100 years ago today, Stanley Wheeler was born.
Stanley Wheeler (1917-2004), known by his grandchildren as Grandad Stan, was born in Darlington on 29 October 1917. Today marks the centenary of his birth.
Born in a Darlington workhouse in the North East of England, his birth record states his mother as Mary Ellen Wheeler, a ‘lady barber’, although it appears that she was in fact his Grandmother.
Workhouses were built to provide accommodation to the public in return for work. Typically, the poorest people in a specific locale resided in workhouses. The use of workhouses date back to 1631, although their origins can be traced back further to the Statute of Cambridge 1388, which restricted the movement of labourers and beggars. A short history of the Darlington site, with pictures and maps can be viewed here.
Stanley joined the military in 1935, first serving (9 Jan 1935 – 7 Feb 1949) in the Royal Artillery as War Sergeant (this was a rank given by the British Army during the hostilities of WWII). Stanley then became Battery Quarter Master Sergeant (B.Q.M.S.) in 1949, Acting Sergeant in 1950 and [Subaltern] Bombardier (1953-57). He served for over 8 years in India with the Royal Artillery from 14 September 1937 to 18 December 1945. It was here he met his wife, Elaine Cynthia Hassett, an Anglo-Indian living in Bombay. The couple were married on 27 June 1943. More details of their wedding can be found here.
The following year, their first child David William Wheeler was born. In late 1945, the couple and their young son left India for England. Living in Darlington in the North East, Stanley and Elaine had four more children.
In 2017, wireless headphones are taken for granted – but Stan was rocking these long before they were commonplace. You could usually always find him sitting ‘plugged into his TV’:
My earliest memory of Grandad is him taking me ’round to the corner shop’ for sweets. As the years went by, this turned into a weekly five pound note (shared with my brother, Michael, see below). The Ringtons Man was also a regular fixture delivering his goods to the house. Grandad would wait by the window like a puppy, and run to the door as the Ringtons Man arrived – the highlight for me was always the Tunnock’s Teacakes – something that has stuck with me since those days at Lanethorpe Crescent, Darlington in the 1980s and 90s.
A critical part of the Anglo-Indian story, Stanley’s life is important to the shaping of recent generations. Survived, initially, by his five children, thirteen grandchildren and six great grandchildren, his memory now lives on through three generations: five children, thirteen grandchildren and sixteen great grandchildren (at the time of writing).