Vic’s pre-1920 childhood in Lambeth, London, gives
a rich insight into the time. Vic started work at 14 and worked as a
waiter at the famous Waldorf Hotel, in London’s Aldwych, haunt of the
rich and famous.
"I am reading Vic's book. I think it is brilliant.
You can really live it and - no disrespect - it is written so simply, I
am enthralled by it."
Reviewer from Sydney, Australia,
on Amazon.co.uk says: “As I was born and bred in Lambeth, I was
attracted to this book. Written in an easy to read style, it meanders
along through the trials and tribulations of a family from working class
Lambeth to wartime evacuation to Berkshire and beyond. By the time I
finished reading, I felt as though I not only knew Vic, but also his
nearest and dearest. I recommend it to anybody looking for a good basic
study of family life.”
“This book shows how very
special a so-called ‘ordinary’ life can be.” Journal of Kent History
“Gives an illuminating insight
into how people in south London lived before, during and after the
wars.” South London Press
“It provides both an insight
into nine decades of social history, and an interesting story of one
‘ordinary’ man’s colourful path through life. It also reveals that by
focussing exclusively on the lives of the rich and famous, society has
sidelined the wealth of stories waiting to be told by the ‘real people.’
Newbury Weekly News
The main thing I used to look
forward to was our Sunday evenings. All the family seemed to be home
for tea on Sundays (bread and butter, and cake, after a good lunch
with a joint of beef) and that was always a lively affair. We had the
sub basement, where we had our food, and more or less lived there. And
then, Sunday evenings during the wintertime we would all go up to what
we called the music room.
Most of the stall holders knew
us as they did most of the other children. And, along with others of
my age, I think I knew practically every stall holder and the shop
people. There were quite a lot of Irish people that lived about there,
but we all got on well with each other, Then there was Marcantonio’s
ice cream parlour, a pretty large place, with small tables like a
café. . .
That was my first visit to a
hospital . Mum took me. I had to see a black doctor, and that seemed a
bit exciting, as in those days you didn’t see any black or coloured
- I must have been about ten or eleven years old,
and I remember the morning, after we’d got up, and Shady said to me:
“Get theeself ready, we shall be going pig killing.”
- And so with Jim, I went round to Soho, to a
small tailor’s shop which was run by a Jewish family and was
well-known by a lot of hotel workers. A young chap of about twenty
guessed what I’d come for and measured me up. For shirtfront, collars
and bowties I had to go elsewhere.
- London County Council was building a new
estate, China Walk Estate. Around the back of the house and including
Richmond Street and St Albans Street had all been cleared and already
new flats had been built. Just our row in the Kennington Road would be
the next for demolition.
- Our responsibility was to supply all remaining
units, in or about Algiers, with food and other necessities. There
were only a few units, as everything was being moved east along with
the fighting forces.
- I was now getting used to Lambourn. Larry the
lodger had left, as his job at Membury finished. Shady brought another
lodger to us. He was a tall young fellow, and he came to work in the
racing stables. It was a stable training jumpers.
- During that summer, we had two or three visits
from Len Wohlgemuth’s eldest son Paul. He was doing his National
Service and was stationed at RAF Compton Bassett, just the other side
of Marlborough . . . Later Paul was sent out to Iraq and Jill [niece]
agreed to write to him.
- It was about two years ago and I was waiting
for Alan Keith to announce himself on radio with his rather deep
voice, and then suddenly a voice came out: “This is Richard Baker
wishing Alan Keith a very happy ninetieth birthday. I didn’t realise
Alan Keith was ninety years old and he is still carrying on. I still
enjoy my Sunday musical evening . .
Vic was a bachelor, but more than
sixty members of his extended family travelled to Lambourn on the day in
2001 when his book was launched. He was then ninety-one.
Vic died on June 13th, 2003