Tape 155. Mrs Queenie Kellock (nee Algar), sides 1 and 2

Tape 155

Mrs Queenie Kellock  (nee Algar), was born in 1914. She was interviewed on 18 December 1991, when she lived at 20 Homefield Road, Witham. Her friend Paula Gray, of Braintree Road, was also present and the interview was at Paula’s house.

She also appears on tape 158.

For more information about her, see Kellock, Queenie, nee Algar, in People category.

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.

[???] 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.]

Side 1

plans of mill lane houses near gas works
Plans showing the house in Mill Lane where Mrs Kellock (nee Algar) was born. It was near the gas works. Drawn after an unrecorded interview with her in 1992.

Q:    Where were you born?

Mrs K:    In Mill Lane, it is not there now. You know where the Mill Lane car park is? (Q: Yes.) Well, there used to be a gas works. We used to have a big high gas tower just behind our back garden. Yes and I was born down there, number one Mill Lane, and its not there now.

Q:    I see. Because it starts about number nine or something.

Mrs K:    Yes, so we had a little garden about as big as this then this great old tower, gas tower there.

Q:    Did you smell the gas works?

Mrs K:    It weren’t too bad, it wasn’t really too bad, but I know when my nephew had whooping cough, they took him in there because it is good for whooping cough, we went in all the gas pipes, and the gas pipes for whooping cough. But that’s gone now.

Q:    So how many were there in your family?

Mrs K:    Three, and two bedrooms. We only had a kitchen and a front room. We didn’t have no scullery. There was three girls, but of course they were all girls so we all slept in the same bed. I had to sleep in the middle. (laugh) The rooms weren’t as big as these. And we had a copper in the kitchen. My mum used to cover it with this oilcloth and there was a copper there and a fire. We lived in there. We had a lamp on the table. (PG Was that gas?) No, oil lamp, we had one of them high oil lamps, with a long thing and a shade and we used to have to sit round that when we wanted to do anything.

Q:    So didn’t you have gas? (Mrs K: No.) Even though you were right next to the gas works [laugh]?

PG:    When I first came they had it in Church Street, before they changed over.

Mrs K:    We had one gas light in the road, one of them men used to come and pull them strings, you know, and light it, one in the road and then one right up the top of the Valley. [Guithavon Valley] That was all the lights we had. We had a Mr Hayward. He used to live in that bungalow on the corner of Collingwood Road and the Valley [55 Collingwood Road]. He used to come round Boxing Day as Father Christmas and give us all a new penny. All the children. All the children had a new penny. We used to have to go out and he’d give us a new penny. (Q: Was it just him?) Yes, just him, (Q: Himself?) Yes.

Q:    Was he the photographer? (Mrs Q: No.) But was he the one that took photographs

Mrs K:    No, that was Butcher wasn’t it.

Q:    So what was your surname then? Then I was Algar. I’m Kellock now. What were your parents …

Mrs K:    Lilian and Edward Algar and my Dad was in the First world War of course. He was in the Dardanelles.

Q:    So when were you born? I’m no good at sums.

Mrs K:    I shall be 78 in January. In 1914 just as the War broke out. My Dad went to War and I was born then.

Q:    Yes. So were you the oldest?

Mrs K:    No, the youngest. There was four years difference between each of us. My Dad, I can remember him coming home in khaki you know. And then there was the glove factory on that bit there. [1 Chipping Hill] Because Phil Chalk, near Paula says she never worked there but she did, she worked with me, sat beside me. I worked there from when I left school till I married. Fourteen I went there. I had six shillings a week. When I left I had two pound fifty. [Laugh] And then we used to have a swimming pool down near that pub there. There used to be a swimming pool down there.

Q:    Oh, at The Swan? [in Newland Street] You used to go there?

Mrs K:    I never used to go and swim I don’t like the water but they did have a swimming pool. But you know my husband worked in the Co-op up here. Mr Kellock

Q:    Oh yes, of course. Was he always in this one.

Mrs K:    No, he was on the milk round first when we first went together, he was on the milk round. Then he went to the bottom one in the town and then he come up here. [Braintree Road] We married in 1939 and he went in the War in 1940. He was in the Eighth Army and we had two evacuees. (Q: Oh did you?) Yes, from London, Brian and Lennie, we had them for a year. Then when Len joined up I said I couldn’t look after them by myself so they went back, somebody else had them.

Q:    How did you get on with them?

Mrs K:    Oh they were very good. One was five and one was six. But their parents were very good and they were good children. I know I took the little one, Brian to have his teeth out at the Congregational Church we had to go then, and they took the whole lot out! He come out and he’d got no teeth at all. (Q: Why did he have to go there?) That’s where the dentists came to all the schools, to that part, because they had all the places used in the town for the soldiers. And I used to do fire-watching. I used to go on at ten at night till six in the morning all round the Avenue with another man.

PG:    One other thing. You know the car park in the town that I call Shelley’s.

Mrs K:    Yes, used to be Shelley’s. That used to be a firing range. (Q: Really.) Yes, soldiers used to come there and practice. When we were kids we used to go and watch them. Then I did fire-watching for the town from ten till six, then I did fire-watching for the glove factory and had to go on all night there.

Q:    Were there any fires ever?

Mrs K:    No, but Braintree Road was bombed. In the morning when they had gone to Crittalls. They machine gunned the men going to work to Crittalls work. And of course I lived in the them houses there but I was living with me brother and my sister-in-law then because they wouldn’t let me live there when Len went in the Army and they took me up to see if my house was all right after that finished but one or two had had something. One had a door and windows out and things like that.

Q:    Were you in Cressing road then?

Mrs K:    No Braintree Road. Next door to Phyl, I lived with there when I first married. I have only been up here sixteen years I think. I knew Paula there. (Q: So you were down there all the time then?). Yes from when we married till Len retired, so that must be about forty years we were down there. For we were married fifty odd years. (PG: Who did you pay rent to?) Mr Cutts, used to be a fishmonger in the town, they belonged to him. Anything else you want to know while I’ve got my thinking cap on?

Q:    It’s hard to know where to start because so much happened in that time. What did your father do?

Mrs K:    My father was in the building trade. My mum went out charring. Well she had to because my dad didn’t earn about a pound a week and she’d got three of us to bring up.

Q:    So where did she work?

Mrs K:    She went to a doctor in Collingwood Road and a woman near that old blacksmiths, near the Crotchet Inn [130 Newland Street] There used to be a blacksmith’s there, she used to go there.

Q:    Did she do that even when you were very small?

Mrs K:    Yes, she had to, to get a living.

Q:    Was that when you were at school?

Mrs K:    Yes, I was at school, I went to the Maldon Road School and that was girls on one side and boys on the other. We weren’t mixed down there. (Q: Did you like school?) Yes, I would have kept on longer but Mum couldn’t afford to let me keep on. I kept on six months and then I did have to leave and I went up the glove factory. We worked from half past seven in the morning till six at night and I got six shillings, and Saturdays from half past seven till twelve.

Q:    Did you have a special job there?

Mrs K:    Well I started pulling, you know them little things at the back of gloves. (Q: Yes.) Well they had cottons, we used to have to put them on a needle and pull hem through and tie them and then I got so I learned how to thumb the gloves and then I learned how to make them and in the War we did airforce gloves and flame thrower gloves, they was ever so hard. Because they used to hold them while they threw the flames and things. And once we made a big casket for the Queen Mother with all different gloves (Q: Oh yes?) And they took it up to the queen and I thumbed them all what they put in there.

Q:    When you say you ‘thumbed’ them, what did you have to do?

Mrs K:    Just put the thumb in. You see they had a flat thumb like that and you had to wind run them up like that and then turn them outside out and then put them in the hole and then stitch them round twice.

Q:    With a machine? (Mrs K: Yes, with a machine) Did you enjoy working there?

Mrs K:    Yes, I liked working there. We was always piece work, we never got time work. So if you didn’t work you didn’t earn anything, you see, so we couldn’t talk much. [laugh]. When the siren went we used to have to run out there and go into that field. There was a field there where they’ve built them houses now. We used to have to run into a shelter there. We were running over there one day and the siren, an aeroplane come along and we had to lay down on the ground till they’d gone over. And I’ve laid in the Avenue when the aeroplanes have gone over.

Q:    People always think there wasn’t much here in the War but there was wasn’t there.

Mrs K:     Yes, because it killed somebody. Had a man killed up there when there was a bomb round there. Mind you we didn’t have much damage done really. We were lucky. Crittalls was. That’s when they did my road.

Q:    Were you still working after you married then?

Mrs K:    Well, my husband had to join up you see and I went back and worked the six years he was in the Army. Because he was in the Eighth Army three years and didn’t come home at all. (Q: Goodness.)

Q:    How did you … ?

Mrs K:    Well there wasn’t much you could do, was there. When he went I didn’t hear from him for twelve weeks when he went to Egypt and then I got a telegram. Of course that took the stuffing out of me then and then I used to have a letter. He used to write every day but I only had them come in bundles.

Q:    And the telegram was …?

Mrs K:    To say that he’d got to Africa. Well it didn’t say Africa. He sent me a card with the black people on (Q: I see) and he said ‘I’ve arrived safe’. I think I’ve got it in a bag now, the telegram. Then he came over to Belgium to do the landing with the tanks. He had to land the tanks for the invasion. I used to send him parcels and his Dad used to stitch them up in a sheet outside, because you weren’t supposed to send food you see. I always used to send a cake. I used to get me margarine from the Co-op, because that was rationed wasn’t it. And I used to make a cake every fortnight I used to send him a cake.

Q:    So what did you live off? I never really thought about this. Did they send you any money?

Mrs K:    I used to get seventeen shillings a week when he was in the Army. Used to have to draw it out of the Post Office. I had to pay ten shillings a week for the house up here. So I had to go to work. Mind me sister-in-law was good, kept me more or less for nothing but still.

Q:    That was your husband’s sister was it?

Mrs K:    Yes, Champs.

Q:    Because he was from Witham as well?

Mrs K:    Yes, he was born in Witham, he was born in Chalks Road. In them houses where Joan Aldous lives [10 Chalks Road]. There was five of them I think. They had two bedrooms there. (Q: Mmm.) You see they never made any difference between boys and girls in them days because there weren’t the things going on were they. I mean you hardly knew what the difference between a boy and a girl did you. [laugh]

Q:    I won’t ask how you found out!! [laugh]

Mrs K:    I can’t tell you! Well I belonged to the United Reform Church. I’ve been down there seventy years. I met Len there because he was there as well.

Q:    Did all your family go?

Mrs K:    No, only me. Len’s family did but not my side.

Q:    If you say you’ve been going seventy years you must have gone when you were quite young then?

Mrs K:    Well, I went in the Sunday School.

Q:    But the rest of the family didn’t go to that church at all.

Mrs K:    Len’s family did but not mine. No, because I was christened at church but my Mum never went anywhere. Well they didn’t did they, I don’t think.

Q:    Was it your idea to go to that one do you think?

Mrs K:    Well, my friends went you see, we went to Sunday School you see and then I when I got higher I was a Sunday School teacher and then I used to be in the choir in the church and of course I’ve been there ever since.

Q:    That’s changed a bit has it, or not?

Mrs K:    Yes, all changed. Have you been in our church?

Q:    Because Witham choral practise there every week.

Mrs K:    But they used to have a pulpit you see and they used to have seats, ordinary pews. And the back used to be what they called West End. You couldn’t go and sit in there unless you’d got money you know. Well, they had their names on the thing and if you sat on them they turfed you out. [laugh]

Q:    That was at the back you said?

Mrs K:    Yes at the back. Its been done lovely now though.

Q:    I wonder why the had them at the back?

Mrs K:    Yes, they used to call it the West End you see.

Q:    Not up in the balcony?

Mrs K:    No, downstairs. The West End.

Q:    Perhaps they liked to be at the back so nobody would see if they fell asleep.

Mrs K:    They were the older people, the people who’d got a little money [background voice] Father Christmas, yes. Upstairs we had got a room upstairs because that’s still there. Well in the room downstairs, where the old people have their dinners now. They used to have a hall. And when Christmas, we had fifty children in the Primary and they used to let Father Christmas down there on a rope. And the little faces, you know, that really was beautiful, and they all used to have a present, we had fifty. We used to go to Chelmsford somebody took us up and we bought fifty presents at sixpence each in Chelmsford Woolworths and we had to come home and do them all up. [laugh] So I’ve been in the church all my life really. I shall keep there all my life I reckon, till I pass on. Yes, what else?

Q:    Going back to school, you said you could have stayed on, so were you clever really?

Mrs K:    No, I weren’t clever but I didn’t want to leave. Then when I did leave school the insurance man, the Co-op insurance man said to my Mum, ‘You ought to let Queenie come to there, she’s got a head on her’. My Mum said ‘she can’t afford to come there, she’s got to go up the glove factory with the others. So I didn’t get no choice. [laugh]

Q:    I see, it was her idea was it. So where was it he wanted you to go?

Mrs K:    In the office at the Co-op.

Q:    Do you think you would have liked that?

Mrs K:    No, I don’t think so. I liked the glove factory best. I liked being with a lot of people. We used to have some fun. Lot of dirty jokes. [Laugh]

Q:    You were allowed to talk then?

Mrs K:    Well, we did. We used to have ’Music while you Work’ on, they did have that on when the War was on. Of course if you talked too much, you couldn’t work could you? And you didn’t earn nothing did you. So you went up there for a year on this pulling out. Of course you got that amount of money and you was on that for the year, then that when you went on your own, you had to work or you didn’t get nothing. (Q: I see)

Q:    You must have been pretty good at it?

Mrs K:    Yes, I was, I did do the thumbs and that for the Queen Mother anyway.

Q:    So the other jobs, what was the one after you had done the pulling through? Pulling through was the first one?

Mrs K:    Then you done the thumbing, just put the thumbs in, then you had to do the whole glove, put the bits in, the whole glove and join them up so they were the proper glove. Then they used to go downstairs and they used to call it the puffing room, they used to have these hot things, they used to pull the gloves on there just to get the creases out.

Q:    I see, that’s what ‘puffing’ is.

Mrs K:    That’s what puffing is. Yes, that was steam. It was like a hand and they used to push them on and hold them there a little while that took all the creases out. Then they used to stitch them together in pairs you see. You little old Rosie Burch, do you remember her, she used to do that. She used to sit on a high stool and she always used to stitch the pairs together our Rosie did. She worked up there all her life.

Q:     And the puffing, was that women’s job as well?s

Mrs K:    Yes, and then they had the cutting out room and that’s where the men cut all the gloves out.

Q:     Oh I see. Who was in charge of you then?

Mrs K:    Herb Keeble, Do you remember Herb Keeble? (Q: Oh yes.) He used to be in the British Legion. He was the head of there. Of course, Bert Pinkham and old Mr.Pinkham they were the bosses, that was their factory.

Q:     Mmm. Did you see much of them?

Mrs K:    No, they didn’t come very often, but they did come round now and again but not very often. [???] Yes, that’s after him isn’t it. They were big bugs in Witham the Pinkhams.

Q:     Did they do a lot of other things as well?

Mrs K:    No, because they’d got this big glove factory. There was about a hundred or more worked there you see. It was a fair size.

Q:    It must have made a big difference I suppose. Because before that, before the glove factory came I mean what would you have done?

Mrs K:    The old lady started in the room opposite the station. She had a room there first and did a few and then branched out.

Q:    You actually enjoyed going there did you, because some people didn’t like the work?

Mrs K:    I did. I loved it.

Q:    Did you have a break at all?

Mrs K:    We used to go in at half past seven and used to have a break at ten and then we used to come home to dinner from twelve till one, we never had a break in the afternoon and then had to work till half past six. You see you don’t know nothing you people nowadays [laugh]

Q:    Well never all those things.

Mrs K:    We did. And then Saturdays, you see, we always had to work Saturdays from half past seven till twelve. (PG: How much did your Mum take?) Oh me Mum took it all. I had a shilling when I first started up there. I had six shillings and Mum had five and I had a shilling. But then you could get into the pictures for three ha’pence. [Laugh]

Q:    So a shilling was quite a …?

Mrs K:    That was  a lot of money. Because you used to spend a farthing for sweets. You would have ten aniseed balls for a farthing, and sherbet dabs and all them were only farthings you see.

Q:    What else did you spend it on?

Mrs K:    Pictures were a penny ha’penny.

Q:    That was up at the ?

Mrs K:    Public Hall. Yes, used to go up there in the afternoons Saturdays, penny ha’penny on the hard seats and tuppence on the plush ones. [laugh] The Clarkes from Hatfield Peverel run that. They used to just play a piano because they were silent pictures then [laugh]. I can remember the first talkie was Al Jolson, I think, that was the first talkie that come. But the other ones you had to sit quiet because your bit of reading

Q:    You had to read …?

Mrs K:    You had to read all the pieces yes.

PG:    Was Phyl [Chalk] anything to do with the whatsits then?

Mrs K:    No, Phil was an usherette when that cinema got to the White Hall. (Q: I see.)

Q:    So you used to go there?

Mrs K:    Yes, and at the back of there they had curtains for about three rows because all the courting couples went behind the curtains. Len used to work in a shop before he went to the Co-op when we were first courting. And I used to get the two tickets you see and I used to go behind the curtains and get our two seats till he left off work. (Q: That was at the Public Hall?). No, White Hall.

Q:    When you say you were behind the curtains you couldn’t actually see the film then?

Mrs K:    Well she could because they only had the curtains at the sides you see at the back. But you had to look out to see the pictures.

Q:    But the usherette couldn’t see you?

Mrs K:    Oh no, she managed to pull the curtains back and shine her torch in there. (PG: That’s what Phyl was.) She was there quite a while. She was very smart though, ever so smart, but she was ever so strict at the Whitehall and you couldn’t talk to her.

PG:    My husband used to go up there. [???] You couldn’t make any movement.

Q:    Because I met somebody else who was there not long ago. I’m sure she’d be strict. Mrs.De Trense. She was the dentist’s wife but she was, maybe it was during the War, she was the manageress.

Mrs K:    Yes, she was down there. Well I didn’t go much during the War you see because you were afraid to go out at night weren’t you.

Q:     They still seemed to keep going

Mrs K:    They did but I didn’t go. Well you  had to live didn’t you. But I didn’t go out at night, cause it wasn’t safe really. I know my sister-in-law was taken ill once in the middle of the night and I came up to Crittalls, her husband worked in there, and there were no lights at all, I had to come up in the dark, and I went to the gate and the old man said ‘Halt who goes there?’ I said ‘Ooh is Mr Champ available?’ and he said ‘Oh wait a minute then’ and he wouldn’t open the gate, so he got Stan and of course they had the doctor out and he she had to go to hospital. That frightened the life out of me, when he said ‘Halt who goes there’ because I couldn’t see who he was.

Q:    He was probably frightened himself?

PG:    It only used to be like an old dirt track old Braintree Road.

Q:    I see it wasn’t a proper road then?

Mrs K:    Oh no, there were houses but it wasn’t made up. When you see where Crittall’s car park that was a field, with a dip in, where the kids used to play.

PG:    That wasn’t the clay pit ?
Mrs K    No, that was near the glove factory. Before there were all them houses. You see there were no houses in Witham near, only us. I mean this down here was a garden field, [allotments] just by mine here [Homefield Road] and then they built these. They built a lot then. We’ve got a lot of houses now.

PG:    Witham was only like a little village then.

Mrs K:    Yes, it was only a village but we had a lot of shops though.

Q:    That’s just what I was going to say. There was more than they would have in a village wasn’t there. (Mrs K: [???] before you did actually) 1966. August.

Mrs K:    We had ever so many shops, the bottom of the town there used to be Keys, then there used to be Billy Woods where we used to go there with a jam jar for a pennorth of syrup and he used to spoon the syrup in the jam jar for a penny or a pennorth of dripping we used to have to go across there. And there used to be a butchers, Sorrells the butchers, and the Doctors has always been there since I can remember then course there was the Co-op and there was ever so many shops. Hunwicks. We had more shops in Witham than anywhere. Now we haven’t got any not for that sort of thing. There was two or three/ [???], there was old Sammy Page’s he used to have some of everything. and Mr Mottishead. His shop was a chemist but I bet there’d be thousands and thousands of bottles of things and he knew just where to go and get you your stuff that you wanted. He was a good man because one of my evacuees he wetted the bed. His mum sent him a blanket and when I went to old Mottishead once and asked him what I could do to stop him wetting the bed. So he said ‘What does he like?’ I said tinned fruit because you used to get some. And I stopped him having that and he never wetted the bed. His mother couldn’t believe it. He never wetted the bed from that day till he went home. Because I wouldn’t let him have tinned fruit.

Q:    Oh that was clever wasn’t it?

Mrs K:    It was that old man told me.

Q:    So if you were ill or anything would he help or did you always get the Doctor?

Mrs K:    Oh, the Doctor. At the doctor we used to pay half-a-crown. A shilling to go and see the Doctor. And if he come and see you you you had to pay half-a-crown.

Q:     Did you go much?

Mrs K:    No, we were pretty healthy, really. It didn’t happen very often. But you see when one of you had the ’flu you all had it!

Q:    So, I suppose that would be quite a bit to pay anyway, you’d think twice about it wouldn’t you, before you really needed him.

Mrs K:    Mmmm, mum didn’t send for him till they were really needed it did they.

PG:    [???] [???]

Q:    What sort of meals did you have?

Mrs K:    Well we used to have pig’s fry, what they called pig’s fry in the oven and dumplings. There used to be a piece of skirt. They used to call it skirt. It was white stuff in little squares. They had to put that over the top. And we had six pennyworth of pieces a pennyworth of suet for a meat pudding for us family, three, four five.

Q:    What time of day would you have that?

Mrs K:    Well, we always had a cooked dinner mid-day.

Q:    What, even when you were at school?

Mrs K:    Yes, I came home because I went to Maldon Road school and we used to come through the Rec. because that was always there, the Rec was always there, and so we had an hour for dinner and so we always had to come home to dinner. Yes, we lived well, I will say that, although my Mum hadn’t got a lot. My Dad had a garden field you see as well. So we had vegetables. Though I don’t like them now. I never did like vegetables much. I don’t like carrots or Brussels sprouts.

Q:    Perhaps you had too many when you were little.

Mrs K:    When we went to bed at night we used to have a basin of oatmeal, hot like porridge really, but it was oatmeal from the seed shop. There used to have a seed shop. My mother used to make us all a bowl of this before we went to bed, when it was cold. Course we never had no lights in the bedroom, we had to go up with a candle. And in my mum’s bedroom she had a cupboard, and if we were mucking about, she used to say ‘That man’ll come out of the cupboard after you’.

Q:    Did you believe her?

Mrs K:    Well, we kept quiet after that so we must have done.

PG:     Something like the bogeyman coming out.

Mrs K:    Still really I’d rather live in them days than now. Much less hassle, you knew your neighbours, I mean the neighbours here are good here, I’m not grumbling about these. But I mean they were very good. You could go out and leave your door unlocked. (Q: Who else lived in those houses then?) What down there. [Mill Lane] There was two, my mum had one and then there was Mrs Shelley, you know Shelley, who used to have a shop up there. [?Templars estate] Well that was his Granny and the old man used to get drunk and come home at night and then they moved and we had a funny little woman she was funny an she used to come round. And we had a tap outside and a loo outside. The two houses had to use the same tap, not the same loo but the same tap. Then there was two more, Mrs Webb lived I don’t suppose you know any of them, they pulled them down now. Then the other row they have left.

Q:    So if you wanted to go out and play  were there were other children?

Mrs K:    You had to go out in the road, under that lamp. You couldn’t play until the old man had put the light on, because you couldn’t see, we used to play tops and all that in the road then, marbles, and hoops.

Q:     So were you allowed to go any further, up to the Rec or anywhere like that?

Mrs K:    No, not at night no, we could go out in the yard, as soon as that was too much my mum used to open the front door and you could hear her  up the town nearly, ‘Come in you lot’.

Q:    So was she quite strict really?

Mrs K:    She was really. My Dad wasn’t very strict, but my Mum was. She’d clip you round the ears if you did something. I had hundreds of clips round the ears, but my Dad never touched me once. [laugh]. (Q: Did he ever say anything?) No. He was very good. If he said something you had to do it, but I mean, apart from that he was easy, my Mum was the …. Cause I know the day before my sister was going to get married, she was about twenty then, and we were having our tea and she said something and my Mother hit her round the head and my sister turned round and hit my Mum on the head [laugh] and she never done it any more. She never touched any of us any more. No, my Mum was very strict. Crikey. I was brought up strict.

Q:    So were you a bit frightened of her?

Mrs K:    No, not really frightened, because I can see I used to sit on her lap quite a lot. I remember poetry she learned me them days. (PG: [???]) I used to know all the poetry she learned.

Q:    She remembered that what, from school, did she?

Mrs K:    She did, yes.

Q:    Because did she have a job before she was married or did she always do charring?

Mrs K:    Can’t remember. She lived with my auntie before she was married because there was a lot of them. Nearly all Witham belongs to me you see, because my Mum’s Mum had twelve and my Dad’s Mum had twelve. And they are all around here. The Thorogoods, the Bickmores they’re all my cousins.

Q:    So what was your Mum’s name?

Mrs K:    Bickmore and my Dad

Q:    So did you have grandparents around?

Mrs K:    Yes, we had granny and grandad. They lived in what they called the Square. The little square of houses down the Maldon road [Trafalgar Square]. They didn’t have any back doors. Because Mrs Spreight when I told her she wouldn’t believe they didn’t have back doors. I said ‘There was a lot of houses in Witham didn’t have back doors’. (Q: They just backed onto the wall of the school didn’t they?) They backed on to the school then the ones where the rifle range was you see that backed into the rifle range yard so there wasn’t no back doors there.

Q:    So were they granny and grandad Bickmore? (Mrs K: Yes) What were their names then?

Mrs K:    Grandad, oh can’t remember, grandad Algar and Granny Algar you see.

Q:    So you had Algar grandparents and Bickmore grandparents did you? Did you see them much then?

Mrs K:    Yes we did but you see my Mum was brought up at Baddow Rodney. My Auntie lived there. They kept the Rodney Inn and so my Mum was brought up there. I think I’ve got nearly everyone in Witham, my cousins somewhere about. (Q: You have to be careful what you say about people, you find they’re related to each other) I’ve got the Greys, the Bickmores, the Thorogoods,

Q:    Do you remember what jobs they did at all your grandparents?

Mrs K:    Well, my Grandad did sweep the road, my Mum’s Dad, he was a road sweeper, and women didn’t work in them days did they. Too many kids. They couldn’t work could they. And my other grandad was at the water tower, you know, when that used to be near the pub in the town. {probably the Swan] Near the gas works place down where I said the swimming pool that used to be. When the war broke out, the glove factory, we all had to go down there, in a little hut down there, we had to take it in turns, We had to go through a room where they put a smoke bomb in it and we had to get out if. They had a doctor standing by but we had to crawl along on our hands and knees and get out before that smoke affected us. (Q: You mean for real?) So we should know if there was a bomb in any house, what we’d got to do. They made us go from the glove factory. Oh, it was awful! You couldn’t see where you were going and you couldn’t, and there was a doctor who examined you when you came out, cause we only went about six at a time. We all had to do that, and climb on top of the glove factory roof to take watch up there.

Q:    And that was night-time after a day’s work as well?

Mrs K:    Yes. Used to get seven shillings a week for fire watching at the glove factory.

Q:    Did you ever have anything to report?

Mrs K:    No, we didn’t have anything.

Q:    How many of you would there be up there?

Mrs K:    Only two. And they had a man on the gate. We had a room where we could lay down but if the siren went the man had to come and fetch us if we didn’t hear it. Because sometimes we were asleep and he had to wake us up.

Q:    It was all right for you to sleep was it?

Mrs K:    Oh yes, we had a little camp bed, all properly. And a place where you could make tea. Because that was our canteen at the glove factory you see. (Q: Then you’d got to get up and go to work next morning?) Mmm. (Q: You took turns at that I suppose did you?) Yes we had a rota you see. I used to do it with Mrs Ross, Freda Wade that was, she lived up Chalks Road, St Nicholas Road. She died not very long ago. My turn was always with her. She worked up there.

Q:    So the bosses didn’t come out at night at all?

Mrs K:    You’re joking! We’d got to save the factory!

Q:    Were they very strict if you did do anything wrong?

Mrs K:    Yes, you couldn’t really sit and talk. You just had, Music While you Work dinner times, you know, twelve o’clock, or after twelve, dinner time. No, cause if you used to talk much Mr Keeble used to come upstairs and say ‘Not so much noise up there, you know’. (Q: You were upstairs were you?). Yes, we were upstairs. The cutting shop was downstairs. (PG [???] You hadn’t got time if you was on piece work had you. I didn’t earn much as it was.

Q:    So were any women high up above as charge hands or anything?

Mrs K:    Well, there was one. Mrs Ross was a charge hand you see. She used to give what they called the work out. We used to have to go to a little room and she would give you so many bundles. You’d got thumb them and then take them back. and they would put them in a book. And down the cutting shop they were all men of course, and then they had a puffing room where Rosie Burch, and the Ottleys lived there, up St Nicholas, up that road there, they were in charge of that.

Q:    So were they quite strict as well?

Mrs K:    Well we didn’t have much to do with them because we was up and they was down.

Q:    But Mrs Ross?

Mrs K:    She was not bad old Freda weren’t really.

Q:    Not a very popular job really. I suppose they got paid a bit more did they?

Mrs K:    Cor yes, They got paid a good bit more than we did. Though sometimes you were better off to be with the others. I was any rate.

Q:    So you didn’t fancy getting yourself promoted?

Mrs K:    No, thank you I didn’t! I was all right where I was.

Q:    I suppose the people who were the charge hands, had they been ordinary workers before that?

Mrs K:    Yes, then in the War you see when the soldiers were here we used to have socials down there for the American soldiers. In the back room what was our canteen. All the Yanks. Used to come with their silk stockings [laugh]

Q:    You enjoyed that did you?

Mrs K:    No, [laugh]

[Talks about drinks,  not noted]

Mrs K:    My son started up the County Hall when your husband was there, David Kellock.

Q:    What did he?

Mrs K:    When he left school at sixteen he went up to there and stayed there quite a while and now he’s at Kings Lynn in the Council there.

Q:    Has he got a special department?

Mrs K:    Well he has now, he’s got up, you know. I don’t ask and he don’t tell me. I know he’s got a big job. He had to come to Chelmsford, County Hall the other Sunday, Friday, didn’t he and then he called in here. He goes to the Councils round here. Yes he’s gone up in the world.

Q:    Have you got other children as well?

Mrs K:    No, I only had one. I had two miscarriages and then I had him.

Side 2

Mrs K:    Of course the Co-op was a big place then. You could buy frocks and all that there. And they used to have them pulleys where they had the money in in they had the grocery. When Len worked there. Used to put the money in and pull then, didn’t they.

Q:     So where did you go for groceries then when you were little?

Mrs K:    Co-op. I had to go to the Co-op. And we always had a bit of bacon to boil for Christmas and if that weren’t just to my Mum’s taste I used to have to take it back [laugh]. My Mum was fussy about that.

Q:     You didn’t get stamps then did you?

Mrs K:    No, We had cheques. And there was dividend. Well where David is now at Wootten near Kings Lynn, they have that still. So they do at Ipswich. David said he’d joined since he moved to Wootton.

Q:     So it was quite near you?

Mrs K:    Yes, just across the road, and you see we had a butchers and there used to be old Ardleys used to have a bakers up the Doctors yard, you know where the Doctors yard is, [ right of 129 Newland Street] the building at the side there, that used to be a bakers. Used to go at night and watch them make the bread. It used to be lovely to watch them there. Then Palmers up further that was a bakers as well. Near the jewellers in the town (Q: What was Gilbert’s). Yes, that was an old fashioned bakers years ago that used to be there [83 Newland Street].

Q:     So people didn’t make their own bread then in Witham?

Mrs K:    No, wasn’t necessary. And we used to have a butcher come round every day to your door and take your order for next day. Then we used to have the baker come and do the same. And we used to have old Johnny Newman, he was the milkman, he used to come twice a day with a can and we used to have a jug and he would put half a pint of milk in in the morning and in the afternoon, or however much you wanted. Twice a day he used to come round. Never had nothing in bottles.

Q:    How did he get it out of the …?

Mrs K:    He had a scoop, you know, a thing on the handle. Used to put it in this big can you see and tip it in your jug. Twice a day, morning and afternoon. Then if we wanted, if my Mum wanted to make a rice pudding their yard was in Bridge Street. We used to have to go there with the jug and get a pint of skimmed milk to make a milk pudding.

Q:     What did she have to cook on?

Mrs K:    A range, open fire with an oven on the side and you used to put your things on the top to boil. We had that right up till we left Mill Lane. (PG: They were much more essential really.) They used to cook lovely too. When I first married and went up near Auntie Lill there. They had a kitchener but I used to have one of them oil things, a bowl of oil at the side and that had an oven on top. Do you remember them? I don’t suppose you do? Used to have a big bowl on the side with the paraffin in. Then that had had a ring on the top you could put, then that had an oven on top and you could cook it all with that oil. That was for the summer, but in the winter we had a kitchener down there didn’t we.

Q:    So the oil, how did that work then?

Mrs K:    That was a burner, come from the bottom, (PG: Like the old Calor Gas) sort of a thing like that. (PG [???]) I’ve still got a little oil stove, just to boil a kettle on it. Mrs Speight’s got a gas ring. When they did these they left her gas pipe there so that we didn’t have any electric we could get her in there and she can cook. And Mrs. Barber’s got a gas so we’d get some hot.. (PG: [???]) Coo, those old fireplaces when we used to clear them out remember, we ain’t got nothing like that now, all the old ash.

When that was winter my Mum used to put a baked potato underneath the fire in the ash, you know. Do chestnuts just lovely. We used to chestnuts in them. And onion. I never had an onion but they used to bake them in the ashes.

Q:    Did you used to have to help much in the house?

Mrs K:    No, when I married I couldn’t boil an egg (Q: Really!) I’m telling you the truth and the first time I cooked a Sunday dinner I made a Yorkshire pudding and I’d never made one of them before, and when I took it out the oven it was as flat as that. I sat and cried I remember. My Mum wouldn’t let us cook. We didn’t have to touch nothing.

PG:    [???]

Q:    That’s odd isn’t it. I always got the impression people were expected to help. But perhaps she wanted to do it herself?

Mrs K:    You see there was three of us girls in that little old kitchen and my Mum and Dad. My sister used to go to my Granny’s down the Square and make some cakes down there because she wanted to learn but I didn’t bother. I’d learned sometime but oh I did cry over my Yorkshire pudding hadn’t come up right. No she wouldn’t let us do anything like that. Not any work or any cooking nor nothing like that. My Mum was so particular because she used to have to blacklead this old fireplace and you could see your face in it you know. If we had company, after they’d gone, she’d go round and shake all the cushions up and put all the chair backs straight.

Even when she was old and lived up the Maltings Lane, she lived up there and I married from there. And when I used to take my nephew and niece up there she used to take the chair backs off and the cushions off before they sat down, before they come! [Laugh] She did. She was still so particular. Then in the end she had to go in a home because she burnt money. She burnt no end of money. She’d got a pound note in her purse that went, she burnt it to get the fire going you know. Don’t seem possible but that’s how it was.

Q:    Your father had died?

Mrs K:    Yes. I went up on the Thursday night because I used to bike up there Maltings Lane and he used to go down for half a pint of drink at night. He didn’t have much because I never knew my Dad to be drunk. And I said goodnight Dad. I’ve just been up to see Mum and I hadn’t been in quarter of an hour and somebody came down to say my Dad was dead. Dropped down in the toilet when he went.

Q:    When was that?

Mrs K:    When we were married, cause David was born, must have been about ten or fifteen years and they couldn’t get him out the toilet you see because the door. They weren’t big enough. (Q: Oh he lived to quite an age then?) Yes, they were retired.

Q:    You’d been married ten or fifteen years?

Mrs K:    Yes, because I’d got David before he died.

Q:    Was that in Maltings Lane in the newer houses?

Mrs K:    That row of bungalows just as you turn in from the Jack and Jenny, you go down there, there’s a row of bungalows. Jack and Jenny is on the Hatfield Road. (Q: Victoria Cottages?) No, the other ones, this side of the road. There used to be an egg factory up there. Powlins egg factory was near our house up there. Where the women used to sort the eggs out put them in sizes. (Q: In the Maltings itself?) Yes, there. Marshall used to have the bicycle shop in Bridge Street. Used to hire a bike for tuppence an hour, about three hours, go out on a ride, because we never had a bike of our own, not till I was older.

Q:    Was that when you were kids?

Mrs K:    When we was young.

[chat about smoking not noted]

Q:     So wherever you go in Witham you see your family then?

Mrs K:    Yes. Summer Bickmore used to live up here. He was my cousin. And the Greys are up there, they’re my cousins. The Thorogoods were all my cousins, the Algars and the Bickmores,  Ladkins. (PG: [ ???}) My cousin over Terling, I’ve got one over there. Well you see if you have a family of about twelve or fourteen they all have families don’t they. They both had all that amount. I think that was about the same on each side.

PG:    Did you ever get in them days intermarriage, with it being a small town?

Mrs K:    No I don’t think so. My Dad’s auntie went down on the Titanic (Q: Really?) They were real old Witham. They were coming or going to Australia, they were coming home I think. I’ve got a photograph in there somewhere. Aunt and uncle somebody, little old women you know, long skirts. Went down on the Titanic. (PG {???]) I’ll get that for you now and you can have a look. When I married and set up house on. How much that cost. Don’t tell her.
[Chat with PG, most not audible, not noted]. I can’t find it [Co-op bill found later and shown below]

bill for furnishing first house
The bill for furnishing the Kellocks’ first house in 1939.

Well, when we married and I had and I furnished my house and we furnished it for £49, I had a three piece suite, me bedroom bed, wardrobe, tall boy, floor cloth and rugs, kerbs to go round the fire. Yes £49 when we got married. I’ve got it. I’ll find it and let you have it.

Q:    Where did you get it all from?

Mrs K:    From the Co-op here. We didn’t get anything on it though did we. Yellow, the paper.

Q:    You had to save up for that I suppose?

Mrs K:    Well, we vowed we wouldn’t get married till we got £100 see. So we spent £50 on the house. We went to Brighton in an hotel for our honeymoon and we did it all for £100. Spending money at Brighton and everything. People wouldn’t believe it would they really and truly. (PG: Now I think it is harder for them. It was hard enough in them days.) But we did. That’s why we wouldn’t get married till we’d got it.

Q:    How long were you saving up the hundred pounds?

Mrs K:    Oh we was courting five years and then we got engaged for two or three years so we didn’t get married very quick (laugh).

Q:    Where did you save the money?

Mrs K:    In the Co-op. We got married at the United Reform, Congregational it was then. Of course we didn’t have to pay anything to get married. The organist and parson did it all for nothing for us for cause we’d been there since …. So we didn’t have to pay but I had two bridesmaids and we had a reception at the, well that was the, in Mill Lane where they sell that furniture. We had a reception there. My Mum did it and we had fifty guests. It was a hall then. Of course Len cooked all the bacon and ham and cut it up at the Co-op, so… And we went on a train. You know they were the old trains and they blew the whistle till they got out of Witham you know. [laugh].

Q:    Had you been away much before that?

Mrs K:    We always had holidays. We got engaged at Holland on Sea. We went into Clacton and bought a ring. We came home and, because we had bed and breakfast I suppose and we had a hut on the beach. Belonged to the house you see.

[someone at door, not noted]

I forget what I was saying now. Oh yes, we got engaged. Oh yes, we had a chicken for dinner that day. We bought all the dinner. There was two, four, there was eight of us. Cause we went with friends. And I can always remember we went at the back behind this hut for Len to put the ring on me finger [laugh] Then we come out and showed it to them.

Q:    I hope there’s a plaque on the hut now!

Mrs K:    [laugh] I remember that.

Q:     So you met him at the church you said (Mrs K: Yes) So you’d known him a long time I suppose then.

Mrs K:    Yes, he died about five years ago. Just sat here and died. He was eating a sweet one minute and dead the next.

Q:    How did; you pick him out as the best one?

Mrs K:    Of course I would. I had the best one. He was a good old boy. Because he had a sister in Severalls. She had some fever when she was little and she got out of Severalls and three weeks after they found her drowned at Holland on Sea on the rocks. (PG: [???]) Any rate, she drowned. Never heard a thing till three weeks and two boys went fishing and they found her in the rocks.

Q:    That was when she was quite young was it?

Mrs K:    Yes, she was about my age and that’s been a long while ago.

Q:    So where did Len used to live when you first met him?

Mrs K:    You know as you go down Avenue Road, that big house with the garden on the side? It’s the third house down I think from the town, double fronted, from the station, on the left. They lived there when I first went with him. Then they moved further down to the fifth house down there.

Q:    Can’t remember if I asked you what his father did?

Mrs K:    He worked at the seed place. You won’t know where the seed place was because it was burned up. Round Avenue Road. He was head of that. Then that caught fire and burnt down. And his Mum, well she was in Severalls too but she wasn’t funny, she had these turns you know, and they bombed Severalls and killed her.

Q:    Oh no!

Mrs K:    Somebody said they reckoned they left a little light on, because Severalls is a big place and she hadn’t got a mark on her, but it had killed her. And when I went the Sunday after that it was terrible. The beds and the sheets and the blankets were all up in the trees. Oh it was awful. I went with me Dad like you know. I used to go every Sunday with him when Len was in the army. It was terrible. But she hadn’t got a mark on her. Doesn’t seem possible does it? They had a lot of trouble my husband. Because one of the little boys drowned down the peahole, you know as you go down the Chase [in Blackwater River above Blue Mills] He was only eleven years old. That was the brother of my husband. Then my sister-in-law’s husband he joined up. He was in the airforce six weeks and on the parade ground he dropped down dead. (Q: Good heavens.) Charlie he was – Eva’s husband. Only been in there six weeks. She hadn’t seen him since he joined up. Then they come and told her he had dropped down dead.

Q:     That’s his sister?

Mrs K:    Len’s sister’s husband. Drury his name.

Q:    He had several brothers and sisters?

Mrs K:    My husband? (Q: Yes) He had Eva, Ethel, Alec, Percy and Jim. He had. One of them worked at the tan yard. Because we used to have a tan yard in Mill Lane. Used to stink to high heavens. Used to see all the skins there when we used to go to work. He worked there and he had pneumonia and he died. Oh that was horrible that old tan yard.

Q:    Could you smell it from the house?

Mrs K:    Yes, when the wind blew. So we could the gas when the wind blew our way. Our house belonged to the Gas people you see our little one in Mill Lane.

Q:    Your father didn’t work for them, no he was in the building. Did he work for a particular firm?

Mrs K:    No, he worked anywhere, where they all went, carrying out. I think they used to carry bricks in hods or something.

Q:    Was it a regular job or did he just have ?

Mrs K:    No, he had a regular job, except in the winter when that froze and then they didn’t work on them days when that froze, so we’d have had no money in them days. If my Mum hadn’t gone out charring I don’t know what we would have done. But we was always kept well. We was always fed and we was always clothed. We had Sunday clothes and weekday clothes and we always had all that. We weren’t short of nothing. And it made us thrifty which I still am very thrifty. I’ve got about ten pots which I put my money away in every week. I do, because I always have had to do it. See, when we married, Len was only getting  two pounds fifty when we married,  and we paid ten shillings a week for rent and we had to buy coal in them days. Well, when he retired he wasn’t earning as much as we are getting on the retirement pension. Not what he got.

Q:    Did you ever work again after the War?

Mrs K:    After the War finished. No, because I had David then, just after the War. I wouldn’t have worked any more then. I had to do something and you’d either got to go in the munitions factory or the glove factory was doing war work so you could go in there. (PG {???]) We used to do fur backed gloves. We used to have to stitch the tops of them by hand, you know where the fur goes in. And we used to have to pay for needles once upon a time. When you broke a needle you had to pay for it. But latterly we got them for nothing. And we used to have to take the machine to bits on a Friday and give it a good clean. They used to come round and see that you had done it properly.

Q:    Where did you learn how to do all those things?

Mrs K:    Well they had a woman tell you when you went first there was a lady and she showed us how. Because you see you wouldn’t be able to tie those knots what they tied on them gloves. We used to have a needle where they put them, a self threader, put it through to the other side and then we had to do a certain knot, bet none of you could do it!

Q:    No, because it’d got to be strong.

Mrs K:    It’s got to be done, just so. I still do knots that way. (PG: Not like a granny knot?) No it wasn’t called anything. I still do all my knots like that now. Those strings up there they’re done like that.

Q:    And Phyl Chalk worked there with you?

Mrs K:    She was a thumber with me. Did you teach Phyl. May Hollick taught me. Mrs Hollicks, the shoe place. She taught me. Because Phyl had a boy once you see, when she was working and she asked him how much he earned and that put him off so she didn’t see him any more.

Q:    Because she asked him?

Mrs K:    Because she asked him how much he earned [laugh]. That’s true! I don’t think they did that in them days. I don’t think the boy thought much of it you see. Do he didn’t go with her any more. Poor old Phyl. [laugh]

Q:    Did she have any sisters?

Mrs K:    Yes, she had two sisters, and one brother, no it was Ethel, two brothers, yes. One lived on the end house. Old Mr Chalk used to work at the station and the one other was a taxi. Then she had Ethel Chalk lived further down and Annie Chalk. I suppose she got the house through her – Annie Chalk. Yes, she got it for about four or five hundred. Because we could have bought ours you see when, but we couldn’t afford it. We hadn’t got four hundred to buy it then had we. But we never went short. And I only had David of course. He went to Colchester Tech School. He did very well. Of course I am a Great Granny now. I shall be another one in February. (Q: Goodness.) They are Germany now. He is in the Forces. So I feel old sometimes [laugh].

[chat about leaving, and neighbour Mrs Speight, not noted]

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