Monday, April 12, 2010

Amanuensis Monday- Bertha’s Audio Tape, Part 2

All Souls Church, Leeds, Yorkshire, England

I read about Amanuensis Monday in Randy Seaver’s blog “GeneaMusings”, and Randy read about it on John Newmark’s genealogy blog “TransylvanianDutch”. Amanuensis: A person employed to take dictation or copy manuscripts.

This is part two of my grandmother’s audio tape. Bertha Louise Roberts was born in 1897 in Leeds, Yorkshire, England and she came to Beverly, Massachusetts in 1915, via Ellis Island, with her parents and brother Horace. They joined her sister Hilda, who had already married and come to Beverly.

Last week Bertha described her preschool years, and in this section of her audio tape she describes her playmates, the conditions in the crowded neighborhoods, and her Sunday school memories at the All Soul’s Hood Memorial Church.


“My mother would give me a penny and at the bottom of the street where we lived there was a nice sweet store. Of course we called candy there "spice." And I remember the different things I would get. They had the candy potato and in the middle there was a tiny prize of some kind. And I remember the licorice ladders we got. And the different things I bought. I thought that spice shop was just the most wonderful place.

We had no yard to play in so we would play on the sidewalk. Sometimes we would go up to the moor, the Yorkshire moor. Part of this moor was cultivated and part was just rough and I remember they had band concerts there and they had sand piles the children could play in. I was very happy playing the different games especially jump rope and then we had a game called "Whip and Top." These tops were in different shapes. Some were in the shape of a big round top and the others were carrot tops, the shape of a carrot. We would chalk designs of different colors on the top of the top and then spin it and whip it all the way along the sidewalk. And of course when we were in school, after school we could play in the school yard. We had another game - shuttle cock and battledore. This was something like badminton. We had a battledore and a little cork with feathers sticking out of it, and we'd spin it up in the air and bat it with the battledore. See how many times we could keep it up.

Then we had another game called "Buttons." And we were very fortunate in my house because evidently my father and mother had worked in the mills and they had a lot of buttons. This game consisted of chalking a ring on the sidewalk and then determine how many buttons we would throw from a certain distance. The one that got nearest to the center of the ring was the first one to have their turn and they would push the buttons and if they got them in the ring they kept those buttons. And of course we played hop scotch and a lot of the games the children have here.

When I was a little girl we belonged to the Episcopal Church. Now our church had two, there was two churches. The high church and the low church. The name of it was All Soul's Hood Memorial Church. They had a vicar to preside over the church and three curates. Now I went to the low church which was nearby. It was rather unique the way it was built. It was built so that the church was high up and underneath it was the gymnasium and the great big room where they had the social events. To go up to the church there was a gradual incline going round and gradually up to the top. At the top of the incline was the vestry where the curate would have this little office and the boys and men would put on their surplices. My brother was in the choir. The choir then consisted of just boys and men. And it was a high church. By that I mean it had quite a few different rituals. The surplices were changed on the minister according to the time of the year and the choir was led by a cross. I loved to go to church and I especially liked to sing the psalms that we all sung. And my father and mother would take me.

And where we had the piano my sister started taking piano lessons and we would love to get around the piano on a Sunday and my father would love to sing… the old songs like "Rocked in the Cradle of the Deep" and "Whispering Hope" and the hymns and we really had a good family life.

The Sunday School was in another building near this factory I mentioned before, the furniture factory. In back of that factory there were these hills leading up to a highish plateau. At the bottom of those hills we tiny children would play with the clay just like the children play with the sand at the seashore.

And my mother worked very hard. She kept the house very clean and the steps were washed every Saturday morning and the sidewalk and the window sills and the people there would use this clay to use on the edge of the steps. And Saturday morning everybody would do this cleaning. All the way down the street it really looked nice and clean. My sister would go to a neighbor to do some chores to earn some spending money. And she would come home with some goodies. And my brother and I being much younger would raise the dickens and want to eat some of the goodies that she got.

My….. I had an aunt that lived nearby. And she was left a widow with five children. So Mother and Dad helped them as much as they could and two of these little girls were just a little older than I was and whatever I got to wear Mother would try to give them the same thing.

When we went to school we had school shoes and a school dress and a pinafore. And when we came home from school we had to change into our play clothes. The pinafores were plain to go to school, but on a Sunday we had a pretty pinafore with our Sunday dress. And I remember wearing high shoes and then when I was real tiny I wore the ankle strap shoes. And I remember being in little plays and things in the Sunday school, and how proud I was to be with it, with those things.

As I got a little older the church had what they called the Needle Brigade. And of course I had been baptized there and I had my godmother as the head one of this Needle Brigade. We learned to knit and make things for this bazaar that we had once a year. And my godmother would read a story while we were working. We knitted dish cloths and different things and the older children knitted pretty things and this bazaar was quite an affair. We would all get on the stage and sing some hymns first and then of course the tables had all these things on that we had made. And as I got older I was in charge of one of the tables and I thought that was really something.

Then at Christmas time we would have a party. And had a Christmas tree at the Sunday school. We didn't have a Christmas tree at home but we had this party and were given an orange and an apple and a small gift and we thought that was wonderful.”

To be continued on another Amanuensis Monday...

Link to part one

Copyright 2010, Heather Wilkinson Rojo


  1. How fortunate to have your grandmother's memories told in her own words. Thanks for sharing those memories of a special time and place with us.

  2. How cool! One of my great-great aunts also made a tape, and I made sure to sit down with my grandmother before she passed, to talk to her. I also got emails from my Nana, her 1st cousin, and my grandfather, describing their childhoods, young adulthoods, and anything else they fancied, for me.

  3. It's wonderful when grandparents are cooperative to do that. In the case of my grandfather I used to give him something to do [ weaving] before I went off to school, something like making a tape would have been great.

    Buttons, buttons, who's got the button? That was our game.

  4. Your grandmother sure remembered a lot about her life, and it was nice too that she gave bits of information about your great-grandmother. Is there another segment?