Alice Mabel Rebbeck 1889 - 1976
Only daughter of George Rebbeck and Helen Eliza
Alice had spent her childhood as the darling of her family; the only daughter to survive infancy and many years younger than her brothers, save Edgar, and taking up the reins of housekeeping following the death of her mother when she was 16 meant she had a lot to learn. Her nephew, William George, son of Sydney, was not much younger and used to visit Rose Cottage. On one occasion Alice presented him with apple pie, the first she had made , and George the younger remarked that it was very nice but his mother used to put cloves in her apple pie. On his next visit he had apple pie with cloves. He always had fond
memories of Alice's Clove Pie.
She was a talented musician and studied the piano from an early age attaining the highest certification, Trinity College, London She had a promising career ahead of her as a concert pianist but never played on the concert platform as she met Edgar Brenton and married. She did, however, teach piano and taught two of her daughters to play. She gave up teaching when she realised most of her pupils only learned to play the piano because they had to, not because they wanted to.
When her granddaughter, Susan, was about 9 Alice heard her playing a piece from one of her old tuition books. Susan had never had piano lessons but she had taught herself to read music and was attempting a simple tune with both hands. Because she had learned on the treble clef alone she was unaware that the base clef notes were on different staves. Alice rushed into the room, her music sense outraged; stopped and listened for a moment, realised the problem and then very gently pointed out the correct notes. Susan, heeding her grandmother's advice then continued to play using the correct keys. Alice berated her daughter, Elsie, because she had not allowed Susan to learn the piano. The reason was simple - there was no room in the family home to put a piano therefore piano lessons were out of the question as there could be no practice.
World War II - Jazz comes to Ringwood
In spite of not continuing in music as a career Alice still enjoyed her piano. She used to have friends come round with their instruments for musical afternoons and the house would be full of music. During World War II she had members of the Royal Artillery billeted at the family home who had formed themselves into a band. They taught her JAZZ.
"Robbo", played tenor saxophone; Jack Anthony, the drums; there was a clarinetist; a double bass player; and Kathleen's husband Chas (Charles) was the "scat" singer. One afternoon, when she had time on her hands, Alice went into the front parlour to practice as usual and started playing a popular tune in ragtime. The band members had been trying to teach her to play and then "break" to allow another instrumentalist a solo performance. The drummer, Jack, (whose drum kit had been set up the parlour) heard her playing and rushed in with "Hang on in there, Mam" as she "broke", grabbed his drumsticks and joined in. What a lady! What a musician!
When the chapel at Crow found itself without an organist for the Sunday services, Alice was asked if she would play for them. She demurred on the grounds that she had never played an organ. The minister was adamant, "Mrs. Brenton, playing the piano the way you do you will not find the organ very difficult." She didn't. She played it as a piano and then started to experiment with the stops and foot pedals. She was still playing the organ on Sundays when she was 80.
Once, when watching a concert on the television, other members of the family saw her wince. The soloist, Rubenstein I believe, had played a wrong note and she had heard it! She was a wonderful pianist, whether playing Rachmaninov or Gershwin, Beethoven or the latest popular song. She was not a music snob, music was music whoever composed it. Jazz, spirituals, hymns or popular music - if it was good, she played it and she played well. Like her father, she had a "twinkle" in her blue eyes and they always twinkled when she made music. She used to buy sheets of popular music every week, at the price of 6d each. Her favourite popular piece was "The Robin's Return" but she played the "Bluebell's of Scotland" with variations where every note sounded like chimes. Difficult to play, but beautiful to hear.
Among the various papers kept by the family are two receipts. One for the purchase of a piano, possibly secondhand, for the princely sum of £10.00 is dated 1898. The other is dated 1903 in the sum of £3.13.6d, for "repairing, cleaning, tuning and adjusting Pianoforte". As Alice had kept these bills among her treasures we can safely assume it was her first piano. £10.00 was a great deal of money in those days - more than some people earned in a year. George Rebbeck loved his daughter dearly. She was described as a "beloved only daughter" and was doted on by her elder brothers. George certainly had no compunction about indulging his daughter and spending money on her even at the tender age of 9. Sometime in the early 1950's the piano she always kept in the parlour was so badly eaten with woodworm that the inner workings fell apart. Whether this was the same piano or a later replacement we do not yet know, but she was extremely upset by its loss. Incidentally the replacement purchased from the local auction room cost under £30.00 and was replaced in its turn, as it was never fully to her liking.
The Acceptable and The Unacceptable!
Alice learned to cook, make bread and play jazz but never in her life did she stoop to mundane things such as chopping firewood. Once when Edgar Brenton was late for work she called out that there was no firewood.
"You will have to chop it yourself" came the reply.
Elsie remembered her mother drawing herself to her full 5' 1" height and saying "I have never chopped firewood in my life, I have no intention of starting now."
Elsie called out to her father that she would chop the firewood, which she did, despite protestations from Alice that it was not something gently brought up young women were supposed to do. After all, firewood was a necessity and someone had to chop it. Alice was not a snob, the firewood incident was simply a reflection of her upbringing. She had a wonderful outlook on life and maintained that even her worst enemy deserved to be "granted the time of day". In other words she always had a greeting or a smile for everyone she met.
Alice never drank alcohol and having been persuaded to have a "sip" of wine by her younger brother, Edgar, one Christmas remarked that the hearth was moving away from her. She never touched wine again although there was an occasion when she accepted a "medicinal" glass of cherry brandy. She was giggling for hours. Although, she herself was teetotal, she never objected to other people having a drink. She simply did not like it. In 1966 she visited her niece Margaret Brown and her family in Cornwall and was taken to Jamaica Inn (of Daphne du Maurier fame). She had been wandering around the building for a while when she stopped and said to Susan, her granddaughter "Is this a public house?" On receiving an affirmative reply she went quite pink; "Oh my, fancy me being in a pub"; and went off to explore some more. (It must be pointed out that because of the licensing laws of the time the bars were actually closed for business while being open for visitors. Such was the nature of Jamaica Inn.)
During World War II Alice did her bit by joining the fire wardens. Kathleen remembers her arriving home, giggling, with the necessary equipment - a bucket, a stirrup pump and a tin hat.
Living in Ringwood for most of her life one would expect that Alice was a countrywoman. Never let it be said. She was a townswoman and terrified of cows. So terrified that she once hung herself up in a hawthorn hedge having lost control of her bicycle while trying to avoid a small group of cattle that were blocking the road. She would always walk across the Furlong in Ringwood, which was a pleasant green field within the boundaries of the town (now unfortunately buried under the tarmac of the central car park). Unless cows were grazing in the field, that is. She would, however, cross through the animals, albeit unwillingly, in the company of her granddaughter, Susan, who had no such fears.
Like her eldest brother, William George, Alice was a cyclist. Although her husband, Edgar Brenton could drive, and indeed taught driving, the family never owned a car. Alice would cycle for miles to visit friends and relatives and continued to cycle until she was almost in her eighties. She finally gave up cycling after an accident on the Southampton Road in Ringwood, not far from home. She collided with a car and although not badly hurt, broke her spectacles and a piece was embedded in her temple. Her son-in-law, William Hale, took her bent bicycle and hung it on the wall in the outhouse. She promised him she would not ride it again and she never did. After that she would walk the 3 or 4 miles to see her friends. Taxis were something she never even considered.
Page last amended January 2004