Saturday, 11 November 2017

Getting to Know Dorrie - Dorothy Bushby Pickett (1892-1967)

I recently spent a snowy morning getting to know Dorothy Bushby  through her letters to her sister, Elsie Boulton written from 1914 to 1957. 
Dorothy or  “Dorrie” as she was called, was born on September 25,1892, making her 8 years younger than Elsie.  Her mother Patience  died when Dorrie was 16 and on the 1911 English census she is found living with her sister Lena and her husband Jim Carpenter and their 2 daughters.  Her father James along with Elsie and another sister Gertie left for Canada in September of 1913.  On October of 1915, Dorothy married Frederick “ Ewart “ Pickett who was one year older than her in St John, Northfield,Hampshire, England. Dorothy died in December of 1967, a year after her husband. These are the basic facts I knew through family and online records.  The letters filled in the gaps and brought Dorrie to life for me. Thanks to cousin Sharon F. for the pictures of Dorothy and Ewart from 1963. 
July 1916 Ewart has been under the doctor for about six weeks, if he is well enough when he gets back, he is going to enlist.  People here are beginning to look on young men now if they don’t enlist with contempt & think they are cowards.  I certainly hope he will go, for one thing it will do him a world of good.  His mother coddles him up too much.
December 1916 I went up to Waterloo to see him off am glad to say that all the boys were very cheerful. Shall be very glad when I get a letter from him now to know within a little where he is.  They had three days leave so of course we went down to see if Mrs. Pickett & of course to tell her we are married to our surprise when we told her she said that she had known for some long time & everything went off O.K. They are all very nice to me. I am very glad that they know. 
In July of 1917 Dorrie writes that Ewart’s wounds are healing well in hospital at Swansea.  At this time Dorrie works at buying for the glove department of a local store. The letter below from February 1918 when Elsie would have been 7 months pregnant with her fourth daughter, Violet.  Dorrie's life in England was quite different.

April 1920 Yes, old dear. It would be nice to see each other again, one gets a bit lonely at times.  I am wondering if by this time you have got your baby? I do hope for your sakes it will be a boy this time you have quite enough girls now. (Indeed it was a boy - Randy's Dad Edwin was born that month!) My dear, it is quite hopeless about we, we cannot indulge in those sort of things we have not yet got a home. A house is quite out of the question it’s impossible to get one, rooms are just as scarce and one is just not wanted if you have children.
Letters from 1922 tell that they moved to a two room place 78 Melbourne Road in Leicester.  They rent a  sitting room and bedroom for 18 shillings a week but the bedroom is up 32 stairs!  They have a piano in their sitting room as Ewart is organist at Belvoir Street Baptist Church which pays 40 pounds/year. Ewart earns his living as an insurance claims inspector - a job he was very lucky to get according to Dorrie, after leaving the army. She often writes about their holidays like a travel diary - boat trips through the Orkney Islands and a driving trip to see old castles and tourist stops to include their old hometown of Milton on the south coast.  She encourages Elsie's children to get a map and follow their route. In 1926 they moved to the house next door at 80 MelbourneRoad , now a schoolyard. 

She tells Elsie their father is ailing and asks her to send money as her sisters are doing for his care.  James Bushby lives with her throughout the next few years and although his eyesight had failed, he enjoys listening to the wireless with Dorrie's cat Billie on his knee by the fire.  He died in her home on August 8, 1931. 

Her love of all things green shows through in her letters and I think she knows Elsie would be most interested in these descriptions.
June 1931 Ewart's sister took me for a little ride in her car last Friday and the hedgerows were a mass of cow parsley and pink campion and they did look lovely. The May is now out in full bloom and the woods are a sheet of blue with bluebells in fact everywhere is looking beautiful with all the different shades of green especially as we have had lots of rain.  I love Springtime.  My garden is beginning  to look nice and soon I shall have some roses. Do you remember that pink shrub we had a Priory Cottage? Well I have a tree of it in my garden and it’s been a mass of blooms.
In the thirties, Dorrie sent clothes to the Boulton house that were well received due to the lack of crops and money on the prairies and the favours go back in the war years.  Dorrie also says to pass along their address to any Canadian friends who are on their way overseas in the forces.   
Dorrie writes that she fears for her sister Lena and her family during the raids:
They are right in the front line of fire. I wrote to them and asked if they would like to come and share out home but they say they are going to try to stick it out. It seems to me that the noise  of the gunfire worried them more than the actual bombs.  It seems that Lena and Jim have gone to live with Kit and Henry and they have an Anderson shelter but Barbara said that her children sleep under the stairs and they have a bed downstairs. It seems to me that one has to take once’s chance....

In May of 1941 Dorrie writes that it is their night to be on fire duty and she has just got up at 2 am to let Ewart get some rest.  Pulling the blackout curtains at night, the rationing and growing food in her garden for the first time are news she shares.  March 1943:

In April 15, 1956 a letter arrives from Zachary Morton Recovery Home and she tells Elsie that she had a lump in her left breast and had it removed.  Ever the cheery letter writer, she talks about the wonderful care and the birds. The ward she is in is on the top floor and they feed birds crumbs on the windowsill-chaffinch, blue tits, blackbirds, thrushes .  She says she is there under the National Health Scheme so it will not cost her a penny and later that year she writes to say she has had daily radiological treatments for a month.
The last of her letters in 1957 tells she is doing all her own work now and talks about the roses in her garden.
The letters made for fascinating reading and I was sorry to come to the end of them.  The pile from their sister Lena waiting for me next!

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