A History of the Chipulina Family
Maruja and Eric - Eastern Beach


Eastern Beach. My father wearing glasses lies on the sand. Eric, Maruja and a family friend lie on top of him. Eric is the one with a bandage on his knee and his sister is just behind him in both photographs. My father is holding a cigarette which is unusual as he always smoked a pipe. The photographs are dated at the back.

More Eastern Beach photos. Both the originals are very damaged and have been digitally repaired. They were all taken on the same day as the previous snaps. In the top one Eric is first left and Maruja third right. In the bottom one Eric is third and Maruja sixth in the line.

Another day at the beach – but where? This photograph is unusual in that the usual Eastern beach crowd appear on it but the place is obviously not Eastern Beach. The shore line appears rocky so it just might be somewhere along the north part of Sandy Bay. Maruja sits on the left and Eric is standing by himself at the back. He appears to be looking at the two tiny ghostly figures in the background.

Young Eric clinging to his mum. The original photograph is hand tinted

1934 Real cinema had of course by now become quite a popular form of entertainment. Both Pepe (1.1) and Lina (1.2) were fond of the occasional film and Tita Lola would often take Eric and Maruja to the rather ramshackle Petit and the Salon Venus, both of which closed down a few years later. These were the days of the silent films. When the 'Talkies' arrived soon afterwards, however, neither Pepe nor Lina seemed to have been very impressed. Considering the poor quality of many of these early attempts this is hardly surprising. Perhaps they changed their minds when the film Mata Hari finally made it to Gibraltar and they heard Greta Garbo talk.

Greta Garbo in her first ‘Talkie’, Anna Christie. Her first words were - "Gimme a viskey with ginger ale on the side, an' doh'n be stingy, bay-bee."

There were of course other activities to keep the children entertained. Rummaging around in the lumber attic of 256, for example, was a grand way of spending a few exiting hours. At the time it was jam-packed with all sorts of things: old travelling chests and suit cases plastered with labels from exotic places and shipping lines, discarded furniture with drawers still full of exciting bric-a-brac, left-over tins of paint, cutlery, second-hand books and all those many other useless items that ought to have been thrown away years ago but never were, just in case. For Eric it was very much a place of exploration whenever the mood took him.

One day he discovered a revolver which had once belonged to his grandfather George Letts (2.3) . It was later sold to Señor José, el aguador, who said he would like to have it para la caseria de pàjaros. Eric also discovered other treasures such as a heavy pig-sticking knife and an Egyptian dagger, the first a relic from the days when George (2.3) practised the sport in the Rif Mountains, the second probably a souvenir from Alexandria.

On another occasion while Maruja and Eric were playing in the attic, a toy slipped through the iron bars of the dormer windows. It was just out of reach. As Eric was the smaller of the two, he squeezed between the bars and on to the sloping roof while Maruja held on to him precariously by his shirt. There was an enormous drop from the edge of the roof. When some neighbours on the houses opposite saw them they postponed their heart attacks and managed to send a frantic message to Lina.

1935 Sometime during the middle of the decade Gibraltar was hit by diphtheria and several members of the family caught the disease. When it was over officials from the City Council came to the house and fumigated the bedroom. It was a time when the periodic dosing of children with ‘castor oil’ or ‘blackstrap’ was very popular. The practice was known locally as a purgante and it was supposed to clean the stomach. A more likely effect was permanent damage to the intestinal tract. In fact the stuff was so foul that in a few years time it would be used widely in Spain as a punishment for political offenders of one sort or the other.

Scotts Palatable Castor Oil. “See how these children take and ask for more”. Or so it says on the advert.

That year the family spent some time in Jimena at the country house of one Lina's friends. There are fleeting memories of catching the train at San Roque, of shutting a gate as a herd of bulls thundered by, and of crossing a stream over slippery stones, waiting for a peddler who came on a donkey laden with clay toys.

Eastern Beach. Maruja and friends looking wet, bedraggled, self-conscious but happy.