Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Minding the Manor: The Memoir of a 1930's English Kitchen Maid by Mollie Moran

Mollie Moran writes her book in a conversational style, making readers feel that we are visiting an elderly neighbor or relative who has good stories to tell.  Mollie Brown was born in rural England in 1916 to a poor but resourceful family. A bright, outdoor-loving tomboy, she left school at age fourteen to make her own way in the world. She was thrilled to get a position as a scullery maid in a London home. Part of a large staff (fourteen people served two men), at first she was overwhelmed by the sheer amount of heavy scrubbing she was expected to do. (She washed dishes for not only her two masters but all fourteen servants.) But with the help of friendship, good humor, physical strength and emotional pluck, she survived and eventually thrived. She was promoted to kitchen maid and learned some cooking skills which led to more promotions. Eventually she became a valued cook.
But this book is not only about drudgery below stairs. Just like any teenage girl, Mollie was interested in clothes and boys. She never wasted a minute of her free time, going to all the dances she could and getting mixed up with the Blackshirts in Hyde Park, (attracted by the boys and not the politics). She embarrassed her employer by posing in her bathing costume for a picture that ended up in the “News of the World” newspaper, a weekly tabloid that just went out of publication in 2011. During her time in London, she caught glimpses of members of the Royal Family as well as Wallace Simpson.
At the onset of World War II, she met and married a service man in the RAF. They were separated for the duration of the war, but in the post-war years she and her children accompanied him to his postings in the Far East. Her willingness to embrace opportunity and try new experiences helped her in this phase of her life just as it did when she worked as a maid.

At ninety-seven years of age, Mollie Moran has an excellent memory and sense of humor. Minding the Manor: the Memoir of a 1930's English Kitchen Maid is an engaging personal story.