Hilda celebrates 100 lucky years

14 Mar 2017

Centenarian Hilda Sharp might be 100 years old but she is still young at heart and has seen incredible changes across the decades in her lifetime. Born 4 March 1917, her birthday saw the beginning of a week of celebrations with friends and family including at Jewish Care’s Connect@ centre which she attends every Monday in Kenton and Jewish Care’s Edgware Community Centre on Tuesday as well as the Bridge Club at Stonegrove. She also threw two parties in gratitude to friends and family who have supported her over the years.

At Jewish Care’s Connect@ she was joined by three generations of her family to enjoy entertainment, a party and cake at the Jewish Care centre for independent older people who are young at heart. Hilda proved she is still very much as young as you feel, by getting up and dancing with fellow members.

Talking about Hilda, her son Stephen says, “Mum is still young at heart, and mind, she keeps it that way by being so sociable, playing bridge, completing the Times crosswords and playing scrabble.”

Hilda’s family brought along balloons with the name ‘Gigi’ as this is the name chosen by her by four grandchildren and nine great grandchildren and they call her, G (great) G (grandma), GIGI. The family also created a collage of photos and a photobook of her life alongside images recording world events spanning the past 100 years including two World Wars, Neil Armstrong and the crew of Apollo 11 landing on the moon in 1969 and Margaret Thatcher being elected as the first woman Prime Minister in 1979.

At the Connect@ party, Hilda’s son, Stephen said to his mum, “I hope that as you look through the pages, of this album the pictures will jog your superb memory of times gone by. You’ve managed the first hundred years of your life very well, and all of us fully expect to be celebrating the next chapters for many more years to come. Mum, you have been incredible and a fantastic role model, one to which we should all aspire.”

Hilda was born when King George 5th was on the throne and was one of five children to Sarah and Benjamin Bromberg who had a flat in Bloomsbury.  One of her first memories was the smell of roast potatoes and herrings in the then Jewish area of Cable Street.

She attended St. Georges Church School at three, and at thirteen the family moved to Hendon. The average price of a house in 1931 was £395 saved by her hard-working parents who had been saving since her father had arrived in England in 1904.  Her Dad was a master tailor at Gieves and Hawkes making army uniforms and her mum set up a dressmaking business. Hilda went on to Hendon County, and became games captain.

She says that her mother was modern in her outlook and the family were one of the first who had a telephone in their homes, though they always joked that they didn’t have many people to phone in those days.

At sixteen, Hilda trained to become a Comptometerist, an early mechanical calculator and started work six months later at Smith’s Industries in Cricklewood on £1-10 shillings a week (£95 today). During air raids in the second world war Hilda had to take her machine into the basement of the building in the hope that it wouldn’t be destroyed.

In 1938 she met her husband, Cyril, at a wedding and they married at Murray’s Club, in Beak Street, Mayfair on 29th January 1939 and rented a flat in Lewisham. She and her family moved to Kilburn, where they lived above a shop. Hilda’s family had a black and white television in time for the showing of the Queen’s Coronation in 1953.

Hilda says, “Though I’ve lived a very ordinary life, I feel I’ve been very lucky. When I was a child in WW2, bombs were falling on London very close to the flat where our family lived and one attack hit the Bedford Hotel with terrible consequences for many. Then in WWII when her daughter Angela was born the family had another lucky escape when a German rocket came through the open window of our flat, the only damage amazingly was a door being blown off. 

Hilda says, “During an air raid I refused to go into the bomb shelter at Woolworths in New Cross High Street, and a German bomb hit the store killing 170 people. From that time to this I’ve considered myself a lucky person.

“I’ve had 100 years of fantastic, normal everyday life and I’m very grateful to still be here. My family keep me young, especially my great grandchildren and I’m enjoying it all.”

When asked the secret to her long life she says the answer is simply, ‘happiness.’