Saturday, June 02, 2012

For my Grandchildren

Put this in your "Where was Grandma for the Coronation?" file. As it happens, I was there. Sort of.

Let me start by saying that memory is selective. I am pretty sure that what I am writing is true, although it surprises me that there are such big gaps in my memory and some of the more important events are missing. But some facts are as clear as if they had happened yesterday.

I don't know who organized the pageantry for the Coronation—probably some functionary called Gold Stick, Blue Mantle or Rouge Dragon—but they decided there could be no better symbol of the future of Britain and recovery after the war than masses of schoolchildren lining the parade route. So schools in the Greater London area were invited to send selected students. I was just coming to the end of my first year at Enfield County School, having started in the First Form the previous September as a result of passing the infamous 11+ exam. Here my memory fails me a little. I can't remember if there was to be one student representing each form or one from each of the three classes in every form. But I know I was determined to be chosen. The selection process involved making a scrap book about the Royal Family and the future queen. Mine was not a polished scrap book: no one's was, because we didn't have the wherewithal. My research was limited. I didn't have an encyclopedia and in those pre-internet days I had to tear photos out of my mother's Woman's Own and seek information from our daily newspaper. But I won, and I think that making that scrap book is my most vivid memory of all.

When the big day dawned, or even while it was still dark, I remember my dad waking me with a cup of tea. And then I remember being at the bus stop, which is where I learned from someone with a newspaper that Sir Edmund Hillary had climbed Everest. Did my parents send me off alone, in the dark, to the bus stop? I was twelve years old, but times were different. I must have gone off to school and joined the handful of other students who were to represent Enfield County. How did we get to Central London? Who escorted us? Did we take food? I just cannot remember. I think I have a vague memory of standing and cheering. Did I really see the colorful Queen Salote of Tonga or just read about her later? What time did we get home?

Sixty years ago! I wonder if her memories of that day are sharper than mine. I wonder why we just keep in our memories such selective pieces of information? I have made a point of checking out the festivities I can watch on BBC America and CNN and the Canadian television station. And I hope that you, my grandchildren, watch too.


Z said...

It was just before my time, as I was born in September 1953. My parents did buy a television to watch the coronation though, so maybe I heard some of the commentary.

Maggie May said...

I remember the Coronation and our family were asked to family friends to view it on their B&W TV as we didn't have one! I was 10 when Princess Elizabeth was crowned queen.
I have really enjoyed watching the boat Pageant from the comfort of my own armchair and was so sad that the weather was bad. I think the Queen really enjoyed it though.
We are still in the throws of the Diamond Jubilee Celebrations and have 2 Bank Holidays!
Maggie X

Nuts in May