The Sole Society, a Family History Society researching Sole, Saul, Sewell, Solley and similar names

Kenneth George Solly 1907 - 1994

An Eventful Life - Part 2

By George Solly

This article was originally published in the April 2002 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society.

My father, Kenneth George Solly was born 7 February 1907 in Ilford, Essex the last child of three (all sons) to Albert and Daisy May.

In part 1 of this article we learnt how he worked in a cigarette factory, drove a bus in the General Strike of 1926, joined the British Expeditionary Force and was captured and imprisoned by the Germans in Poland for 6 years. Upon his release and repatriation he joined NAAFI, was involved in the Berlin Airlift and then ran an officers' club near Minden.

We take up the story as he returns to England upon the death of my grandfather and the closing of the family wholesale fish business in Billingsgate.

The Gainsborough Hotel, BournemouthIn 1957 my parents decided to use their catering experience to buy a hotel in Bournemouth after an unsuccessful attempt to purchase one in the West Country. My mother and I returned from Hameln (the Pied Piper town) to join him in this new venture. A Victorian 5 storey building with 21 guest bedrooms awaited us, situated on the West Cliff just 200 metres from the sea. Whilst my mother organised the rooms and staffing (chef, one housekeeper and three seasonal helpers usually from Switzerland or Germany), my father opened the Inglet Bar.

Despite the restrictions of the then licensing laws he did a roaring trade in season with residents, being open all hours on demand, and to non-residents providing them with food, which was necessary if they were allowed to drink alcohol. My mother and later I (when old enough) would slave in the upstairs kitchen producing endless Bauern Früstucks (Farmer's Breakfasts). These omelettes with bacon, onion and potato were particular favourites with team members competing in the annual Bournemouth Hockey Festival at Easter when we would pack over 50 into our 21 rooms!

My parents developed the business and improved the old unsuitable building as best they could and built up trade with Golden Rail (British Rail's senior citizens travel service) and DER of Germany. Each summer my grandmother, Oma Irmschen would travel by boat and train from Hameln to help us, peeling mountains of potatoes by hand and babysitting me whilst my parents put in 16 hour days, week after week without any breaks.

It was in the mid 60's that yellow lines appeared on both sides of the hotel fronting the streets and it sounded the death knell to trade, as we knew it. Overnight there was nowhere for the guests to park who increasingly came to us by car, not train or coach anymore. Some years later my parents decided to semi-retire my father then being 66 and I had completed my university course and could see no future in the family hotel business. Inconveniently, the Arabs started the first of the oil price hikes, Britain was thrown into a three-day week and the hotel would not sell, almost at any price.

Unfortunately, my parents had contracted to buy a rest home a few miles away in Canford Cliffs and therefore had a bridging loan, which went up to an unimaginable 30% interest rate. It took several years to sell the hotel that was run by an incompetent manager and lost money hand over fist. My parents typically made the rest home a great success by sheer hard work, but the overwhelming debts and attendant stress made for a difficult time. My father was well into his 70's when Red Gables the rest home was sold and they moved to nearby Lilliput for their real retirement.

Meanwhile grandchildren Huw, Ralph and Imogen were born joining cousins Lindsay, David and Emma. Great-grandson Luke was born in 1987.

Always the raconteur, my father loved company and visitors and embarked on recording his life's history on audiotape. His 6 years incarcerated in Poland being the only episode he could not bear to relate. He also enjoyed the garden and its wildlife inhabitants.

My father passed away in April 1994 after a long and eventful life at the age of 87

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