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Tell it as it Was!    by Kathleen Hann


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Tell it as it Was
by Kathleen Hann   
US price: $12.95    UK price: £10.99
Format: Paperback
Size: 6 x 9
Pages: 176
ISBN: 0-595-22790-2
Publication Date: May-2002

This book will make you laugh and cry as the author revisits the Black Country of the thirties and forties.

Kathleen Hann was born into a poor working-class family in the Black Country during the depression of the nineteen thirties. She was a clever child at a time when it wasn't thought poor children could be clever, when ridicule was the only way the mediocre teachers knew how to deal with the situation. This is a book to make you laugh and cry as the author revisits her past and evokes many of the outrageous and picaresque charcters of her childhood, her youth and early womanhood. She was one of a hundred people in Shropshire chosen by the BBC to appear on the programme, The Century Speaks, in which the BBC called for people to give their views on Shropshire. This book is living history, experienced in the raw and tested on the pulses of a real participant whose vision of those times, while sympathetic, sincere and humorous, is never coloured by rose-tinted lenses. She has not given us a dry treatise of social history, but a slice of life that will forever remain with the reader.

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The author and her husband Peter at their 50th wedding anniversary



The following is an extract from Chapter Two:

All week grandma had promised me she would take me to the fair on the Saturday afternoon. I counted each day off, and very early Saturday morning I awoke, grabbed my one and only possession, a knitted doll that I loved very much. By now, though, it was about four times its original size.  I jumped out of bed with my doll in my arms, ran into grandma's room to remind her it was Saturday, and more important that it was 'Pocket Money' day and the great day for my long awaited treat. She was lying in her bed with her eyes wide open. I climbed onto her bed to speak to her, but she didn't answer me. I couldn't understand just why my grandma was ignoring me. I shook her arm and, still getting no response, I became frightened. I begged her to get dressed, to talk to me, to do anything, but not just ignore me.  Although I was only six I realised that something was very wrong.

I rushed into my parents’ room, telling them that grandma wouldn't speak to me. They both jumped out of bed and ran into her room.

Grandma was dead.  She would never speak to me again.

She now lay in bed with a sheet over her face. Two pennies were placed on her eyes. Those two pennies really worried me, but I couldn't bring myself to ask anyone just why the pennies were on grandma's eyes.  Would the pennies be buried with her?  I really hoped not, for I really knew my mom couldn't afford the loss of even those pennies. I seemed to have a fixation about those pennies and worried more and more about the loss of them. Although I loved my grandma very much I knew even then the value of money—for it dawned on me that now she was dead I would be half a penny a week worse off!

Neighbours and family came to pay their respects to grandma. My dad told me to kiss her face. He told me not to be afraid. She had never hurt me when she was alive and certainly wouldn't hurt me now she was dead, he said.

I wasn't afraid, although her face was cold and still. It didn't seem like my grandma at all!

After a couple of days some men came and put her in a coffin that was left open on top of the bed. I would stand by the door and look in, but I wouldn't go too far into the room because I didn't like the smell.  After a couple of more days the coffin was sealed. The smell, though, seemed to linger around the house for months.

The following is an extract from Chapter Five:

My friend told me her grandma had just died and asked me if I wanted to see the body. I was an inquisitive child, and as I had already seen my own grandma's body I said I would. She lived in an old terraced cottage.  I remember going down a passageway between two cottages, then going into the scullery where all the family were sitting.  My friend asked her mom if we could go into the front room, which was only ever used for Births, Weddings and Funerals—which was the custom in those days.  We then went into that room, and later how I wished I had never gone anywhere near it!  The curtains were drawn and it was quite dark. When my eyes had got used to the darkness I could see there was an old horsehair sofa and on it was the grandma's body.

She was the biggest and fattest person I had ever seen in my life.

She was huge!

Going farther into the room, I noticed there were buckets and bowls under the sofa. Water was seeping out of the body into the horsehair sofa and then through to the buckets and bowls. I was petrified! I turned around sharpish and ran out of that place and didn't stop running until I reached the safety of my own home.  For months afterwards I had terrible nightmares.

Kathleen Harper Hann (1946)

Kathleen's first holiday with Aunt Nora and her Mom 
(Sept 1945)- lucidly described in the book!