No roses but lots of heart at my best friend's sister's wedding in post-war 50s
BACK in the 1950s, my best friend's sister, Joan Middleton, married a former Polish airman, Ted Skymancki, in Derby.
The bride worked at the Co-op Boot and Shoe factory and the groom was a photographer at Jeromes in town. He had come over in the war from Poland and served in the Polish Air Force.
big day: The wedding of Joan and Ted Skymancki at St James' Church, Dairyhouse Road, Derby, in the 1950s. Sylvia Riley is the small bridesmaid on th left. Her friend, Christine, is right.
Joan's mother, Edith Middleton, was a night-nurse for years at Pastures Hospital. She was a widow and took lodgers. Ted was one of the lodgers.
The maid-of-honour was Joan's best friend, Stella. They had been friends at Allenton School. Stella was married to Johnny, who was the best man. Joan and Stella went dancing together and the four of them went out together in the evenings. The two small bridesmaids are Joan's little sister, Christine, and Christine's friend – me. Stella wore lilac lace and she looked terrific. Joan took Christine and myself shopping for bridesmaid dresses. We finally ended up in, I think it was, Barnetts' shop in St Peter's Street, just past Marks and Spencer.
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We had never seen such pretty dresses; they were white satin stitched with rosebuds.
“Well, I don't know,” Joan hummed and haaed. “I really wanted pink.”
But we'd been all over and not seen a single pink bridesmaid dress. There wasn't so much choice in the shops in those days and we thought those dresses were wonderful.
Mrs Middleton corresponded with Ted's family, who were in Warsaw.
I remember one day we were out with her in a newsagent's shop, when she said: “Oh, look at these beautiful cards. I'm going to get some to send to Ted's family. They're all Catholics over there you know; they will love them.”
The cards were religious ones with transparent, coloured paper, like stained glass.
The wedding was at St James's Church on Dairyhouse Road. We knew it because we went to St James's School and I attended the Sunday school for a while. On the right side of the church was a children's corner, with little wooden chairs grouped around a small white statue of Jesus, who, I believe, was holding a lamb.
Christine went to the Railway Mission, in Bateman Street. The pastor was Mr Bagshaw who lived in the next street, Grayling Street.
He and his wife and two daughters, Margaret and Christine, all went off there together every week in their Sunday best.
Christine and I both lived in Grange Street and, on the wedding morning, Christine came to our house to dress. It was perishing cold – it was the Easter weekend – and my mother insisted on us wearing flannel nightdresses underneath.
“We're not wearing them; we'll look stupid,” I said indignantly. The flannel certainly took the shine off the white.
“You'll do as you're told, mi'lady. Come on, I'll cut the sleeves off, so nobody will know,” said my mum.
In winter, she always made me wear a liberty bodice and something called Thermogene, which was like orange cotton-wool, for insulation.
After that, she tied our hair with white satin ribbons. In those days, the bows were huge. They looked as though we were trying to take flight with them.
The photographer was a friend of Ted's and stamped on the back of the photograph is “H.I. Hawkes, photographer, 19 Chestnut Avenue, Derby”.
The reception was held at the Arboretum Hotel, which then had black shiny walls, like black mirrors, outside. Ted's relations couldn't come all that way, but Mrs Middleton's relations came down from Manchester. She looked great in navy with a pale blue hat. Both Joan and Stella wore pearls. Girls then always had a string of pearls.
Joan was hoping for pink roses. But there was not much choice in those days, so nobody knew what they were going to get.
When the bouquet arrived, it was deep red carnations. But it didn't matter, she 1ooked lovely and it was a very happy marriage, made even happier when, after 10 years of waiting, they had a baby boy, Paul.