Sarah von Allmen
52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Week 18.
Week 18 – Social.
Rather than looking at one ancestor in particular, I’m going to illustrate this week’s theme through three photographs, which represent three recurring social activities in my immediate and extended family.
Historically, the local church was always a place where at least limited social interaction was possible – indeed, at one time it may have been the only such place for the very poorest in society who worked long hours six days a week. Over time, with the growth of Sunday Schools, Bible classes, and other semi-educational activities (libraries, sewing circles, etc), the “social” aspect spread wider. and was regarded as an acceptable activity for young people even by the strictest sticklers for propriety.
This photo is probably a young people’s Bible class on a rather decorous outing in the early 1900s. It was among my late aunt’s papers, but neither my cousins nor myself can definitely identify any of the participants: it’s possibly linked to the Manchester Methodist Missions but may be another local church.
2. Scouts and Guides
The Scout movement started in 1907 and grew rapidly in the UK and beyond. In the early 1930s my father joined the Cub pack run by his older brother, and later returned to the movement as a Scouter. My siblings and I were all involved with Scouting from age 7 onwards (no Beavers/Rainbows back then!) and our family now counts three generations of Scouts and Guides. I’m particularly pleased to have this photo of my father in uniform, complete with Baden-Powell hat, turn-up shorts and horrible socks!
3. Youth clubs
Secular youth clubs independent of local churches or national organisations proliferated after the Second World War, and my parents met at the Wilbraham Road 18+ Club in Manchester in the 1950s. The club’s many activities included amateur dramatics, concerts, and hiking trips in the Peak District, one of which is immortalised on the photo above, which shows a wonderful collection of rain capes and mackintoshes combined with shorts. I think the photo was probably taken before my parents married in 1956, but they continued to attend the club for some time afterwards and were there on 6 February 1958 when one of the other members arrived in a state of shock to tell them that the radio was reporting that Manchester United’s plane had crashed on take-off in Munich.
Clubs like this were popular well into the 1960s and even 1970s, but were gradually superseded by a wider range of sports and leisure clubs offering more targeted activities.