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Author Topic: From then to Now  (Read 12840 times)

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Offline oobydooby

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Re: From then to Now
« Reply #19 on: July 23, 2014, 21:01:38 »
Thanks for your fascinating and evocative memories.  I too have fond memories of the Strand.  I hope there is a lot more to come.

Tony.
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Offline ann

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Re: From then to Now
« Reply #18 on: July 22, 2014, 15:13:03 »


CHILDHOOD AND BEYOND

I have very happy memories of growing up but I can recall being lonely at times as I was an only child.  I really envied my friend June who lived next door who not only had an older brother (which I dearly wanted) but she was also allowed to have friends in and play up in her bedroom. Of course the plus of not having any siblings was that I did not have to share my toys.  There was teddy (pictured below) who I still have sitting in my bedroom.  Rosebud who was a china black doll, with gold earrings and bright red lips, and another doll whose body and limbs were stuffed with filling.  I remember her arms split and she was sent to the dolls hospital to be made better. I had a lovely little china dolls tea-set which I would play with for hours.  Mum would let me have water and I pretended it was real drink.  Of course there were five stones, hopscotch, the hoola hoop and books which I loved.  My favourites were by Enid Blyton and I progressed up from Noddy and Big Ears to the Famous 5 and the Secret 7. I also used to have her magazine delivered. I remember the excitement one birthday of being given my own little wooden bookcase as a present.  I also had a scooter which had a wooden footplate and I also remember being bought roller skates.  These had metal wheels and I tried vainly to master the art of skating by going up and down the alley at the side of our house holding onto a broom for support. Never did get to grips with them. 

I was never allowed a bike, even when a teenager.  This was in the days before motorways and each summer in particular, the Watling Street which Lancelot Avenue led onto, was jammed solid with traffic heading towards the seaside.  Consequently motorists in the know (and in particular lorry drivers) would use Lancelot and Elaine as shortcuts.  Mum was terrified and so I was never allowed a bike.

There were no activity clubs like today. There was only Brownies for the girls and Cubs for the boys. I was a ‘pixie’ and did all the usual ‘badges’ but also remember being taught how to darn using a wooden mushroom (presumably for socks and jumper elbows!) The other thing that sticks in my mind is learning how the Union Jack was comprised. We had paper crosses for St George of England and Wales, the white saltier of St Andrews for Scotland and the red saltier of St Patrick for Ireland. by layering them one on top of the other made up the Union Jack. (I though this so clever.)

I went to a Saturday morning cinema club just for children. It was at the bottom of Star Hill on the lower road. I am not sure if it was called the Gaumont or Odeon. If you were a member of the club you would be sent a card on your birthday and this allowed you free entry for that week.

During the summer holidays mum would take me out for the day either to the Strand at Gillingham, or to the outdoor swimming pool in Gravesend. To get to the Strand we would get a bus to Chatham and then change and get another to Jezreels tower, then a short walk.  The Tower was still there, albeit uncompleted and was a familiar landmark. We would spend the whole day there. Mum would pack sandwiches and she would sit sunning herself whilst I played in the children’s paddling pool there.  The area where the pool was sited was set down so it created a suntrap. The pool itself was oblong and had a metal pole from one end to the other, and at each end was a water cascade. Obviously the water got deeper by the middle pole.

Sometimes on a Sunday we might go with dad. Then I often got to ride on the little steam engine and also go on the swing boats with dad (I was usually sick after this). Dad would also take me out on the pedal boats in the boating pool.

The Gravesend open air pool was very different and we tended not to go there so much. There were 2 outdoor pools, one for the adults and the other the paddling pool, but it was not as large as the one at the Strand. Again mum would settle herself down and I would be free to splash and play around all day there. There was a white building, which housed a café on the top, and I guess the underneath bit was where we went in and the changing rooms were. Just outside this were table tennis tables.

Sundays were always special to me because dad was at home. During the week he would not get home until 7 each evening and as a child I would be out looking for him, sometimes going to the top of the road to see if I could spot him walking up. I always remember him wearing a belted raincoat and a trilby hat. Always smart was dad.

When I was old enough I would attend Sunday school down at St Francis in the morning.  You only wore your best clothes on Sundays and were never allowed to play outside in the street. After lunch we sometimes went out, maybe to the castle gardens in Rochester, or to visit relatives and in the summer we would often go for walks through Cobham woods.   Sometimes on a summer evening we would all walk down to the Coach and Horses public house and sit on the wall opposite, which was outside the toilets, and watch all the traffic returning from the coast. The A2 being the only route got chock-a-block each weekend.  Other times we might walk in the other direction to the Three Crutches Public House and sit outside with a drink, although mum and dad were not really drinkers.  I would have lemonade and a bag of Smiths crisps with the little blue bag of salt in.

Cobham woods was a favourite for Sunday afternoons when the weather was good. Mum sometimes would pack a small picnic and we would eat it up on the ‘banks’ on the way there. In the spring we would go and pick primroses and tie them into little bunches when we got home and give to some of the neighbours. Later it would be bluebells and dad would show me the special way of doing this by pulling them by their stem.  Walking in the woods I would be told the names of trees and plants and I always remember ‘old mans beard’. It used to fascinate me. It was dad who taught me the names of wild flowers, and I loved being in the woods with him.

Another memory I have of Sundays is the ‘winkle man’ who used to come round. He would call out as he went down the road to let people know he was there (like the scrap man today or the old rag and bone man) I used to play with the little black spots that came from the winkles, put them on my face like a beauty spot.  Mum was partial to cockles, and quite a few Sundays I would go to Leysdown with dad and the man over the road and collect them from the beach mud and bring them home.  One day mum instead of putting them into boiling water forgot and put them into cold.  As the water heated up the cockles emitted a horrible noise as they were obviously slowly being cooked alive.  Mum never ate a cockle again.

Christmas used to be a really special time as it was when all the family would get together. It was usually at my grandparents in Essex and this was the only time I recall the parlour or ‘best room’ being used. (For some reason we never went to dads parents in Wainscott). The house was a typical Victorian terrace and had 2 main bedrooms with a much smaller room leading off of one of them. There used to be so many staying (mum was one of 6) that we had to sleep either top to bottom in bed (maybe 4/6 at a time) or sleep on the floor at the side of the beds.  The toilet was outside, so chamber pots were in use.  In the morning they would be put at the doorway by the top of the stairs ready for emptying.

Trestles for extra tables, and planks put between chairs were used to accommodate everyone at mealtimes.  It must have been some mammoth task in granny’s relatively small kitchen, but there always seemed plenty of everything.  The treat at dinner-time was when the Christmas pudding was served.  The lucky ones would find a small silver sixpence in their portion. (Am wondering if this was a ploy to make the children actually eat the pudding as not a favourite with most.) And as if this was not enough, in the evening everyone would sit down to a large ‘tea’. It was a splendid sight once laid out. Bowls of salad; plates of cold meats; sticks of celery in tubs; cheese; jars of home made pickled onions and chutney and piccalilli and piles of bread and butter. Once everyone had had their fill the table would be cleared and the puddings and cakes laid out. There would be blancmanges and jellies moulded into special shapes, tinned fruit salad and of course evaporated milk.  There was usually an iced Christmas cake and a Dundee cake to finish you off with! 

It does sound as if the family were quite well off with such fare, but remember there were a lot of us and I recall each aunt and uncle would be responsible for getting certain things (mum and dad always got the fruit. The apples were usually Cox’s and came from the farm at Wainscott. They used to be harvested and then packed in wooden crates and kept under their bed until Christmas).  Total costs would be worked out and everyone paid their share.  The other thing is that many of the things were homemade. The Christmas puddings, the Christmas cake, all the chutneys and pickles etc.

The only entertainment apart from the very large wind-up gramophone was what we made for ourselves.  Because there were so many of us, games with 2 teams were possible.  Having to pass a balloon from one to another down the line without using your hands or arms, or another was a bowl with dried peas in it.  You had to move them from there into another bowl using only a straw.  They sound very tame now but it was a lot of fun and I can remember lots of laughter.

For me the most exciting time (apart from first waking and finding Father Christmas had been) was after lunch. This was the time when each year Father Christmas always visited. There would be a knock on the door and someone would go and let him in. A stooped figure clad in a red gown and cloak with a long white beard carrying a small sack over his shoulder.   ‘Hello everyone’ he would say in a very deep voice, and then he would approach the children and in turn ask our names. I would stand there transfixed, hoping he would ask me to help him hand out the presents that he would take down off the large Christmas tree, but also terrified at the same time.  For many years that I believed him to be real, but one year I noticed that Father Xmas had on brown shoes just like my uncle (who also just happened to be missing).  I was sworn to secrecy by mum because I still had younger cousins who believed.

Perhaps this marked the beginning of my transition from childhood into the world of ‘grown ups’.  In the 50’s I don’t think the term ‘teenagers’ had even been coined.  Quite probably things didn’t change all that much, just my perception of them.  Things that had excited and satisfied as a youngster were now being replaced by different feelings and desires, and rebellion……….

More to follow





Offline ann

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Re: From then to Now
« Reply #17 on: July 17, 2014, 18:17:02 »
I am sorry, but I do not know if any premium had to be paid by my grandfather. The only other documentation I have is when dad completed the apprenticeship and is from the firm stating so (must look it out).  Dad never mentioned a premium and knowing how detailed his memory was of this part of his life together with the fact that he kept the papers all his life, I doubt it.

Offline peterchall

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Re: From then to Now
« Reply #16 on: July 17, 2014, 17:26:49 »
Ann, do you know if your grandfather had to pay a ‘premium’ to Paine’s to have your father apprenticed with them? As mentioned in my thread ‘Pee Cee’s World’, my father narrowly escaped having to pay £40 to have me apprenticed as a motor mechanic in 1945. In the event I was apprenticed with a firm that didn’t require that, but I was surprised to find that I only got ‘Improvers’ pay when I finished, and it’s interesting that what I saw as crafty swindle – the indentures said nothing about it – also applied to the shop trade.
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John38

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Re: From then to Now
« Reply #15 on: July 17, 2014, 17:02:02 »
You have produced a very unique and interesting record of the progress of a boy apprentice to manager in the Pawn Trade. Many thanks.

Offline ann

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Re: From then to Now
« Reply #14 on: July 17, 2014, 16:07:34 »
Thank you all for your very kind and positive remarks.  I have digressed a little from my main story, but hope this will still be of interest.


My father was born in 1910 in Noke Street, and lived with his parents in a workers cottage at Wainscott on Whiteheads farm. He was one of 7 children. The cottages have long since gone, but I believe Bunters Farm is still there on the corner and this was where his grandparents lived.

(In later years it was this couple and the description given by an aunt that got me intrigued and hooked on tracing my ancestry.  It was said that ‘granny was born in a caravan and was related to Gypsy Rose Lee’ and that granddad had long flowing hair ‘like Jesus’ and wore a ring in his ear.  I was never able to find the connection, but did trace that 2 sisters who were relatives of granny (maiden name Gibbs) had married lads with the name Boswell.)

Back to my tale.  On Sunday mornings I remember that dad would take me to visit his parents out at Noke Street. We would walk the whole way there, quite a walk for a young girl.  Then we would walk back down to near the Stag pub in the main street and get the bus back home in time for Sunday lunch. 

There were times when we all went to visit and stayed for tea. Granny would always pick a large bunch of flowers for my mum to bring home, usually dahlias.  I only have sketchy memories of the farm cottage, which evidently had beams on the walls inside.  You approached the cottage up a long path to the front door, but we never used this, we always went in round the back into the scullery. This had a large stone floor and stone walls (nothing like our kitchen at home). There was a butler type sink, and small paraffin stove. A tin bath hung on the wall. You went down a wide wooden step into the main room.  One wall was taken up with a cooker range. This gave the only heat to the house, and it was where granny did all her cooking.  There was a little door in it where the coal or wood would be put to burn.  Either side of the range gran and granddad had a chair.  Along another wall was a long chaise longue and in the middle of the room a dining table and chairs. (In later years they did have a small TV).
From this room you went down a steep wooden step into the best parlour. Never knew this room to be used (although I think it was for Xmas) There was a smell of ‘not used much’. There was a fireplace and either side of the hearth was a black and a white fire dog – small metal ones.  In the centre of the room was a glass display cabinet that belonged to an aunt who still lived at home.  To get upstairs you had to undo a wooden door at the side of the room which gave way to a very twisting and steep staircase.  There was a very thick white rope that you used to help you up. I cannot remember ever seeing the room where gran and granddad used, but vaguely remember my uncle’s room and an old jug and bowl standing on a marble topped table.  Goodness knows how they all fitted in to this accommodation when children.

There was no inside sanitation and indeed the only toilet was up the garden path and in a small wooden hut (cesspit drainage) There was like a wooden bench with a hole cut in it. I was terrified going there especially at night.  There would be spiders and other creepy crawlies and it would be pitch dark (no light), and freezing cold.  You needed to use a torch to guide you outside to find it and then inside too. It was up a little path that passed by the rabbit hutches and next to the orchard at the back.  There was a plum tree there that had supposedly grown from a pip that one of the children had thrown when sitting on the loo as a child.  The orchard at the back had apples, and at one time pigs used to roam in it.

The family (like many) were poor, and money was very scarce. Even granny had to work on the land, and dad would have to do various tasks such as tying up the cabbage and lettuce heads (to encourage hearts to form) to help to buy boots for school.  It would seem that his parents wanted more for him and when he left school in 1924 at the age of 14 he was put into a 5 year apprenticeship as an apprentice pawn broker to the firm of William Paine & Co Ltd. at their Strood Branch. The firm had 3 stores, one in Strood, one in Chatham High Street and a third in Grays in Essex. He was so small he could not see over the counter and had to stand on a tin box to serve customers.

The Memorandum of Agreement (apprenticeship document is copied at the end) states that he began his apprenticeship on 6th October 1924.  The document is dated 28th October and is signed by dad, his father who has to agree to provide him with board and lodging, suitable wearing apparel and to provide medical attendance if required and H Paine. His wages (as set out in the document) were 5 shillings per week and by half yearly rises of sixpence per week, to the sum of 9 shillings and sixpence for the last half of the year of the said term.  Then his wage was increased to 12/- per week. He was expected to work from 8am to 7pm Monday-Thursday, 8am to 8 pm on Friday and 8am to 9pm on Saturday.  Wednesday was a half day. At the end of the apprenticeship period there followed a period of ‘improving’.

When dad had finished his 5 year apprenticeship (age 19) he went to work at the Grays shop. In 1929-1932 he was employed as an ‘improver’ for 3 years and then from 1932 as under manager. Because of the travel distance involved he lodged during the week with a family in Brook Road, Grays. This was how he met my mother who also lived in Brook Road. They married in 1936 at Grays Parish Church and held their reception at the old Drill Hall and set up home in Grays. Dad was then moved back to the Strood branch in 1937 and became manager and so he and mum moved to a newly built house in the area in Lancelot Avenue.  In 1940 dad was called up to serve and after the war had to go back to the Grays branch for a refresher course under the manager there. Then he returned to Strood and I know was still there when I was born and for some years after.  Subsequently the Grays manager was dismissed and dad sent back again to the Grays store as the new manager. I am not sure if there was pawn broking at the Chatham Branch, but it continued at the other two. Dad worked there until the business was sold and subsequently the shop demolished and redeveloped sometime in the 70’s. In fact all of the 3 shops owned by the company were sold off.  (Not sure when the Strood one closed but may have been earlier as it may have been done for the widening of the road there).

All sorts of items were pledged including clothes and household bedding. To have a better selection to sell, if the pledges were not redeemed, extra supplies of new goods were bought. Paines at Grays had a number of different departments including the Pawnbrokers. I cannot remember the interior of the Strood shop but feel it would have been similar to that at Grays as both stores were similar. They were both large, occupied a prime corner position and the buildings themselves seemed old and rambling. The ground floor was the sales area and housed the pawn shop. Upstairs was a very dark area with lots of wooden shelves (and not very clean). It ran along the whole length of the shop. Apart from holding spare stock this was where the pawned goods were also stored – either to be redeemed by a due date or if left uncollected for a certain period of time they were then sold. Once a year at the Grays shop the rat man used to call to clear out dead vermin and lay new poison. The smell when he was there was awful. I recall lots of the parcels in the upstairs were tied with brown paper and string. In the Grays store payments would be sent through to the office via a cash railway. A wooden container would have money and the bill placed in it and it would then be screwed into a metal holder and propelled by a catapult to the cash desk. It was operated by a handle on a rope which would be suspended from the ceiling. The assistant would pull this down and it would wind the machine up. Upon release it sped off along a wire near to the ceiling to the cash office and then any change etc. would be sorted by the cashier and returned to the department in the same way. There was a network of rail tracks along the ceilings in all the departments for this purpose. I think it was likely that this was a Rapid Wire. I assume they would also have had the same system in both the Strood and Chatham stores. I worked there during some of my school holidays when I was old enough (c. 1960’s) I can still remember the special ‘code’ that was used on the price tickets which showed what the goods had actually cost. SCOPDEMAIN (each letter representing a number 1- 10). My father used to make the long journey from Strood to Grays each day Monday to Saturday (even for the half day Wednesday) for many, many years. This involved a 20 minute walk from home, 30 minute bus ride to Gravesend, then the old ferry over the Thames to the riverside where he used to board the train for Grays. Often when the weather was bad and there was dense fog, the ferry would not be running and then dad used to travel up and back via Blackwall. Of course by the time the shop was sold, the pawn broking side of the business was no longer operating. I can recall dad saying how there would be queues of the ‘usuals’ waiting outside for him to open on certain days. He also spoke of a particular lady called Annie who used to urinate on the floor whilst waiting there. (I can recall early on that there was straw laid on the old wooden floorboards). People would come in a small side door and into the area. It was all dark wood panelling and Dad would stand the other side of a high counter/wall and negotiate prices etc.  (Strange to think pawn brokers are back again on our High Streets).

Offline ashwood

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Re: From then to Now
« Reply #13 on: July 17, 2014, 10:17:13 »
Mangling, that brings back memories A nasty contraption with large wooden rollers and a large screw at the top to get the pressure right.  Turning the handle in the back yard and enjoying pinched fingers with Minster Boy.  Father used to light the copper fire before going to work. Keep the memories coming.

Offline Sentinel S4

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Re: From then to Now
« Reply #12 on: July 16, 2014, 20:36:19 »
I agree with Peterchall (hang out the flags because we agree on something  :) ) over the memories of childhood. I am a little younger than Little Anne (hehehe) but even in the late 1960's and early 1970's things still had not changed that much. Oh the (nearly) lost art of laying a fire, anyone else use shingle for the clinker to grab?

As for writing this I found it very cathartic and to hell with the rest! Do it for you and if we read it then that is a bonus, for you as well as us. Keep going please. I mentioned the Fort Pitt to my Mum and she well remembered the teachers you mention (she was there a couple of years before you).

I am enjoying this a lot as I have with all of the others, must be the nosey-parker in me.

S4.
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Offline peterchall

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Re: From then to Now
« Reply #11 on: July 16, 2014, 20:14:48 »
That post evokes so many memories of my childhood, even though it was a ‘little bit’ before yours – not much seems to have changed in the intervening time.

Chopping wood and the art of lighting an open fire – having the sweep in – coal delivered in sacks, with the coalman carrying the sacks of coal on his back right through the house. Washday (in which, as a boy, I played little part!) with separate washing of ‘whites’ and ‘coloureds’ – Reckitt’s Blue.

And much more!

Ref your earlier comment about the worry that what interests us might not interest others – don’t worry! Nothing that any of us writes will ever interest everyone so, as some newspaper editor once said, “Publish and be damned”. Those people not interested don’t have to read it.
It's no use getting old if you don't get artful

Minsterboy

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Re: From then to Now
« Reply #10 on: July 16, 2014, 16:46:21 »
Excellent stuff Ann and being the same age as you, it brings back many memories of childhood, although presumably because of your father's job, you had luxuries at an earlier age than I did.
The one item that you mentioned that stuck in my mind, was the "copper stick", my mother had one just the same and when it got wet each time it went all soft and soapy. I also had the job of doing the mangling, squashing a finger many a time.

John38

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Re: From then to Now
« Reply #9 on: July 16, 2014, 16:12:55 »
Excellent, many thanks for sharing, Ann

Offline ann

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Re: From then to Now
« Reply #8 on: July 16, 2014, 15:17:20 »
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The house in Lancelot Avenue where I was born and brought up was semi detached and had been built circa 1935. Lancelot, Galahad and Elaine Avenues had been built by 2 developers by the names of Bornstein and Curtis. The area had previously been a potato field. Mum and Dad moved in to it when it was new when Dad had become the manager of Paines in Strood.  All of the houses were for rental only.

It had a very steep set of steps down to the front door.  On the ground floor were 2 rooms, the dining room and a living room plus the kitchen. In the dining room all meals were taken, sitting up at a table.  I had to say prayers before and after each meal. I also was made to sit and eat everything, and I have memories of Sundays sitting for ages alone at the table because I had not finished my rice pudding.  It was always some type of rice pudding on a Sunday and was not my favourite.  This has made my parents sound very harsh and unkind, but that was not the case at all.  Having just come through the war and rationing, waste of any kind was frowned upon.

In the sitting room were the comfortable seats, and in one corner a fitted narrow cupboard where crockery was kept.  Below the bottom shelf was my space where I would keep my toys and books.

Both rooms had coal fires, but only one would be used. (I wonder if this is correct now as cannot imagine eating in an unheated room.) Each morning the fire grate would have to be cleared of ash, and then freshly laid. Once a week mum would do the black leading. Once cleared, screwed up newspapers would be placed in the hearth, then thin strips of wood cut especially to fit (by dad).  Then coal on top.  A match would be struck and the paper ignited.  If it didn’t light properly a large piece of newspaper would be held over the opening causing a vacuum and somehow this would cause the flames to flare and light the wood and coals.  The trouble was that if you weren’t careful the paper you were holding would catch light too.

Fire guards were the norm in most houses, partly for safety with children but also the larger ones were used to put damp washing on to air.  The coal used in those days often used to spit out and, whilst the guard would stop it landing and singing the carpet, it could land on the washing hanging on the airier.  There was a fire in a neighbour’s house, but the cause is somewhat muddled in my mind.  I have a notion of a spark setting alight some nappies hanging there, but also recall the chimney had caught fire.  No causalities luckily but I remember the neighbours rallying out with clothing for the woman’s children.  Because of coal fires, chimneys had to be regularly swept.  Mum would clear the room before the sweep arrived, rolling back carpets etc. she would dress herself in old working clothes with a wrap round apron covering most of it and have her hair tied up in a duster.  As children we used to love to go outside and watch for the broom to appear out of the chimney top, and give a loud yell to let the sweep know. Despite having put a protective sheet over the fireplace, there was always plenty of mess and dust left for mum to clean up once he had gone. Needless to say she did not look forward to his visits.

The kitchen was at the back of the house. It had both gas and electricity. To get hot water you would either have had to have a fierce fire burning to heat the water in the back boiler, or later switch on the immersion heater.  Washing was done by hand or in coppers. Mum had a white thick copper stick (with splits). Her boiler was an iron gas one, and then she upgraded to a Baby Burco.  When I was young my job was to do the mangling - hated it.  Mum never did get a washing machine, even in her later years she still used to do all her washing by hand.  When I was young sheets were white cotton. I remember the old Reckitts blue bag which was put in the rinse water to help keep the whites, white.  I also remember she used to mix up starch for dads shirt collars etc.  She had a long high washing line you used pulleys on - somehow seeing rows of sparkling white washing blowing in the wind to my mind was far more satisfying than these rotary things we have nowadays.

Mums kitchen was really tiny and it is hard to imagine how it all fitted in. A large deep butler sink with a wooden draining board took up most of one wall alone.  In the hallway was a pantry.  This was the storage area for everything, food, tins, pots and pans etc.  It was also where the gas and electricity meters were housed.  Next to it was another door which opened up into the coal store.  A small opening on the side of the house allowed the coal delivery man to tip the sacks of coal straight into it. This was later cleaned out and used for storage, and a separate coal bunker built outside.  I had the task of counting the sacks as they were delivered (to make sure we got the correct number.)  I used to enjoy it when the meters were emptied. A man would call and tip out all of the money onto a table and then count it out into piles.  He would then make some calculation and mum would be given some coins back.

Mum used to have several tins which she used for putting away each week sums of money ready for paying bills.  This would include money for the meters; coal for the fires, groceries and of course the Prudential insurance monies.  She would also budget for the window cleaner, the chimney sweep and Christmas.  A bread van would visit daily as well as a milkman.

Upstairs were 2 bedrooms, plus another very small room known as the ‘box room’, and a bathroom with WC.  Both of the bedrooms had fitted electric fires, and one had a fitted airing cupboard.  The box room had half of its space taken up by a fitted box which was where the stairwell space was.  I had been born in the back bedroom but I can only ever remember this as being my bedroom.  This is all it ever was, a place to sleep at night. Friends were never taken up there.  I did have some choice when it came to being redecorated, but was never allowed to put up posters or stick things to the wall.  Choosing wallpaper used to be fun.  Dad would bring home a couple of very large books with paper samples from us to choose from. There might also be another one with borders, so you could match them up.

The bathroom would have been a luxury for my parents. Neither of them grew up with an inside toilet or a bath with running water. Whilst it was outside, mums home toilet had at least been of brick construction and one that flushed. For dad it was a ‘privy’ up the top of the garden. A wooden hut with no light at all (unless you left the door open!) and a hole in a wooden board to sit on.  I think the cess tank was at the very bottom of the garden, and I know my uncle used to grow some amazing crops!  The bathroom at Lancelot housed an enamel white roll top bath and enamel toilet with an old cistern and pull chain. The toilet had a wooden seat, which dad would periodically varnish and mum would regularly clean and polish!  The bathroom was freezing. Oh the joy of the ritual bath (via immersion heater).  The freezing cold bathroom. and not wanting to come out. Mum waiting to wrap me in a large towel (warm from coming out of the airing cupboard) and run downstairs with me to dry me off by the blazing coal fire. The immersion heater was only switched on for the weekly baths. At other times water was boiled up in a kettle on the gas stove (something my mother always continued to do all her life.) My night clothes would be laid out in front of the roaring fire to warm. This was something done regularly on cold days with hat, gloves and shoes all laid in front of the fire to warm. Of an evening slippers would be placed there ready for whoever was due home.

For women back then work was far from easy. There were no soap powders and washing was done with either large blocks of soap rubbed vigorously against clothes held against a scrubbing board, or shavings off the soap bar boiled up in water.  The soap would be purchased off the ‘oil man’ who used to call weekly.  It would be cut off a really large block – it may have been Sunlight soap.

Fitted carpets had yet to be invented and lino would cover all the floors, with rugs or maybe a carpet in the centre of the room.  So floors would not only need to be washed but waxed too.

The back garden was very large.  At the top end was a grassed area where I could play and mum could sit.  Behind it when I was young was the old corrugated air raid shelter where dad kept his gardening tools.  Eventually this was dismantled and dad got himself a shed/come budgerigar aviary.  He used to breed the birds and then sell them.  Mum always had a pet one indoors and she taught each one of them to talk.  I didn’t like them at all especially when mum used to let the bird out each evening for a short while ‘to stretch his wings’.

The rest of the garden was given over mainly to vegetables, and flowers that dad would enter into the local vegetable and Flower shows. There were two he regularly contributed to, the ‘Jubilee’ Gardeners Association and St Francis Gardeners Association.   These were held in the church hall in Elaine Avenue. Dad was quite successful with his entries (but having been brought up on a farm he obviously knew exactly what he was doing).

 The garden supplied most of our seasonal vegetables. Nothing tasted sweeter than picking a peapod straight from the branch and eating the peas there and then.  I also used to love the freshly pulled carrots, they tasted so sweet.  On Sundays in the summer dad would go down and dig the new potatoes ready for lunch and what ever vegetables there were.  I would scrabble in the rich freshly dug earth and pick up all the potatoes and take into mum.  My job was then to collect fresh mint from the garden.  I would chop this up finely and put into a small dish and add vinegar and sugar and leave to marinade.  The only fruit I can recall him growing were strawberries and gooseberries. 

When I was old enough to have ‘my own garden’ I was given a small section which I made into a rockery and which I would tend carefully. I also loved to help dad when it was planting time.  Dad would put 2 sticks in the ground, one each side and attach a piece of string between them. This gave him a straight line to work with and he would use the hoe to make a narrow channel for putting the seeds and sets in.  I was allowed to put the seeds in and learned how far apart to place them. Then he would then go back along the furrow pushing the earth back to cover the seeds and making a little mound so he could see where he had planted.  He grew a really wide range of vegetables and I can still recognise what the crops are in the ground simply by looking at their foliage.

Dad worked long hours with the traveling involved to and fro work and most of his spare time (and there was not much of it) would be working in the garden.  He took great pride in it, and it always looked immaculate and well tended.  Because the house was set down from the road and path it was quite easy for people to look into, so dad grew a long tall privet hedge all along the front.  This would be regularly cut and trimmed with precision despite it being done with hand shears.

 Mum too took pride in her work.  I think people back then were much more proud of their surroundings. I was often told off for chalking numbers on the pavement outside to play hopscotch. Mum would sweep and then scrub the front doorstep and porch. Polish and wipe the front door and brasso the letter box. At the back she would also sweep and swirl down with water and lift the drain cover and scrub together with the manhole cover.  The window ledges were red tiles and these would have red polish applied and then shone.  This would be a weekly task.

Neighbours back then were so much friendlier, and I can still remember the names of many of them. Often mum would be stood at the top of the front steps chatting to someone (and it was not unusual for her to have just popped down to the Co-op in Galahad and be gone for over an hour, having met a neighbour and got talking).  The lady who lived next door (in the adjoining semi) who I called Aunt Rose (but who was no relation at all) used to come round  for morning coffee (Camp coffee) with mum and in the afternoons mum would go round to hers for afternoon tea.   It was how it was then for children to call neighbours who your parents were friendly with, auntie or uncle as a sign of respect.  Poor Aunt Rose was a widow, and would never watch any programmes to do with war or Remembrance. I later found out that her husband Alfred Abnett had gone down with his ship. He was a Petty Officer/Stoker in the Navy.  He drowned on 27th April 1941 when his ship HMS Wryneck was sunk after rescuing troops. His name is on the Chatham Naval Memorial on the Lines at Gillingham.  Aunt Rose lived next door always.

Of course back then women were at home all day, didn’t have cars, and would have to go shopping far more frequently. Therefore it is entirely logical that they saw each other far more often.

Offline ann

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Re: From then to Now
« Reply #7 on: July 16, 2014, 14:01:06 »
Had a day out in France yesterday, so only just back on line.  Thank you all for your positive comments. It is always a worry that what we find interesting, is not necessarily so to others.
Next part to follow shortly.

Offline busyglen

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Re: From then to Now
« Reply #6 on: July 15, 2014, 18:56:57 »
Just back off holiday, and saw your post Ann.  Love it and recognise quite a bit that was in tandem with my memories.  Really looking forward to more.  :)
A smile is a curve that straightens things out.

Offline oobydooby

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Re: From then to Now
« Reply #5 on: July 14, 2014, 22:44:47 »
A good start to what I think will turn out to be an excellent read if your first chapter is anything to go by.  A good start indeed 'Little Ann' :)
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