Isle of Man
My own earliest memories go back to when I was about three years old.
Scarlet Fever was epidemic throughout the area and causing the family some
concern. My brothers and sister had already contracted the disease and I,
being the baby of the family had to be protected somehow. So I was sent away
for a bit of private quarantine! In my case this involved staying with the
Howland’s who lived about half a mile away in College Road. Mr. Howland had
been my father’s odd job builder/ gardener and general help for many years.
His wife helped my mother. Mr. and Mrs. Howland was a likeable old couple
making a living in whatever way they could. Helping out locally, taking in
washing and running single-handed a type of laundry for the local area.
Their house was a three-story terrace bursting at the seams with bundles and
bags of washing, every corner of the ground floor seemed filled with it. The
kitchen scullery was given over to the sorting and ironing. The table was
covered with a thick blanket and cover sheet, always at the ready for
ironing. The kitchen range ensured the whole house was always warm and a
minimum of four flat irons were hot and ready for use.
Everything here was so different from my own home and I found it all very
exciting and interesting. It did not occur to me to be homesick!
My mother had bundled me off with the usual toys, my old grey elephant and
teddies but also included my most valuable possession, “The Ganigan”. This
was an eighteen-inch square oak box with hinged doors in the front to
control the sound volume this machine could produce. There was a lid on the
top, which, when opened revealed a turntable, stop/start and speed controls,
a pick up head that was attached to a metal horn which in turn was connected
to the ducting and shaped speaker, to be found in the lower section. It was
designed to expel sounds through the front doors. A large winding handle on
the side collected and stored the driving force required for the turntable.
For me, these were the most wonderful sounds that science could devise. Even
the scratchy, wobbly sounds contained within the pile of “78s” mum had
supplied were something quite amazing for a three-year-old.
The old clockwork record player was quite heavy and so had to be deposited
on a lower storage shelf; one of a number fitted in the front room of the
house to store the cleaned laundry and freshly ironed bundles of washing. I
had been given the freedom of the ground floor and I soon made myself
comfortable and found that these shelves were wide and strong enough to take
my music machine together with it’s operator. Clearly I was well on my way
to becoming an accomplished Disc Jockey even at my young age.
With such a machine, the supply of records and a tin of steel needles, I
soon settled into what became a permanent Music Corner within the house. As
I was surrounded by bags of washing the decibel noise level was acceptable.
This Disc Jockey kept himself amused and perfectly happy for the duration of
his isolation, which was about six to eight weeks I expect.
Needless to say, when I returned to the family in Elms Road I immediately
dreaded Scarlet fever and had to be admitted to the Isolation Hospital
together with my dear brother Jo’s favourite Soft Toy Lion.
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