Like father, like son. But less than you'd think (1): At nights, I changed nappies: The grandfather

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The Independent Online
Is every man destined to be a chip off the old block, or can a son learn from his father's strengths and mistakes? Tim Kahn talks to three generations in one family about their relationships and their family lives. Meet Richard, Richard junior and Antony Allen

RICHARD ALLEN was born in 1920 in Derbyshire, where he still lives today. His mother stayed home, while his father went out to work seven days a week as a hall porter in the local spa. He is married and has two children, Richard and Mary, and four grandchildren.

'I take after my father. He was small and quiet, just like me. I got on fairly well with him. I don't think I gave him any trouble.

I always used to be out with a football. I was football mad and I played for a local team - like my son, Richard. If you'd got a tennis ball you were made 'cos we kicked a ball around most days. And we kicked it up against a wall if there was nobody to play with.

There were no cars then, only horse and carts, so you could play on the streets with no fear of getting run over.

My dad was always in at night - I don't suppose there was much to go out for. I don't remember him doing a lot with me, only playing games like tiddly winks and cards after dark. There was no television to watch, of course, and we went to bed pretty early.

My dad wasn't as firm with me as my mother was. She was the one who handed out the discipline. There was a little cane walking stick and my mum gave me a rattle or two of that across the backside when I misbehaved. I certainly remember it but it didn't do me any harm.

I left school at 14 and my mother found me a job as a baker's apprentice. I stayed there until I was 20, when I was called up.

I finished my national service in 1946. It wasn't so bad readjusting to civilian life, as I moved back home and to my old job. I married Doris in 1948. We had Glenys, who lived a year and nine months. She died of gastroenteritis, which was pretty rough for children then. She went from bonny baby to skin and bones in 24 hours. It was terrible. And I've wondered to this day if it was because I'd had dysentery. She would have been 43 now.

We had Richard a few years later. After that we had Jane, who only lived six hours. She was a blue baby. I never saw her. 'They' didn't let me. She was christened and then buried - that knocked us back again.

Then we had Mary Patricia, who is 10 years younger than Richard. I remember Richard saying that all he wanted was a little sister, so he got his wish.

I wasn't at Richard's birth, as I still had to bake when the children were born. I changed nappies, I was up at nights and spent my time nursing. I think that was common for a dad then, though I didn't have a lot to do with cooking and cleaning.

I left the bakery when Richard was still young and then worked shifts - in the cattle foods mill for a few years before my job refining lead in a lead mine. I only stopped that when I got lead poisoning for the second time - after Richard had left home.

Like me, Richard was always happy with a ball, and he played for several local football teams. He could have made a good footballer and was offered training with Chesterfield, but we couldn't get there because there was no transport, so he couldn't take it up.

After he married, his work took him around the country with his children, Antony and Louise. We didn't see as much of them as we would have liked. We'd sooner have them nearby so that we could see them each day. But you can't stand in the way of progress. When Richard moved back north we saw more of them than we had before, though it's still not the same.

I remember my grandad very well, my mum's dad. And I've still got an auntie living who's ninety-something. Of course they all used to live close by. There wasn't the moving about then. You used to stick in one house all your life.'

(Photograph omitted)

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