A Few Thoughts from Aunt Doris: The Neighborhood Bully

This is another post in an occasional series from my dear nonagenarian Aunt Doris.

Aunt Doris' wedding photo. (c. 1946)

When I was in my early teens, Mum and I moved from Kensington to Notting Hill in London. (Yes, the same Notting Hill as the Julia Roberts movie.) Mum had bought a small sweet shop in a residential area; aside from a nearby corner pub, there were few other businesses in the area.

It turns out our new neighborhood also came with its very own local bully. Everyone moved out of his way quickly and the shop owners dreaded seeing him. He’d poke his head in their doorway, throw eggs or garbage, yell a few obscenities, and then run.

His name was Billy ‘Obbs and he was maybe ten-years-old.

There was no use complaining to his parents – they’d just as soon spit in your eye than talk to you. Even the local police were wary of him. In those days they patrolled the streets on bicycles. Billy would suddenly appear, yell a few curse words at them, and then hurl sticks at the wheels. Well, by the time the bobby had recovered, Billy was long gone.

Billy would often stow away on delivery vans, drop himself off in a different neighborhood and then pretend to be a lost child so he could get ice cream and candy until the police were notified and took him back home.

One day my mum (a little Irish lady) said, “I’ve had it with Billy ‘Obbs!”

Knowing he was around she hid in her shop, behind the door. When he poked his head in she grabbed him by the collar and said, “Billy, if you treat me right, I’ll treat you right. But if you pull a trick I’ll come after you and knock the crap out of you!” (There was no such thing as political correctness in those days.)

Well, Billy knew he had met his match. From then on he treated my mum with respect – even running a few errands and bringing back the change!

He still bullied the rest of the neighborhood though.

Eventually, after setting a few fires, Billy was finally arrested and sent to a borstal – a correctional facility for wayward boys – and everyone breathed a sigh of relief.

Not for long though. That’s because we were soon faced with a far more evil bully: Adolf Hitler. (My daughter-in-law once told me it was a pity my mum didn’t meet Hitler!)

Anyway, a few years later when I was living in the US, Mum wrote to tell me that Billy ‘Obbs came by to visit her and that he had turned into a nice young man!

Today, when I watch The Simpsons on television and see Bart I think of Billy Hobbs.

When it came to raising kids, my mum would always say, “You don’t have to be cruel, you just have to be firm.”

She also used to say, “Never break a promise, whether it’s a slap or a gift.”

Actually, I was a little scared of my mum!

Love you all,

Aunt Doris

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