Perhaps I had ambitions to be an MP - or an undertaker!

Friday, January 30, 2009


Youth is a blunder, manhood a struggle, old age a regret. (Benjamin Disraeli)


I REMEMBER when I was young the school dentist was a German. I’ve mentioned before that in those days there was a great deal of bad feeling towards Germans, and I don’t think he would have much of a chance. The school doctor had a poor rating also, and it was joked that, if a child reported to him for an eyesight test, then he would recommend a tonsillectomy. Much later I got to know him and he was a very pleasant old man. He was well-known in amateur dramatic circles as a playwright and producer.

I REMEMBER that as a youngster I often had bad toothache, a consequence of the iron medicine I had to take. On one occasion, late in the evening, the pain was so bad that my father took me to a dentist who lived nearby. His wife opened the door to us and said she was sorry but “My husband has retired for the night.” My parents thought it was a disgrace that he wouldn’t help a little boy in pain. However we learned some time later that he was often the worse of drink, so perhaps it was just as well he didn’t attend to me!

I REMEMBER that, like so many children of that time, I had to have my tonsils removed. I’m guessing I would be about 6 years old. The operation was done in the newly built clinic and I think I was there for two days. As usual my mother worried a great deal, for a little boy of my own age had died getting this done.

I REMEMBER when an American uncle of my father visited us in the mid 1930s. He and a brother had emigrated around 1895 and, after they had settled, had been joined by their families. He was the first American I had met and he made a big impression on me. Since Fiona and I created the Jaap Family website, many descendants of those two brothers have been touch with us.

I REMEMBER someone else who had an American accent. He was Scottish but had been a printer on transatlantic liners. He married Aunt Nessie, a sister of my mother. One evening when I was very small she called at our house. I had been expecting my favourite aunt, and I told her “I didn’t want you. I wanted Cissie to come!” What a horrible little boy!

I REMEMBER another occasion of which I’m ashamed. It must be one of my earliest memories of my father’s parents’ house. I’ve no idea why I did this, but I told Grandma Jaap “You’re bad!” and slapped her hand.

A haiku :-

eighty years have passed
yet still remembering how I
smacked that wrinkled hand


This is a photo of Grandma Jaap. Difficult to estimate when it was taken. 1900-1905 perhaps.

Charlotte Graham 1865-1942

This one is Grandpa Jaap

John Armour Jaap 1868-1954

[He was the first of 4 John Armour Jaaps. The second was one of his sons, then I came along, and finally my cousin who lives in Australia]



So many things
Everywhere things,
My things, your things,
On-the-shelves and in-drawers things,
Old things, new things,
Useful and trivial things,
Pretty and ugly things,
Treasured and forgotten things,
Not-need-now things,
One day come-in-handy things,
Will keep-for-grandchildren things,
Hate-to-throw-away things, Oh! Too many things, Time to shed the blooming things.

(Joan Dixon, an octogenarian from Dorset, quoted in the Evergreen Magazine - Winter 2007/8)


“On the Berry Trail Grand Canyon of Arizona” was painted by Thomas Moran 1837-1926. He was one of the Hudson River School, and became famous for his magnificent paintings of the Rockies.


NOSTALGIA is defined as a wistful or sentimental longing for things that are past and irrevocable.

For me, that sums up my feelings for the light music broadcasts of the 1930s. The broadcasts were all live and programmes made up entirely of gramophone records were very few.

But it was the sheer variety of the music that was so exciting. There were theatre orchestras like the Coventry Hippodrome Orchestra, hotel orchestras like the one at the Carlton Hotel (very often those were outside broadcasts), there were “specialist” groups like Troise and his Mandoliers and Primo Scala’s Accordion Band. There were tango orchestras (the band leader Geraldo first became known with his tango orchestra). And there were smaller groups such as Fred Hartley and his Quintet, the Jack Wilson Versatile Five, Frank Biffo’s Brass Quartet, the Dorothy Hogben Players, and of course the ubiquitous cinema organists!

The music ranged from the William Tell overture via a Monastery Garden and the Blue Danube to the Londonderry Air. Songs from the shows and films were also featured and the names of Ivor Novello, Noel Coward, Victor Herbert and Sigmund Romberg came up regularly.

Certain singers became favourites in the light music programmes, probably the best known being the husband and wife partnership Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth.

One name you don’t hear nowadays is Olive Groves. She began her singing career during the first world war and made her broadcasting debut in 1926. In this clip of “An Old Violin” made in 1932 she is accompanied by Albert Sandler the violinist who led the first “Grand Hotel” Orchestra, and Jean Melville on piano.



Finally -

Last night I held a little hand
So dainty and so neat,
I thought my heart would burst with joy
So wildly did it beat.

No other hand into my soul
Could greater solace bring
Than that I held last night, which was
Four aces and a king!



Jeannie C said...

I was most interested to read your blog, particularly your comments about Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth and Olive Groves. Olive Groves and Webster Booth made several records together and featured in joint broadcasts and concerts in the thirties. Olive was married to baritone George Baker.
Regards, Jeannie C

John said...

Thanks for that information, Jeannie C. I remember George Baker very well but didn't know that he and Olive Groves were married. I've just been finding out more about him from Google - not easy, because there were many other George Bakers. Thanks again and best wishes, John