Saturday, 4 March 2017

Growing up in Eltham in the 1950s ......... stories by Eddy Newport no 13 ..... gettiing married

Another in the series by Eddy Newport taken from his book, The Newport’s 1951 at No. 58 Rochester Close Kidbrooke SE3...........

I married Janet Paice from Plumstead in St Barnabas Church Well Hall and the reception at the Rochester Way Social Club.

The day started well and I was worried that our suitcases might be tampered with. (We were honeymooning at a Butlins hotel in Margate.) I decided to take the cases to Woolwich Arsenal station and leave them in the left luggage office for safekeeping.

The job was done and was now looking forward to the wedding.

I met my brother David (best man) at the back door of the church and went in, failing to realize that the photographer was waiting to take the usual groom and best man shots outside the church. He thought we had not shown up. He was in panic mode. By the time he found us, it was too late. The bride was on her way.

Then the weather changed, it rained, and it rained at exactly the time the bride was entering the church it came down in buckets. The bridesmaids got soaked. In the rush to get into the Church the hoops supporting Janet’s dress were bent out of shape and the dress was misshapen. Janet was not pleased.

The bridesmaids came down the aisle looking like drowned rats. Just as Janet got to me at the altar she said, through clenched teeth. “The bloody hoops are bent”.

The day was off to a bad start. The service went well and during the blessing, the sound of the rain beating on the church windows and roof almost drowned out the service. I realized that it would not be a good idea for the photos to be taken outside the church. So after some discussion, it was decided to get the guest to the reception hall as soon as possible. The rain was relentless. Hair styles were ruined and dresses were soaked. .

The reception was held at the Rochester Way Workingman’s Club in a hall above the club, which, as luck would have it had a stage. So it seemed a good idea to use the stage as a backdrop for the photos.

Unfortunately, the caterers thought we were ready to start eating and wanted to serve the soup. We managed to stop them and asked then to hold off until all the photos were taken.

The photographer had no idea how to control this type of event. Nothing had prepared him for anything like this. Chaos ruled with lots of advice coming from various members of the family as to who should be standing with whom and where.

Subsequently, the resulting photos look like the final curtain call of a very large stage production (see below). Janet and I felt we were standing somewhere at the back of somebody else's wedding and in the photos it’s hard to see the bride and groom.                  

The band turned up and the evening got under way with everybody having a great time. Later we decided to leave for our honeymoon.

So with the usual goodbyes and to the sound of “For they are jolly good fellows” off we went. We were taken to Woolwich station only to find that the man who had the only keys to the left luggage room had gone home’ and nobody could open it to get our cases out. By this time Janet flipped.

She had the station master the ticket man and the ported in a row and explained to them in no uncertain terms what she thought of British Railways and their left luggage office. Janet by this time was not speaking to me, as what seemed a good idea at the time was in retrospect a rather bad one.

Under no account was she going on her honeymoon without her cases. We were told that we could pick them up in the morning (Sunday) at about 9:00 when the man with the keys was back on duty. So after calming Janet down, we decided to go back to the party and work out what to do next.

When we got back we caused quite a stir with lots of people offering us their house for the night. This was just too embarrassing for words. So we decided to go back to our new flat with the bed still unwrapped, No food and all the cooking utensils still wrapped up as wedding presents. The family rallied round and we were supplied with tea and food for breakfast.

I had a secret worry. Inside my case were a few packs of contraceptives. The pill was still in its infancy and not as popular as it is today. Also, the condom slot machine had not been invented yet. So I discreetly asked my male friends if they could oblige me with a pack of three. I even went out with Tim to find a late opening chemist shop but no such luck.

I was getting desperate until my new wife's uncle slipped me a pack and said. "Have this as a wedding present from me." To this day, I never understood why he would have a pack of three with him.

We decided to stay right up to the end of the evening and were, in fact, the last ones to leave the hall. Our friends Tim and Maureen took us back to our flat and helped us assemble the bed. The next day we finally went off, collected our cases and caught the train the Margate.

Spot the bride and groom on the stage at Rochester Way Social Club Eltham.  Looking; at this photo now. I can’t help noticing how everybody looks so pensive and fed up.

© Eddy Newport 2017

Pictures from the collection of Eddy Newport

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