Folk ask why girls wear mini skirts?

Card sent from my Grandad, George Houseman to his wife, Mary Houseman, the author of the poem.

I’ve found tantalising glimpses of love in my family history research. One of my favourite documents is the will of my 4 x great grandfather John Booth. Written in 1860, John refers to his “dear wife” (Jane Lund) three times in just a few short lines.

Valentines – stories of romance and courtship – are more difficult to spot in formal records. It’s impossible to tell whether the marriage between neighbours was a story of childhood sweethearts or just one of proximity and convenience. Even John & Jane’s love is more likely a result of a long, shared life than of hearts & flowers.

Instead, I’m turning a poem written by my Grandma, Mary Houseman.

Grandma’s poems and scripts reflected the local countryside and farming life. They were written to celebrate a birthday, to be recited at a Sunday School anniversary or performed in Young Farmers entertainment competition. The writing is perhaps not of the highest artistic merit. It is definitely of its era and spelling and punctuation are best described idiosyncratic.  (My Grandma & I may have attended the same school, Norwood County Primary, but education in the 1920s & 30s was distinctly different to that in the 1980s). Nonetheless her writing evokes an era and a place. It is also, frequently, funny, and consequently well-loved by those who have the opportunity either to read the poems or watch scripts performed.

So here it is, my Grandma’s reflections on courting.

Folk ask why girls wear mini skirts?

Its obvious to me

They’re on the marriage market

To let the buyers see. That.

The body work is neat and clean

And the boot is firm and round

The chassis well upholstered

And the moving parts are sound

The modern man. He has a choice

Not like in younger days

They took them at face value

Long skirts and whale bone stays

And many a Grandpa’s I’ll be bound

Felt sad that they’d been caught

When in the bridal chamber

They viewed – what they had bought

So modern men – remember this

Now. When you make your bid

You’ll not be caught, with a pig in a poke

The way your Grandpa’s did.

With much gratitude to my Grandma, Mary Houseman (1921 – 2020), who also features in in an earlier blog “Is Grandma related to Grandad?” and thanks also to Amy Johnson Crow whose 52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge encouraged me to publish this series of stories.

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