The Littleport Button Tree
The Littleport Button Tree project
Field Theatre Group
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An Elegant Lady
I have donated this button from one of my mother’s suits in memory of her. My mother Alice Beck (also known as Wendy Hoyle) (1912-82) was born in the East End of London. She had two older brothers and three younger sisters.
The youngest died when she was three when her dress caught fire. She was Alice’s favourite sister, and she never got over her loss. As the oldest girl, Alice was responsible for her two brothers and got into trouble when they made a bonfire inside a cupboard!
Alice loved school and she was a bright pupil. In those days, working class girls didn’t go to university, they learnt a trade. In Alice’s case it was dressmaking. This elegant and fashionable woman made all her own clothes. She knitted, crocheted, and tatted.
My mother was a great raconteur, and would read books aloud to us, using a different voice for each character. She loved to read, and was good at languages, which she learnt at evening classes where she met my father. Within 3 weeks he had proposed.
After marriage Alice’s life changed utterly.
My father was from a middle-class family with precise
‘Received English’ accents, so my mother had to shed her cockney one. Occasionally she forgot herself and used expressions like ‘gercha!’ She was very particular about the way my sister and I spoke and our manners in general. She was always afraid we’d show her up in public. She discouraged the use of the word ‘toilet’ which was considered to be ‘common’. ‘Lavatory’ was a much better word!
The greatest change was in her name. Her mother-in-law called her ‘Wendy’ (as in Peter Pan) because my father’s name was ‘Peter.’
Her surname was now ‘Hoyle’.
When I was in my early twenties my mother developed Paget’s disease, which caused a thickening of the skull, and deafness.
My mother hated to lose her looks, and she cut herself out of all photographs beyond a certain date.
This photo of my wedding is probably the last one of her still in existence.
Both my parents died within a few months of each other of bowel cancer.