Cecil had no permanent job and the ‘crash’ came in 1929. Life was uncertain so when we received a cable from Pa, asking us if we would like to come home and run the Apple Tree Inn at Shoscombe, we jumped at the chance. Within a week we were on our way.
Just before we set off for home in December 1930 we learned that Uncle Bill, whilst working on a roof in Swissvale, had fallen and died a few days later.
We made the return trip back across the United States by train to Pittsburgh, the journey taking three days and two nights. There being no restaurant car, the train stopped for meals at Fred Harvey shacks along the track. All day long coloured people walked up and down the train selling popcorn, peanuts, cigarettes and tobacco. At night-time pillows only were issued.
Christmas 1930 was spent with Gertie and Edgar in Swissvale before continuing by train to New York where we embarked on the RMS. Mauritania in December 1930. The sea crossing took five days arriving at Southampton on January 10th 1931.
We stayed at Stoney Littleton, eating with Mother and Father and sleeping next door at Granny Rogers’ home until April when we took over the Apple Tree Inn at Shoscombe. It was at that time just a beer and cider house – no spirits. It had an adjoining cottage and 6 acres of Orchard. We were paid two shilling and Sixpence (12½p) per week rent for the cottage and we paid the brewery £30 rent per year. There was also a small shop situated between the bar and the best room, what to-day would be known as the lounge. In addition on the ground floor there were a cellar, housing the beer barrels and a dairy. Upstairs there were two bedrooms and a large attic.
The previous tenant had a ‘milk round’, distributing milk form his own cows around the village and Cecil took this on. On moving in Cecil went with Father to market and bought four cows. He had earlier learned to milk at Father’s farm and was now all set up. After he milked the cows each morning, the milk had first to be strained and cooled. He could then set off to make his sales to the various houses in the village carrying his can and set of half-pint measures with which he ladled the required quantity of milk direct to the customer’s jug.
The shop opened at 8.00am; the ‘pub’ was open from 10.00 am to 2.00 p.m. and again form 6.00pm to 10.00 p.m. seven days a week. It was very long hours but we worked together. After all the modern conveniences of California our new way of life took some getting used to. There was neither main sewerage nor electricity in the village, but Cecil soon bought a generating plant for our own electric lighting.
We were indebted to the family for all their help in times of trouble. In 1933 Cecil was admitted to the Marlborough Building Clinic at Bath for the removal of his tonsils. He was very ill for a while, then in 1935 I developed Scarlet Fever and spent a month in Paulton Isolation Hospital. Even so the ‘pub’ stayed open.
Whilst I was in hospital Cecil bought a row of six houses and two others at the end of the village all for £80! There was a demolition order on them. He was able to save them from demolition by having toilets installed. Their occupants rented from us at two shillings and sixpence (12½p) per week.
Cecil was also able to buy the orchard behind these house for £150. Some years later, when the Council wanted to build there, we sold our under a Compulsory Purchase Order for £750. This money was invested in Government War Bonds earning interest at two and one half per cent.
Richard was by now well established at the village school where Jim had been attending since our return.
In no time at all the brewery built on another living room, bedroom and a bathroom with the luxury of running water – previously water was pumped from a well in the yard. We also had a sewerage tank.
Among our regular ‘pub’ customers there was “Old Swanee”, whose real names was Swansbury. He was a miner and part time ‘bookie’s runner’. He invariably took time off from the pit on Mondays to collect any previous Saturday’s winnings from bookie Mitchard at Radstock. After walking there and back he would pay out any lucky clients. He then stayed until closing time, seated always in what he regarded as his personal chair, and no doubt helping to spend his clients’ winnings. ‘Dad’ Allan was another regular on Monday mornings. All the village boys were given nick names at school which often remained with them for life.
No women came into the bar in those days. In the evenings there were regular games of dominoes and cards (mostly cribbage) – it was a sort of men’s club. Saturday evenings were generally very busy, often the highlight being a ‘sing-song’ in the ‘best’ room with Dapper Cox vamping away on the piano the old-fashioned songs. In the summer months on Sundays whole families would walk from Peasedown and sit outside on the lawn to take their refreshment.
The outside game of Quoits attracted a lot of customers in the summer evenings. This is a very ancient game , now extinct as far as I know in England. There were tow clay Quiot beds, some twenty yards apart, set out in the orchard. Players, either individually or in teams, standing at one end would pitch a series of heavy iron quoits to the clay bed at the far end, the object being to be nearest to an iron peg situated in the centre of the 6 feet square bed. It is difficult to imagine that in 1936 our tiny village was the venue for the final of the ‘Quoit Championship of All England’. It had been organised by ‘The News of the World’ newspaper and the singles final was between or man, Ted Cooper, and a Londoner. Our man was victorious and that was really something!
Another very popular pastime were the Clay Pigeon shoots. These were organised by certain of our customers and held well away from the ‘up’ on our land. Using 12-bore double barrelled guns, participants fired at clay ‘pigeons’ which were ejected from a ‘trap’ in all manner of directions.
In the autumn we had so many apples from the orchard that Cecil and father, both ardent cider drinkers. bought a cider press. Since it would be illegal to sell our own brewed cider in the ‘pub’, the idea was to make it for our own personal use and for father to supply his hay-makers each following year. This worked well; the apples would be gathered in November (usually the wettest day of the year) and cider pressing would begin. Father’s share was two 56 gallon barrels full which he stored in a hut in his garden. They were generally empty long before next year’s hay making time.!
We had replaced our old Bullnose Morris Coupe car with a BSA saloon. This we bought second hand and was a very sophisticated car in its day having a Daimler fluid drive. In 1938 disaster struck when both the car and the wooden garage went up in flames. We never knew what caused the fire but can only assume that it was an electrical short circuit associated with the new battery we had just fitted. The tragedy was our insurance did not provide cover for fire or theft. That sure taught us a lesson. Edgar built us a bigger and better garage and Cecil bought a Standard 12 Saloon car in Bristol.
We needed another car, not least because we were expecting a visit from Louise and her two small children. You will recall Louise was a German friend from our Californian days. They duly arrived and stayed with us on their way home after visiting her folks in Germany. When it was time for them to return to California, we drove them to Southampton to put them aboard the German vessel Europia bound for New York. But this was the time of the ‘phoney’ war and the Europia had not been allowed to leave Germany. There was nothing for it but to bring them back to Shoscombe not knowing how long their stay would be. Fortunately after a week or so the Europia did call at Southampton and Louise and family got home safely.
On July 9th 1939 mother died. She had been at our home the day before quite suddenly the next morning she was gone. She was 64 years of age.