On December 6th 1917 peace was breaking out between Germany and Russia; the Bolsheviks dissolved the Russian Constituent Assembly; Finland declared independence from Russia; the USA declared war on Austria-Hungary and Stanley, our father, was born to Arthur and Gertrude Coldron their third and last child.
Being the youngest he was always the cheeky one, possibly the favourite, the one who got away with things that Frank and Lily couldn’t. I don’t remember him telling us much about his early childhood except that it seemed to have been very happy. He was always a canny child. He told us that when at the elementary school he got through by making friends with the biggest and strongest boy. He left at 14 and began work at Grantham co-op where he later became the driver of a delivery van visiting the local villages. That is how, when both were only young teenagers, he met Cicely Marion Worsdale, the beauty of Woolsthorpe and our mother. They married towards the end of the war.
Conscripted, he worked as a lorry driver delivering supplies to the front line. I once asked him if the war had been a bad experience for him. He said it hadn’t. As well as the comradeship (he was well liked) travelling in North Africa, Italy, and Austria had been exciting and had given him a wider perspective than Grantham could ever have done. I guess he used the same wiles as in his elementary school to get through the inevitable bad times. He was promoted to sergeant by the time he was demobbed.
After the war he was busy building a family and working as superintendant of the Wharf Road slipper baths where we also lived. Because of this my memory is of him always being at home, always there, always ready to take us down to the paddock, or along the Witham, or down to the canal and, on special occasions, to the hills and hollows. He could not resist telling the same joke, every time we passed the cemetery up to the hills and hollows – ‘Did you know, this is the dead centre of Grantham!’
He could see that people wouldn’t need the slipper baths in the future and so Uncle Frank got him a job as a charge hand at ICIoad in Huddersfield. In order to give us a reasonable family income he worked on rotating shifts (nights, afternoons and days ), often for twelve hours a day. For 16 years he put anthracene into one end of a chemical plant and then bagged it up as anthraquinone at the other end. It was a job where his genius at getting on with people, must have been stifled. One story of his time there is revealing of his other qualities. He was always politically astute and a union man. When the workers at his site walked out on unofficial strike against union instructions he was the only man who went into work. He was determined to do what he saw as right whatever others thought of him. He was affable but was also determined and morally courageous.
To the unpleasantness of the work and the disruption of shifts to social life was added the difficulties of taking the three of us through our teens. Altogether, I think they must have been difficult years for both of them. That is why perhaps, at least partly, they ran away to New Zealand – a dream they had long cherished and a move he never regretted. But, another testament to both his and mum’s wisdom and determination to do the right thing, was that they visited us almost every two years. We never felt abandoned.
He flourished here. His job as hospital porter was just right. I think the patients and staff would have appreciated his unique ability to jolly people along, to lighten their load for a time. His taking up of bowls was a godsend for him. He loved competition - he was always a good sportsman and athlete – and he loved the companionship of the club.
Dad carried on visiting us after mum died. That was I think the great tragedy of his life. They were looking forward to a long and well deserved retirement together but mum’s early death robbed him of that. I don’t think he ever got over it. As always he got on cheerfully with life but sometimes it felt as if he was only waiting to join her.
On 4th August 2014 there was a tentative truce between Israel and Gaza but none in Syria or Iraq; share prices around the world tumbled; there were events marking the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the First World War; and Stan, Dad, died. It was a good life. He was a good man.