ALL THINGS CONSIDERED: I was no Tyrone Power but still married the girl of my dreams
Born in 1925 in Croydon, England, Ed Pearson volunteered to join the British Royal Air Force at the age of 16 and during World War II served in India and Burma. His blog continues here upon his return to the UK, where by now he is a fresh graduate of the UK Police College and working as a London police officer.
Back in 1919, after the London police force had been depleted of officers due to WWI, a proposal was put forward that women should be allowed to join the ranks. After the motion was passed, Police Commissioner Sir Nevil Macready insisted that he didn’t want any “vinegary spinsters” or “blighted middle-aged fanatics” in his midst. I don’t imagine he was a favourite of the suffrage crowd.
During WWII the force again faced a deficiency of a few thousand officers, resulting in another appeal to women and, as a gesture of goodwill, the current commissioner allowed female officers to take part in London’s VE Parade.
By the time I joined the force in 1947, Alberta Watts, the first woman officer to be awarded the Kings Police Medal for Gallantry, had just received recognition for courage displayed in a case of robbery with violence.
Mind you, policewomen received different treatment from their male counterparts. While they worked a six-day, 48-hour week in common with male constables, pay equity wouldn’t come about for a few more decades.
Also, female officers weren’t allowed to work night shifts although I’m not sure whether that was due to a misguided notion of it being too dangerous for the delicate creatures or that females should be home caring for the family at night. After all, prior to 1946 policewoman were required to quit the force immediately after marrying.
The year 1946 also saw the introduction of police dogs on an experimental basis, but women were barred from being handlers since puppies were placed in the home prior to training and handlers were required to have a wife to look after the little mutt while the husband was at work.
By 1948 there were about 200 uniformed women officers on the force and they were finally admitted to the Police Federation. Another change was the lowering of the entry age to 20, although they were still required to retire at the ripe old age of 38.
Speaking of women, the girl next door had been too young to date before I left England for the war overseas, and I wasn’t sure her father approved of me in any event, but on impulse I had sent her a tin of tea while visiting an Indian hill plantation while on leave during the war.
On my return from wartime duty, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the girlish recipient had grown into a lovely young woman in my absence. I hoped that tin of tea would give me a toehold in the door.
My confidence was bolstered by the fact she’d carved a heart on a tree in her backyard. Inside the heart were her initials along with “T.P.”, which I thought could only mean Ted Pearson. It wasn’t until many years later that she admitted “T.P.” referred to her girlhood crush, American actor Tyrone Power.
Apartments were scarce in post-war London, so if you got a lead you had to act fast. I heard through the grapevine that Mrs. Milne, sister-in-law of A. A. Milne of Winnie the Pooh fame, had found herself in reduced circumstances and was renting out rooms in her house. The location was perfect – I didn’t have a car and the house was close enough to the station that I’d be able to ride my bicycle (with my bobby helmet hanging off the handlebar by its strap).
There were two rooms available (with shared kitchen and bath) suitable for a married couple and since I’d now been dating the girl-next-door for about a year, I told her we may as well get married. Bowled over by the romantic proposal, Betty giddily accepted.
It wasn’t a lavish wedding. Nobody had money for that sort of thing during the austere post-war years. In 1948 London was still rebuilding and rationing remained in effect for everything from food to clothing to wedding rings. I wore the suit and shoes I’d been given when demobilized from the air force. It was a great suit and I wore it until it fell apart.
The ceremony took place in All Saints Anglican Church in the Village of Carshalton, a church pre-dating the Norman Conquest and lucky to escape two world wars unscathed. We considered flying to the French Riviera for an extended honeymoon, but since it was already Saturday evening and I had to be back at work Monday morning, we settled for going into town to the Empire Theatre to catch a variety show. I can’t remember who was on the bill, but if I ask Betty I’m sure she’ll be able to sing every song.