My Memories of Growing up near Truro – Part 8: Christmas

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Susan Coney (née Phillips) is a prolific researcher and recorder of local history, especially about Truro. Here, she shares with us part eight of her memories of growing up during the 1940s to the 1960s, recalled and recorded during the 2020 Covid-19 lockdown.


I remember my earliest Christmas present, when I was three years old. It was a ‘walkie talkie’ Pedigree doll which I still have – I called her Sylvia (I’ve no idea why). It was bought at Rickards in River Street – I expect Dad and Mum paid so much a week for it. The following year I was given a doll’s pram – again from Rickards – a child sized maroon Silver Cross. These two presents were very precious to me for many years and I always kept them neat and tidy with my dolly sat up in the pram with a cover over her, in the corner of the passage of our home in Shortlanesend. When my sister was a toddler, and I went off to school at St Mary’s, I told my Mum not to let her play with my dolly and pram. She did of course but Mum would make sure they were tidied and back in their place by the time I got home from school!

Newspaper Advertisement from 1939

My pram and dolly dressed up courtesy of my sister

My dolly – now 73 years old!

Christmas dinner was usually a chicken (sometimes a capon), followed by Christmas pudding with silver three-penny bits in it. For tea we had mince pies, cake etc. I don’t remember there being very much alcohol for Christmas or any other time of the year for that matter. Mum sometimes had a bottle of cream sherry which would last for several Christmases but that is all and maybe Dad had a bottle of beer.  It was only when I came back home for Christmas when I was older that I bought bottles of wine – usually Blue Nunn and Nuit St George.

On Boxing Day we always went to my Auntie’s house down Idless for the afternoon and evening which was great fun. Her house was always warm with a roaring fire in both the big kitchen and front room.

Tea was a big spread of buns, scones with jam and cream and homemade Christmas cake and best of all, sherry trifle. I was allowed to have some even though it had quite a lot of sherry in it – it was delicious. I don’t think there was any alcohol at my Auntie’s house either (except for a small flask of brandy that my Auntie kept in her handbag ‘for medicinal purposes’!). Uncle Reg, Dad’s brother was a teetotaller all his life and Dad very occasionally had a ‘half pint’.

After tea, when the table was cleared and washing up done, Aunt Dor (Doris Richards, Dad’s eldest sister), Mum and my sister went into the front room to chat or do a jigsaw puzzle. The rest of us sat around the big kitchen table and the grown-ups played cards – Dad, Uncle Reg (Phillips, Dad’s brother), Auntie Olga (Phillips, Dad’s youngest sister), Butch (Barry Richards, Aunt Dor’s son), and sometime his girlfriend Nora (Angove). I was allowed to stay too but Mum wasn’t keen on playing cards except patience. They played for pennies and were very funny, jokingly accusing each other of cheating. I can see Uncle Reg now with his glasses on the end of his nose watching the cards like a hawk. Someone would hide a card or have a few spare ones from another pack hidden in their pockets trying to fool him but he knew exactly which cards has already been laid and by whom. I never had so much fun. Such lovely people.

Dad and his sisters – from the left: Freda, Olga and Doris

Cousin Barry (Butch), Uncle Reg (Dad’s brother) & Uncle Jack (Auntie Freda’s husband)

One year, when I was about 12, Auntie Olga gave me a makeup mirror on a stand for my Christmas present. I was delighted and felt so grown-up. Later, I turned the screw under the base of the small stand a bit too much and cracked the stand – I was so upset. Dad being the resourceful man that he was, made a new stand with a rounded short length of wood. We had that mirror for years after and Dad used it for shaving for a long time.

Five days after Christmas day was my birthday. Sometimes people would forget and say at Christmas ‘Oh it’s your birthday soon isn’t it – have that for your birthday too’ Um!

Another of my most loved Christmas presents (a combined birthday present too I expect, as it was expensive) was my Raleigh Blue Streak bicycle with drop handlebars. Again, no doubt Dad paid so much a week for it and maybe sold other things to pay for it.

Reg Langdon’s Shop in New Bridge Street, Truro, where Dad probably bought my bicycle

That bike was my freedom as a teenager. I went miles on it, to Loe Beach, Perranporth, Allet to see my friend and distant cousin Jean and down to Idless to visit Aunt Dor. I came a cropper on the road to Idless once – I rode down Pool Hill at a fair old pace, around the first sharp bend but at the next bend to the right, I was going too fast and went straight into the wall of Mr Osborne’s cottage. (Mr Osborne was known as ‘Appy’ by me as he used to give me an apple when I was very young). Luckily, I didn’t damage the bike and I don’t remember hurting myself – I was just a bit shaken. Aunt Dor gave me a cup of tea and I stayed there for a while to calm down. I remember Cora Richards being there sitting in a chair by the fire in her leather breeches, and her saying, ‘Going too fast were ee Maid? That’ll learn ee’. Not that it did. When I was older, I would often cycle down to Boscolla to see my Grandmother, Nanny Truscott, who became bedridden in her later years. She moved from our house to live with her son, my Uncle Frank (Mum’s youngerbrother) and his lovely wife Auntie Clara. It was Auntie Clara who nursed Nanny until she died aged 91.

I always avoided cycling along the main streets of Truro by going down Infirmary Hill, along the back streets to St George’s Road (much quieter back then) then up New Road to Kenwyn Road. I wasn’t very good at peddling uphill so pushed my bike up most of them. I was very grateful if Dad came along when I was at the bottom of Kenwyn Hill and put my bike in the back of his van to give me a lift home. My sister used my Blue Streak when I had left home. Later, I expect it was sold to pay for something else – maybe for my 21st birthday present – a gold watch which I still have.


Susan Alecia Coney (nee Phillips)

Although I was never very interested in history at school, it is now a big part of my life. I enjoy both the research and writing about it. Initially, it was about my family and their involvement in the community but this sparked a more general interest in Cornish history, of its people and places. I have been involved in a number of projects relating to Truro and have enjoyed this opportunity to record the results for future generations.


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