Visiting Jon Newman at Lambeth Archives is like touring a well maintained family vault with an enthusiastic academic well versed in the art of careful explanations and delicate personal details that are yours for the turning of a page, a searching look, or casual enquiry. Being with Jon on the occasion of Lambeth Archives Open Day allowed for me to connect with our past in the company of familiar faces from our wealth of knowledgeable societies who have occupied a place in our contemporary history for more years than these guardians of our treasured memorabilia might care to admit.
Something that came to light as a result of a host of anecdotes from these doyens of our oral history, was that in the early nineteen fifties; Twenty First Birthday celebrations were a regular feature in the Assembly Hall. Sadly those who were unfortunate enough to miss out with its passing still feel the pain of disappointment, as did some young men who were ready to serve their country and were then denied their two years National Service when conscription was finally ended.
Records of our past and journeys of academic discovery are freely available in this well respected storehouse of social information, accessible to us all with the good fortune to live in Lambeth and will end on one personal memory, that as a result of my visit I have been able to seek closure. I have now at last seen the publicity photographs of a near neighbour, sadly no longer with us but as a model during and after the Second World War; graced the pages of magazines and billboard advertising usually in the uniform of a nurse or member of our armed forces. The face of Greta Berry or as I knew her Greta Egan was a most stunning picture of elegance in the austerity of wartime and her memory for many might have been their last glimpse of home before boarding a troop train bound for Normandy. The age of innocence may have past but the deeply ingrained social values remain within the memories of those faithful local societies on parade yet again at the Lambeth Archives Open Day.