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Memories of Pearey House – Marjorie’s Story

I was the Entertainment Officer.


I applied for a job; it could be 30 to 40 years ago. It was when Fred, and his assistant was only the 2 of them and we had a driver, and my place was an entertainment organiser for the people who were coming in each day to do something like quizzes or dominos things like that. Whatever Fred needed I tried to assist and that’s how it started. After a couple of years, he decided they wanted a hot meal and I said, “Oh and who’s going to be the cook?” because we had no staff.

We had a housekeeper, Olive and her husband lived at the end house. She used to come through and play dominos with some of the tenants. Monday it was Whitley Bay and they used to love their quizzes. Wednesday liked their quiz they were from Wallsend. But North Shields came in on a Tuesday and a Thursday. On a Friday we were on the outskirts like Killingworth and different places like that. But when he decided to have a hot meal and I just said, “Well who is going to cook the meals?” and he just like looked at me and I said, “I’m not a cook.”

So, it started like that. The kitchen was like an ordinary kitchen, and I used to get the driver to help me put the meals out.

Photo of the Lord Mayor at the summer fair.

The Lord Mayor at the summer fair

Each year we used to have the mayor open the summer fete and we had stalls. There used to be a charity in Whitley Bay who used to do a lot of charity work for the blind here.

I was here about 9 or 10 years, but I have always volunteered for the garden fete, for the Christmas fete. I always came and gave a hand then I went on to the committee.

When Helen came, I think she was working under Fred so eventually things did change and she took over the post. She knew what organisations to go to for help and that was a wonderful thing because slowly but surely, you could just see all the changes. She got Sainsburys to be the charity that year and I think she worked with the manager and started getting outside help.

It was a lot of changes. I think even the building was changing. Helen would have had to apply for money and she started to put more of a fitness in, because I think she wanted to attract younger members who were coming here so they could get fulfilment. She started computer courses. Every time I came, I could just see the change.

The older people who had been coming here for years didn’t want too many changes. So, it’s like everything, you have to gradually see how the audience is, move around with them and bring them with you.

It really has massively changed. I think it was when Social Services started coming more and we had to expand it and changes had to be made.

All I had to do was do my job, make sure their day here was as pleasant as it could be. They did have the best, I’ve got to say that for myself, because when I think that two-course meal, that was a little oven, there was no kitchens or big pans or nothing.

On a Monday there used to be about 24-25. On a Tuesday I would think about 20. Wednesday was a little bit quieter I would say about 16. Friday was quieter again. I thought, “How many potatoes do you get? How much mince do you buy? How much of this do you buy, chicken?” do you know what I mean.

A big learning curve. Honestly and I was a hard task master because I used to be in and out, and I used to say, “They need to be hot, so you put that on there and we’ll get them out,” and I used to say, “Right, get them out now or they’ll go cold quickly.”

When Walter came I got him to help but sometimes the driver wasn’t back, he might have had to go somewhere. I kept notifying myself, I’m the Entertainment Officer, plus cook. Then if the driver didn’t turn up, I used to be the driver as well.

Photo of Fred Hodson

Fred Hodson

Fred was a dream. He was a proper Yorkshireman so were his sisters. They made a lot, his sisters cooked fruit cakes and he used to bring them up. Then we had a lot of the people who worked here, knitting. His sisters had a lot to do with it, we used to make stockings and put a little piece of chocolate in, and we used to have a wooden thing you used to hang them on and make them look good. I’m trying to think what else we did. He used to have a box like matchsticks, and he used to give Alan this job and you used to put 2p in or 5p. Sometimes it was a 50p in something like that in every box so people who bought, paid their whatever it was, and they picked the box. I used to just try and make the stalls look good. We would have had Christmas stuff like tinsel and things like that.

The raffle books bring a lot of money in and they are sent all over so I used to get about 80 books, so the books brought a lot of money in. One of the businesses in North Shields, £100 and we used to get that off them every year. Then we used to have bottles of whisky, the raffles were good.

We always had tea rooms and cakes so we used to have women come in, and they would bring the cakes and everything and they would do the teas.

In the summer fair I used to be on the hot dog stall because I used to say people liked the smell of food. But setting everything up, I used to have to be out there, and I used to be in here putting the hot dogs in a pan in the kitchen, bringing them through and trying to keep them hot. But we sold quite a lot of hot dogs and onions.

Fred used to go home a week before Christmas and close it down. But of course, you have got your tenants. This will always be open in here for the tenants, they can just come across themselves probably make a cuppa if they want.

We used to take them out, we took them up to Bamburgh once. I had rang the fish shop up there to say I would be taking say, at least 16. We had the two buses, I was on one and Walter was on the other and we goes up and I said, “Now what may happen is, I can put a few at one table who have moved out, but you will not all be able to come in together. So, we’ve got seats here and I will keep coming when I’ve found a vacant table.” So, we were out, in, out, in and we managed to get them all sorted at the finish, and everybody just wants their fish and chips don’t they.

Ray used to be good because on normal days we would have a run around and I think I said, “Can any of you remember Newcastle?” I said, “I think we might have a run around Newcastle, and we can speak about this part and that part,” because naturally people don’t have that opportunity to go down by the quayside and up by the river and down and through where the shipyards were and they would all have had memories, so we just tried to make something like that. Once a year there used to be a Christmas do for all the blind and there used to be an entertainer on.

I remember the silver paper outside the door when I used to come to work on a Monday. Bags of silver paper and we used to have to take them through to the cellar. Once they got so much, they used to get a lorry to take it and then they would weight it.

When I came here for the interview Carole was, I think on the committee. In the fair in the summer, she used to get her Brownies or cadets to come and put all of the tents up, so she was involved in that way as a brilliant volunteer.

She was the one that used to do whatever was the news in the area and they used to do it and put it out on these cassettes. I would imagine she would pick out of the Chronicle what would be of interest to people who were listening and that would have been put on that cassette. Carole used to come on a night time. For some reason I’ve got in my mind that she did it in the cellar. At night time there was nobody here and I don’t think people used to come over. I remember these cassettes being sent because we used to get them in a bag, sent back.

People who wanted them, who had the talking machine, we used to supply them as well from the blind, they could get that machine like a recording machine so they could get talking books and stuff like that.


Marjorie was interviewed for the Pearey House 150th Anniversary Project.

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