Elsie Wilkinson recalls work and family life in New York village in the 1930s, 40s and 50s.
After leaving school at 14 I went into domestic service. My first position was with a Mr Reed in Hilltop, New York. Then I worked for a lady in Monkseaton Front Street until I got called up. I used to get there on my bicycle. After the war I brought up my family but went back to cleaning when they were older and worked for the same lady for 26 years.
I was called up in 1940. I wanted to go into the WAAF but failed on my eyesight. I was given the choice of working in a munitions factory or going into the ATS. I chose the ATS and was put onto radar. We went to Fenham Barracks for training and to Oswestry. I was in 609 Battery, which we used to call the old man’s battery. We were posted to Dumbarton and to Hellensborough.
I was married in 1944 at Earsdon and was demobbed in 1945. Our first child was born in 1946 and I had 6 children altogether. My husband had been a firefighter during the war but became a miner afterwards. At first, we lived with my sister in John Street in Earsdon, where our first two children were born. We then moved back to New York and lived in the miners’ houses in Coronation Terrace. The houses were 2 up 2 down and all our neighbours were miners. There was a good community spirit. The Algernon Pit was just outside the village where the Vauxhall garage is now and the Maude Pit was at Backworth. By this time all the pits had baths so the miners were able to get washed before they came home. We still had a tin bath at home though and used to have to heat the water up.
There was a celebration on the recreation ground for the Queen’s Coronation. The children were dressed up in fancy dress.