Eunice Forhead’s legacy in Portsmouth dates back long before she was born more than a century ago. You could even say that she’s something of a local celebrity.
‘I’ve led a normal life,’ the 104-year-old says nonchalantly, sitting at her home in Baffins.
She’s lived at the same house in Stride Avenue for 80 years now – with multiple bunches of flowers in every room, Eunice is very houseproud, so much so that her relatives have given her the nickname Hyacinth Bucket, after the character of the same name from the sitcom Keeping Up Appearances.
‘I stay interested in things. I like my home, I don’t sit about too much, and I’ve always loved my garden.’
If you don’t know Eunice’s name, then you’ll almost certainly know that of her maternal grandparents, Sabatino and Pasqua Pitassi.
Emigrating from Italy in the 1890s, they opened S Pitassi ice cream parlour on Edinburgh Road, Portsmouth, next door to the Empire Theatre.
Their sweet treats and unique recipes piqued the interest and taste buds of many Portsmouth residents, as well as King Edward VII.
The parlour is long gone, as is the theatre – they are now the site of an amusement arcade and a supermarket – but busts of Sabatino and Esther Pitassi still look over one of Portsmouth’s busiest streets.
As a young girl, Eunice would visit her grandmother Esther at S Pitassi, but instead of being served ice cream, she would always be given meat and beetroot sandwiches.
Eunice laughs: ‘My sister and I never liked the sandwiches, so we used to go upstairs to the front bedroom where there was always a fire going in the winter, and we’d throw them on there!’
Born Eunice Good on Elwood Street, Portsea, on January 13, 1914, she is the eldest – and last survivor – of four children.
Her mother Rose worked at her parents’ ice cream parlour before marrying George Good, who was also locally renowned as a horse contractor. George would often land jobs for his horses from Portsmouth Corporation including the construction of Southsea Rock Gardens.
‘My father had stables and a yard opposite the house,’ Eunice explains. ‘When I was a child, I was always down there, playing among the horses and carts.’
Eunice also fondly remembers joining her father, alongside her sister Elizabeth, on a horse-drawn bus service which he ran for the workers at Portsmouth Dockyard to Kingston Cemetery.
‘My father would never allow us children to be unhappy,’ says Eunice. ‘He always used to say, “what’s the matter with you? Are you thinking about that murder you’ve done?!”
The Good family – which also included Eunice’s brothers George and Ronnie – later lived above The Rodney pub on Spring Street, Portsmouth.
On the recommendation of her aunt Jess, Eunice got her first job at 14 years old at WB Corsets in Southsea, which is now the site of a branch of Debenhams.
Initially working as an apprentice under her aunt’s supervision, she was paid six shillings and four pence per week, but as she worked her way up the ranks she earned as much as £4 a week.
She went on to work at WB Corsets for 10 years, before she met Edwin Forhead. Moving to Portsmouth from Surrey, he worked at Airspeed’s base in Hilsea alongside one of Eunice’s uncles, who would go on to introduce them to one another.
‘Within six months we were engaged, then we saved and saved for this house,’ Eunice says, gesturing to the surroundings of her home of 80 years.
‘We used to like to go to the pictures, and we used to go dancing. We weren’t good dancers though!’
Eunice and Edwin were married at St John’s Cathedral, Portsmouth, in 1938. The ceremony was conducted by Eunice’s cousin, Canon Zollo, and after the big day the newlyweds returned to their Stride Avenue abode.
‘We never went away on honeymoon – we bought carpets for the hall and stairs instead!’ Eunice giggles.
During the Second World War, Edwin would have to balance his shifts at Airspeed with duties for the Home Guard. The couple had just one child, Richard, who still lives in Portsmouth.
Giving birth to Richard during the Second World War, Eunice remembers turbulent times at St Mary’s Hospital, Milton.
‘My husband used to come into the hospital whenever he could to see me in the evenings,’ she says. ‘He used to stay until about 3am because there would be raids, and of course we were glad of the men being there. We were all under the beds for the raids with the blankets and pillows pulled under as well.
‘We heard quite a lot of banging and guns going and that sort of thing. It was quite frightening, really.’
Edwin died in 1990, but Eunice has never been deprived of company. As well as Richard, she has one grandson, Anthony, and many nephews and nieces, including her niece-in-law Frances Good.
Frances says: ‘She’s the queen bee of the family. She’s a very loving, caring lady and she’s very kind to people.’
‘We are a very close family, we always have been,’ Eunice replies.
Indeed, there were many family members and friends eager to celebrate Eunice’s birthday at Tin Tin Chinese restaurant on The Hard, Portsea.
‘I haven’t got a secret really,’ she says on turning 104. ‘I just keep smiling and getting on with things.’
If you’re celebrating a milestone birthday or anniversary in 2018, contact Danny Randon on (023) 9262 2106 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.