E.Robinson (b.1894): Habits, Culture & Beliefs

E.Robinson was born and raised in a working class family who were on the cusp of poverty, so there was very little money to spend. Throughout his childhood, Robinson did not have any form of toys to play with or any money to afford other leisurely activities, so he was forced to make do with what he had around him.

At the turn of the 20th Century, there were no so such luxuries such as television or radio, so the children had to find other ways to entertain themselves. Robinson tells of how he and the other children on his street invented their own games, such as “Gully or Duck” (pg. 3) and that they made their own balls to play football and cricket with out of paper and rag, tied together with the strings off their coats and a bat out of a scrap piece of wood they found.

The simplicity of the games Robinson and the other children played during their youth are second to none, with the most straightforward object being used for hours of entertainment. He describes a game called “mind the cotton” (pg.4), which literally consisted of an imaginary long piece of cotton. They would pretend stretch the piece of cotton across a path and wait for an elderly lady to walk by them and exclaim “Mind the cotton, old lady! Mind the cotton!” (pg.4), but as the lady tried to step over the “cotton”, the children would burst into laughter and run off. Robinson highlights this game as one of his fondest childhood memories.

Children dancing around the Maypole (c.1910)
Children dancing around the Maypole (c.1910)

Robinson also speaks of his time at his first school, Lyndhurst Grove School, where he danced around the Maypole along with his fellow students. The Maypole was used to celebrate the beginning of summertime in England, and was accustom in the majority of schools across the country.  The students would practice the dance routine weeks prior to the actually date, to ensure they all knew what they were doing. The pole itself would stay erected throughout the whole year and was reused every time it was needed. The routine would consist of the children skipping around the pole, with ribbons attached to the structure, and the dancers would interlinking with each other so the material would wrap around the pole.

This event is one of the only cultural events that Robinson speaks of throughout his entire autobiography, and it is still only briefly mentioned on page 3. Through his adult life, there is a distinct lack of vocational content, with only one reference to any form of cultural or social. He mentions how he joined in the Silver Jubilee celebrations for George V, but gives no information or details into how he spent the day or what sort of activities were happening.

A street party celebrating King George V's Silver Jubilee
A street party celebrating King George V’s Silver Jubilee

Robinson’s working class beliefs can be seen through his writing, as he constantly talking in relation to his employment.  He discusses all of the jobs he undertakes through his life and the roles he was entrusted with, yet he never speaks of his social life. For example, he never speaks of how he was introduced to his first wife, one of his life’s most important events. He does not take anything for granted in his life, but it seems as if he does not live his life to its full capabilities due to the heavy work commitments he gives himself. He speaks of his role as a supporter of the Labour Party, however he again never describes the social aspect of the meetings he goes to, only the work he does for the Labour cause.




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