One man in Crawford Place even built himself a motor launch in his garden.
Before the Second World War and after the slump things were good, but in the slump of the early 30s things were really bad. My uncle Frank, a steelworks rolling mill operative was out of work for some years. He had five children, the dole money went nowhere, the rent on the small old terrace house was not much but took most of his dole. He had a big allotment where he grew a lot of food to feed his family. His onions were enormous, the size of large coconuts.
The dole office man came around and said, before Frank got any more money he had to sell his piano and half the front room furniture, this left quite a gap in the front room for years. Nobody went in the front room after that, it reminded them how poor they were. Most of the neighbours were miners, usually out of work also. Some houses subsided due to mine workings underneath and they stood at odd angles with cracks in their walls. After that insurance companies would not insure any houses in the village. Sometimes my mother sent her sister Jenny, Frank’s wife, a little money, sometimes she bought clothes for her nieces. The two girls had a single bed to themselves, the three boys all shared a double bed – they said they kept warmer that way in winter, but I knew they were short of blankets, two coats were put on the beds to make up for this. Frank’s out of work neighbours ran up so much debt with the local grocer that he was just as poor as them and nearly went bust.
My Father was an electrician, he served his time at Vickers Armstrong’s Shipyard and helped install the wiring on HMS Nelson Battleship after “finishing his time” as an apprentice. He was laid off but got a job at Mitchell’s Shipyard next door, then that want bankrupt! He was on the dole for six months during which time we moved the carpet, wireless set, and most furniture into the sitting room so that he could use the dining room as a workshop. He borrowed what tools he didn’t have from Mr Lennard down our street and set to.
He turned a large alcove into a three shelved cupboard with double doors. My toys lived at the bottom. He then made a large Welsh type dresser and knocked a 3ft x 2ft hole in the wall through to the kitchen, lined this with oak and fitted two little ornate doors on it. This was the serving hatch, also when mother was busy in the kitchen area and he was busy in his workshop they could still talk to each other. He fitted handrails on the staircase wall, and cut up an old wardrobe, using the bits to build a large airing cupboard in the bathroom.
When people say that all those on the dole were lazy good for nothings this makes me really angry. One man in Crawford Place even built himself a motor launch in his garden under a tent!