So, in keeping with my “people I knew” theme, I am going to start my Bennett posts with Paul’s Grandma, Beatrice Mary Jackson Bennett. Grandma Bennett was a short, outgoing woman who was always well dressed and who adored me. You can see why I started with her. When I met Paul, she was the first person to really welcome me and always made me feel at home. My mother-in-law Maxine wasn’t too warm to me in the beginning (my sister-in-law raced out to the driveway, just to see if I was “another bimbo with big-boobs” (I wasn’t!)). But Grandma Beatrice, she adored me.
She was always well dressed and my family thought she looked just like the “Queen of England”. She wasn’t the Queen of England, but she was born there. She weighed 12 pounds at birth and her father said, “My gosh, she’s a funny thing.” Her mother’s feelings were hurt because she was so proud of her new baby. They lived at 19 Brook Street in Northampton, England on April 19, 1909. Her father was Harry Jackson and her mother was Beatrice Wardle Jackson. She had four siblings, Evelyn (Eve), Albert (Bert) Raymond (Ray) and Eileen.
My parents really loved her too. She treated my parents very well. Grandma Bea was a very warm and engaging person. She could get hyped up, especially if she thought you might throw the silverware into the trash or if a Christmas gift she purchased for someone was lost in the shuffle and she was frightened someone else might open it in error. But she was always in my corner. One day, right after Paul and I got married, an old girlfriend of his called his parents home, just to say hi to him and check in. Grandma Bea told the girl that he was married now and had no wish to talk to her. Funny, right?
When she was a young child, she remembered The First World War, her father leaving for the war when she was about 7 and her mother would sit by the fire and cry. Before he left, they had experienced their first air raid. Her father had gotten them out of bed and then went next door to collect Mrs. Smith and her children, as their father was already gone in the war. The windows were all covered with dark blinds and they all sat in their home waiting. They heard bombs falling and one fell at a home behind her Aunt Phoebes and people were killed.
She could remember her Grandfather Henry Wardle (1860-1914). He used to walk up to their home every day. That was his daily walk. He would say he was coming to play with the “Childer”. That was a Yorkshire word and he was from Yorkshire. She just loved him and he would play school with her and he was a special person. He would take her down to the store and she always got a little treat and then he’d let her watch the children play on the field in the school nearby. One day he didn’t come and she would ask her mother, “Where is my grandpa, why doesn’t he come anymore, Mum?” and she said her mother would just cry and cry.
When she was about seven, her mother would send her down to the “cue” line to wait to receive food. Her mother would warn her not to let the women push her out of line and that it was very important she get that food because if she didn’t, they might not have any food for the week. Bea would stand there with her sister Eve, who was two years younger than her, holding onto her hand and fighting for their place in line. They would get pounds of potatoes or pounds of carrots.
There was an old wood yard on Broad Street in Northampton where she and her sister Eve would push their baby pram to the yard to pick up wood. There was a German prisoner who was very kind to her and her sister. He had two small daughters at home in Germany so he would fill the carriage as much as he could get into it and then she and Eve would push it back home. The wood cost them sixpence.
She remembered the day the Armistice was signed on November 11, 1918. They weren’t allowed to go far from home but that day they were free as birds and could go anywhere, so she took her sister Eve to the Market Square alone and people were passing out pennies.
Her family joined the Mormon Church when she was 12 years old. Her father had a best friend who had gone off to America to live in Salt Lake City and he sent two missionaries to their home in London and they were baptized into the LDS church. She said it wasn’t easy to be a Mormon in those days. No one wanted to be friends with them and missionaries were having a rough time too.
She attended St. George’s School for Girls in London. She loved school very much and her best friend was Betty Cook and they were called “the inseparables”.
Bea was very close to her father. He would wake her early in the morning and say, “Girlie, would you like to go for a walk?” They would walk for miles. She could talk to her father and they would sing and pick blue bells.
She had to leave school at the age of 14 and go to work to help her family. She worked in a shoe factory on a special beading machine.
Christmas was a special time for their family and her parents would sit near the fireplace and sing. Her father would make up song lyrics, like “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing, Beechams Pills are the just the thing. Peace on Earth and Mercy Mild, two for adults and one for a child”. They would laugh and her mother would say, “Harry you fool.”
Her Grandmother Wardle and Aunt Gladys would come for Christmas in a taxi paid for by her father. They would to go her Aunt Frances’ home for Boxing Day then to her Aunt Annie’s home for a treat.
Evelyn Bert and Ray
One time she and her sister Eve had gone to her Aunt Poll’s home, wearing lovely white dresses, new white shoes and socks then decided to play in the water barrel where she kept the soft water to wash her hair then into the chicken coop. Aunt Poll cussed then said, “You young buggers, get out of those clothes.” She washed their dresses, worked on their shoes and socks and sent them home again with a warning to “not tell your parents, you buggers.”
She met her husband Bill Bennett only three times before she married him. He was on a mission to England when he met her the first time. After that, the corresponded by mail and eventually she traveled on her own to Canada to marry him.
Bea’s story continues when she arrives in Canada to marry Bill but I will continue that on another post. It is a long story and well worth re-telling, well worth remembering. She was a woman who lived through World War I, the boom of the 1920’s, the Great Depression, World War II, a child who lived, those that died and those that came into their lives.
Grandma Bea lived long enough to spend time with my children and to get to know each of them. She really adored Taylor and she, along with Grandma Maxine, took Taylor to lunch every Wednesday at Home Town Buffet. Taylor was allowed to pick her lunch and they would spend several hours together, reading books, playing and just being good to my daughter.
Beatrice was a good Mormon, but she wasn’t such a good Mormon that her husband wasn’t allowed to drink a Coke. But like all good Mormons, she made an incredibly detailed autobiography of her life. She also left a voice recording of her life. Genealogy was very important to her. She spent hours researching and her work meant so much to her. I am not a Mormon nor are these my people but her work means a lot to me, because without those people, my children would not be who they are.
I have to say a big Thank You to my sister-in-law Anita Bennett McBride. Had she not shared all of these items with me, we wouldn’t have such great detailed memories , pictures and a pretty complete history of Beatrice Mary Jackson. Now, all of Bea’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren will have access to those memories as well.