My mother was a seamstress. She seemed to be working constantly as I was growing up. I remember that her hands were always in motion, always in the process of producing something, whether a garment or a meal. When my brother and I were young, she worked at home. Wealthy ladies (or so I considered them) would come to our small flat to be fitted and measured for garments. My mother would get down on her knees, pins in her mouth, to be sure the hems of the dresses were level with the ground. The ladies would nod and smile and gesture, "Very good."
Almost every week, usually on a Sunday afternoon, my parents took me to the Deaf Club. The Deaf Club met in a large empty room in a community center, with folding tables and folding chairs leaning against the stark brick walls. There were always games and cheap toys and candy. The members were invariably friendly and I played with the hearing children of these deaf adults. I can't recall any deaf children and I wonder now why there were none. We all, parents and children, sat on metal folding chairs and watched American movies with English subtitles shown on a folding screen by a sixteen millimeter projector which often broke down and left burn holes in the film. The Deaf Club to a hearing boy was a quiet world of flying hands, occasional grunts and clacking teeth. As I grew older, my visits to the Deaf Club became less and less frequent, but my mother and father went every week without fail. The Deaf Club was their haven and the nexus of their social life. It was a meeting place, a support group and a communications center, since many of the deaf did not have a telephone or a TTY during the years I was growing up. Some of these people had been my parents' friends from early childhood in England and some of these friendships had lasted for seventy-five years.
Perhaps it was ironic, but my father bought me my first phonograph. A man who couldn't hear went into a music store and bought a portable record player and a forty-five single of Patti Page singing "How Much is that Doggie in the Window?" It was a rudimentary machine and the sound wasn't very clear, but the music was loud and that was enough for a young undemanding child.
The appearance of a television set in our home in nineteen-fifty was a significant event. The set was an Emerson console and it became the centerpiece of our evenings. Before my father purchased the television, my entertainment was an Emerson radio that sat on our kitchen table.