A few words about myself and my project - Jo Vernon
In 1975, I went away to London for a
weekend with my late husband, during which, we visited the Tower among
other places. This visit started a fervent interest in English History for
me, specifically the period from William the
Conqueror up to the present day. I studied for a number of years, purely for
pleasure, by reading library books and
visiting old castles and churches. By the time I had come to Charles II , I
began to develop an interest in my own city of Coventry. This was probably
not very surprising, as many of my forebears had worked for the Coventry
Corporation. My Father, Noel K. Batchelor, started working for them on
January 7th 1933, putting up signs for the street names. He studied, took
exams and became Structural Engineer during the war years and by the time he
died at the age of 58 from a coronary thrombosis in September 1966, he was
Chief Structural Engineer, with a team under him. He never forgot his Spon
Street roots, where he was born, in a court near Ma Brown’s public house.
My mother was born in the same area, in Norfolk St. and they both attended St. John’s C.of E. school in Gloucester St. Mother’s Father, Grandfather and brother were all Foreman Coach-painters for the Council and in later years, Mother became Cook Supervisor in various schools. Not to be out done, my Grandmother Death, (pronounced Deeth), got a job in the 1940’s,( having been made redundant from what she had been doing during the war, which was a Civil Defence Warden down the Rudge air raid shelter), attending the loos next to the fire station. She took great pride in her job, keeping the place spotless and cleaning the brass fittings every day. She was quite upset when she had to retire in 1958 at the age of 75, the Corporation having brought in a rule the women employees must retire at the age of 60. She promptly went out and got herself another job as caretaker at St. Saviour’s church hall in Barras Lane! She was still there when she was taken ill a couple of weeks before she died in 1961. When my Mother passed away in February 1979,I realized that I had no-one to answer my questions about the past any more and that someday, my children and grandchildren might feel the same frustration. I decided to write down my experiences as I remembered them, after all, I had lived through some interesting and varied times, having been a child during the war, a teenager during the ‘50’s and ‘60’s and seeing my city devastated and re-built. I was in at the beginning of the television era, I had listened to my music on 78rpm. shellac records as well as vinyl, tape recorders and C.D's and there have been many, many more changes that I have experienced during the course of my 63 years. I began it in 1985, writing in longhand in an exercise book (no computers in those days!), getting as far as the end of the war in 1945 and it was put into a drawer and forgotten about until my brother got a computer and printer in 1990. He asked me for it and printed it out for me. Again, it was put into a drawer and forgotten about, although over the years, my children mentioned it and I always meant to finish it, I kept putting it off. However, earlier this year, something happened to make me realize that I could no longer procrastinate. The job must be finished!
In November last year, my youngest brother was diagnosed with cancer of the pancreas and secondary cancer of the liver, which was inoperable. He was only 53. He bore his illness with great courage and fortitude and never lost his wonderful sense of humour. In February of this year, he was admitted to the oncology unit in Walsgrave Hospital and my son, Bill, who lives in London, came up to visit him. I took my album of old family photographs up for Roger to see, as he wished to scan them when he got home. He had just acquired the “Family Tree Maker” package for his computer and was telling us about it. He said to me “When I get out of here, we’ll have to see about getting you a computer so that you can finish that book you’ve been trying to write all this time”. I laughed! Me! A computer! The only thing I knew about them was how to play Solitaire and “Mind Maze”. I learned to do those at my daughter’s when I baby sat for her. Oh! I could type out a few recipes on my 378 and print them on my dot matrix printer. My son had bought these for me a few years previously but more often than not they lay unused upstairs in the room I used for sewing. I thought no more about it.
Eleven days later, Roger passed peacefully away. He left three daughters, the eldest having been born to his first wife in 1974, the other two aged 17 and 19 and a young son aged 10.He also left two little grandchildren who were born to his elder daughter, a girl, Samantha, aged six and a boy, Ben aged three. Bill came up for the funeral and during the course of the day, got together with Roger’s brother-in-law, Steve Savage, who dealt in computers and arranged for me to have one. He also put me on the Internet! I had no idea how to use it, so it was by trial and error that I started back on my book. I learned to cut, paste and copy. Bill bought me a typing programme and “Word 97 Teacher” and I went on from there. The telephone line between Coventry and Beckton must have been red hot for the first month as I encountered numerous problems.
Things I learned flew out of my head and all in all it was pretty daunting! I persevered because I was completely “hooked” on my new toy (albeit an expensive toy!). When it told me that I had performed an “illegal operation”, I was scared stiff, expecting the boys in blue to come knocking at the door! The first time I tried to recover my e.mails, it took me all of one Saturday! I kept disconnecting myself before they were delivered because I only had one line for the telephone and I was using the phone while the e.mails were coming through. I learned the hard way! Then I decided to clear the files on my “C” drive to make a bit of space.---WRONG!!
I visited Bill in London about a month later and sat with him by his computer for two whole days and had a crash course. Things improved for a while. I was getting quite expert at this computer business, (I thought!). While I was in London, I acquired “Family Tree Maker 6” Now I was in business! I filled all the appropriate family pages in as far as I could, added photographs and notes to the scrap book, in between writing my story. I am now up to the year 1964 , so I have a long way to go, but I’m keeping at it!
Since I had my computer installed, I have acquired a “Zip”drive, scanner and new printer and have been merrily scanning and printing photographs and data. I put my Family Tree on to a “Zip” disk for safe keeping and to make room on my hard disk. Looking at it last Saturday, I thought it looked rather untidy with assorted files all over the place and so I decided to make new folders to install the various files into so that they would look neater. I proudly rang my son to tell him what I had done! In an extremely calm voice, he informed me ,“ You shouldn’t have done that Mum”. I knew what he meant the next morning when I tried to open the “Zip” disk!----“THIS PROGRAMME HAS PERFORMED AN ILLEGAL OPERATION AND WILL BE CLOSED DOWN !” Oh well! Back to the drawing board!---Well I am still a novice at this computing game!
Mary Josephine Vernon (Jo) Born - 14TH October 1936
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