my second book talk for JustWhereYouStand

This one went far better than the first one held last April but sold fewer copies of Just Where You Stand. So, which matters more? Feeling good or feeling rich? When it’s a matter of: a. 2 books sold to the receptive crowd and b. 5 books to the sleepy crowd, I’ll take feeling good. To be honest, it was a closer call than that. Group a. included two other very nice listeners, one saying she would borrow my novel from the Library and another man who will be disappointed because I agreed with him that he could borrow JWYS from the library as an ebook and it isn’t true. I wasn’t lying but I certainly was wrong. I have to make that request to the Library to provide ebooks.

As a 77-year old person who loves to write but never signed up to be a publicist, book talks given by me are STRESSFUL and take much preparation although I enjoy them once I am actually speaking and can feel accepted by the audience. East York Historical/History Society is an example of an interested audience. My insides thank them a thousand times. Onwards and upwards.






The Argyle Dairy Story Abingdon, Oxfordshire, England

The Argyle Dairy Story
The Argyle Dairy
Abingdon, England

Sandra Marie Lewis
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
copyright 2016
George Henry Argyle was a sixteen-year old dairy boy. The 1881 Census for Abingdon in Berkshire, England says so. The milk industry was good for George in more ways than one. Delivery of dairy products even led to his marriage. His future wife probably met him regularly twice every day in the course of their work, reason being that part of his delivery route lay along Marcham Road. Ellen Sessions resided and worked there with her sister Eliza in the home of prominent Town Clerk of Abingdon, Bromley Challenor. The young women had left their parents in nearby Wantage to earn livings as domestic servants. In 1889 George and Ellen were married.
A decade later in the 1891 Census year, George Argyle was described as a milk purveyor living with his wife and firstborn Arthur at 14 Victoria Road. Part of that building located on a corner of Edward Street and Victoria served as his newly-owned dairy. This happy change in status had been made possible unexpectedly by the dishonesty of George’s former boss. A little detective work had told George that his employer was watering down the milk which he, George, must sell to disgruntled customers. When he figured out what was going on he quit and in a daring move took the risk of starting up his own business.
The Victorian era and the Industrial Revolution must have been inspiring him, goading him to get ahead. Whatever the impetus was, The Argyle Dairy quickly did well enough to have its name inscribed in concrete over its main door.

c.1904 The Argyle Dairy, Abingdon, Berkshire

2013 The Argyle Dairy, now a small apartment building
George and Ellen parented four children, Gertrude Florence Mary being my grandmother. The family lived behind and over the dairy and were successful enough to employ a maid who wore the familiar black dress, white apron and cap which we see in old movies featuring more moneyed home owners of Victorian and Edwardian times.
John, Ellen, George, Nellie, Gertie, Arthur

The couple followed a steady routine. Each morning after George got raw milk from a farmer along Spring Road, he was returned home standing on his horse-pulled cart, a large urn now full of milk lodged beside him for company.

a similar cart of 1900s vintage
It was then the job of Ellen, my great grandmother – his full working partner – to filter the milk through clean cloths and pour it into tin containers which were measured in gills and pints. Pasteurization was not yet part of their dairy’s process. The rest of the milk was poured into a fresh and clean urn which would be hoisted up onto the cart. It would dispense whatever quantity of milk a customer might pour into his or her own pitcher right at the householder’s door. Or, the customer could buy standard amounts. In
the afternoon the pattern was repeated. George’s two older children helped a bit. Arthur earned six pennies weekly for his deliveries by pushcart to houses beyond his father’s own route and Gertie earned three pennies for light loads carried to two homes in Spring Road. Meanwhile on the Argyle Dairy premises Ellen washed all surfaces thoroughly, churned butter, made cream and served as a salesperson.
But George had another interest which would overwhelm all else in his life.
George Henry Argyle1865-1945 holds a religious text entitled The Finished Mystery
Likely c. 1902 while he still owned The Argyle Dairy

In the years of his marriage and parenthood if not earlier, he was known to be an avid reader of Biblical scripture. Around 1900 a sect known as Russellites was becoming popular. They would later rename themselves Jehovah’s Witnesses. George became one of them and in 1903 he sold the Dairy outright, much against Ellen’s advice.
Except for the Dairy’s name it would never again be connected with my ancestors. Still, what happened to the business interested me and I hunted down further information.
George’s sale of the Dairy marked the end of the Argyles’ hard-won prosperity. He took self and family from Abingdon, longtime home of his line of Argyles, to Reading where he could much more readily attend Russellite meetings. The Battle Street general store which they purchased in Reading turned out to be a very short-term experience. Ellen suffered violent headaches from the fumes of kerosene which was sold from barrels at the front of the premises. Then it was on to an attempt at market gardening in Tilehurst.
Ongoing elation in religious terms for George but deep worry financially for him and his wife. Market gardening yielded the couple eager earnings. Their eldest son Arthur claimed ample employment was available in Toronto, Canada where he already was living and working. He urged his father to emigrate. George took the challenge and uprooted family once again. George, Ellen, Gertie, Nellie, John and Gertie’s new husband Jack Ledsham all voyaged across the Atlantic Ocean in April of 1913 aboard the steamship Ascania en route to Portland, Maine and then to Toronto.

Charles Burt purchased The Argyle Dairy and living quarters at 14 Victoria Road from George Argyle. His two sons Frederick and Arthur worked with him to advance his new business. Argyle held as the dairy’s name in Abingdon.
Charles Burt 1841-1923 and his wife Sophia.


A secondary site opened at 19, High Street. It lasted well into the 1980s. Currently this location houses Crumbs Sandwich Bar. Burt still owned the Dairy in 1938.

Picture of amber milk bottle supplied by Vale and Downland Museum,
Wantage, Oxfordshire

Etched names are: l to r. Argyle Dairy, Smith Bros and Elm Farm Dairy

In parallel, since 1906, a dairyman surnamed Candy had been running his own small Abingdon dairy business. In 1933 his son James S. Candy decided, after working and living on a cattle ranch for eleven years in Argentina, to follow in his father’s footsteps as a dairy farmer in the Abingdon area. He rented Milton Hill Farm and abutting cattle land which he worked with his wife Kitty and his father. When Mr. Candy Senior retired, James sought a smaller site to farm. Somewhere between 1937 and 1945 he bought buildings and pasture land from the Tatham family, on the outskirts of town at Northcourt. He also rented surrounding land. That property has a wonderful history.
It was once Abbey Grange (1270 A.D.) of Northcourt, started up by the monks of Abingdon Abbey as a branch farm site with at least four buildings which consisted of a tithe barn built by those monks, a cowshed and barns built much later, in 1750. For many years James Candy ran his dairy from that property on Northcourt Road, in a barn which was only three hundred years old.
Throughout the 1940s Argyle and Candy Dairies both benefitted from the increased milk demand for World War Two’s evacuee children who were housed for safety with families in rural towns like Abingdon. Business expanded to other villages. Competition between the two and with still smaller dairies was strenuous. When routes overlapped games were played. Opposing dairymen removed each other’s bottles and hid them in bushes ahead of delivering their own brand.
The Smiths who still owned the Argyle Dairy, and Candy, were able to buy out practically all the other local small companies and by 1952 the Argyle Dairy was Candy’s only serious competition in Abingdon. By then Candy himself was selling six hundred gallons of milk daily. The two amalgamated in 1956 to become Argyle Candy Dairies. Efficiency increased in all assigned delivery areas, responsibilities were delegated and Candy’s work life eased.
He kept a hand in the business, though. In 1956 the very young Queen Elizabeth visited Abingdon to open the restored County Hall which is the centrepiece of the town’s main square. A luncheon was held after the ceremony and dessert was a fruit salad. The mayor had asked Candy to supply cream for the dessert, thick cream from jersey cattle and he gladly did so. Still ambitious, he saw this as a great advertising opportunity. He must have imagined words like ‘As served to her Majesty the Queen’ on his company label. To his great dismay, though, the Queen declined the cream, telling the mayor she had to watch her figure.
This energetic man eventually purchased the Grange’s ancient buildings outright although he could own neither the land on which they stood nor the surrounding property where his cattle grazed. Around 1960 he was obliged to give up that outer land and remove his cattle so that a major housing project could get under way there. He then moved into straight distribution of milk. Perhaps this change reduced his workload further because, throughout the Fifties and Sixties he found time, throughout the Fifties and Sixties, to take on numerous civic positions and was elected mayor of Abingdon in 1962.
In 1978 Clifford Dairies at Bracknell amalgamated with Argyle Candy but James Candy could not carry on forever. In 1982 after a commitment of sixty years he retired. A larger company known as United Dairies took over. Argyle and Candy were no more although James Candy retained ownership of Abbey structures and some land. In 1996, the Candy family was approached by Christ Church, Northcourt who wanted to buy the Dairy Yard which surrounded existing church property.

ChristChurch, Northcourt west side 2013
Christ Church finally won over the hesitant owners and purchased the Yard and its buildings in 2002. An extensive, sophisticated renovation and building project was begun. By 2013 the two adjoined 17th Century barns where the dairy once flourished for many years and which are seen in the picture printed below were beautifully and thoughtfully restored. The cafe at one end of the complex is a bright, striking and welcoming place.
Cafe & Entertainment Barn of Christ Church, Northcourt, in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, UK

The friendly history printed below appears on the cafe’s menu for every visitor to read.
Abbey Grange was such an historic spot for the finale of the Argyle Dairy! The Abbey itself was the original centre of Abingdon. Even the name of the town had evolved from the word Abbey. Long before it was Abingdon it was known as Abbeyton and Abbey Town. My deeply pious originally-Baptist great grandfather George Argyle, founder of The Argyle Dairy, could never have imagined that the little business which he let go would find its last resting place at Abbey Grange, on land and in barns where Catholic monks once farmed. How would he, a disciple of John Russell, have liked that? In George’s day, did Russellites/Jehovah’s Witnesses condemn Catholicism as more recent Jehovah’s Witnesses have done? Would he have seen it a further travesty that the Abbey Grange’s still-standing great tithe barn, footsteps from James S. Candy’s Argyle Candy headquarters, since 1971 has housed the Church of England entity known as Christ Church? His faith was deeply embedded.
Still, he could have been more open-minded than his beliefs might suggest. Just circumstantial evidence but his burial took place in Toronto in the cemetery of an Anglican church. He and/or the family could have chosen a cemetery unconnected to any particular faith. I want to think that he would heave a peaceful sigh to know where his Argyle Dairy, the entity where once he seriously embedded hopes for a secure financial future, finished its days.

A Tapestry of Life by James S. Candy, copyright 1984 and published 1984
by Short Run Press Ltd., Exeter, Devon England

Janice Gordon, chairperson of Christ Church Barns Building Project
and former churchwarden of Christ Church

Christine Talbot, administrator for Christ Church

Jackie Smith, Abingdon archivist

Barbara Ayers, great granddaughter of Charles Burt second owner of Argyle Dairy

Get Out of The Water, Edna!

Chapter One

I’m Going Away


It’s been a hard day, in most ways a perfectly horrible sunny June day in Nineteen Forty-Nine. At least, it’s been hard since lunch.
Right after the salmon sandwiches which were good, my mom sent me to school with fifty cents and an ugly order.
“You’re to go to the barber after school, young lady and don’t forget this time! No more excuses about sore ankles or missing the budgie! Of all the silly things I ever heard! Now, don’t come home unless you get that hair cut!”
Without a haircut I couldn’t go home? Oh, no …. if I didn’t go home I wouldn’t get to Port Elgin …. if I didn’t get to Port Elgin …. well, nothing was going to keep me, Edna Hawkins, from Port Elgin. My mom had me. If she would go with me to the barber nobody would dare tease me through the barber’s window but I had to go by myself now that I was ten years old.
B-r-r-r-inggg! Why did the three-thirty bell have to ring?
“Line up!” Miss Fourier ordered the class.
I pulled Mom’s change purse out of my desk and got in line. In front of me stood big Jane with her shiny long ringlets. They bounced on her shoulders when she turned her head. On hot days she pulled the ringlets off the hot side of her neck and onto the cooler side for a while. I would love ringlets but ringlets need long hair. My mother says she couldn’t stand to listen to me yell while she tried to comb out the tangles in long hair. It already hurts to get my short hair combed out. Prell Shampoo would rinse out better than Lifebuoy Soap but Prell is too expensive.
I’d like to try ringlets anyway. I’d like to sleep all night with the ringlet rags holding the curls in place. In the morning when the hair is dry, I’d like to see how Mom would undo the rags, then brush or comb out the curls so they look long like Jane’s.
In front of big Jane was Carol. A hairdresser cuts Carol’s hair into a bob. At least, that’s what she calls it. Her black hair is curly and short and it looks pretty
around her ears and the back of her neck. After this trip to the barber my hair will be short, too, but it won’t be pretty. In our family we can’t afford a hairdresser. Everyone goes to the barber. He actually SHAVES the back of my neck with clippers that he uses on men.
“Class dismissed!” Miss Fourier called.
The girls filed out of the classroom first, through the halls to the girls’ door. All I could think about was how I didn’t want to look like a poor girl. Of course, a poor girl could be lucky and have naturally curly hair. I happen to be a poor girl with straight brown hair. I guess it will stay straight until my mom learns how to give Toni Home Permanents. They only cost two dollars. At the hairdresser permanents cost six dollars.
I raced out of Bedford Park School’s yard along Ranleigh Avenue to Yonge Street, across Ranleigh, past three stores to the barbershop.

Hippity, hop
to the barbershop,
to buy a stick of candy;
One for you, one for me
and one for baby Andy.

That Hippity Hop song is in my head like a million nursery rhymes and songs. My mom’s been singing them and saying them to me and my two little brothers since we were babies. Over and over again. Of course, I wasn’t around to hear Mom sing to my older sister, Betty.
The least little thing jogs my memory and out comes some kind of poem. It doesn’t even have to make sense. It can actually annoy me. For usre, Hippity Hop annoys me.
I never hippity hop to the barbershop. I must admit, I do like the barber pole outside the door. Its stripes remind you of a candy cane but that could be a trick for getting you inside. There’s no candy cane or any other candy there, or a baby Andy.
I crossed my fingers against any kids seeing me. My face was hot, I was so embarrassed.
Seated in a brown leather chair in a row of big, brown leather chairs, I put my back to the window and waited my turn. New Liberty magazine lay on the table beside me. It was two months old. April, Nineteen Forty-Nine, it said. Five cents.
The barber soon laid a plank covered in leather across the arms of his black barber seat. The plank is for little kids. It raises them high so the barber doesn’t have to bend. How humiliating! I’m not a little kid. I’m ten years old.
The barber wrapped a humungous blue and white striped sheet over me and did up a button at the back of my neck. It even covered my shoes.
On the shelf under the mirror his clippers, combs, razors and brushes were laid out on a towel. A few combs soaked in a tall jar of blue water. Spray bottles were lined up beside it, things for men. Old Spice aftershave lotion.
“How do yer want yerrr hairrrr cut today?” the barber asked through his bushy black moustache. He sounded Scottish like our neighbour two doors up on Ronan Avenue.
“Halfway down my ears, please.”
“What was that? I didn’t hearrr ye, girrrlie!” He came around to watch my mouth. He must’ve thought I was shy. I’m not.
“Half way down my ears, please.”
“Ye’ll have to speak up, child! Ye must tell me what ye want! I don’t want to cut off yerrr earrrs unless ye say so!” He rolled his brown eyes and snipped the air with his scissors.
The joke didn’t cheer me up. I wanted a hairdo for a girl. Half way down my ears is what my mother told me to say. With this kind of cut I could be one of the ugly Three Stooges. I could be Moe.
My mom doesn’t care. She says children should be seen and not heard. Mom lets me argue, for about one sentence.
I guess I should keep quiet about the barber. I should say, “Sure, Mommy, see you at four-thirty!” the first time I’m sent for a haircut. I should laugh if some boy calls me Curly or Moe.
The barber turned the chair to face Yonge Street and there I sat, nearly in the window. I shut my eyes. I didn’t want to know if some awful person out on the sidewalk was watching.
Yet, something made me steal a glimpse. Yep, boys were mashing their noses against the window and staring in at me. They didn’t look like anybody I knew. They were probably from Blessed Sacrament Catholic School across Yonge Street. Those kids hardly talk to us. They say they see God in their church and we don’t.
I wanted to jump out of the chair and get outside behind one of them. If only I could mash his head against the glass. He’d have to cry, “Give!” the best he could.
Snip, snip …. When this was all over I’d look the way I always look. My hair would be parted on both sides. The clump on top would be pulled back and held by an elastic band. It would be better if I had naturally curly hair but my hair is as straight as a yard of pump water. That’s what my mom says. After a haircut more ear shows and the back of my neck, the nape, as my mother calls it, is shorn.
“Let me see?” my father always says. “Yep, shorn like a sheep! The barber
did a good job.”
As he worked, the barber turned the chair. Little by little he moved me out
of the boys’ sight to face the men who waited on the brown chairs. They were reading magazines like Popular Mechanics, Wrestling, Popular Science and Liberty. New Liberty! Now on sale! Circulation over two hundred thousand! That’s a radio ad.
The barber turned me back to the mirror. The clippers on the nape of my neck tickled. They sent pins and needles down my back and up again.
A soft, powdery brush took loose hairs off my face and neck. The sheet came off.
“Now, how’s that?”
“All right.”
“Eh? What did ye say, girrrlie?”
I touched the bristles where soft hair once grew. It would be at least a week before the hairs started to feel normal. It would be a million years before the haircut suited a girl.
I had to be polite but I couldn’t smile.
“It’s all right.”
I got down. I paid him, stuck the change into Mom’s purse and left.