Colonel Cyril George Hooke [1896-1969] was my (Graham Hooke) grandfather. My memories of him, from childhood and teenage years, are of an elderly man with a twinkle in his eye and a great sense of fun. He lived with my Granny Elaine Hooke in a wonderful old house called "The Clinches" in Bexhill on Sea, the recognised home town for retired military men.
Arrayed on a window sill were a collection of bells; large bells with a deep boing and tinkly cowbells brought home from their visits to the mountains of Austria. My brothers, sisters and I took great delight in ringing each bell as loudly as possible! Most of the house seemed rather posh, with polished wooden floors and rugs, beautiful old furniture; a place of memories to be respected. The kitchen, by contrast, was very cramped and old-fashioned, a little place where Granny beavered away with inimitable alacrity and determination.
Photos: The Clinches (Below - February 1986)
Out the back door was a wonderful large garden, a place which Granny & Grandpa obviously took great delight in, tending its flower beds and growing vegetables and apples in the orchard - loads of apples! The most important piece of equipment at the Clinches was the wheelbarrow. No doubt it had its gardening uses but for us, the grandchildren - five children of Granny and Grandpa's son George and our three cousins, children of their second son John - it was quite simply the best form of transport on earth! Photos and cine film from the 1960s reveal the amount of fun we had with Grandpa's wheelbarrow! Even better than having a ride in it was several of us giving Dad a ride in it, usually ending up with us tipping him out on the tight bends!
The lawns in summer, which was when we usually visited, hosted wonderful times with Grandpa's sisters - in particular the great Aunts Ella and Trixie who lived in nearby Ninfield, Battle. They were dear ladies who lived together in their old age, who sadly had never found a husband because in their prime of life because most of the menfolk were taken from them during WW1. Trixie had the good fortune to marry in later life although her husband had since died. Their elder sister Mildred, who carved out a career of great renown as a Headteacher, had also married in later life but in the years when we visited the Clinches she was heavily occupied in nursing her even more famous husband, Sir William Farren, one of Britain's pioneers of aviation, as he suffered ill health in his final years of life. Their stories are told here.
Photo from left to right: Aunt Trixie, Dad (George Hooke), Grandpa (Cyril Hooke), Aunt Ella, Wendy and Andrew (twins - one each of my sisters and brothers) (Trixie & Ella are two of Cyril's older sisters)
Aunts Ella and Trixie shared the Hooke sense of humour whilst retaining the quiet dignity befitting elderly ladies! Cine film of us all playing bowls on the lawn show Aunt Ella in her long skirt still clutching her handbag in her left hand while bowling with her right! We had only rare opportunities to meet our great aunts but of course their primary purpose for us children was undoubtedly their usefulness at Christmas and birthdays! Despite there being so many nephews and nieces for them to bestow their generous benificence on, at the appropriate time, arriving in the post were letters including a postal order for perhaps 5 shillings or maybe even 10.
But this article is meant to be about Granny and Grandpa Hooke. They too were faithful in their recognition of the most important occasions of life - birthdays! Granny outlived Grandpa by many years (1900-1997) and she was an indomitable but gentle lady who was still capable of driving her little Wolsely 1500 all of 320 miles from Bexhill-on-Sea to Lytham St Annes well into her 80s!
As children we took our relatives for granted. Lovely people, they were exactly who they were - elderly, retired old folk. It was only occasionally when the old photo albums and cine films came out that we discovered another world - our grandparents had been young once! This astounding revelation was only dimly and occasionally recognised in my youth, but now, in my own late middle age, with a wealth of family history passed down to me in boxes, I have begun to appreciate much more of who my relatives were. Sadly, as probably happens in most families, by the time you most want to know about your family history, the key repositories of information and anecdotes are no longer alive to divulge their secrets! There are so many questions I wish I had asked my Granny before she died in 1997 and more that I wish I still had opportunity to ask my Uncle John and my Father who both died in 2015.
Perhaps the greatest revelation was that my Grandpa was a war hero. He won the Military Cross in WW1. I never heard him talk about it but I have the citation which reveals his bravery. It was also something of a surprise to gradually discover that our family history was peppered with people who were quite well-to do! There had been money about though quite what happened to it all I never knew! Certainly, Granny & Grandpa were generous to our family in our times of need. Growing up in a family of seven with a hardworking Dad and Mum, we never had anything to spare. I owned an old banger before my Dad did, he cycled to work every day of his life. Whilst my school friends had televisions, we obtained our first grainy old TV just in time for the moon landings in 1969 by which time I was 15. Money was always tight, that was the way life was, but we never suffered deprivation. Our parents gave us a wonderful childhood with great family holidays all over the UK, albeit travelling on the bus, train or by foot and with accommodation in tents!
There is a curious fascination in piecing together life stories from what is available; photos, letters, documents and newspaper cuttings. In my Granny's case I actually have a suitcase full of all her diaries dating from the 1920s to 1993, when the entries gradually fizzled out in January. Somewhat disappointingly, her diaries are not sources of humorous anecdotes and interesting information. They are more likely to be of use to a historical meterologist, providing good information on the state of the weather wherever Granny happened to be! But at the very least I can trawl through and date most events in her life and cross-reference them to husband, Cyril. Given that they were apart for much of the early years of marriage as Grandpa served in the Army in overseas postings, this has been useful.
POSSIBLE PAGES TO BE WRITTEN
Cyril Hooke - His creative side
Cyril Hooke - The sportsman
Elaine Hooke - Growing up in India (Oakden pages)
Cyril & Elaine Hooke - Family Life
Cyril & Elaine Hooke - Travelogue
Elaine Hooke - 1969-1997