|6/5 The Smiths flat at The Stair (Photograph, Peter Hoffmann 2012)|
Eric would have made a good father. He was a very pleasant and gentle man. I always picture him wearing a white shirt, open neck and grey trousers. Of an evening he often sat at his sitting room window watching the local boys play football in the back field. He was also the only local man who ever occasionally ventured out to join in and play football with the kids-I quite admired him for doing that. It was only for a short time and as mentioned I recall him pulling a hamstring; that was perhaps his swan-song. When Eric sat at his window watching the boys play, did he reflect upon or regret not having children himself?
His wife, Mary, was quite a fragile lady and I think was unfortunately troubled by her 'nerves'. She was slim and had dark hair-I may be wrong but I seem to recall her having dark shadows under her eyes, possibly because she didn't sleep well. Someone said to me that at one time she didn't sleep for a whole year-clearly she mustn't have been related to Rip Van Winkle. If that was true it must have been hellish for both of them.
They were a quiet couple,and in many ways, were perhaps unsuited to living in The Stair with seven lively families who had children. For a while they had a dog who was a bit temperamental-as Douglas Blades rushed down the stairs shouting 'Neeep!' it barked furiously, probably to Dougie's delight!
We didn't see a lot of Mary Smith as she seemed to stay indoors for much of the time. I think most of the responsibilities fell upon Eric, whether it was buying the messages or other tasks-I know Anne Hoffmann felt quite sympathetic toward him. He was employed in basic jobs, at one time he may have been a postman. I think he was probably pleased when he got a secure job at Marks and Spencer as an storeman. He was a modest sort of a chap. I think they were quite close to Hilda and Charlie Hanlon and on good terms with Helen Blades. I don't recall them being religious at all.
They seemed to live a quiet life and Eric's raison d'etre was to look after Mary as best as he could.