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Yesterday evening (Sunday), Masterpiece Theatre on PBS began a new programme entitled "The Jam Busters." Obviously a pun on the WW2 heroics of "The Dam Busters."  Perhaps the programme is old hat to those living in the UK but to us ex pats living in the erstwhile colonies it is all new. The first episode deals with how the Women's Institute is taken over from the old upper class biddy by the more modern women of the village. The new WI finds its way to picking blackberries, black currents etc and making jam as a way to do their little bit in the war effort. Every food that can be produced locally is that much less that their husbands and sons in the merchant navy have to risk their lives to bring in to the country. Thus the women of the village begin to find their place in the war. Next episode, apparently, is when they aim to plough up the village cricket pitch to plant potatoes. (HORRORS.) 

To the point. I remember being taken by my mother to a WI meeting on Samuel Road. I cannot remember much about the meeting except that I had seldom been more greatly bored. What I do remember is that immediately thereafter I was packed off to pick every conceivable berry growing along Berry Lane and thereabouts while my mother was frantically engaged, midst clouds of steam, in making jams of all description.

The jam tasted great. I imagine it did as much for the morale of the WI members as anything else.

By Alan Davies
On 06/10/2015

I only think it is me, would make sense standing next to my mother. I was born 1939 and guess I was about 10 years old there in the photo. I also think it likely that the person back row left, next to my mother was almost certainly the old time dancing group pianist, Mrs Angus. Sorry I cannot be more certain. Although I now live in West London I will try and be at the Manor Mission to see the photos.

By the way, I still have in my possession the mandolin held by my mother in that picture. If you ever have a collection of memorabilia in connection with this site I would be happy to donate it.

By Gerald Jones
On 02/03/2015

I've rememberd the name of my godmother who was the pianist at the old time dancing at the WI, it was Mrs Angus. Looking again at the pantomine picture it could have been much earlier around 1950, certainly If the little face peering over the back row was me.

Editors note: Hi Gerald, I have made it possible to enlarge the pantomime  photograph by clicking on it, please let us know if the little face is you.

By Gerald Jones
On 02/03/2015


Kath Doubleday was our next door neighbour in Victoria Avenue. The food bar was operated by Mr Doubleday. I briefly took piano lessons, I think there, but cannot recall the teacher's name, probably around 1949-1950.

By Gerald Jones
On 02/03/2015

The pantomine picture includes my mother (Agnes Kate Jones also known as Queenie) backrow second from left holding the mandolin. She use to teach old time dancing at the WI as well as part of a concert group playing the mandolin. The pianist was my godmother but shamefully I cannot remember her name. They both lived in Victoria Avenue. The picture would likely be mid or late 50's.

By Gerald Jones
On 02/03/2015

I can see my grandmother, Amy Robinson, fourth from left middle row, in the undated photograph (4th picture from top). I believe I am correct in saying that her husband Tom built the WI building. He built a number of properties just south of Laindon Station, including the building a short distance away on the High Road, that housed Cath's (Doubleday?) hairdressers (a chemist's previously) and my Aunt Edith's piano shop. There was also a little food bar/ cafe tagged on the end of it in the fifties. The photo must date to somewhere around 1950.

By Martin Robinson
On 25/01/2013

My mum, Alice White, belonged to the WI for many years until she moved to Basingstoke. I had my first wedding reception there in 1970. She was in the choir and drama. She used to speak of Joyce Sibbons, Anne Rowe, Anne Miniken and Sheila Stubbs and so many more I cannot name

By Joan Merchant nee white
On 29/10/2012

My father Alec Norman was a member of the Hut Club, where various gents would meet to play billiards. My memories are of the wartime childrens Christmas parties

By Mary Cole (nee Norman)
On 28/07/2012

My own memories of the Hut Club are all pre-war and apart from being a WI venue it was also a members only social club frequented mainly by the younger element being unlicensed. While I was never a member myself I often went there with my friend Stan Clegg who signed me in and where we could play table tennis, billiards and darts. 

It also had a lawn tennis section for members, but every year it would hold an open Tennis Tournament which was organised in part by the Laindon Recorder who also ran football tournaments for local clubs, there was a Recorder Rose Bowl and I believe the Victoria Sports Trophy was sponsored by them.

By WH.Diment
On 19/05/2012
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