When we moved house we felt posh with running water from the scullery, electric light and a gas stove for cooking.
I lived in Hudson Street until 1939 (aged 14 years). We moved to a bigger flat, 4 rooms and scullery on Donkin Terrace. I think my two older sisters helped, also an uncle. I had four brothers and two sisters. My father was a fisherman. My mother did not work after she married. Mother looked after all of us. My parents died in the 70s.
Our home was basic but warm with three bedrooms, a living room, which had a black leaded stove which mother cooked on – always a lovely coal fire. We all had little jobs to do. The boys carried the coal up two flights of stairs, chopped sticks and brought the water up in buckets from the back yard. When we moved house we felt posh with running water from the scullery and electric light and a gas stove for cooking.
I had a happy childhood. I didn’t have far to go to school and mother was always there when I came home. I left school at fourteen. I didn’t see much of father as he was always at sea. Mother was the boss, so we mostly did what she asked. We were taught right from wrong and treated our parents with respect. We were naughty sometimes, like most children, and got told off. I can’t remember much about my grandparents.
Birthdays weren’t celebrated much, and I can’t remember having a party. We children played dressing up in mother’s clothes and wearing her shoes. We had concerts in the backyard and danced on the table until Mother caught us. We didn’t have many books or games but had snakes and ladders, dominoes and cards. We used to play outside a lot; hopscotch, diablo, yo-yo’s, stilts and roller skating or we played on a bogie (old pram wheels on a plank of wood). I played tennis a lot. We always had family pets, dogs, cats and rabbits.
I remember my two sisters getting married, but I was sent to school. I think they had a wedding breakfast at home. I can’t remember going to a funeral.
We didn’t have many holidays. I remember one when we went to a cottage in Felton and had to make our own mattresses with hay and collect the milk from the cows.
On Sundays we had to go to Sunday School in our best clothes and couldn’t play out. I went to the People’s Mission in Hudson Street most Sundays. We went on trips, sometimes on the back of a lorry and took sandwiches. I was also in the Band of Hope. We said our prayers every night. One for the sailors of the sea and for people less fortunate than us. I didn’t know a lot about religion.
I didn’t get a lot of pocket money. We went to the pictures sometimes, the Howard, Gaiety and Borough; the Albion always had queues. I remember all the cowboys: Tom Mix, Roy Rodgers, Ken Maynard, Gaby Hayes, Gene Autrey, Nelson Eddy and Janette McDonald.
Mother managed the house, and had help from my older sisters when needed. I can’t remember Mother being ill, she was a strong person and never complained. My Aunts and Uncles lived nearby in the next street. We didn’t have many visitors. Mother’s social life was mostly at the door with the neighbours when she had the time. Not many important people lived around us; just Councillor Hails who lived opposite. When father came in from sea, they went to the pictures.
We all ate in the living room on a big table which was scrubbed every day. We always had fresh meat and fish with loads of veg and always asked to be excused from the table. Mother baked her own bread every other day in a big earthenware dish put on the hearth to rise. There was always a smell of baked bread.
Mother had her remedies for us when we had colds, sore throats – we got sulphur and treacle, homemade cod liver oil, salts and lemons in the spring, castor oil, Gregory powder, camphor oil.
My parents didn’t take a lot of interest in politics but always voted Liberal. I can’t remember the Black Shirts. Lots of people struggled in my young days and went without shoes and warm clothing.
After I left school and war broke out, I had to leave and go down to Colchester with my older sister and her baby, as her husband was wounded and we were away from home for about 9 months.
Later on, I joined the ATS and came back in 1945.