May 31st 1939
My Birthday Letter
I am come to another milestone.
Today I am seventy-two and instead of going for a nice walk, I will tell the story of a walk I done with another boy about my own age to Bath. It came about like this: when I was 18 years old, I was working for J. Fuller, Coach Builders, College Green, as a striker and George Jones was a hammer boy working for the same firm. There were several boys working there and we lads used to yarn to one another during the dinner hour and I was telling them about some of the nice walks I had done round the country lanes and George Jones said he loved walking and how he would like to go for a walk with me if I would care to go with him. So we arranged a walk between us and we decided to walk to Bath as he had never been there. Now George only lived across the way from work and in those days we worked from six in the morning until 5.30 at night. He was able to go to his breakfast and dinner.
I lived at Lower Easton, about three miles away. I had to be up before five o'clock in the morning to get to work by six o'clock. We didn't bother with workman cars in those days so you see I did about six miles a day, week after week. Therefore I was in far better trim for walking than George but he didn't give that a thought, he was a fairly strong chap. We picked a nice summer day and decided to have a Sunday for this walk. We arranged to meet on Bristol Bridge at eight in the morning.
I had to walk from Lower Easton and him from College Green. We met a few minutes before eight and we waited until St. Michael's church clock struck eight then we went along Victoria Street - Bath Road - Brislington - Keynsham - Saltford - Twerton and into Bath. Oh it was a grand walk and we were feeling fine. Just as we reached Bath Bridge the town clock was striking eleven o'clock - not bad walking eh? 12 miles in three hours. Then I had to show George round until about 12 o'clock. We then went into a coffee shop, they were about in those days, we had some buns and tea and the little rest made us feel quite alright (Bath is not a very big city). So off we went again sight seeing and we finished up with going around Victoria Park (a nice place). Here we had another rest and it must have been between one and two o'clock when we made a start for home. So off we went through Upper Weston and on to Kelston. George keeping up fine. It was grand, such a nice day and the country looking fine - it was real country then; on we went and bye and bye we reached Bitton.
Now George Jones' mother came from Bitton and George knew his relations lived there but he had never been to Bitton before and he was bucked up with me bringing him that way home (it shows although he was my age he had not walked far away from home). He said to me, "Harry, I have got some relations living here and my grandmother, I wish I knew where they lived". I said , "George, there's a man over there, and in a small place like this he would surely know". So George went up to him and I am blowed, he found it was his uncle he was talking to.
So it was not long before we were in his Grandmother's house, a little old fashioned cottage with the stone floor and a big deal table in the centre of the room with hard chairs around and a long stool with a high back at one side of the fireplace and how clean everything was. The dear old soul was so pleased to see us, of course we had to tell of our walk and adventures and the news of George's home. She said, "Now sit a while and rest and I will get you something to eat I expect you can do with it". It was early afternoon but that did not make any difference to us. I shall never forget how I enjoyed that food, it was only bread and butter and a big mug of tea. The bread nearly and inch thick but it was good and when we had nearly finished our meal a young girl came in, she was about our age and we found she was George's cousin and George had not seen her before. It was a pleasant meeting and when we were ready to go, she said she would walk a little way with us.
I was glad of the rest there, and felt all the better for it but George found when he got up to go his legs were tired and stiff. Before leaving Bitton, we had a steep hill to walk and the girl got her arm in George's and that helped him along, and I believe it was a case of love at first sight for before we parted at the top of the hill, him and her made arrangements to write to each other. By then George had found his walking legs again. This way from Bath to Bristol is longer than the lower road, a very hard walk too. Up hill and down all the way but it was a lovely day and the country was quite new to George but as we went on, he was getting very tired and he asked me more than once how much further it was to go. When we got to Hanham, I said to him, "Keep up George, we shall soon be in St. George's then you can ride".
The tram cars in them days went from Old Market street to St. Georges. When we reached St. Georges church he was nearly all in so he got on the car and rode to Old Market Street. Then he had to walk to College Green and I, out across the church grounds and across Whitehall to my house at Easton which I reached just before six o'clock.
My Uncle and Aunt had a pony and trap outside the house ready to go for a drive and were pleased to know I was safe and sound. I had a wash and change and after having some food, I went off to my girls house near Mina Road - this was about seven o'clock in the evening and the girl and I went for a walk pass Stapleton church to Duchess Gate before we turned to come back home. After leaving her, I got home about ten o'clock and after a good night sleep, I was up in the morning before five o'clock ready for work again. When I started work that Monday morning the boys (they knew about the walk) wanted to know if we done it and as George was not in we all thought he was having a quarter off but George did not come to work that day. So we put it down, he was having a rest. The next day, he came to work and we were all anxious to hear why he did not come to work. He told us when he tried to get up, he found he could not move his legs and had to stay in bed nearly all day. While his mother did what she could for him. Towards night, he was able to get up and walked about a bit although feeling the effort of his walk he was able to come to work, his mother told him to never do such a walk again - and he never did as far as I know.
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