Further stories from The George during 1940-1943
Pam Parnham/Mike Grace
This is a further installment about Life in The George Hotel (now Crazy Bear) during the Second World War. It was written by Pam Parnham in 2014 in a letter to Beaconsfield & District Historical Society.
“Living in the hotel during this period on a permanent basis, was the proprietor’s wife, Jill Blackwell, a very pretty, vivacious lady who did not lack admirers and who spent days and weekends away frequently. Before the war she and her husband had been champion ballroom dancers and I think she craved the glittering lights of London and beyond. My parents of course looked after the bars and all the catering. Although it was a life my father had grown into having as a first young teenage job, helping in his uncle’s hotel and restaurant, he was a natural mathematician and it was in this capacity, Licensed Stock-taker and adviser, that he knew Richard Blackwell. My mother was a dressmaker, so it was a completely new experience for her, but one she enjoyed.
Cinema visits to Uxbridge
The barmaid, Olive, was older and more experienced than she looked, knew exactly how to charm the regulars and forces who frequented the saloon bar. She was a very kind lady and her home was in Chesham, although she lived in. On her day off she went to visit her parents and often during the school holidays took me with her. Betty, the Irish cook got on well with Olive and they used to visit the cinema in Uxbridge and go shopping together when they both had free time. If they wanted to go to the cinema in Uxbridge my father would suggest that they took me with them, assuming they would not find any young service men to date and would have to behave if they took me with them. How wrong he was! We went on the bus together, we came home together, but, as for the evening………. They did not want a nine year old tagging along on a date. So I would be given my cinema money, some plus some pocket money and warnings about don’t tell your father. If it was a film I wanted to see I paid my money and sat through the performance, meeting them outside afterwards. If not, then I would explore the town parks and, in the summer, the canal. I never felt afraid or frightened; I just enjoyed the experience of doing as I pleased. Times have changed – my parents never knew what happened on these evenings – they thought by having me to look after made the girls safe from anyone wanting to take advantage of them. They would have been horrified to know the truth. However, it did help me become older than my age.
The other hotel staff
Another member of the staff was Emmie. She was very unpredictable and if it not been wartime, she would never have been employed. Even I began to realise from her behaviour when she was going to have an epileptic fit. She was like a demon, tackling anything, beds were moved, even wardrobes and she would clean, clean anything in an almost manic way, until the fit took over. We also had another part-time handicapped member of staff, Gandy, [who was] as strong as an ox, [and had] no problem lifting full barrels of beer [or] crates loaded on top of each other. However, he had an intellect of a young child. Later in life I learned of something going wrong at birth; deprived of oxygen. He was of a happy disposition and was a great help in the cellar and doing labouring jobs in the garden, as long as someone told him what to do in a way he could understand he was fine and his delight to receive payment was something to smile about.
There were also two ladies who came in daily to clean, Hilda, I think had five young children and lived in the town and a part time helper, Elli, I think her name was. Sunday afternoon after a roast dinner, where all the staff sat down together, the only time in the week, as staff slipped out, one by one to eat meals during the week. We would settle in the lounge bar, for the weekly brass clean, trays, mugs, bugles, anything and everything brass. While they cleaned I entertained, reciting poetry, dancing (flitting about) to gramophone records. One day Mr & Mrs Blackwell saw my capers, decided I had a talent and paid for me to go to dancing classes. I appeared in concerts to entertain the population of Beaconsfield and Armed Forces over many years.
I look back and realise how lucky I was to have had the chance to live at the George Hotel and all the experiences of life there”.