My grandmother Thelma Beacock (nee Baxter) was born on 4th December 1926 at 7 Kingston Terrace, Cumberland Street in Hull, East Yorkshire. Her parents were Arthur Alexander and Alice Baxter (nee Capon) and she was the eldest of 10 surviving children. She would have had 4 other siblings but they sadly passed away when they were very very young.
On Thelma’s birth certificate, which is shown below, it states that her father Arthur was a General Carrier Tullyman. I believe that this is an error and it is supposed to say Rullyman.
At a very early age, Thelma contracted the Poliovirus. Her mother would have had the doctor around, and he would have most probably hammered a sharp knitting needle into her knee; this was the most effective way of determining whether someone had Polio. According to a very short autobiography that Thelma’s sister Mary wrote, both Thelma and Mary’s breathing were affected and they had used the Iron Lung at the children’s hospital they were staying at. The Iron Lung helped Polio patients breathe. An example can be seen in the first photograph below (Note: This is not Thelma in the example). Thelma was also required to wear a leg iron on her right leg, which helped stabilise her. This meant that she was able to walk. An example can be seen below. As Thelma got older, she had to wear a boot with a raised outer-sole, because the leg that she had contracted Polio in was a little shorter than the other.
I recently found a booklet that had been put together between 1987 and 1988 by the Community Room at Clifton Street Primary School, the school that my father attended. The Community Room was a group of about 5 or 6 mothers and grandmothers that met up on a regular basis. My Nana, Thelma, was part of it. The booklet contains a 4 page account of parts of Thelma’s life, in her own words, around the time she was at school.
Thelma attended Park Avenue School, which was a school for disabled children in Hull. At that time, the children who attended there also boarded there. They would have stayed at the school throughout the week and then came home at the weekend.
During The Second World War, Thelma, along with her younger sister Mary and many children from Park Avenue School, were evacuated. Thelma and Mary were evacuated to a village in Derbyshire, which I believe was called Ripley. As Thelma was older, she was allowed to live and work in the village, whilst her younger sister Mary had to stay at the Hall, which had been made into a boarding school.
My uncle, Thelma’s son told me that the family she stayed with were really strict. Thelma had apparently at one point made friends with a family of gypsy travellers in the area, who used to invite her round for dinner. As food was sparse, they would cook hedgehog or pigeons.
After living in Derbyshire for some time, Thelma was told that her family had moved to place just outside of Doncaster, so Thelma and Mary got a train to Doncaster Station. At the farm at the top of the street, Thelma’s mother would go and milk the goats. The Baxter family must have moved back to Hull as the war had finished.
The first photograph below shows Thelma around the time of the Second World War. The second photograph shows some of the Baxter family!
At a young age, Thelma worked at Needler’s which was located on Needler’s Way on Sculcoates Lane in Hull, behind the tan yard. During the time that she worked there, Needler’s were mainly making sweets, such as Glace fruit drops style sweets. These were created in 1938 by the chemists at Needler’s. They had no competition in this area of confectionary until the mid-1960s! When there were factory mishaps, there were placed in large drums, in order to be melted and reused in the future. The workers were also able to take some mishaps home with them. Thelma’s siblings couldn’t wait until she came home at the end of the week with them!
My auntie told me that Thelma, her mother, once told her a story about when she worked there. The story goes that Thelma worked with one of her best friends at the factory. One day whilst working her friend tripped and fell into a large vat of boiling hot toffee and consequently burnt to death. That was all Thelma said about that story; I’m sure it would have brought awful memories back to her. Before the accident, Thelma and her friend had a coat each which the friend’s mother had gotten made for them. The coats were made from old army blankets, which were dyed. Thelma told my auntie that they were really warm!
Below are two more photographs of Thelma as a young woman. The first one shows Thelma as a bridesmaid. I am unsure of whose wedding this would have been. I am not sure of the story behind the second photo but notice the cameo earrings and the Scottish Terrier brooch. This is interesting as Thelma’s great-grandmother Jane Baxter (nee Scarth) was born on the Orkney Islands in Scotland. I do know that there have been stories of Scottish ancestry, but I wonder if this was the reason why she was wearing a dog that originated in Scotland!
Thelma had an Auntie Gertrude, who was known “Aunt Gertie”. She used to go and visit her a lot as she lived down little Brunswick Avenue in Hull, which wasn’t far away from her. They would both go to the wash-house on a Monday and do the weekly wash together. Aunt Gertie’s house was a short distance away from the Beacock family home. Thelma would see Frederick Beacock (my grandfather) quite a lot of the time, when they walked were walking around the streets in the area. According to my auntie Janette, this is how they started to get to know each other.
Thelma suffered from Periodontitis, which is more commonly known as Pyorrhea. This eventually resulted in Thelma having to have her teeth removed. Because of this, she told Fred that she didn’t want him to be with her. Fred decided that he didn’t care about that, and he went and got his teeth taken out, despite there being nothing wrong with his teeth so that she would change her mind. Prior to this, Thelma did think that Fred was a bit of a big head, as he apparently used to brag a little bit about where he had been and where he had biked. She did change her mind about him and they stayed together.
Fred bought a tandem for the both of them and they once went out on a date together for a picnic. Halfway through the picnic, Thelma sat on an ant hill/nest and was covered in ants! She had to run off behind a bush, take her clothes off and shake the ants out of them! The photograph below shows my Nana on a picnic. I suppose this could have been the same day, but I am not entirely sure!
Another time they went out on their tandem but it had started to sleet really heavily. They had to get a lift home in a removal van and when they arrived at Fred’s home, his mother told him off because they were shaking with the cold and were soaked!
On 28th July 1951, Thelma Baxter married Frederick Allan Beacock in Hull, East Yorkshire. The first photograph below shows the couple on their special day and the second shows Thelma with her father on this day.
Fred and Thelma went on to have 4 children. Allan Frederick, Janette, Peter Raymond and my father David Anthony (twins).
On 26th June 1965, Thelma’s father Arthur passed away at Western General Hospital in Hull aged 64. He died as a result of Stomach Cancer. Thelma was 39 years old at the time. The photograph below shows Thelma with her dad, on her wedding day.
Thelma used to work behind the counter, serving people, at Mackman’s bakery down Waterloo Street. Customers would come in and Thelma would have to prepare for them, what they asked for. Thelma would take loafs of bread and cut them on the bread slicer. Bacon and ham were also cut on a slicer. Tea and sugar were scooped onto the scales and then Thelma would use the small weights, in order to weigh out a particular amount. She would also weigh out butter and lard, which was then wrapped in greaseproof paper. People used to also take their own jugs into the shop and ask for them to be filled up with milk.
Thelma also worked at a pie shop which was owned by Miss Watkins and her brother. The shop was located down Brunswick Avenue, on the corner of little Brunswick Avenue. On the opposite side of the road, lived very close family friends, Mr and Mrs Gardiner. At this shop, Thelma would sell meat pies and gravy to the customers. She used to make large amounts of mashed potato at home, ready to take back to work!
The photograph below shows Thelma hanging out her washing at the family home on Kilburn Avenue in Hull!
Thelma worked at Telephone House, which was down Vulcan Street, Clough Road in Hull. She worked in the canteen there, making drinks and making sandwiches etc. Thelma’s husband Fred would pop for his dinner there. Thelma then started to cook for them! The photograph below shows Thelma cooking there!
In 1966, Thelma found out that she was pregnant with twin boys. She had to leave Telephone House, which upset a lot of people there who she had become good friends with. They did a collection for Thelma and also made her a large cot for her twins.
The photograph below shows Thelma dressed in her uniform when she worked as a lollipop lady on Beverley Road. She is on the right-hand side. Many people, who were children at the time, knew my Nana when she worked as a lollipop lady, and also what such a kind, loving person she was.
Near to the end of my Nana working as a lollipop lady, a local artist drew this picture below and gave it to her as a present. It depicts the side of Beverley Road that is nearest to the city centre. Strand Hairdressers is still there today. The picture shows I suppose what was a typical afternoon, with my Nana in the centre with her lollipop stick.
My auntie Janette (Thelma’s daughter) told me that one time that the vicar at St Paul’s church was asking everyone if they knew someone who could start cleaning and washing his robes and also the altar cloth. Janette volunteered her mother Thelma and turned up at home carrying all of the clothing items. Thelma went mad because she was already really busy washing a lot of other things without having to wash the church things too!
Thelma was once cleaning in the town and was stood in the doorway when she saw a young policeman, who didn’t look very well. She said something along the lines of “What is the matter young man?” and he replied with a horrid story. He explained how he had been called to a scene where he had to identify a deceased man. As well as being the first deceased person he had seen, the person’s dogs had started to eat him. Thelma, after hearing this dreadful story invited the policeman inside and offered him a cup of tea. The policeman was very thankful for her kindness, and would often pop in for a cup of tea.
The photo below shows 9 of the Baxters and their mother, Alice. From left to right; Arthur, Irene, Jean, Alice (mother), Trevor, Mary, Judith, Kathleen, Alice, and Thelma. I don’t know why Raymond was not in this photograph, as he was on one from the same day. However, I did not include this photograph as it is very blurry.
On 1st October 1980, Thelma’s mother, Alice, passed away in Hull aged 75. She died as a result of Carcinoma of the Liver, which is otherwise known as Liver Cancer. Thelma was 54 years old.
Thelma sadly passed away on 29th July 1994 in Hull at the age of 67 years old. My auntie Janette always thought that my Nana knew she was dying, as she was due to go to the doctors, but she kept putting it off. This was very unlike her.
She was cremated and her ashes were scattered in Northern Cemetery, Hull. There is a plaque on the wall of the Crematorium, which the photograph below shows.
I never had the privilege of meeting my Nana, as she passed away in 1994 which was two years before I was born. The day she passed away was also 17 days before my parent’s wedding. My dad was going to postpone the wedding to a later date as my Nana’s death was so near. Eventually, he decided to continue with the original plans. She was able to to see my mum in her wedding dress, as she went to the bridal shop with my mum and my maternal grandmother and she had also chosen an outfit to wear on the wedding day but obviously she did not get the chance to wear it. My Auntie Janette stood in for my Nana on the wedding photographs and she also wore her outfit.
Although I never met my Nana, I have always felt as if I knew her. My dad always used to talk about her, and my family still do talk about her now. I love hearing ‘new’ things about her and her life. She truly was a great lady and I love her a lot. In 3 days time (from the day I posted this), it would have been her 91st birthday.
As Christmas approaches, everyone starts to put up their Christmas decorations, lights and trees. I have carried on a little tradition that my dad always made sure we all did, which was to put up the Christmas tree and decorate it on my Nana’s birthday on the 4th December. This usually happens in the evening or late afternoon. My auntie, Thelma’s daughter told me that she is sure that my Nana and Grandad used to put their decorations up on my Nana’s birthday too. It was my Grandad’s job to check that the Christmas lights were working before they started! I know that my auntie and one of my cousins also carry on the tradition which I continue to do. I continue this tradition, as it is important to me. It celebrates not only the beginning of the Christmas period but also celebrates the birthday of my Nana. It was important to my dad, which is another reason why I carry it on. I never plan to stop doing this, and hope that one day, my own children, will do the same!
Similarly to all of my other family members, there are so many stories and pieces of information about them that it is impossible to document everything. I know this, but I still try to document and preserve as much of their lives as possible, not only so that I can learn about them, but also for the rest of my family to. Please share any memories about Thelma or other members of my family with me. I would really appreciate that.
Thank you very much for reading,