Family of Gerald Martin

 

 

Born:   

6 August 1920

123 Central Park Rd, East Ham

Married:

Died:

8 December 1951

17th November 2004

Battersea Register Office
Sunshine Hospital

Occupation:

Tool maker

 

 

 

Gerry’s parents were quite hard up because although his father was a skilled tradesman, he was often out of work due to ill-health.  The family moved to Laindon (or Langdon Hills), near Basildon in Essex when Gerry was very small. The village was so poor that there was no sewerage system and the only water supply was a tap to which each family had a key.  The streets were very muddy so his father used to wear gumboots to a coffee shop near the station and change into his

shoes, leaving the boots there for the return journey. Gerry and Elsie had to cross fields

to get to the Church of England school which was one big room. He remembers going to slide lantern shows run by the Salvation Army. When he was about eight the family moved to 6 Maxey Gardens, Dagenham, a house which had the luxury of a bathroom and indoor toilet. His parents lived here for the rest of their lives. Gerry attended Albert Rd school and worked for the caretaker doing odd jobs such as washing the school’s inkwells during school holidays. The lady next door used to make toffee apples and Gerry would put them on a barrow and sell them for a penny each. His parent’s were members of a Spiritualist church of which his father was treasurer. His mother would borrow the takings, the Gerry would have to pawn his father’s suit to repay it.

He left school at 14 and his first job was looking after a car while the owner, a salesman, made his rounds. He found this boring and got a job cleaning pans in a bakery then eventually learned the machine tool setter’s trade without doing an apprenticeship. He worked for Plesses and Ford’s in Dagenham. During WW2 Gerry was in a reserved occupation and worked in a factory, which had been relocated in an Underground tunnel. After the war he was in the Army of Occupation in Italy.

After migrating to Australia in 1955 Gerry worked at the SEC in Moe then after moving to Melbourne, at Steads in West Footscray and Armstrong and York in Sunshine.

Gerry had lots of hobbies. He brewed his own beer, bred budgies, kept tropical fish and enjoyed taking home movies and slides. After retirement he took up gardening and loved his fishpond. He did volunteer work for the Multiple Sclerosis Society until a couple of serious falls, then worked for the local community centre Tool Library. In April 1999, a little more than two years after Alma died, Gerry moved into Alton Court, a hostel run by the Salvation Army for the elderly.

Gerry was a quiet, gentle man who liked to observe the fun going on around him rather than take part. He was very easy going and easy to please and adored his wife Alma, looking after her while she was very ill with cancer.

 

 

Wife:   Alma Ellen Emily Shoubridge

 

Born:   

4 June 1921

Albert Rd, Peckham

Died:

10 Dec 1996

38 Curtin St, Maidstone, Victoria

Occupation:

Accounts clerk, typist

 

 

Alma was born on the 4th of June 1921 in Peckham, south of London to Ellen and Harry Shoubridge. She attended school at Peckham Central where, despite being a good student, she managed to fail French at every exam. When about 8 or 9 years old, her family moved to South Australia where she continued her education in the Barossa Valley. She discovered that school boys in Australia wore hats unlike their English counterparts and also discovered that when you called them cissies, you ended up in a fight.

Her family was in Australia for less than two years.  Her mother left them then Harry went to look for her after leaving the girls with neighbours. When he didn’t return (he was never heard from again) the authorities were notified and put Alma with a farming family where she had to do a lot of the work and her sisters were put in a home and had to be ‘kidnapped’ by their mother on her return and taken back to England. Uncles and aunts raised their return fare by betting on horses and making and selling various goods. These uncles and aunts were a close knit group.

At a time when most girls left school at 14, Alma was fortunate to be allowed to stay until she turned 15. On leaving school she worked in the office of a photographer and then joined the London Fire Brigade where she was on firewatch during the war. Her first preference was the Army but she was turned down for being too short. This was despite a minimum height limit of 4’ 10”!

She had at least one close call during the war when, while shopping at a bakery, realised she’d left her purse at home and left the bakery to get it. She returned to the bakery only minutes later to find it destroyed by a bomb. Despite that experience, air raid sirens never seemed to bother her. She’d hear them go off and simply turn over and go back to sleep.

Alma and Gerry migrated to Australia in 1955 with two children. They travelled on the ‘New Australia’ and were 10 pound migrants. By the time they reached Fremantle on 5/5/55 Alma had had more than enough and, measuring Australia in English distances, wanted to leave the ship at Fremantle, WA  and walk to Melbourne.

They arrived in Moe at the end of May during a wet winter and Alma just wanted to return to England. Not long after their arrival, they were invited to a function and asked to bring a plate. Not having been introduced to Aussie custom and idiosyncrasy, Alma simply did as she was asked and took a plate - an empty one. Her only concern was the apparent poverty of the hosts who needed to ask guests to bring plates!

In December 1958, they moved to Maidstone and here, Alma was so settled, she never wanted to leave.

Alma loved life and people and was never going to be confined to just one or two interests. She was into everything and meeting people was one of her joys. For 10 years, from about 1966 through to 1975, she was the local Avon lady and many a time her kitchen table would be laden with products being sorted into respective bundles for delivery. She became Avon’s Area Manager and made many friends through this work.

In 1985 she enrolled at the Footscray Women’s Learning Centre and studied as many subjects as she could - with the exception of French, one assumes! She did learn one foreign language however. It was called DOS and was part of her basic computing course.

In the early 90s, she was a member of the Braybrook-Maidstone Community Health Association where her organisational skills were recognised and she became a somewhat unwilling member of the management team. She joined their walking group and enjoyed many outings with them.

 

In the last few years, the West Region Community Tool Library was established and she set up the account books for the Library.

She enjoyed playing cards and Scrabble and completing jigsaw and crossword puzzles. Whenever things got a bit boring, it was a case of “anyone for cards?” and if the adults weren’t too responsive, she’d have a game with the grandchildren. She was no slouch at Scrabble and had a good partner in her son, no slouch himself when it came to word games, and as recently as the 8th of November 1996, despite her deteriorating condition, she beat him with a score of 324 to 304.

Together with Gerry, she made the best English roast you’d want to eat. A highlight of any visit was sitting down to one of their roasts.

Her other great love was footy. A neighbour took her to a game way back in 1959 and she was instantly hooked. She’d often say she didn’t feel right when it wasn’t footy season. Perhaps more accurately, her first love was the Footscray Football Club. Proud of her working class roots, she easily identified with the club and its ethos. This was a club of and for the people and she was one of its fiercest barrackers.

She often attended games with her friend Dot Bebbington who, at 6’ tall, was quite a contrast to her. Gerry would refer to them as ‘Mutt and Jeff’ as they took off for the footy while he stayed home to cook a roast for tea. Alma would stand on a stool in front of Dot to get a better view of the game, which was no impediment to Dot who simply looked over her head.

Match day would see Alma undergo an amazing metamorphosis from mild-mannered, twinkle-eyed, snowy-haired grandmother to fanatical, blood-thirsty, screeching, war-mongerer ready to take on anyone who dared do battle with or speak against her beloved Doggies. Needless to say, she was often disowned by her family at these times. On one occasion, at Victoria Park, Collingwood of all places, such was the ferocity of her support that Bill who was with her and surrounded by the Collingwood army, almost feared for his life. With all the courage he could muster, he did what any loving son would do - moved as far away from her as he possibly could. Footscray players could do no wrong. The Doggies never lost a game. It was always the umpires or unfair play by the opposition who stole the game from them.

She also loved a wide range of music. Her favourite was The Beatles but she also enjoyed Nana Mouskouri, Bob Dylan, John Farnham and, would you believe, Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel.

But more than all these interests of hers, she would be best remembered in her role as wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and friend. It was in her personal relationships that the true character of Alma can be found. As a wife, she inspired in Gerry a love that knew no boundaries. Nothing was too big or too small for him if it meant her happiness. She only had to mention in passing that she liked something and before long she owned it

As a Mum, she was fiercely loyal to her children. Money was often tight but the abiding memories are of always having their Christmas wish list completely met, of always being allowed to go to the Show with enough money to ensure a good time. Good clothes were always made available. She was a wonderful knitter and everyone in her immediate and extended family benefited from a lovingly hand knitted jumper or cardigan. She took an interest in whatever her children did or in a particular circumstance and was always on hand in whatever capacity she was needed. She accepted all their musical tastes and was never caught behind with the changing musical mores, always trying to see something positive in it, even if it was only “it’s got a nice rhythm hasn’t itThere were no demands

Her love for her grand- and great-grandchildren was something that had to be seen to be appreciated. None of them could do wrong. No matter how outrageous the behaviour, there was always a good reason for it. She also had a wonderfully calming effect on babies and the Mums in the family vouch for her skills in being able to very quickly quieten and calm an upset child.

She was one of the most warm, open-hearted, welcoming people you could hope to meet and a wonderful friend. She never had a bad word to say about anyone. She was a most compassionate person and many people would come to her with their problems. It comes as no surprise to learn that when she wished to enrol in the Counselling and Listening Skills course at the Womens Learning Centre, she was told she had no need to. These skills were already obvious to those who knew her and came not from classroom theory but a simple love and acceptance of people.

 

Alma and Gerry had three sons and one daughter.