Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas 1910

When Albert Rebbeck travelled home to Wiltshire in 1910 the journey had been 40 years in the planning.

Albert Edward Rebbeck was born at Lockeridge, near Marlborough in 1857, the fifth child of Cornelius, a land surveyor and his wife Caroline Knight.

The Rebbeck Wiltshire family roots can be traced back to the 17th century but Caroline’s family appears to be more adventurous. In 1861 her brother James was living in India and before too long three of her sons would also fly the nest.

In 1863 eldest son James Knight Rebbeck joined his uncle in Calcutta. Six years later and the couple’s next son Frank, then aged about 15 took off for America, followed by Albert.

The two boys early period in America is difficult to navigate. It appears they may even have travelled first to Canada as in 1871 the census returns for Quebec include fourteen year old Albert Rebbick, born in England and working for Dominique Fox.

In 1883 Frank married Mary Jane Bree and spent his later working life as a landscape gardener. The 1910 US census records him living at Hamilton Avenue, Passaic, New Jersey with Mary and their only daughter Ruth. Frank also served in the US army.

The grand family Christmas get together in 1910 took place at 18 Long Street, Devizes, the home of the Knight family and where Caroline had returned following the death of her husband in 1896.

Just two members of the family were missing, James, who had died at his home in Canada the previous September and Frank. For Albert this was his first visit home in forty years.

Aged 90 and an invalid, Caroline was unable to join the family for the photo call in the garden. She does, however make an appearance in a photograph held by her granddaughter Rosa. Another of Frank dressed in his Spanish-American War uniform is held by Elizabeth Rebbeck, the wife of brother Charles.

Albert returned to America where he worked as a gardener for the Linkroum family in Hackensack, New Jersey. This would be the last time he saw his Wiltshire family. He sailed out of Liverpool on the SS Laurentic on January 14, 1911.

Frank eventually made it home for one last visit, sadly on the death of his mother in 1914. He returned to the States on the SS St. Paul sailing from Southampton on February 25.

Albert never married. The brothers ended their days living together at 171 E 21st Street in Paterson, New Jersey, cared for by Frank’s daughter Ruth. Frank died on June 4, 1941 and Albert on April 20, 1944.

Images - Christmas 1910 (top) Caroline Rebbeck (middle) Cornelius Rebbeck (bottom) courtesy of Judith Rebbeck Watten.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Christmas 1940

Swindonians celebrated a low key Christmas in 1940 following a year in which the war had bit hard.  But the town and district made sure that the most vulnerable citizens were catered for, especially the evacuees, so far from home for the festive period.

Frank Leigh produced and starred in Jack and the Beanstalk, this year’s pantomime at the Playhouse.  Leigh scored a personal triumph in his role as Dame Durden according to the Advertiser reviewer who also commented on the ‘several pleasing specialities.’

At Lethbridge Road School, children from the infant class put on a production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs for their mothers with Jean Hawkins in the lead role of Snow White while local children and evacuees were treated to a Christmas tea and entertainment at the Club House, Shrivenham Road provided by the GWR Social Club.

The Mayor and Mayoress, Alderman and Mrs F.E. Allen made a Christmas Day visit to various homes and institutions across Swindon and district and distributed 165 threepenny pieces to children at Olive House and the Limes in Stratton. The couple also visited the GWR Medical Fund Hospital, the Isolation Hospital and the St Margaret’s Institution.  Following dinner, the Mayor and Mayoress spent a short time at the Victoria Hospital before moving onto the Maternity Home where tea was provided by the Matron and staff.

Somewhat late, presumably due to heavy work load, Santa Claus paid a New Year’s Day visit to children and mothers at the Great Western Sports Club pavilion where he handed out presents from the Christmas tree.  Miss Yvonne Sutton and her Kent Girls performed a cabaret show with Mr Raymond Sutton at the piano.  Miss Hedges contributed a fairy dance and C Gibbs songs and step dances.

In response to a government appeal, travel on the railways was down as Swindon reported a reduction in the number of passengers over the Christmas period. Although traffic during the previous weekend and across Monday and Christmas Eve was described as ‘fairly heavy’ overall numbers were considerably down on previous years.

Swindon GPO reported a reduction in Christmas mail, approximately 10% lower than during Christmas 1939.  Postal workers managed to shift more than 1,000,000 cards, letters and packages in the fortnight before Christmas.

“The demand on the staff was, as expected, exceedingly heavy,” a Post Office spokesman told the Advertiser, “but thanks to the splendid co-operation of the public, everything worked extremely smoothly.”

But not everyone had the Christmas spirit. Thieves were busy over Christmas and cleared out the WVS Mobile Canteen at the Town Hall, Swindon.  The canteen was closed at 5pm on Christmas Day but when Mrs R.B. Hick arrived to open up on Boxing Day she discovered the door had been completely removed and most of the stock had gone.  Tins of salmon, soup, sugar and packets of cigarettes valued at about £2 had been stolen.

And sadly some mean minded thieves were accused of pilfering parcels sent to troops in camp in the West of England.

“Many parcels are being delivered with wrappers torn open, string removed, boxes broken, and some of the contents missing,” reported the Advertiser.  One camp post orderly told a reporter that the parcels were received in such a bad condition that it was impossible to tell to which parcel the loose items belonged. “They have obviously been pilfered,” he said.

Christmas market

Christmas shopping

Christmas celebrations at Olive House

Yvonne Sutton and her Kent Girls

GWR Social Club Christmas party for members' children and evacuees

Frank Leigh as Dame Durden in the Playhouse pantomime Jack and the Beanstalk