I Am Beeston: Muriel (Penney) Bartlam – Centenarian
Meet Beeston’s own centenarian!
It’s not everyday that you get to meet someone that is (at the time of interviewing) just about to turn 100 years old. By Christopher Frost.
The golden number that everyone strives for, but sadly, not many attain. I cycled up to the house, situated in a quiet part of Beeston, and was met at the door by Kay, a close friend who suggested her, and behind was Muriel, who prefers to be called by her maiden name. Not having met anyone of that age before, I didn’t quite know what to expect. But I was gratified to see that Penney is a spritely, warm and friendly person that could easily pass for someone in their late 70s. Being slightly deaf and needing the use of a wheeled walker were the only drawbacks that she appeared to have on reaching her century.
We sat in her living room and started chatting. She had actually written down a lot of information for me that she had remembered. “I was born at ‘The Lodge’, which was part of the City Isolation Hospital on Hucknall Road on 12 October 1918. My father George, worked as the Lodgekeeper there, plus undertaking any other duties that were given to him. While my mum, Eliza, looked after us all. I went to Southwark Street Primary School in Old Basford. I then went to Guilford Central Girls School, where at the age of 14, I passed the E.M.E.U examination in six subjects, and was awarded the Jardine Honours Prize.”
“On leaving school, I got a job with J.B. Lewis and Sons, who were one of the largest hosiery and underwear manufacturers in the Midlands. The company then became Meridian, before being taken over by Courtaulds. Whilst working as an errand girl there, I decided that I wanted to better myself by learning shorthand and typing. So I enrolled on evening classes at Binns Business College. Attaining the qualifications, I landed a job as secretary to the Advertising and Promotions manager at Griffin & Spalding, which is now Debenhams. This was in 1936. Besides the typing, I got to book London theatre tickets, arranged after dinner speakers and entertainers for children’s parties. All for the store’s customers.”
“But this all came to an end in 1939, with the start of World War II. In 1941, I used my secretarial skills for a wartime charity, which was based at the Council House. Then in 1943, I was appointed secretary to the Lord Mayor’s secretary. This was a very enjoyable post, and I got to meet some really exciting people, like the Queen in 1947, who used my very own fountain pen to sign the visitor’s book. I also got Eisenhower to sign a menu from the Black Boy Hotel, when he visited in 1945.”
When I was younger, my friend and I used to go into Beeston about three times a week with our shopping trollies.
“In 1953, I married Leonard, who was director of a family business that made prams. I then had a baby called Philip, and so left my Job at the Council House. Philip did very well at school, and went to Cambridge University to read History and the History of Art and Architecture. I typed out his dissertation about the Nottingham architect T.C. Hine. After graduating, Philip got a job with IPC Magazines in London. He eventually became the editor of ‘The Antique Dealer and Collectors Guide’. He was made redundant in 1990, but continued to publish the magazine under his own name. I helped to type up some of the articles, but computerisation came in, and so I had to learn how to use a computer. This was when I was in my 70s. I didn’t like the idea, but had some encouragement from friends and got used to it. I did it until I was 91. Sadly Philip died in 2009. Leonard had died in 1978, and so I decided to move to Beeston in 1979. My best friend lived in the area, so I thought I would join her. I’ve never regretted moving here. It’s such a friendly place.”
“Beeston has some good shops. When I was younger, my friend and I used to go into Beeston about three times a week with our shopping trollies. We used to like going to Fine Fare and the Co-Op. I miss Woolworths and a ladies’ clothes shop nearby, that I forget the name of. These days I go by taxi. All the assistants in Sainsbury’s know me and look after me when I visit. I also like to go to Hallams. It seems a bigger, better shop now, than when they had assistants picking the produce for you.”
“I’ve always been a fan of Beeston Players, and often go to see their shows. I have some lovely friends and neighbours; 50 of them are coming to my birthday party. Talking of parties, we had a lovely street party around here, for the Queen’s diamond jubilee. Yes, I made the right decision moving here. I never wanted to live in the country. Beeston suits me fine.”