Wednesday, 10 August 2016

It was the Best of Times, it was the Worst of Times

In August 1926 Marks & Spencer started marketing their first bra. This month, August 2016, they are celebrating 90 years of glamorous lingerie advertising.

That brings back some childhood memories.
My parents had a clothes shop in the Elephant and Castle, a London district south of the Thames. 
It was a slum neighbourhood.

Many of the customers were poor Irish women. My parents gave them credit without interest. This meant that the women could buy clothes and pay in installments when their husbands were paid at the end of the week. No kids had to walk around without socks or pullovers.

The big problem was alcohol abuse. At the end of the week the women used to stand at the factory gates, waiting for their husbands. They wanted to catch them before they spent their wages getting drunk in the pub.
All the women were thankful when my parents gave them credit. Some were less than thankful when they had to pay. Then, many a time, my parents were called mean and grasping Jews or words to that effect.

We lived behind and on top of the shop.
Our house did not have much luxury. The toilet was outside in the garden and the kitchen was also the bathroom. The bath was under the kitchen table. There was no hot water.
They later knocked the whole neighbourhood down and replaced it with a new slum of ugly, high-rise council flats. 
Deacon Street, the street we lived in, does not exist any more.

When I was 6 my parents sent me to a Jewish boarding school in Hove. Before that, I spent a lot of my time playing alone in our parlour, that was behind the shop.
My mother used to bring women back into the parlour to try on clothes. As a young child I saw lots of bras and corsets. At the same time I saw my mother again.
The women in their underwear often gave me a cuddle and a kiss.

I have always appreciated lingerie.

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