of 10 Tidy St
Rita, right, with friends
Rita remembers her time at 10 Tidy St
I came into this world on February 6th , my mother's birthday - a 10lb bundle of joy for Phillip Stephen and Winifred (Angel) Bannister. What a birthday present - no wonder she never had any more. They had me christened Rita Winifred at a Brighton Church of England, possibly St Peter's. My parents had been married for six years before I was born and were living at No 10 Tidy Street with my maternal grandparents, Sidney and Louise Augusta Angel.
My first memories
My first memories are when I was two years old walking home from a pantomime at the Hippodrome in Brighton, the air heavy with smoke from all the chimney pots. I always seemed to have a bad headache after going to one of these shows. Mother thought this was because I became too involved in the story, but years later I realised it was from cigarette smoke in the theatre or the cinema, and I am severely affected by it to this day.
That was the time too that I had danced on the stage of the theatre at the end of the Palace Pier. My mum used to show me the little tutu I wore. There are numerous pictures of me posing for the camera around this time. At age four I danced in a gypsy costume, complete with tambourine, on the stage of the Dome and a picture was taken in the grounds there. This costume came to Canada with me. My daughters and granddaughters played dressing up in it.
Mother had been a Morris dancer when she was in her teens. She and my dad used to do the old time dances such as the Lancers, Valeta, St Bernard's Waltz etc and they won a medal in waltz competition too, so it was only natural I had dancing in my genes. There was always music playing around the house, mostly Strauss waltzes.
Rita and her mum outside no 10 Tidy St
Grandpa Sidney Angel died of tuberculosis before I was born so I never knew him. This was the reason my mother was paranoid about washing hands and not using other people's cutlery and dishes. Later my grandma married Charlie Wilson, a builder by trade, and they still lived in the same house. I remember they always had Cadbury's Bourneville chocolate in the drawer of a rolltop desk. I still like it (the chocolate)!
School days at Pelham Street
At age five, my school days began at Pelham Street. I was a scared and lonely only child. They put mats on the floor for us to take afternoon naps - I was not used to sleeping during the day and found it very annoying having to waste time lying down. We used a slate board to write on with a special pencil, graduating later to a lead pencil and paper. If we broke our pencil lead we had to write with our fingernail - it was not like today's kindergarten. Punishment was to sit with your hands on your head until your arms went to sleep, or fold your arms behind your back for a length of time.
My dancing days came to an end when I had to have my tonsils removed and the doctor said I was outgrowing my strength. It didn't stop me from growing, however. My friends called me "Titch" at school.
My mother's work
Mother never worked outside the home after I was born. Previously she had been a carpet layer and she would tell me how hard it was to sew carpets, especially on staircases. I don't know if she worked after her marriage but she was always sewing. She made my clothes - mostly wool, which irritated my skin, and many years later I found out I am allergic to wool. The saying was 'Change n'er a clout 'til May is out' and if May happened to be hot life was miserable.
Mechanical engineers in Elder Place
My father was in partnership with his brother at W F Bannister, Mechanical Engineers. Their shop was at 27 Elder Place, Brighton. I remember watching the machinery there when they were grinding crankshafts and cylinder heads. The young apprentices were remetalling and machining conrods, and fitting piston rings, for the Southern Railway delivery trucks and other garages. This procedure is not heard of these days. Dad worked long hours and I looked forward to when he came home in the evenings. He always brought candy on Saturday evenings and we would listen to 'In Town Tonight' on the radio.
Rita aged four
Bammy's model railway
A Mr Bamford (Dad called him Bammy) had a tobacconist store directly behind the machine shop on the main London Road and he rented space above the machine shop for his model railway, which I always liked to watch. He had a larger model railroad in the garden at his home, one big enough for me to ride on, and I really enjoyed that.
He was told at a séance
By age five, my grandmother had died from breast cancer and my step-grandfather [Charlie Wilson], a spiritualist, claimed he was told at a séance by my grandmother's spirit to build two houses in Patcham. One was to be named 'Louise' for my mother and the other 'Augusta' for himself. (These were my grandma's first and middle names and the name can still be seen today.) They were being built on Winfield Avenue (my mother's name was Winifred - I don't know if there was a connection there) and we were working on the garden getting ready to move in.
An 'up and downer'
My dad loved music and the radio was always playing when he was working but Charlie Wilson told him there would be no playing loud music when we moved in next door to him. That did it, there was an 'up and downer' and Charlie made it clear we were no longer welcome to live in his house on Tidy Street. I don't know what the spirits told him then. He would not let my mother get any pictures of grandma or any keepsakes, so my Dad climbed in the window one day and picked up what mother wanted - pictures of her ancestors, the Passingham family from Cornwall. Jonathan Passingham, her great-great-grandfather, had been Lieutenant Governor of Cornwall. One picture I remember was of grandma's cousin in court robes.
[Also published in the North Laine Runner, No 209, March/April 2011]