19. The Handyman

A Skilled Woodworker

Grandad was extremely “handy”. As a child, it appeared to me that he could make almost anything, particularly from wood. When we were growing up, he had a well-equipped workshop at the back of his house. He would often make things for us. This ability to make all kinds of different things was clearly seen during this period.

Making Things for the Home

He made a range of things for the various houses in which he lived over this period. He also made things for the houses of family members and friends.

Once, in 1930, he faced a challenge because a new suite and bed had been delivered but they could not get the wardrobe upstairs. So, grandad “sawed” the wardrobe and then reassembled it the next day!

He also did things for the outside of the houses where he lived, that is in the back yard and garden. Again, he did these same for family members and friends.  In May 1938, he “fitted up” a bird aviary. Mum recalled that this was at the back of the Station Street shop. There is a picture of her in front of this. In July 1938, he laid a brick path to the aviary. Mum is pictured standing on this.

Mum at back of Station St in front of the aviary grandad built

Making Things for Children

Of course, my recollections are of him making things for us when we were children. He also did this for those family members who were children at the time.

For his nephew, Leonard, he made two rabbit hutches and a box to hold his “maccano [sic]”, which presumably refers to Meccano. For his other nephews, Basil and Roy, he made a barrow and a toboggan. At this point, Basil would have been 11 and Roy nine. It is perhaps noteworthy that grandad did not record making a toboggan for Olive, Roy’s sister. She would have been 12 at the time Grandad also made Basil a dog kennel.

Mum was born in 1934 and, from that point, grandad made various things for her. These included a swing frame, a table, a cupboard, a scooter and, perhaps oddly, a clothes horse and a mangle.

Home-made Wirelesses

At the start of the 1920s, factory-made radios were very expensive. So, it was common to construct home-made ones as this was possible for “almost any family who was handy with simple tools”. This definitely described grandad and so he made “wirelesses” for several family members. While this is now a dated term, radios were commonly referred to as “the wireless” in those days.

Grandad appears to have been more interested in making and mending the radios than in recording what he listened to. However, he does note this in passing in several places in his diaries. In August 1931, he listened to “Dunmo Flitch”. This was an ancient folk custom in which couples compete to win a pig’s carcass or flitch. More details are available here including a radio broadcast from 1938.

Home-made radio receiver from the United States in 1925 © Badseed and licensed for reuse under this Licence