John Edward Cooper’s Notes

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My poetry manuscript book

Early Days

 1. In May 1960, Nanny and Grandad Paine brought back for Steven and me poetry manuscript books from their holiday in Germany. Steve’s is lost, I discovered while talking with him, perhaps in 1996; but I still have mine. It is inscribed, “WEISBADEN [sic] GERMANY 25.5.60. To John with love from Grandad & Nannie Paine.” It contains autographs from both sets of grandparents and from Steven, dated 29 May 1960; from Mr. Robinson my class teacher, 30 May 1960;[more] and from Mum, Trevor,[more] and Dad, 31 May 1960. There are some pages torn out which, I remember, contained some inconsequential autographs from Butlin’s (Pwllheli, I think), followed by an ornate one in pencil from Uncle Joe, Grandad Cooper’s brother, in Sheffield, dated 30 July 1960.

Wednesday 25th May 1960
 2. This is the date of the inscription on the inside of the front cover, written by Nanny (or as she spelled it, “Nannie”) Paine.

GERMANY 25.5.60.
To John with love
From Grandad & Nannie Paine.
Sunday 29th May 1960
 3. This is evidently the date that I received the book from Nanny and Grandad Paine, and asked them to write entries in it. I also visited Nanny and Grandad Cooper the same day, and they did the same thing (though Nanny Cooper got the date wrong). And back at home, our Steve signed an entry in it. My writing of the address on the flyleaf was perhaps done using the same pen as he did.

Fleetwood Rd.,
Thornton Cleveleys,

Seek ye the best in every man
And speak of him the best you can
Then the world will speak well of thee
And say how kind of heart are ye.
Grand Father
John Edward Paine
His Birthday 29th May 1960

’Tis easy enough to be happy
When life flows by like a song
But the one worth while
Is the one who can smile
When everything goes dead wrong.
Nannie Paine

May 28 [sic] 1960
Help a friend in trouble
But remember all the while,
What you do counts double
If you do it with a smile.
From Nanny Cooper

When every blessed thing goes wrong
(As sometimes things will do)
And half the fun & thrill of life
Is quite unknown to you,
Try not to think that you were born
Beneath some luckless star.
Up with your chin—for surely things
Might be worse than they are!
From Grandad

Steven Charles Cooper
Monday 30th May 1960
 4. The next day, I took the book to school and got Mr. Robinson, my class-teacher, to sign it. I didn’t invite any of my classmates to do the same, though.

Best wishes,
F. R. Robinson.
30th May ’60.
Tuesday 31st May 1960
 5. My Mum didn’t write the full date on her entry, so she could have made it on the Monday or the Tuesday. Following her entry is one by my new friend Trevor Davies, who presumably was at my house that Tuesday evening;
[more] and following his, one from my Dad.

True happiness consists of
Some-one to love
Something to do
Something to hope for
May 1960

Trevor Davies

In life’s rosy morning,
In manhood’s firm pride,
Let this be your motto,
Your footsteps to guide,
In storm or in sunshine,
Whatever assail,
We’ll onward and conquer,
And never say fail!
Saturday 4th June 1960 to Saturday 11th June 1960
 6. Whit Sunday in 1960 was on 5th June; and, assuming that we went on our family holiday (Mum and Dad, Steven and I, and Nanny and Grandad Cooper) in Whit week, when Steven and I had a half-term break from school, we would have travelled, probably in Mr. Armstrong’s big black taxi, on Saturday 4th June 1960, to our third and final holiday at a Butlin’s holiday camp and our second at Pwllheli, returning home the following Saturday. There is evidence that at least two pages have been removed from my autograph-book; and that happened because I later considered the autographs I got at Butlin’s to be of no consequence: one was an ostentatious but illegible scrawl, diagonally across the page, by the band-leader at one of the theatres that provided entertainments there; and another was a tiny, back-slanted though perfectly legible signature, confined to the very top-left corner of the page, by Norma Grant, a sales assistant in a candy kiosk. She was very diffident, and asked more than once if I was sure I wanted her to sign my book.

Steve, Mum and me at Butlin’s, Pwllheli.
I am wearing my Church Road County Primary School tie (I was there till July 1961), and Steven is wearing the school uniform of Church Road Secondary Modern School (he started there in September 1959, and judging by his short trousers was still in his first year when this photo was taken). Evidence from the poetry manuscript book indicates that we went on holiday to Butlins after 31st May 1960, and before a second holiday in Sheffield, which included 30th July 1960; so it is likely that we went in Whit Week, Saturday 4th June 1960 to Saturday 11th June 1960.
Saturday 30th July 1960
 7. Tuesday 26th July 1960 was prize-giving day at school.
[more] Now whether we broke up for the long summer holiday immediately afterwards or not, I don’t know, but the following Saturday Mum and Dad, and Steven and I were in Sheffield. It was perhaps the previous year, in 1959, that my Dad got a motorbike-and-sidecar, and the four of us started going in it/on it, on a second holiday, without Nanny and Grandad Cooper, to Sheffield. We stayed at “Auntie” Monica and “Uncle” Clifford’s house at 12 Lees Hall Road, Sheffield 8, and went for days out to places of interest in the Peak District and elsewhere. Monica was my Dad’s cousin. Dad came originally from Sheffield, so there was inevitably the visiting of relatives to be undertaken, e.g. to his Uncle Joe. He was a widower, and he lived with his unmarried daughter Joyce who was a school-teacher. It was a mistake to ask Uncle Joe how he was. “Oh,” he would reply, “I’ve been bad lately!” He had been an engraver in the cutlery-manufacturing industry, and he demonstrated his art admirably in the pencil design that he drew in my book.

J. Fox Cooper
July 30/ 1960
with LOVE
Steve, Mum and me on Winnats Pass near Castleton, Derbyshire, one of the “places of interest in the Peak District”. I am wearing my Church Road County Primary School tie, so date this summer 1960 (on the assumption that if it were summer 1961, i.e. just after I left that school, I wouldn’t still be wearing the tie).

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