Sunday, October 10, 2010

Silverhayes, an ancestral home of sorts



This is a scanned photo sent to me by my mother, and this is the largest display I can get with it. (It's like this in my own files, too.) [Addendum: A better scan of this photo appears in a new post, February 24, 2016.]

Silver Hayes* (I always heard it as Silver Haze as a child) was built for my grandparents on New Road, Clifton, Bedfordshire, shortly before World War II. My mother and her two sisters grew up here. Down the drive beyond the house is a brick barn where soldiers were quartered during the war. Somewhere on the property was a bomb shelter. My mother recalls being able to hear the Nazi doodlebugs or flying bombs overhead at night on their way to hit London. She also tells the story of how, when the family had to use the shelter, Grandma refused to put the youngest sister, then a baby, into the bag-like contraption designed for children too small to wear a gas mask. From happier times, there are stories of family pets and the young sisters going off on day-long adventures in the surrounding countryside.

Grandpa apparently stopped raising zinnias and other flowers in the yard for selling to florists by the time the grandchildren began showing up on visits during the 1960's. He still had chickens, though, and I remember a botched attempt to help feed them -- couldn't understand the business of scattering the seed for the birds, and I thought it expedient simply to dump the whole bucket on the ground.

Across the fields behind the house, towards the village of Henlow, there is an airfield where some of the filming for "Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines" was done. The local villagers reportedly were able to watch the vintage flying machines going "up, down, flying around".

Some time in the late 1960's, after all three daughters had married and moved away, my grandparents moved to a small, modern rowhouse on Shefford Road in Clifton. (We lived there for a whole year with them, Mom and us four kids, while Dad was stationed on Shemya in the Aleutian Islands of Alaska with the U.S. Air Force.) I last walked down New Road for another look at Silver Hayes around 1990. It belongs to someone else now and has changed quite a bit in aspect.

*My mother informs me that the name was always run together as one word, "Silverhayes". I recall that it has some literary origin significant to my grandmother. The new owners reportedly render the name as either "Silverhaze" or "Silver Haze".