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The year 1939 was memorable for a number of reasons. First of all there was the Mrs Jordan sensation. Of course it didn’t mean very much to me at the time, but I can understand now how big a thing it must have been.
Mrs Jordan was a ladies hairdresser who had a shop on the corner of Rosebank Street and Kinloch Street. She had lived in Germany for some time before coming back to this country and had been recruited by the Nazis as a spy. Not a very good one as it turned out. Her cleaner Mrs Masson, lived near my father’s family in Church Street, and it was she who became suspicious when she saw the various photographs of strategic positions lying about the shop. Mr Masson, put two and two together and reported her employer to the police. It turned out that the police were keeping an eye on Mrs Jordan anyway. However, to actually have a German spy on your doorstep practically, and to know someone involved in the affair, was a big sensation. This happened before war was declared. So it didn’t really mean much to me, as its significance was lost on someone who was really unaware of the political situation of the time.
It was the earlier fact we had been treated to, the spectacle of Neville Chamberlain stepping off the plane waving a document which later became notorious as ‘the piece of paper’ declaring "Peace in our time...! I have today obtained the signature of Herr Hitler promising that he has no more territorial claims” This allowed Germany to annexe the German-speaking border areas of Czechoslovakia – The Sudetenlands – with no opposition. This was on the newsreel in every cinema – it meant nothing to me. I didn’t even who Herr Hitler was. As for the Prime Minister – I thought he was some sort of church dignitary, that’s what a minister was as far as I was concerned. He was known as ‘The Umbrella Man’ since he regularly carried one. I’m not sure whether that inspired the popular song of the time ‘The Umbrella Man’ or vice-versa. Looking back I wonder if the word to the song were meant to have a deeper meaning that the innocent sounding lyrics would suggest. “He’ll mend your umbrellas and go on his way, singing Toodle-ooma Toodle-ay, any umbrellas to mend today? In other words, he’ll keep you safe from danger?