteristically wanted to pay less for it that she had agreed, but on inspecting it she was impressed by the quality of Esmé's work and paid up.

Mrs Pollecoff lived most of the year in South Africa because of the good weather, returning to Britain for a few summer months. The car I was commissioned to drive was not a Rolls Royce, nor a Bentley, nor even one of the big Austins. It was a black two door Morris Minor!


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