Kathleen Hilton-Foord (1903-1998): Habits, Culture & Belief

 

Taken from Grannie's Girl
Taken from Grannie’s Girl

 

Attendance at Sunday school and Girl Guides features prominently across Kathleen’s memoir and poetry. The Girl Guides was established in 1910[1] and had clear spiritual values which were passed on to its attendees. Kathleen upholds these values throughout her writing, particularly in expressing her views on drinking. For instance she writes a poem called Signing the Pledge to warn readers not to be influenced by ‘Strong Drink’ (p.2). The immorality of drinking is so instilled in Kathleen that she is weary when she has to go and get her ‘Grannie’s only treat’, which was ‘Half of a pint of Pale Ale’, she says:

I was full of apprehension

My nerves were all on edge

I could not quell my conscience

For I had signed the pledge

(‘Our Parish’, Grannie’s Girl)

Image taken from Kathleen's drawing 'Grannie hearing the carols' from poem 'The End' in Grannie's GirlKathleen’s attendance at Sunday school and the Girl Guides is representative of the fact that working-class girls were ‘more liable to attend Sunday school than boys and girls from any other economic group’ as suggested by Joanna Bourke (147)[2]. Kathleen acknowledges how everyone at the church-led organisations were treated equally, but she doesn’t make reference to other genders or classes, as she does when talking about her experiences at St. Mary’s School.

Kathleen describes the games she played with her friends ‘in the street outside our homes’ (Handwritten memoir, p.2), but doesn’t discuss any other leisure activities until she begins to visit the cinema. Having to play games in the street is an example of the restrictions of working-class activities. Similarly to other working-class young girls, Kathleen appears to have had limited access to leisure activities that were not organised by the church. She discusses the Sunday school and visits to the cinema within the poem ‘Our Parish’; this proves her own identification with the church and the opportunities to socialise it provided her with.

In ‘Our Parish’, Kathleen writes:

Saturday trips to the cinema

With an orange and sweets to be had;

We shouted and cheered the ‘goodies’

Boo-ed loudly at the bad.

It was then only a penny

Once a fortnight I would go

I didn’t like missing the serial

But Grannie couldn’t afford it I know

We played marbles, tip-cat and hopscotch,

Mother’s and Father’s, and Farmer wants a wife;

Statues, Tag and Greenbell

It was a varied life.

There were pleasures few

But far more enjoyment in them

Than what today can do.

(‘Our Parish’, Grannie’s Girl)

Going to the cinema was enticing enough for Kathleen to want to talk about it in writing about her childhood. Ross McKibbin claims that people in the south were not as likely to visit the cinema as people in the north. However, he states that ‘the only place in the south which approached northern levels was London’ (McKibbin, 421[3]). Kathleen’s visits to London may have influenced her desire to visit the cinema. Although she says ‘we shouted and cheered the ‘goodies’’, she doesn’t say who it is she goes with, only that her ‘Grannie couldn’t afford it’; even this popular working-class leisure activity was a burden on Kathleen and her grandmother financially.

Kathleen’s half-sister played the piano at the Hippodrome

Kathleen talks about her father’s orchestra and how ‘they played at Balls and Functions’, but it seems Kathleen was left out from these events as she says ‘sitting on the kerb outside, I would imagine myself as Cinderella, my half-sisters in mind’ (‘The Beginning’, Grannie’s Girl). In her memoir The Survivor Kathleen says ‘one or other of my half[-]sisters played the piano at the Town Hall Dances, Balls and other functions, also in the pit of the Old Market Square Theatre, and the Hippodrome in Snargate Street’ (p.1). The way in which Kathleen describes the social events her family members participated in without her illustrates how restricted her access to leisure activities was, because of the size of her family as well as her class and gender.


Works Cited

[1] For more about the history of the Girl Guides see  http://www.girlguiding.org.uk/about_us/key_information/history.aspx

[2] Bourke, Joanna. Working-Class Cultures in Britain 1890-1960: Gender, Class and Ethnicity. London: Routledge, 1994.

[3] McKibbin, Ross. Classes and Cultures England 1918-1951. New York: Oxford UP, 1998

Image of the Hippodrome taken from http://www.dover-kent.co.uk/leisure/hippodrome.htm

‘Hilton-Foord, Kathleen’. Grannie’s Girl in John Burnett, David Mayall and David Vincent eds The Autobiography of the Working Class: An Annotated, Critical Bibliography Vol 2. Brighton: Harvester, 1987 (2.398a)

‘Hilton-Foord, Kathleen’. The Survivor: The Memoirs of a little Dover girl – Born 1903 in John Burnett, David Mayall and David Vincent eds The Autobiography of the Working Class: An Annotated, Critical Bibliography Vol 2. Brighton: Harvester, 1987 (2.398b)

‘Hilton-Foord, Kathleen’. No title (handwritten memoir) in John Burnett, David Mayall and David Vincent eds The Autobiography of the Working Class: An Annotated, Critical Bibliography Vol 2. Brighton: Harvester, 1987 (2.398c)

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