21st January 1920 – 17th April 2007

Beatrice Josephine was born on Wednesday 21st January 1920 to her parents, Joseph and Beatrice. Joseph was an art metal smith and Beatrice was a clerk. At that time, they lived at 16, Lloyd Street, Dudley. They moved in1925 from this address to 43, New Rowley Road, Dudley.

Joseph Mullett
Beatrice Mullett

José ( she neither liked the name Beatrice or Josephine) weighed 6lbs when she was born. The house she lived in had five rooms and she was fortunate to have one of them. The house, 16 LLoyd Street was an end house and she remembered that it had a rose garden.

When José was four, she remembered being given a Tan-sad three wheeler, similar to the one in the picture. Also around that time she was also given a ‘special’ toy, a teddy bear named ‘Ted’ that she kept all her life. Much later in life she took it along to be valued when she was told “I can see it has been well loved!”. After the three wheeler she had a scooter and she remembered that she knocked out one of her front teeth while going down a bank on it. Her next mode of transport came when she was 9, a black Raleigh bike, notably with a bell. José was still cycling in her 50s and 60s.

Tan-Sad Toys

At 5 years old, José went to a private school in Terry Streeet, Dudley. Her teachers were Miss Avery and Mrs Green. It was here where she met her long term friend, Mabel (later Mabel Simons). When she was about 10 years old, she then moved to Dixons Green Preparatory School. Here she enjoyed English Literature and writing essays but disliked arithmetic. She liked music and singing and took part in school plays whilst at home, she learned to play the piano. When asked if she ever got into trouble at school, she remembered getting into trouble by playing truant with a friend, Catherine Healey. For that, she had an interview in the headmaster’s study.

Her pocket money at this time was 3d per week (equivalent to 1½p today) and was always given on a Friday for sweets. However, to get her pocket money she had to clean her Dad’s shoes. There was a family dog, Timmy, which became (in)famous in the family for catching a squirrel. This was later stuffed and put in a glass dome.

José left school when she was 15 to become an apprentice at ‘Phyllese’ hairdressers. It was a 3 year apprenticeship for which she earned 5/- (25p) per week in the first year, 7/6 (37½p) per week in the second year and 10/- (50p) per week in her final year. At the end of her apprenticeship, she worked as an improver in a hairdresser’s in Cradley Heath for 2 years. After that she went to a beauty parlour in Stourbridge as head girl, travelling to and from work by bus. Her working hours were 9.00am to 6.00pm.

This is a picture of José with her mother, Beattie, around 1936 and is one of my favourite photographs. Why? Because it shows the styles and the spirit of life in those pre war years.

José and her mother, Beattie

When WWII started José went to work in a munitions factory making shells. She was working shifts including nights, 12 hours on, 12 hours off. However, her father managed to get her transferred to working morning and late shifts, not nights, as he didn’t want her to become “a sergeant’s blanket”! After the war she became a ‘housewife’ and didn’t take another full time job until the mid 1960s, when she worked for a factory, Hollands and Blair in Gillingham making bathroom scales and various other items. She used to bring home furry scales covers that were rejects and these were made into all manner of things, including cushion covers.

During those early years José didn’t have any hobbies although she loved music and her favourite artists were Richard Tauber (a tenor) and Nelson Eddy (an actor and singer). She used to love going to the cinema, usually on a Sunday and went to several concerts at the Dudley Hippodrome. She loved many operatic arias and remembered the English translations of them in her 80s. She also liked dancing and went whenever she could. She sometimes returned home late after these dances and her mother would put the clock back so that her father wouldn’t know and give her what for! She recalled on one occasion when she came back from a dance, sitting on a bank by her house watching the glow in the sky from the bombing of Coventry. This was in November 1940.

She met her first boyfriend when she was 16, Jackie Carrington. He had fair hair which reminded her of Nelson Eddy and for their first date, they went to the cinema. As there is no other mention of him, I gather it didn’t last long. When she was 28, she had a blind date with Douglas Butler (my father) who I believe was a milk roundsman at the time. As is obvious this turned out to be the one! When asked by her granddaughter, Vicki, much later in life what were her first impressions of her new boyfriend she said “Not much, but he was tall and reasonable looking”.

Of course, only a year later World War II was declared and Doug (he preferred that over Douglas) went off to war. In 1941 when he was on leave from Iceland, they got engaged and in true style, her father Joseph checked with him what his future plans were! On Saturday 31st August, they were married in Dudley Top Church. The wedding reception was held at the Selbourne Hotel in Dudley.

From the left: Sarah Ann Butler, Lawson Butler, Connie Cook, Norman Butler, Douglas Butler, Josephine Butler, Joseph Mullett, Mabel Hollins, Beatrice Mullett

After the wedding breakfast (mid afternoon), the newly married couple left to go on honeymoon, their chosen place being St Ives in Cornwall where Doug was stationed at the time. Being wartime, train journeys were not like they are today and disruptions were common place. She remembered that the carriage was very crowded and that the train was held up at Exeter for several hours. She and her new husband had to spend their first night in the station waiting room where, around a central table, she had a soldier fall asleep on one shoulder and a sailor asleep on her feet – not a very romantic start to a marriage. They stayed in a cottage run by Mrs Teagle who loved company, played the piano and whistled. José also remembered that she made real Cornish pasties. It seems that the rest of the honeymoon went off okay.

On another occsasion, José stayed with Doug at the end of April 1944 in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex where he was stationed. Also that year, Doug had a 48 hour pass and they stayed in London, her main memory of this were the doodlebugs!

A little later, in 1947, José and Doug moved into the ‘New House’ in Oakham Road, Dudley. This was later numbered 152. To give you some idea on prices, they took out a Prudential Insurance policy on the house which costed £1.5s.0d (£1.25 in today’s money) for one year. It was while living here that I (Jeremy) was born in 1950 as was Mike in 1952.

The next move was in 1953, when they bought a chalet bungalow, 7 Arthur Road, Rainham, Kent. The move from Staffordshire to Kent was quite a big one as the family had not travelled far in previous years. The move was made as a result of my father taking up a teaching post in Gillingham. This was to be José’s home for the next 8 years.

The next move was even further than this one, almost 3,000 miles, to Benghazi in Libya.

José c. 1950

Benghazi

My father (Doug) got a teaching job in Benghazi in Libya which brought a huge change for the family. He left to take it up in December 1960 and we followed in March the following year. As Doug was given the courtesy rank of Captain, we were given officers’ quarters in Benghazi. In our case it was a two bedroomed, ground floor apartment in Incis House.

It was normal at that time for households in the officers’ quarters to have someone to come and help with the housework etc. In our case, it was a local woman called Azeeza (it might have been Aziza). As you can ssee from the photo, the windows had shutters and iron bars on the outside. There was then a metal fly screen and inside were wooden shutters with glass panes and heavy curtains. These were important when there were sand storms (ghiblis). Even with all this protection, there was usually a fine film of sand over all the marble floors and other surfaces after a storm.

Conditions generally were pretty good with water being piped in from an artesian well some 30 or so miles away and needless to say it was always warm. There was no fresh milk to be had and we got used to using Carnation Evaporated milk watered down by 1 part milk to 3 parts water. Although some foods were available locally, most food was bought at the NAAFI.

José with Azeeza

Of course, there was no television or English radio programmes so for entertainment we either read or played cards. There was a small cinema at the army base called the Gerboa which we did go to on occasion. Socialising was important and would take place at different homes. Sometimes it took the form of a musical evening. This would consist of everyone sitting around listening to, often classical music, with a ‘slab’ of beer in front of them. This slab was a case of 24 cans of either Allsopps or Carlsberg beer. Naturally, Mike and I were never invited to these evenings.

Sayings

One of the things José will always be remembered for is the number of words of wisdom that she spoke, strange sayings, some of which originated in the Midlands. As I remember them, I will add them here.

“It’s a bit dark over Bill’s mother’s” which means it looks like it is going to rain

“Better an empty house than a bad tenant” referring to when someone leaves their partner (quoted to me on occasion!)

Worry is the interest on trouble before it is due” meaning to prepare for something but not to worry about it until it happens