Great Moments in Gender Bending

I’ve been reading Harriet Salisbury’s book The War on Our Doorstep: London’s East End and how the Blitz Changed it Forever, and came across this anecdote from one Lucy Collard (born 1915) which I present for your delectation…


On one occasion, we had a party and my brother’s dare was to dress up as a woman and we had a very vinegary-type lady next door who was a very large lady who had a very tiny meek husband. She was bout three times the size of this poor little man, Mr Prager — and my brother’s forfeit was to dress up as a woman, put a pillow underneath the dress and go and knock and ask for Mr Prager and sat what was he going to do about his forthcoming baby.

So Arthur came and knocked and Mrs Prager came to the door and it must have been about eleven o’clock at night and she said ‘What do you want?’ and then there was something about ‘we were in bed’. And Arthur put on a very high-pitched voice and said, ‘I don’t know about you being in bed — what’s he going to do about the baby?’ And they never had any children, and she said, ‘What bloody baby?’ He said, ‘Well, what do you mean, can’t you see that I’m expecting a baby, and it’s your Ernie’s, it’s your Ernie’s baby.’ She said, ‘Not my Ernie, he wouldn’t do anything like that.’ My mother was in the back bedroom, saying, ‘No, he wouldn’t dare!’

Of course, we were absolutely in hysterics, trying hard not to make any noise. And then she called, ‘Ernie! Come down here!’ And she set about poor Ernie. of course, when that happened, my mother said, ‘Oh no, we can’t have that’ and she came out and said, ‘Oh, they’re only playing forfeits’ — and then, of course, Mrs Prager walloped Arthur. After that, I don’t think she ever spoke to us again.


Later in the same chapter is an anecdote from Harry Foss (born 1912)…


I knew one of the stewards very well — Murray used to give me afternoon teas and everything, it was smashing. And I should say he was a man of about fifty, nice grey hair, very smart. And this day I walked in the Connaught — you know, the public house near the Albert Dock entrance — and I walked in there and I’m sitting with my runner, Curly, and he says, ‘See who’s come in?’ And I says, ‘No, who is it?’ And he says, ‘A couple of lovely birds.’

Cor; dear, oh dear. They had short fur coats on, black skirts, lovely dressed, oh really. And suddenly i said to him, ”Ere, one of them’s Murray.’ He said, ‘It isn’t.’ I said, ‘It is, you know.’ Of course, all the dockers are all whistling and that, and we’re just sitting there having our drinks, and one of the pair of them got up and they only want to use the Ladies toilet. Oh dear, oh dear, that was funny that day. I never got over that.

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