Ernie How: a memory from Harry Teedon
Who remembers Ernie How? Never ever called anything but Mr How when he was my EO in S1A. He retired on his 60th birthday 12thJuly 1962 and moved from the foothills of Scotland (Potters Bar to a non-Londoner) to Combe Martin, where he died at the age of 74.
A very generous man whom I remember for two reasons. Mr How wore a hearing aid on a band over his head; batteries in his jacket pocket and a switch under the lapel. He insisted upon seeing and approving every letter we wrote, I began one letter 'thank you for your letter dated . . . ' He amended it to 'your letter of . . . ' I disagreed, pointing out that my version was factual and his supposition: how do you know that the letter is of that date? His hand went up to his lapel, CLICK! Off went the hearing aid, and he calmly carried on with what he was doing, leaving me (silently to him) mouthing my objections. I admitted defeat.
In the autumn of 1961 the apple crop was a failure. Coxes in Leather Lane were half a crown a pound (oh, if you insist, 12 1/2 pence). Outrageous. At lunchtime Mr How asked me if I could get him 2lbs of coxes. Yes of course. I got 7 apples for five shillings (oh, all right, 25p). A fortune. On my return Mr How insisted upon giving me an apple. I refused. I would not pay that price myself. Mr How, I could see, was quite hurt by my refusal. I expected an outburst but no, he held out the apple. 'Take it lad' he said quietly. I did.
In the winter we, Reg Tinkler, Bill Nairn, John ? (a Scots lad; I forget his surname) and I, received a weather report. Mr How's greeting upon first entering the room was ‘There's ice on the birdbath this morning’ or ‘there's no ice on the birdbath this morning’. This latter remark seemed to follow a familiar metre; ah yes! In Ernie's absence from the room — never in his presence — we sang this line to the tune of Non Piu Andrai. What a foursome of dunderheads! We never succeeded in making up a second line let alone a third or fourth.
Some will remember Mr How's visit to Norwich with his wife Dorrie 1971-2. That was about the time his health deteriorated to the point where he could no longer drive. Living as they did near the top of a very steep slope, life was made difficult for them both. Soon after Ernie's death Dorrie sold up and went to live with or near her sister. We all lost touch with her.