Tape 008. Mrs Edie Brown (nee Hawkes) and Mrs Grace Springett (nee Bishop), sides 5 and 6

Tape 8

Mrs Brown and Mrs Springett were both born in about 1895, and were interviewed on 4 March 1977, when they lived at 13 and 9 Rex Mott Court, Witham.

They both appear also on tapes 5 and 6, and  Mrs Brown is also on tape 54.

For more information about Mrs Brown, see the the notes in the people category headed Brown, Mrs Edie, nee Hawkes.

For more information about Mrs Springett, see the the notes in the people category headed Springett, Mrs Grace, nee Bishop.

They both also appear on tapes 5 and 6, and Mrs Brown is also on tape 54.

The original recording of this interview is held at the Essex Sound and Video Archive. To listen to the recording, please contact them at ero.enquiry@essex.gov.uk or 033301 32500.

Numbers on the left show the time in minutes.[???] shows words that are not clear enough to interpret and so have had to be omitted.
[?] after a word shows that its interpretation is not certain.
Later explanatory additions by JG or the transcriber are in square brackets [e.g. explaining locations etc.]

See the end of Tape 5 for notes about Mrs Brown and Mrs Springett

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Side 5

Mrs B:    like a pointer, don’t they …and they [???]. And they used to have this table, and all these heaps of money, there used to be, all sorts, sixpences and, and shillings and two shillings and half-crowns and golden sovereigns and half-sovereigns, all in heaps on this table. And then he used to give you, whatever you got to come off your sheet of paper. He give you, the, your money what you’d earned for the week.

Q:    Yes.

Mrs B:    We used to do fruit picking….

Q:    I’ve never heard about that – that was fruit picking, wasn’t it, yes…

Mrs B:    My Mum liked that best, ’cause the kids liked it, she liked pea-picking best but the children done better at, at the fruit picking. But when you went, sort of, picking raspberries, ‘course the juice used to run with them. You used to have to go and, you used to have to go and, um… weigh them up more often. (Q: I see). Because, you see, you used to get so many in the basket, and they are horrible juicy things, they used to run all out the bottom. (Q: Yes) And I remember when we were kids and how the bottoms got all wet with juice; we used to rub the basket in the mud, like. We used to get some mud on the bottom, used to weigh a bit heavier! [All laugh]

Q:    And you used to do that as well [to Mrs Springett]? And you were quite near the fruit part, weren’t you, Kelvedon?

Mrs S:    No, I was…

Mrs B:    Course, in them days, you never got much for your, for your work…

Mrs S:    See, I didn’t come to Witham till I was….

Q:    No. But you would be quite handy at Kelvedon, wouldn’t you, to, um…?

Mrs B:    We used to go of a morning…. (Mrs S: [speaking over] I was in Kelvedon you see.)
Early, fruit picking. There used to be a great big pile of baskets. (Q: Really?) And we used to pick what, get one of the best baskets you could get, you know, ‘cos some of ’em were old and weren’t much good. And you used to all take all your baskets and you’d go wherever there was a ganger there. Perhaps you’d be picking raspberries one day; strawberries another day, little tiny Scarlet strawberries.

Mrs S:    They had ‘em for jam, didn’t they?

Mrs B:    Jan was a’telling me she went to a shop. She told me, Jan, and she went to get a pot of jam and she did tell me how much the Scarlet strawberry jam was, that was called Scarlet jam. Ever so dear! (Mrs S: I know it is.) I believe she said about six shillings a jar [speaker sounds shocked by price]. I said, “Well, there’s no difference in the taste of strawberries”. Only they were – the biggest was no bigger than that. They were very small ones you picked. A purpose – for jam. And the boys mostly used to pick the big ones in the ‘chips’, you know. You used to have a gang of boys (Q: Oh did they?) That was tremendous; there were acres and acres of fruit. Every fruit. And the boys used to pick the gooseberries. The gooseberry trees were in the orchard amongst the apple trees….

Mrs S:    Yes, that’s right. Ours were at Kelvedon.

Mrs B:    …One in between every apple or pear tree and they used to pick the gooseberries. But we used to pick, um, the strawberries and raspberries. I used to love picking raspberries. As they always come off so easy. (Mrs S: I love the smell of them) I used to love the eating of them – but, oh, she used to [???] them at first [Mrs S laughs] ’Cos raspberries are a bit on the maggoty side, ain’t they?

Q:    Could be, yes. Could you eat whatever you…?

Mrs B:    Yeah, eat what you want, no worry. They never used to say – well, they couldn’t watch everybody, could they? I mean we used – every – whatever sort of fruit you wanted. You picking. The only thing I didn’t like was currants, they’re too sour. And often, when you’re picking redcurrants you used to come against a tree of white. Well, they used to turn yellow. (Mrs S: Yes.) You used to have to pick ’em and put along with the others. But often, when you had a row and you’d have to pick everyone off the trees; they looked at the trees to see you’d picked them clean, you know. You couldn’t just pick them here and there; you used to have to clean a tree when you started it. And sometimes you’d come across a tree of white ones. Well they’d turned a yellowy colour when they were ripe. I’ve picked currants – ’course you picked a lot of them but you didn’t get so much money for them (Mrs S: No.)  You picked them – if the trees were good, you could pick them in bunches, you know. Handfuls. But there was a certain way you’d got to pick ’em; you couldn’t pull the shoots off the trees and that, you know. You just gotta – sort of pick ’em – and you ain’t got to have a leaf in nothing. They used to look at them afore they weighed them and if you’d got the leaves in they’d make you stand and pick them out. Never had to have any leaves in, specially the strawberries. As you picked them you had to sort of – nip them so you got them off the – out the green, not the green. But I think the boys what picked the big things, they picked ‘em with the stalk on and the leaf, you know, in the big ones, the strawberries. But we had to do all sorts – I’ve been stone picking! (Q: Stone picking?) Yes, picking up stones, I have, on a Sat’day morning. My mother had to do all sorts with the family we had.

Mrs S:    I’ve been acorn picking. (Mrs B: Eh?) I’ve been picking up acorns (Q: Acorns?)
(Mrs B: [Talking over Mrs S] I used to have to have a …

Mrs S:    for the pigs.

Mrs B:    She’d send us off Sat’day mornings, there used to be a great big heap. They used to put them in a heap, the stones what you picked up, in amongst the wheat. All sorts. Wheat and corn and stuff. And you used to have to pick all the big stones up and you used to have to a – a sack – apron thing. Weren’t half heavy. You used to pick up these stones. Us kids used to play more than what we picked up. And take ‘em, and shoot ‘em on the heap, you know.
But, um, …(Q: Did they give you something for that, did they?)…. we used to do all sorts

Mrs S:    Yeah, did they weigh them or (????) Didn’t pay much…

Mrs B:    [talking over] Well, I think they got so much for how many they- I don’t –

Mrs S:    Something a bushel, wasn’t it?

Mrs B:    Eh? (Mrs S: So much a bushel was it?) No, I don’t think so, Grace, I think they used to have a row of stones; you used to have to put them in a sort of heap, into a big run. I think you got so much – I expect they knew – then, a little – what you’d picked up. And they used to – either they measured them or what they done, but, I don’t know how we used to get paid for ’em ‘cos we never got nothing. They used to get paid about once a week.

Q:    What, they paid your Mum, when ….

Mrs B:    Yes, they used to pay me Mum when she – ‘cos she used to come, but, Sat’ days she couldn’t go ‘cos she’d got lots to do, you know. And, um, she used to send us kids. We used to have to go. And I always remember, poor old Mrs Everett, you know, her son – her daughter-in-law lived down – poor old Mrs Everett down here. Well that was her daughter-in-law, that was her son’s wife. And we used to get good food, you know. Me Mum kept a good food house. We was lucky, really, ‘cos our brothers worked and they used to go out shooting a lot with the doctors and we used to get hares and rabbits and different game, all sorts. And she used to pack us up something for our lunch and a drink. And always poor old Maurice Everett only had bread [laughs]. And I’ve never forgot it. I can see him now [laughing] eating bread and lard. I thought ‘Oh Gawd’ how does he eat it? But he’d sit, and enjoyed it same as we enjoyed our bit of food, you know. But, bread and lard! ‘Cause she was ever so poor, Mrs Everitt was, poor old girl, she was a nice old girl; she was our neighbour, then, in the Square, lived next door.

Q:    Was Mr Everitt – that was Maurice Everitt was the boy then, was he, then?

Mrs B:    Yeah, Maurice, yeah. There was Frank and Maurice, don’t know what happened to them all,  expect they’re dead now, because they were older than me when I was down the Square, you know. When I lived down there. And I don’t suppose they’re alive now. The old people died years and years ago so did my Mum. My Mum died when I was, um, about seventeen, I think. (Q: Oh, I see). About seventeen or eighteen when she died.

Q:    What, did you still stop at the Square when she died until you were married or…?

Mrs B:    Well, I did for a time. My married sister – I never got on with her and, um, I never – I left home, and went and lived with a friend of me mother’s in lodgings, like, when I was working. And then me sister moved up to our cottages where we lived up Church Street. Dad lived up there in one, and me sister lived in one. And that’s how I come to live up there. I come from the north and me father was in one of the houses and I went in with him. (Q: Oh I’m with you) ‘Cos there were the two bedrooms, you know. And he died, me Dad died while I was up there living with him. I’d got Edie and Jean then, hadn’t I? I’d got Jean as a baby, I believe.

Mrs S:    I forget now.

Mrs B:    ‘Cos I’m forgetting. I think I’d got Jean. I know I’d got Edie, ‘cos she was running about. Yes, I think I’d got Jean a babe, ‘cos there weren’t a lot of difference, about two years difference in them. And, um, she moved out the Square and she went to live up there, near me Dad, me Dad in one house and her in the other.

Q:    I don’t think I asked you what your Dad’s first name was. What was his Christian name?

Mrs S:    George.

Q:    He was George?

Mrs B:    George, yes.

Q:    And what about your mother?

Mrs B:    Jane.

Q:    Jane. Oh, just in case I read anything about them, I like to know who they are. [All laugh]

Mrs B:    Cos I named my Keith, his second name was George. (Q: Oh was it?) Yes, my youngest son. The one where we went yesterday. He’s Keith George, I named him. We named him after his Grandad. After my Dad, you know.

[Mrs S and Mrs B comment on someone outside.]

Q:    We were talking about the Everetts and I interrupted you, didn’t I. We were talking about the Everitts that lived next door to you and how you said they were very poor…

Mrs B:    Yeah, they were very …

Q:    What did Mr Everitt used to do – for work?

Mrs B:    I don’t know; the old man never worked, for years (Q: Didn’t he?) Not, er, he was in ill health, I think. ‘Co I remember once they found him sitting near the wall in Maldon Road, you know, he was took queer outside. They were getting on in years. So was me Mum and Dad, we was all grown up then, you know, grown up and working. Me sister worked. The one what died, what had the big family? She worked – well – you wouldn’t remember. There was a Nurse Roberts lived in Collingwood Road. Dr Gimsons. Dr Ted and Dr Karl were very friendly there. (Q: Yes) She was a nurse.

Mrs S:    She used to have the nursing home. People used to go there- for – when they had their babies, didn’t they? Some of those who could afford to pay.

Mrs B:    Yeah, and ….

Q:    Was that the… I’ve heard about the bungalow, was that the same…? (Mrs S: No.) Not the bungalow, no.

Mrs B:    No. What-you-call-it lived in there, didn’t he? Um, er, whatever was his name? My Mum used to take us there for all our photos to be taken. He lived opposite the church in Guithavon Street. What was his name?

Mrs S:    Butcher.

Q:    Butcher?

Mrs S:    Butcher.

Q:    Was it Butcher? (Mrs B: No.) Because he was a photographer, wasn’t he?

Mrs B:    Oh, now I want to swear if I know.[tuts, pauses]

Mrs S:    I’ve only known Butcher, I think.

Mrs B:    No, in the bungalow, he was, um, he lived in there for years before – um – he used to keep it lovely, used to have, ornaments and things, um, standing all over the garden [probably means Fred Hayward at 55 Collingwood Road].

Mrs S:    Oh, you’re thinking about Mr ….

Q:    Oh, it’ll come to you. [All laugh]

Mrs B:    I can’t think of his name and I know it ever so well.

Q:    So he lived in the bungalow and had a business in Guithavon…. (Mrs B: Eh?)

Mrs S:    That’s at the top of the Valley, you’re thinking of, Mr …. (pause) We’re talking about the bungalow, the nursing home, … wasn’t you.

Q:    Yes.

Mrs B:    No, not that one…

Q:    Oh, the one on the corner

Mrs B:    The one on the corner.

Q:    Where Mr Pryor lives now.

Mrs S:    That’s the one, yes.

Mrs B:    Yeah, the bungalow was the – I went in there; I had Keith in there [i.e. the Nurses’ bungalow, 46 Collingwood Road]..

Mrs S:    Oh, I thought that was the one you was talking about, the bungalow. (Q: Yes)

Mrs B:    No, not that one, no. Keith was born in there ‘cos that was the nursing home. And they only had three beds.

Q:    Oh, so which was – I’ve got you all mixed up now, which was where Nurse Roberts lived, then?

Mrs B:    She lived in Collingwood Road, in one of the houses on the..(Q: I’ve got you..) on the right as you go down, in one of the red brick houses – I couldn’t tell you exactly…

Q:    But she had people in there as well?

Mrs S:    Yes. Then she had – ‘cos Mrs Pease went there, didn’t she? (Mrs B: Eh?) Mrs Pease went there, to Mrs Roberts. (Q: Mrs Peace, did she?) She lost her baby, didn’t she? Harold Pease’s wife.

Mrs B:    Oh no! That was another Roberts. (Mrs S: Oh, right). [Q laughs] She lived down Maldon Road, didn’t she? She had that big house – and I tell you, that big house…

[Both Mrs S & Q talking over each other] Mrs S: (????..) don’t know much about Witham yet (Q: we’ve done all right..) (Noise on tape) No, that house down Maldon Road, that stood just before you got to the river. That was on the left – the right as you went down, that stood up. I tell you who bought it. …

Mrs S:    Murphy? (Mrs B: Eh?) Murphy. Mr Murphy.

Mrs B:    Mr Murphy, yeah. He bought that house off… (Mrs S: Oh, I know now). And Mrs Roberts and her daughter lived in Chalks Road. You remember me talking about Phil Roberts? She lives in the end house [i.e. Alfrose, Chalks Road, Mrs Phyllis Joyce].

[All three talking over each other] Mrs S: End of your road. (Q: I’ve got you, yes):

Mrs B:    Yes, well her mother used to keep a nursing – used to go out nursing. She had a big house down Maldon Road. I think she left that to her daughter. Murphy bought it. He used to have a fish and chip shop, didn’t he? Murphy. (Mrs S: Yes) And he used to come round with, um, fruit, didn’t he, at one time? When I used to buy all the grapes. (Mrs S: Yes) When I was expecting. Sevenpence a pound. [Mrs B & Mrs S laugh] And I used look to see if I’d got enough to last me the weekend and I used to buy pounds and pounds of grapes.

[Q laughs]

Mrs S:    And Brazils when they were about.

Mrs B:    And Brazils, yeah. And I used to look at some of them, you know and some of them used to be ever so cheap then. Some of them would – ‘cos we never had much money then. And some of them used to turn your head on them and he used to say ‘Pick what you want’ and I used to stand there and go – great big box – and I used have about a great big bunch of grapes and I used to be always eating grapes and Brazils. When I was expecting my Jean. (Q:[ laughs] Oh dear.) And my husband came home with a bunch of grapes for me. I’d eat grapes, grapes, grapes when I was carrying her, him. My Dad used to say [laughs] – our toilet was up the top of the yard, you know. It was a proper flush toilet but it was up top of the yard. And there was a field over – just over the hedge, and I used to be terrified to go up there of a night. I used to say ‘Stand near the back door while I go up the toilet’. [All laugh] And the old wheat used to be rustling; that used to be ever so creepy. And sometimes at the end of the day, the time I’d be up there and I’d be eating Brazils and my Dad’d say ‘Who’s been eating nuts in the toil – in the lavatory?’ That used to be me, a’course. And I used to go to the pantry and get a grape and sometimes when you bite them, they’d crack and he used to say ‘What you eatin’ now?’ [All laugh]. Oh, it was ever so funny, years ago. An’ I use to go and stand there at the bottom of the passage and I used to be tremendous when I had my children, you know. And he used to say ‘You want to go in – you want to go indoors’. He didn’t think I ought to be standing down the passage having a look out, or anywhere. No, not them days they didn’t. Ain’t like they are now. They wouldn’t’ take no notice, now, do they?

Q:    What, you had to stop in? (Mrs B: Eh?) You had to stop in, did you?

Mrs B:    Well, I stopped – not stand out the front (Q: No) you know. Things were funny then.

Q:    Still, times change, don’t they?

Mrs B:    I used to walk, every week, up to the farm where my sister lived. [pause]. The one I told you, died with cancer under her teeth. (Q: Whitehead’s Farm.) I used to go up there and wash for fourteen, every week. And I used to go in the washhouse, was outside, and there used to be a pile of this and a pile of that and a pile of something else, I didn’t know where to start. The copper was on and I used to have to pump all the water, if there was none in the butts, if we hadn’t had no rain, there was none in the butts. It was damned hard work. I used to go up there and do her bedrooms out. Do the ceilings and do the walls. They used to be all mouldy, you know. It was ever such a damp old house, where they lived on the farm. And I used to trail up there with the pram, pushing all up them fields, do a day’s work and then come all the way home.

Q:    That was when she was still alive, was she (Mrs B: Eh?) That was just to help her out, you mean.

Mrs B:    Yeah, well, she had such a big family, you know. (Q: Yes. Quite) She had a tremendous…

Mrs S:    I used to go up sometimes. Like a pound of onions and dried egg, fruit, you know.

Mrs B:    We used to both go up when she was all right.

Q:    But you’d need the help, wouldn’t you?
(Mrs S & Q: [over] Mrs S: I didn’t help – [Q & Mrs S laugh] Q: Didn’t you?)

Mrs B:    we used to walk up there (Q: Keep her company) and going along, we used to pinch old Smith’s – there was a [Mrs B says something like ‘collerabby’] kohlrabi field, what they call kohlrabis, you know. (Q: Oh, I know, never had it). Well we used to leave the prams in the roadway like, when we were coming down the field. And we used to walk along the rows, pulling out – there used to be a lot of swedes in between ‘em – and we used to pull out the swedes, pull the leaves off and take em home. ‘Cos, swedes now are a awful price. How much’d you give for a swede?

Mrs S:    Oh, seven shillings there, now, for anything decent.

Mrs B:    (tuts) Used to be, we used to get ‘em for nothing, we used to pull ‘em out and put them in the pram, you know. Well, Grace, we was there, pulling them out once and your pram tipped up. [laughs over speech] (Q: Oh dear) We’ve had some fun, we have, when we were going out. And we used to go pea-picking together.

Mrs S:    I should like them times over again.

Mrs B:    Yeah. We used to go everywhere together. Cycling of a night when the children were all washed and in bed. See, where we were going pea picking the next day if we’d finished a field And one night …

Mrs S:    Getting brambles in your legs.

Mrs B:    Yeah, I’ll never forget that night when I said ‘Gawd help, I reckon they’re picking them tomorrow. We’ll go there when they pick them.’ Lovely peas they were. ‘Cos I wanted to get over there just to get a bit of a rise to see what the peas were like and they’d –[pause]– put a – there’d been a gap in the hedge and they’d put all dry hawthorn in. And I went through it and all up me leg I had – that was thick with hawthorns, all stuck right in me leg – took me ages when I got home to get some of ‘em out. And I think one was in for two or three weeks. (Mrs S: It was) Weren’t ‘alf sore. Couldn’t get it out, that got too deep. Was good job they were dry ones. (Q: Yes, quite). ‘Cos they all broke off you see. I went through the hedge and as I stepped on it, ‘Crack, crack, crack’ and through I went. But still went pea picking, though, didn’t we?

Mrs S:    Yes

Q:    So, did you go fruit picking then (Mrs B: Eh?) Did you go fruit picking then, or just when you were small?

Mrs B:    No, we never went fruit picking, did we?

Mrs S:    Not in them days, no, it was only in the younger days.

Mrs B:    We did all pea picking after I married. That was when I was young, we used to go fruit picking, when me Mum was alive.

Mrs S:    Then we’d go bean picking when they came on (Mrs B: Eh?)(Q: Beans?) We done a little bean picking down Brice’s Farm.

Mrs B:    We went bean picking, yeah.

Q:    Did your Mum….?

Mrs S:    [over] We went potato picking, one morning. Dreadful weren’t it.

Mrs B:    We went potato picking one morning. Yes, I’ll never forget that. We took some homemade wine – ‘cos I used to make a lot of wine, so did Grace. [Mrs S laughs] And, er, our food, you know. [said in disgust] Potatoes ! Oh, we’d got to do the harrows, hadn’t we? Somebody’d…

Mrs S:    They’d done the tops; we had to do the harrows.

Mrs B:    And we’d got to do the – I said ‘I’m not doing ‘arrows! We only pick the potatoes up in the rows’. Cos you only – you had your apron and you picked one up here and one up over there. What’s left after they harrow the ground level, you know? I said ‘They’ll have to pick them up who’s picked up the potatoes in the rows,’ you know. So we set about and we started picking them up in the rows. I picked one bucketful up and the – little old potatoes like that, they were new ones. I tipped ‘em in me pram! [All laugh] Took the pads out the bottom and put them in the bottom. ‘Cos years ago the prams had a bottom in the pram, didn’t they? (Q: Oh I know.) And they had big pads along and I used to have a pillow, white pillow in mine for the baby to lay on and the [???] on. Take ‘em all out. And I tipped our peas – used to fetch about half a bag of peas home every day when we went pea picking (Q: [tuts] Yes) And sit and shell them and cook em for tea. Didn’t we? With new potatoes and that. ‘Cos we used to have, husbands had allotment. And, er, I said ‘I a’nt picking them potatoes up, little tiny things’. So I tipped the bucketful in, what I’d picked up in me pram, and went and sat under a tree, [Mrs S  laughs] drinking our homemade wine and eating our dinner. So the foreman come past; so he looked and said ‘British workers’! So I thought, ’Yeah, I’m picking them potatoes up!’ They were terrible. We never done nothing that day did we?’

Mrs S:    No, we came home.

Mrs B:    Went out for nothing that day.

Mrs S:    Ah, well. Made a bit of fun.

Q:    When you went with your Mum, did you go during school time?

Mrs B:    All school holidays, yeah.

Q:    But did you say your mother took you off school, to go?

Mrs B:    Oh, they wouldn’t let you – well, they would but – er – old Mr Eldridge then – Eldridge his name was – he used to come round with milk. And he used to be the School Board man – he used to come and fetch us out the fields. (Q: Really?) I remember years – one year my mother sent us picking up nasturtiums on the trial ground. For, be for Cooper Tabor or one of them. And they’d pull the nasturtiums up and shake all the seeds off and they lay – and you were on your hands and knees (Q: Goodness!) and you’re picking all these little nasturtium seeds up, size of your finger. You used to have to pick them all up, you know and put ‘em in something and you used to get so much – and old Eldridge found we weren’t at school and he come up there and found us – we had to go home! (Q: Really?) Cos they’d go – you see, they’d go to the boss and say we’re school age, not supposed to be there. But, um, I went picking up nasturtiums – my poor old mother had to send us to do something. Never had much money them days, and a big family, you know. There was a big family of us.

Q:    When she did the seeds at home, was that like the same sort of job as what you did?

Mrs B:    Yeah, pea sorting. Us kids had to sit and all, and do ‘em. (Q: Did you?) Had to sit with a lamp in the middle of the table them days, there was no gas or electric. We had a big double burner lamp. And the peas all on the coarse cloth on the table and us kids used to have sit round there with a tin in the front or some sort of dish and sort out the bad ones and pull the good ones down, to help her, like. We used to hate it like when we’d be coming home from school on a dinnertime, and see poor old George, what you call, say ‘Peas are coming in, she’s sorting tonight’. We’d be glad when they were done, sometimes you’d have two or three nights with none if you got them done early. And they used to come round with a lorry and wheel these great big two-hundredweight sacks in.

And we used to have them in our front room, didn’t we? I didn’t like them; we used to cover them over with a cloth, but we had to have them there because we had no other room for them. (Q: This was at Church Street?) Yeah, up Church Street. We done them for a long time, didn’t we? (Mrs S: Yes. Several years.) Used to get paid once a month. Never got much. We used to have to do a two-hundredweight sack for about half a crown.

Mrs S:    Though Christmas time we use to try and get to Colchester, to spend our money.

Mrs B:    Eh? Oh yeah, we used to go to Colchester, get all the kids’ presents out of Marks. And we used to come home loaded; we used to get lovely presents there for about two and six. Lovely annuals and, um, cars, didn’t we; all sorts for them; we used to buy for them. We used to come home loaded! We used to spend all our money on the kids, what we got Christmas time.

Mrs S:    …Christmas time. That was our treat, really, wasn’t it?

Mrs B:    Yes.

Q:    What did you used to have at Christmas, when you were little? (Mrs B: Eh?) When you were small, what did you used to do at Christmas, then?

Mrs S:    Oh we used to…

Mrs B:    (speaking over): Oh, we had a Christmas tree and, but we never had no presents, not like they have now, like all the children have. I mean, we never knew what dolls and that were, when we were young. We used to hang a stocking up. And we used to get it full of fruit and sweets and all that sort of thing. Used to have a, always remember, we used to have apple or orange in the toe.

(Mrs S:    That’s right) Used to put a clean stocking up, ‘cos you used to have black stockings then.

And a foot full of nuts. An orange in the heel and then sweets or something, always used to hang a stocking up but we never used to get toys, you know. Not then. Ain’t like the kids today.

Q:    So what did you used to play, if you had time to play, what did you used to play?

Mrs B:    Oh we used to – different to the kids today – do you know, when, in the summer, when we weren’t in the fields, like when, sometimes, have a holiday in the – my Mum used to give us something to eat and we used to have a bottle – take a bottle of water them days. And something to eat and we’d go down them meadows, down Maldon Road and we used to play down there; making daisy chains and all that sort of thing and amuse ourself all day. But the kids today don’t do that. (Q: Yes. Mrs S: Oh no.)

I mean, there’s my son’s children. I mean, they’ve got everything you could think of to play with. They’ve all got bicycles, even to the one what’s two. And do you know, Christmas time, Lloyd had all sorts of smaller presents and he had one, he had a bike forty pounds. And he had, er, Evel Knievel like motorbike, and you wind it up – you never heard such a row! And that runs and that jumps over a ramp. That was, I think Joan said eight pounds. And he said ‘I didn’t have much for Christmas ‘cos I had me bike!’

And he had all sorts of things. His bike was forty pounds. New bike. Somebody stole one off – out the front garden. They all had one. And poor Lloyd; I don’t know what happened to his bike. Keith said he shouldn’t have another one ‘cos he didn’t take care of ‘em. And Christmas before. They spent hundreds of pounds on them kids. They bought a rocking horse – tremendous big rocking horse. Alison gets on it – she’s nine – that’s a great big brown hairy one, you know, with the white mane and a white tail. And that goes backwards and forwards on the wooden thing. And they had, she had, um, he bought that for the little ones ‘cos he said that’d last them all, you know. That lasts. Um, Lloyd had, um, go-kart – that was fifty pounds. That was the Christmas before. Alison had the table and the radiogram. Proper big one like you’d buy for yourself. And records. And the table was in pieces. I remember Christmas Eve I was down there, they were putting the table up. It was a lovely table – she’s got it standing in her bedroom with the radiogram on. With a Perspex, something like Perspex, ain’t it? Top’s not glass but it looks like glass. And they have lovely presents, but, they don’t take no notice of them. They have got all sorts. But they’ve all got a bike now; they had one for their birthday. Lloyd had a new one. Alison had a second-hand one. Her brother, Joan’s brother-in-law done it up. Done it like a new one. And he even done the little one – Lisa had one. They had to get – she couldn’t ride a two-wheeler properly so they had to get them, like a pair of them balancing wheels, them little wheels they’ve got – she’s got that fixed on. She had one. And Helen, too, had one them little ones with the wooden seats and her brother in law done that up in and done it in pale pink seat with a Disney thing on the – picture on it – and that was ever so – he done them lovely – done them like new, you know.

Q:    I remember you said you used to have a bike – to come to Witham [to Mrs Springett].

Mrs B:    All ours had bikes.

[All talking over each other] (Mrs S: Yes I used to . Q: Even when you come to Witham? To work, though? (Mrs B: Yes) That must have been….)

Mrs B:    Her Bill, well, Cecil his name is really, Him and Edie are about the same age. (Q: Yes.)
And they always used to play together. And they both had a bicycle didn’t they? (Mrs S: Yes) And they both had a motor car. Lovely motor cars. And they used to bike about all over the – all round the gardens and that. And they used to play for hours, you know. They played together.

Mrs S:    No trouble, were they?

Mrs B:    No! Once or twice they got out didn’t they, and we had to go and look for them. Once they were going over the station bridge. Another time they were going around the allotments. We found them with a pail and spade. They’d gone out the garden.

Side 6

[All laughing]

Mrs B:    …Moys’ coal carts, horse and carts, they used to be all scrubbed out clean and all seats put in them and all trimmed up with flags and everything and he’d go clomp, clomp, clomp all to walk to Mill Beach in the coal carts, all the school kids – he used to – we used to love it, we used think that it was lovely, you know. Well, I always remember going in the coal cart. They were scrubbed out clean, lovely and clean, you know.  And, I don’t know how many there used to be, there must have been quite a lot, ‘cos they didn’t hold many, them coal carts. And they used to be them with the sides up then, not the flats like they have now.  And we used to have our school outings in them.  And on a Sunday, sometimes – where me Mum and all of them – they used to get a trip up.  Mr Ottley, in Witham then, used to keep – he used to do weddings with carriage and pairs.  And he used to get what they call brakes, they were – hold a good few, you know, and we used to have them some Sundays. They’d have all the different people what we knew round about – lived round about us – we all used to go off just about two o’clock and come back late on Sunday night and he used to take us all out on a outing like that.  We used to go all round the country and stop here and there, you know. And that used to be a treat, because we never got out much them days, not when we were kids, not a lot. But as I said, when we had our children, we used go out, when we was pea picking, we used to go to Clacton some Sundays. (Mrs S: Yes) Some Sundays we used to go to Southend, Maldon. Take our meals with us, and the men used to go and get a drink, you know.  And fetch us a drink. We used take the children to Maldon – we used to have lovely days, didn’t we? (Mrs S: Oh yes). Really enjoy it, take ham sandwiches and cake and biscuits and all that sort of thing. And another thing…..

Mrs S:    We used to stay in nearly all day Saturday cooking.

Q:    Cooking on Saturday? (Mrs B: Yeah.)

Mrs B:    Oh, used to make all sorts. Sponges and cheesecakes and tarts and buns and everything. Used to make them for us to take in the fields for the week, didn’t we?

Mrs S:    That’s right.

Q:    What did you have when you went out with your mother? You’d take – did you take your food with you then, as well, would you?

Mrs B:    Yes, mostly usually used to take food with us.  Well them days, you couldn’t go out and buy food like you can now, even if you could, we used to – they used to stop and have a drink at a pub and you could get something to eat and biscuits and all sorts.

Q:    Did your Dads used to come?

Mrs B:    Yeah, they all – all the families used to go.

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