It’s too soon, too soon to say goodbye…

Dear Amy,

The end has come around so quickly. We’ve said so much, shared so many thoughts and ridden the rollercoaster of rocky love to its final destination. Your heart may be broken, but your spirit has been strengthened, and I leave you here towards the end of 1928 where you are about to embark on the most exciting time of your life. Where you show us that against all obstacles, societal ‘rules’ and age-old divisions that we can achieve. Achievements not on paper or in our banks, but in our hearts and minds. You make firsts, you break down unbreakable barriers and open the eyes of the world to possibilities – you allow us to dream.

You will ultimately prove that life does not have to be pre-written, the world doesn’t have to revolve around pre-destined ideas, and that if you want to do something you should go out there and do it. Don’t wait your whole life to do something – you might not have your whole life.

I don’t think you are setting out to conquer the world or go down in history – I think you are doing it all because you want to. You have hit a point in life where you want to do something for yourself. Something you love, something that will make you feel alive. The years of feeling like you haven’t reached your destination, of losing your self-worth and feeling inadequate all come down to this – you just hadn’t realised your dreams.

 In our time together I’ve shared your innermost thoughts, your love, your anger, and your sadness. Do you know what I think? And, this might not be a popular thought with you. I think he loved you, in his way. I think if he could he’d tell you he was sorry. Sorry for the hurt, for the uncertainty and the heartbreak.

 In reading all of your letters, up until now we have overlooked one thing. He kept them all…

You are so special to us, Amy – the world loves you. And it has been the greatest honour to be a part of your life – you have captured my mind and taken over all of my spare minutes. I’ve been transported into your world and, if I’m honest I don’t think I can ever leave. It hurts to even try to say goodbye to you. You have touched my life in a way that I never thought possible from somebody I have never met.

You have wandered through my dreams, filled up my daytimes and become a part of my life. A distant friend, a pen pal, a traveller.

So it isn’t goodbye forever, it’s just a door closing on this chapter of your life. I can’t even begin to tell you how exciting the next chapter of your life is Amy. And I cannot dare to tread further, into the future…but that’s not my story to tell.

And so I bid you farewell until we meet again. Farewell to the lady who has shown against all the odds that we should try and achieve whatever we set our hearts on.

 To your courage, bravery, and absolute stubborn-minded spirit.

 Goodbye, Amy. Fly safely. It’s been topping.

“I’m always happiest in my dreams.”[1]

A Life In Pictures

[1] Johnson, communication with Arregger [Letter]. 20 November 1925

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How am I supposed to live without you?

‘Amy threw herself on her bed and, between Amy’s wrenching sobs, Winifred extracted the reason why Hans had been so anxious to see her. Hans had married on 14 July 1928 at St Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church in Hull.’[1]

There it is. Rock bottom. The end of the precariously unpredictable, hazardous slope you’ve been sliding down for the last few months. And it couldn’t have ended any worse for you than this. The one thing that you thought he would never do. He wasn’t the ‘marrying kind’.

 ‘Hans may or may not have chosen to tell Amy about the most devastating aspect of his marriage: that his new wife was pregnant.’[2]

Now, the truth weighs you down with a huge cloud of devastation, disbelief and heartbreak. I’m so sorry, Amy. My heart aches with your sadness and my tears fall for the irreparable damage in your heart as you mourn the death of your relationship.

Don’t let this knock you down, Amy. You will rise above it, you know. You will use the anger and hurt you feel to achieve the greatest things you never thought possible.

“Best of luck in whatever you decide to do with the rest of your life – I hope you have lots more happiness and success to come in the future. Let me know if chance you’re in town.”[3]

You will go out into the world and show everyone that you can change it. You want to fly, remember? You really want to fly.

Amy Johnson letters used with kind permission of Hull Local Studies Library, Hull History Centre

Links:

8 secrets of getting over a hurtful breakup: http://www.lifehack.org/articles/communication/8-secrets-getting-over-hurtful-breakup.html

[1] Gillies, Queen of the Air, 61

[2] Gillies, Queen of the Air, 62

[3] Johnson, communication with Arregger [Letter]. 1928

If I could hold on through the tears and the laughter (Would it be beautiful, or just a beautiful disaster?)

Dear Amy,

Clinging on to your relationship with Hans through this kind of pseudo friendship must be eating you up inside. Do you believe that he may change, that he will come to his senses, declare his undying love and propose marriage, if you just hang on a little bit longer?

“I do not either like to think we are going out of each other’s life for good, and especially if this is only on account of a misunderstanding which our pride won’t allow us to clear up. Do you not think, Hans, that if we each of us made up our mind to see the other’s point of view and try to understand the attitude of mind which has led up to our present thoughts regarding each other, that we might be able to come to a better understanding if we met and discussed things?”[1]

“I’m so glad that the thunderstorm has cleared the air and that I’m not in a nasty, bitter mood as I was before I saw you. I don’t agree with all your letter but will write it out tomorrow and try and tell you what I think. I feel somehow as tho’ a wall has been knocked down and that I can talk to you more clearly than I’ve ever been able to before. I’m sure we’ll be happier now.”[2]

Happier apart…or happier together?

“You would hardly know me now, I have changed such a lot – I am enjoying life very well and on the whole getting a lot out of it. It is glorious to be alive when the sun is shining, but even when it’s not I am still happy.”[3]

Are you trying to convince Hans that you have changed, grown, become less reliant on a significant other? And is it really he you are trying to convince, or yourself? Surely the only way to really get over someone is to cut all contact – relinquish any ‘clinging on’ once and for all. It’s a slippery slope, Amy, and sooner or later you will reach the bottom. And it will hurt.

Oh, love is blind. Love has no mercy, no certainty and no pride.

Amy Johnson letters used with kind permission of Hull Local Studies Library, Hull History Centre

[1] Johnson, communication with Arregger [Letter]. 3 April 1928

[2] Johnson, communication with Arregger [Letter]. 12 April 1928

[3] Johnson, communication with Arregger [Letter]. 5 June 1928

One day I’ll fly away (Leave your love to yesterday)

“I awfully want to see this picture called ‘Wings’ but it is very difficult to get seats and they are so expensive.”[1]

Dear Amy,

Your new-found interest in flying could not have come at a better time for you, a great distraction from the turmoil of your love life.

“Last Thursday I went to see ‘Wings’. It is just wonderful and most marvelously produced. I had to pay 5/9 for not a very good seat. I could see it again.

For the aeroplane scenes the screen was enlarged to the entire width of the stage and the lighting and cloud effects are splendid.”[2]

Not just a distraction that you are going to watch on a big screen. For whatever reason – a new defiance against men, a new hobby that you feel will impress your former lover, or simply something that just seemed to take your fancy – you don’t stop at just being an observer…

“Now for the good news – I’m going to learn flying! I’m joining the London Aeroplane Club and then I can get tuition and always use their aeroplanes. It is, of course, awfully expensive, but not prohibitive, as the flying school was that I wrote to before. No one would believe I was really serious.”[3]

“I decided to go for a ride on the top of a bus to Hendon and see if I could see some aeroplanes. There were lots of aeros up and I was wishing so much I could afford to learn. There was no one to stop me going in, so I went through the gate, down the path, past the sheds where aeroplanes were in various stages of construction, and finally came to the open space where the machines were taking off.

Finally, I plucked up the courage to speak to one of the pilots – he of course took me for a member of the club ‘cos otherwise I’d no right to be there – but he was awfully nice and told me to my intense surprise, that I could join the club at an entrance fee of £3.30 – sub of £3.30 and then learn to fly at the rate of 30/- per hour. After about 8 hours tuition, one can enter for a pilot’s certificate (having previously passed tests for nerves) and then one can always use the club’s machines at the rate of £1 per hour.”[4]

You wont know I suppose, until you get up there in the sky for your first lesson, how you are going to feel when you fly. Something tells me it will be the most exhilarating, powerful, thrilling experience you have ever had.

“I wrote and told them at home but no one has mentioned it. I shan’t mention it again now they know.”[5]

Oh I wouldn’t worry too much about their disinterest. They’ll mention it to you again soon.

Amy Johnson letters used with kind permission of Hull Local Studies Library, Hull History Centre

Links:

Amy Johnson initiative by EasyJet: https://careers.easyjet.com/pilots/female-pilot-opportunities/

http://bwpa.co.uk/in-partnership-with-bwpa-easyjet-launches-the-amy-johnson-flying-initiative-to-help-boost-female-pilot-recruits/

University of Sheffield Amy Johnson scholarships: https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/acse/undergraduates/financial-support/amy-johnson

[1] Johnson, communication with Arregger [Letter]. 22 April 1928

[2] Johnson, communication with Arregger [Letter]. 28 April 1928

[3] Johnson, communication with Arregger [Letter]. 29 April 1928

[4] Johnson, communication with Arregger [Letter]. 29 April 1928

[5] Johnson, communication with Arregger [Letter]. 9 May 1928

Breaking up is hard to do

“As I see it now, the only thing which has kept us together for so long has been your intense desire, and a very reciprocating desire, for sexual intimacy (loathsome words). (Apart from this one thing, the whole of your instincts seem to be against a married life) – this has been all right for you so long as I was content to let things drift on and on as they were, and I’ve been for the greater part of 7 years content to let them so drift because I thought there was something at the end of it.

Always I’ve had before my eyes the picture of a home where there’d be no outside interference causing friction, and where I’d be surrounded by things which would all belong to us, for which we’d worked hard and paid for and chosen, and where there’d be children of my very own whom I’d train up so carefully, remembering all the little things I’ve grumbled about…trying to give them the advantage of my experiences. It’s so silly, but this is what I’ve always wanted so much, and you being the only man in my life, was naturally the one to whom I should look to give me these things – apart altogether from the urgent desire I’ve always had for yourself.

Now, however, I can no longer persuade myself into believing this is a possibility – it is too obvious that in every way you are getting to care less for me.”

“Always before, I’ve made many and varied protestations of my deep love for you and told you frankly how much I wanted you (not sexually as you probably thought) and how sure I was we could be happy together, and begging you to be quick to come to London etc. Now I no longer love you, I no longer want you, sexually or any other way, I don’t believe we could for a single moment be happy together, and if you came to live in London I should probably leave.

It strikes me you’ll at once jump to the conclusion that I’ve written like this because I’ve got another lover. But this is not so. I have no other men friends at all.”

No, as much as you try to fool yourself that you don’t care enough to be faithful to Hans, you just can’t do it.

“In a certain room of a certain house a beautiful fire had been kindled by a youth who lived there. It was his duty, and his pleasure, to keep it always burning brightly and this he loved to do. But gradually he got somewhat tired of always picking out the best pieces of coal and wood and he grew careless and threw on anything handy until by and by the fire grew duller and duller and got choked up by ashes. Then there came a day when it was practically out and only then did the boy grow alarmed. As he was considering what to do a voice whispered ‘Just leave it, that’s the easiest way. It will go out and if you want you can light another. But if you want this one to brighten up again you must do something at once and look after it continually. Another time it will go out more quickly’.”

In a certain time in a certain city, a beautiful soul had become entranced by her lover who was far away. It was her pleasure to always keep his desire burning brightly and she loved him. But gradually she got somewhat tired of always waiting for a future with the man she loved. The relationship became tiresome, her love and desire became duller and duller and got choked up by frustration and anger. Then there came a day when the fire of their love was almost extinguished. As the girl considered what to do, her thoughts whispered ‘Just leave it, that’s the easiest way. Your mind will eventually be free of him and one day you will find another.’

“It isn’t of course possible that I’ve totally misjudged you?”[1]

But she didn’t want another. She didn’t really want to let go at all.

Amy Johnson letters used with kind permission of Hull Local Studies Library, Hull History Centre

 

 

[1] Johnson, communication with Arregger [Letter]. 25 March 1928

 

If I made you feel second best… (Girl I’m sorry, I was blind)

“I wonder why you do so enjoy teasing me, especially now when I don’t get so insanely jealous. I am of course curious as to your new acquaintance – which will probably be a dog or something of the sort, I expect. But I’m afraid I’m not a wee bit concerned about it. You forget I’ve changed and am much more sensible now.”[1]

Oh, Amy. I don’t believe you for a second. More to the point I don’t think Hans probably does either, and yet he continues to pursue somebody else – all part of your ‘agreement’ to have an open relationship. How did things get to the point where you are content to be somebody’s mistress, somebody’s ‘other woman’? I’m not sure you are that kind of girl at all, are you? You’re simply clinging on to Hans however you can, taking whatever he will give you…yet knowing in your heart that it’s never going to be enough.

“All the same it will be interesting to hear more on the subject, as I don’t at all understand the abrupt way in which you introduced your new ‘acquaintance’ – you didn’t even warn me there was one.”[2]

The years between us don’t make any difference here. I can see your frustration and heartbreak in your letters, without you having to say it. You hate it. You’re better than this Amy; I just hope you can see it. And soon…

“My boyfriend took me on a topping motor ride the other evening – I did enjoy it.”[3]

“In a little while I’m going on a motor ride to Oxford with my little friend.”[4]

Out of curiosity, desperation, or a simple need for companionship, you have given it a try yourself. But reading between your words I imagine there’s nothing you want more than a letter from Hans in a jealous rage because you have somebody else too.

“By the way, do you want me to price those suede waistcoat (or jacket) things for your Swiss girl?”[5]

 I don’t think that letter will ever come, will it? Your unconcerned, breezy words don’t let on but inside, you’re screaming.

Amy Johnson letters used with kind permission of Hull Local Studies Library, Hull History Centre

Links:

Why you should never settle in love:

http://love.allwomenstalk.com/reasons-why-you-should-never-settle-in-love

[1] Johnson, communication with Arregger [Letter]. 12 January 1928

[2] Johnson, communication with Arregger [Letter]. 12 January 1928

[3] Johnson, communication with Arregger [Letter]. 5 January 1928

[4] Johnson, communication with Arregger [Letter]. 9 January 1928

[5] Johnson, communication with Arregger [Letter]. 5 January 1928

Music of the future, and music of the past…

“They’re playing ‘Tea for Two” on the wireless…”[1]

“Picture you upon my knee
Just tea for two
And two for tea
Just me for you
And you for me…alone-

I’m discontented with homes that I’ve rented
So I have invented my own.
Darling, this place is lovely oasis
Where life’s weary taste is unknown
Far from the crowded city
Where flowers pretty caress the stream
Cosy to hide in, to live side by side in,
Don’t let it apart in my dream…”

Oh Amy, I can imagine this song as one of your favourites – the lyrics rolling around your head all day, reminding you of what you so long for with Hans.

‘Like many of their generation, Amy and Irene were captivated by the modern dance music and the foot-tapping syncopated tunes of that era, and at home they would don their headphones and tune in to the wireless transmissions from the BBC’s 2LO station at Savoy Hill.

The American influence was very much in evidence, from the lilting piano-playing of Carroll Gibbons, to the ‘voh-voh-de-voh’ crooning of Rudy Vallee with his hand-held megaphone.’[1]

Popular music may have changed A LOT since your day Amy, but a lot of the sentiment is the same – popular songs are about love; love lost, love and longing, love hurting, love and happiness, love forever, forbidden love, impossible love…

“It was splendid last night at the Philharmonic Concert, but I did miss you so much. All the music seemed to say to me was ‘I want my Hans, I want my Hans, I want my Hans.”[2]

I think you’d be quite surprised if you heard just how much you can say in a song these days. Music sells; music is written to be sold. The craft of popular song writing is not dissimilar to your time and the days of New York’s Tin Pan Alley – reeling off song after song for as much money as possible. The music? That’s quite different!

“I walked home and went to bed about 11.30 after listening to the wireless – it was a birthday night or something.”[3]

Music has taken many pathways over the years, created so many sub-genres that it is impossible to keep up! ‘Popular’ music now generally means simplistic songs thrown at you by the media from every angle.

“As Mother will still be away on Thursday, I am able to use her tickets for the Philharmonic Concert (Sir Henry Wood) – I’m looking forward to it very much, as I love orchestral music more than any other kind.” [4]

Orchestral music has its own following, aside from the popular chart music. We celebrate the great composers that you loved Amy, alongside modern composers. However, ‘Classical’ music is not seen as something that young people should be interested in – they aren’t encouraged to go out and find these amazing musical creations, filled with endless passion, strength and genius that can never be re-created in a four-chord pop song.

“I hadn’t the energy to do anything in the evening but lie on the settee here and listen to a wonderful Wagner concert at the Albert Hall. There is a crystal set here with two pairs of earphones. I don’t often listen because I can’t bear earphones on my head.”[5]

Today, in 2016, you can listen to the music you like anywhere you like. We have iPods, streaming, MP3 players, CD players…. but music has become less of a luxury item. It is throwaway  – a quick fix – and often a single listen.

There is nothing lovelier than dedicating some time to your music – selecting a favourite record, turning up the volume and letting the music wash over you. Time to just ‘be’ with the music, giving it the respect and attention it deserves. We’ve forgotten how to listen – to each other, to music, and to ourselves. Today we live in a media-driven society – it’s good to take some time out.

“We’ve bought a gramophone on the instalment system – HMV portable…now we want some records.”[6]

Links:

Music in the 1920s: http://www.1920-30.com/music/

[1] Luff, Amy Johnson: Engima in the Sky, 59-60

[2] Johnson, communication with Arregger [Letter]. 26 November 1926

[3] Johnson, communication with Arregger [Letter]. 18 October 1925

[4] Johnson, communication with Arregger [Letter]. 23 November 1926

[5] Johnson, communication with Arregger [Letter]. 8 April 1927

[6] Johnson, communication with Arregger [Letter]. 29 April 1928

[1] Johnson, communication with Arregger [Letter]. 13 October 1925

There’s a chapter of secrets and words to confess…

“I’m enclosing the copy I wrote for Harrods in case you would like to see it.”

“Spring now reigns supreme in fashion’s kingdom and proclaims her royal decree. Simplicity, achieved through art, shall be all-powerful…the colours to be favoured are the blues of every hue, from the softest bluish glint in mother o’ pearl to the royal richness of the mountain gentian. Grey is background from the shadows to challenge beige.

Spring invites you to share her attractions and be as alluring as she.

Come and see for yourself!”

Amy Johnson reigns supreme in the kingdom of aviation, embodying her title of ‘Queen of the Skies’. Her spirit, embracing determination and desire, shall be all-powerful. The colours of her life are all encompassing, a rainbow of everlasting achievements. Her letters are the background from which her future emerges, bright, colourful and full of life.

“To me, every piece of furniture reveals a secret…it may perhaps proclaim its triumph for an unmerited place in elegant society; it may sigh for those few inches more, or less, for more slender outlive and more graceful form; or – it may whisper caressingly of taste and refinements, beauty and simplicity…”

Many pictures more could I paint for you, inducing every piece of furniture to whisper to you its secret of refinement and taste. But perhaps you, in your own mind, have many pictures – more beautiful than these – of rooms in your own home…”

To me, every word of each letter reveals a secret… it may reflect an unspoken emotion that has no place on the page; it may hide the truth. It may sigh for those things that he never says; or it may whisper longingly for a love becoming lost, a love rooted in simplicity and beauty…

Many pictures more could I paint for you, indulging in every word to whisper its truth of loss and longing. But perhaps you, in your own mind, have many pictures – more fairytale-like than these – of words from your own heart…

 

Amy Johnson letters used with kind permission of Hull Local Studies Library, Hull History Centre

 

 

Memories Light the Corners of my Mind

I stopped the car outside 154 St. George’s Road, Hull, and got out. I looked up at the modest red brick house. I stood for a long time staring up at the windows, trying to imagine the sounds, sights and smells of this house when little Amy Johnson was running around it in the early 1900s.

DSCN2314

The plaque on the wall reads: ‘Pioneer Aviator Amy Johnson (1903-1941) was born here 1st July 1903.’

Amy was born here to parents Will and Ciss, and in the following years would also have three siblings, Irene, Molly and Betty.

I tried to imagine you as a child, full of mischief and adventure, preferring ‘boyish’ games and taking risks. At first I couldn’t see it. But then it hit me: I was stood outside your house. I didn’t need to imagine it or pretend it happened; once, you were here.

 I pictured you standing right there next to me on the pavement. I closed my eyes until I could put together an image of you from my mind. You were, of course, dressed in your flying clothes and aged in your late twenties – as you are in most of the famous pictures. I opened my eyes and I turned to look at you. I took hold of your hand. Together we stood and looked at your very first house, we thought of your parents and the love they had for you and your sisters.

We walked through the streets until we reached Boulevard – the location of your second home, and then to 557 Anlaby Road, which once upon a time was your first school Eversleigh House. It had all changed beyond recognition, and I saw you look around to check the address on the street sign to make sure you were in the right place. The streets were lined with cars, people and shops. I gently reminded you that we had to keep going if we wanted to see it all – the world doesn’t stop forever – and we continued our journey.

 From Anlaby road we walked to Alliance Avenue, another street you lived in. Recognition flashed across your face but you wanted to keep walking, to press on to the next place. And so we continued, silently wandering through property-laden streets until we reached Park Avenue. We stopped outside number 85.

DSCN2364 

The plaque reads: ‘Amy Johnson, airwoman lived here 1918 – 1927’.

 You were drawn back here to Park Avenue because this is the last house you lived in with your family after the First World War, while England recovered and people tried to get back to normal, or at least their new version of normal. Your memories from here I am sure were mixed – you often wanted to escape from Hull but here held comfort and the security of your siblings, your Mother, and your Father.

We sat down on the grass in the front garden of the house. Time was waiting for us, not forever, but just for right now. Right now we were just two young women, sitting on the grass and reminiscing. When it was time to leave here you stood, your eyes fixed on the upstairs window of the house and you smiled. Tears were falling down your cheeks as you began to laugh, lost in memories of the times you spent here.

 We didn’t have much longer, but there was so much more I wanted to show you. We moved quickly, right into the heart of the city. As we walked I know you were thinking of your family, your friends, and all the wonderful times from your young life. But I could see that so much here reminded you too of Hans. Your memories were bittersweet, tainted with the times you’d prefer to forget.

On we walked, I wanted to show you how much Hull loves you! We didn’t have time to see it all, but I pointed out the museums all around the city that hold your story or artefacts among their collections. We took some time to stop at the Hull History Centre, where your letters are held. I showed you all of the books dedicated to you. Hull is so proud of you. Not just Hull. The world is so proud of you.

 DSCN2348

I left you for a little while with your letters. It must have felt odd, sitting reading your own words using a microfilm reader in a modern, state of the art building. I wondered then how much you remembered actually writing. We didn’t have time to read them all. When I came to tell you that we had to go, you were sitting with your head in your hands, sobbing at the words and feelings you had familiarised yourself with once again. You didn’t want to leave, but also knew that you couldn’t read some of the letters – some memories have remained too painful all these years. I took your hand and led you away from this part of your past, our hearts full of sadness. Yours remembering the love you had for Hans, the good times, and the hardest.

 Time had almost run out but I couldn’t let you leave this way, full of sadness. I had so much more I wanted to show you. We ran several streets until we were standing outside the Prospect Shopping Centre. It was an unreadable moment as I saw you recognise your statue. There you were, looking at this depiction of yourself right there in the middle of the street for everyone to see. The words ‘may her fame live on’ at the bottom of the text. I’m not sure what you were thinking, but you laughed and looked around the street as though you couldn’t believe your eyes.

 DSCN2356 

All too quickly it was time to go. There was no more time. I couldn’t find the words to tell you what I wanted to say, but I don’t think I needed to. You smiled at me through your tears and we held on to each other’s hands. The only words we could both find were ‘thank you’ – you thanking me for showing you that the world will always love you – that you will always be here with us. Me thanking you for letting me into your world, for showing me that anything is possible, and that no matter how far away I think you are, you’re always there.

I didn’t get to show you everything I wanted you to see. I drove out of town and sat by the side of the river, right by the Humber Bridge – an amazing feat of engineering. You’d have loved it. I looked out into the water and I thought of the life you had. It was short; but it was so very full.

DSCN2375

I looked up at the giant, looming structure of the Humber Bridge. Right in the middle someone was walking. She stopped, leaned on the barrier and looked out into the water. She raised her arm and waved. I stood to try and get a better look at the familiar figure. But as my eyes came back to the middle of the bridge she was gone.

Thank you Amy. You are forever in our hearts. As I write to you, laugh with you, cry with you and cry for you, amaze at your achievements and marvel at your spirit, you are not just a historical figure. You are here, with us, as we celebrate your life. You are living, Amy. And may your spirit live on forever.

 DSCN2361

 

Under slate grey Victorian sky…

‘‘Much as her parents wanted her to break with Hans, they were dismayed when they learned that she was about to move away to London. However, she accepted the offer and booked a room at the YWCA in the Ames House Hostel at Euston, until she could find more permanent accommodation.’’[1]

Dear Amy,

I wonder how much you wanted to move to London, and how much you felt you had no choice but to uproot yourself far away and stand on your own two feet. You’re a brave dreamer; you’re a risk-taker and you relish a challenge. I imagine this is no different. I don’t think you’re scared of change either – in fact I think what you are more scared of is everything staying the same…

“I am quite prepared for some hard times at Peter Jones. Although there will probably be things much worse even than I anticipate. And I think it’s quite likely that there will be some jealousy amongst the girls, because my position will be rather different from theirs.”[2]

“..it seems as though I shall either be owing the firm a lot of money, or else simply stay there till it is paid off. This is what happens – a learner has a remuneration account. At the end of a fortnight she is asked to give a valuation of her services (which, so far as I can ascertain, cannot possibly be estimated at more than £1 a week as the highest figure). Then the buyer for that dept. is asked to give his opinion. After a study of these the learner is told what she is worth to the firm and this amount goes to her credit, whilst she is debited every week with the £3 she draws. So that the longer one stops the bigger is the debt one is running up. Then suppose I go on working till I am worth the £3 I draw, and eventually I am worth more. Yet I can still only draw £3 till I have paid off all I owe, which will probably be a considerable sum by that time, because however clever one may be, it takes a long time to work up to a high position.”[3]

Remember how I said that some things have not changed so much since the 1920’s? Some things have changed rather a lot. The workplace has become a fairer place – the Equality Act, the Workplace Gender Equality Act, and the National Minimum Wage all make for a (hopefully) better working environment. Change has happened outside of the workplace too. I’m not sure how you’d feel about it all really, I wish you could come here just for one day and see the world how it is now! Perhaps it can be arranged, even if only in writing…

“It is very kind of you indeed to offer to engage me on your typing staff, and I do not think you will find me slow in adapting myself to the legal atmosphere and gaining that legal experience which will help me forward.”[4]

“I don’t quite know where I’m heading, but it seems as though I’m being trained to do more responsible work. On Monday I began to make affidavits of documents and then I have to swear to them. It’s rather interesting finding out what I have to do next, but I believe the work will be rather responsible. I’ll tell you all about it as I find out more myself.”[5]

Your new job at Crocker’s legal offices, though better suited I am sure than your position at Peter Jones, is still a long way from where your life takes you a few short years later…

Amy Johnson letters used with kind permission of Hull Local Studies Library, Hull History Centre

Links:

About workplace gender equality: https://www.wgea.gov.au/learn/about-workplace-gender-equality

 

[1] Luff, Amy Johnson: Engima in the Sky, 74

[2] Johnson, communication with Arregger [Letter]. 14 March 1927

[3] Johnson, communication with Arregger [Letter]. 15 March 1927

[4] Johnson, communication with Arregger [Letter]. 1 April 1927

[5] Johnson, communication with Arregger [Letter]. 24 April 1927