Mrs Violet Putman (nee Rodd), was born c 1914. She was interviewed on 14 September 1992, when she lived at 162 Church Street, Witham.
For more information about her, see Putman, Violet, nee Rodd, in the 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.]
[Talking about Pinkham’s glove factory and looking at photo, probably photo M499]
Mrs P: … three.
Q: That’s when you went? You just got it, that was the cleaning …
Mrs P: Office cleaning, this one’s where the glove presses. There was heated bars and they put all the gloves finger by finger and thumb and pressed all the gloves out. They were like irons, what they call a hot iron and they pressed them on that. There was steam and that running through there.
Q: And you put each finger on separately?
Mrs P: Yes, like a hand and each thumb and finger went and pressed them all up and they used to pull them from the top all flat so they’d been pressed. There’s the girls there packing them. There’s the girls making them. (Q: Oh I see.) They’re making the gloves, they used to come over this side for pressing.
Q: And they were that side to pack. So, have they got machines here?
Mrs P: Yes, all machines, industrial machines, you know [???] all along. There was two benches, that side, and the other side of them. And sort of working opposite each other you know what I mean?
Q: Oh I see.
Mrs P: So, you’d got a long bench all machines on. One lot this side and one lot on the other side. And all round there. (Q: That’s at the back?) That’s where they were examined. They come of here to be examined, to see if there’s any fault in the thing, you know, put like a fork through every part of the glove pushing through [???] And then they could press them, then they’re finished. And went round there to be packed. So it was all on the production floor, one thing, one operation, see from there to there and then to the examiners to the packers. It was all done on the one floor.
Q: If you finished doing that did you take it yourself to the next ?
Mrs P: I didn’t do anything …
Q: No, did the people …?
Mrs P: No there was a forelady, (Q: And she just took it …). Mrs Ross. Just go round and pass them through.
Q: And then this one, I think she’s the one that lent me the photograph, Kathleen Barber, she recognised herself.
Mrs P: Oh yes, that’s right and this one here is Vicky Stoneham, lived up Ebenezer.
Q: Which one is that? (Mrs P: This one.) I think she thought that was her, perhaps I’ve got the wrong one.
Mrs P: That’s Vicky Stoneham that is. And Win Cheek. There’s Kathy Barber, that one, the big one. (Q: I see.) The big girl. (Q: Further the back) Yes, you see they’ve altered so much. This was Edie Brown, she lived in Braintree Road (right at the front), this one here. I’m looking for Win Cheek that lived n Braintree Road. I think she’s that side of Vicky. That’s Vicky Stoneham I know. And I think Win was the other side of her.
Q: Did they usually stand in the same place then? (Mrs P: Mmm.) And this, is she Mrs Brown or Miss Brown, what was her name sorry, the front one?
Mrs P: Brown, Edie Brown. (Q: Was that before she married or …?) No, after she married, she lived opposite the station. In Braintree Road, but her front entrance come out facing the station. Of course Witham has altered so much, building like, hasn’t it?
Q: I was looking for er …
Mrs P: Now that’s Edie Brown I know, and that’s Vicky Stoneham, the other side of here is Win Cheek, there’s Kathy Barber. (Q: That left hand side?) Mm.
Q: That’s clever isn’t it. You had to stand up all the time, did you?
Mrs P: Oh yes, all stood up all the time. Here, in here was the office, manager’s office. He could stand there and look all over the floor. Oh he was a right’n he was too. Strict. (Q: Which was that then?). Keeble, George, Henry George, his brother, his eldest brother. (Q: Herbert was that?). Yes, Herbert Keeble, that’s it, yes.
Q: So did he come out quite often then I wonder?
Mrs P: Oh yes, well he had [???] so he was watching all the time, and calling the whatsername in. And this girl here is Springett.
Q: That’s what I’ve done so far on that one if that means anything to you. Going back to this one here, whereabouts on here is the road? Which side?
Mrs P: Oh down there, that side (Q: With all those windows?). That’s the road. That was facing there, facing Chipping Hill that was and that was facing out the back where the railway is. That’s Chipping Hill, yes, there’s all the windows along the front there. In front there was a garden there, you know a lawn where the girls used to come out and sit on the lawn at lunch break. And then there were two parts. There was an office part. One was side[?] of the factory, and then there was a sort of runway, a road that the cars used to go down and the office block on that side where the railway run along and behind the office block there was another hut what they called the canteen. And they converted it into a workshop where the home workers used to go and get their home work.
Q: Oh really? I wondered how that worked. Yes Is that the hut?
Mrs P: Yes, that’s the hut, (Q: That was earlier I think, when they used it.) Yes, that’s when they used it for their workshop. Then it finished up going in, as the home workers used to go in there, take all their stuff back and collect it and take it away.
Q: Oh I see, they had to fetch it themselves did they?
Mrs P: Yes, they was local women, local. Chris Andrews. [pause]. Blanche Keeble. (Q: Yes, she’s the one that lived in our house.) Sid Keeble, yes. Joyce Springett, I think that’s it. Doris Taylor. Oh yes, she lived up here, Church Street. Her husband Frank used to work with Sid, cutter, on the cutting bench. Yes, that’s it, old Frank. Oh, interesting, isn’t it. Yes, there’s the Bert [?].
Q: So he was in your area was he?
Mrs P: Yes, old Bert was. We got great friends cause I used to clean his office, you know. (Q: I see.) See I did the office work, all office cleaning. The work girls’ toilets. Used to go right through the main factory up through here, into the ladies’ toilets, clean them, and then come back and go over the office side and do the office cleaning over there. There was John, David, and Richard Pinkham, three brothers. Used to be in the office upstairs.. They each had an office, you know, each. Richard had an office downstairs, the main office and John and David had one upstairs. (Q: I see, they all worked there then did they.) Oh yes, and the old man, father. He was a right tearaway, he was a rascal he was. He had them marching all the, soon as they see Mr Pinkham senior come along, oh, heads down, you know.
Q: Is that this one you mean, or his father?
Mrs P: No, his father. (Q: His father, he was still alive then was he?) That is Bert that is. Soon as he used to walk through the factory floor, oh, there was all heads down, you know, and there was no looking up and sneaking.
Q: So it was Bert you mean that was the fierce one?
Mrs P: No, he was, Bert, Bert Keeble was the manager and he [Bert Pinkham] was the governor, the head governor, he was senior, Pinkham. There were three sons, his three sons.. That was Richard, John and David.
Q: So it was Bert that frightened everyone? [probably Keeble]
Mrs P: Oh yes, because he was keeping on his toes for his own job. He couldn’t control the workers he was no good at the job was he?
Q: But you got on all right with him all right, you reckon?
Mrs P: Oh I got on all right with him. Used to make a fuss of his office [laugh]. (Q: Did you? What way?) Sort of extra bit of polish on his desk, you know. Only a bit of smoothing, I was keeping me own job really. [laugh] Fancy.
Q: Yes it’s a nice picture that, isn’t it?
Mrs P: Oh yes, Jim Andrews, that’s right, he was another cutter, on the cutter’s bench.
Q: That was the men did the cutting?
Mrs P: Yes, there was four men. There was a leather cutter, and the other ones well, nylon and what’s that new one they’ve got out now, lycra, lycra material. That was very fine and flimsy. But the leather ones they was done on a separate table.
Q: So was that downstairs?
Mrs P: All the one floor, yes it was all on the ground floor. There was no up, no floor above. No the only floor above was in the office side on the other side of the road.
Q: So this was all one floor?
Mrs P: Yes, you went in one entrance, at the top of the yard, went through that door, into the main factory and on the other side of the yard was the office block where this like, up the top here. There was the main brick building in front of that. That led right down to the bottom of the yard.
Q: So what time of day did you have to go in?
Mrs P: I used to go at half past seven in the morning until half past twelve. And half past one till four. Finished whatever time I liked in the afternoon.
Q: So you were there when they were working as well?
Mrs P: Oh yes, during the day, yes, mornings, I had to go through over there because of the toilets. But my first job was the office cleaning, doing the office cleaning. Once the offices were done, then I used to go over to the factory and do the toilets over there and then come back and do the telephone room. That was in the front office, as you go in, there was a telephone office, used to do that, on the switchboard, before the office girls comes in at half past eight, nine o’clock. All had to be done on the office side and then as soon as that was done so I used to go over to the factory floor.
Q: So you were cleaning while they were working in the factory (Mrs P: Yes.) I mean often nowadays they try to get cleaners to finish before they’ve done that even..
Mrs P: Yes, well you see, as long as your office were done, everything you could work in your own time in your own way. See this is what I mean, there’s the main, that’s the office block and there on this side was the other factory.
Q: That was a very old one because that was before the other factory was built.
Mrs P: Yes, that is. 1912, oh god.
Q: I think Bert is supposed to be on that one, I think that’s supposed to be him. But then he’s be a lot younger then.
Mrs P: Yes, because he’s old, well he wasn’t then. He’s dead now. He must have been 80 odd when he died. Isn’t it amazing how they all used to dress. I mean after all I’m 78 so I mean, I wasn’t an old biddy, I’m still one of the crocks.
Q: Were the boys frightened of him as well?
Mrs P: Oh the boys, oh yes the boys had their marching orders girl, yes, they did. I mean they couldn’t stop about, they all had their jobs to do. They did most of the travelling, buying and getting orders, reps they was for the firm. I mean they travelled up to the north, Dudley, up north country, Durham way, you know. London and anywhere else. Because they had the Queen, the royal family, didn’t they, they made the royal family’s gloves. Because all the royal family’s got photos in the showrooms where they’ve got pictures of prizes they’ve won, trophies, you know, for the best production, sort of thing, the royal family was honoured them, cause they made, because you get award for what you did for the royal family. And all their trophies was laid out on a big table in a glass case.
Q: And that was in the office block?
Mrs P: Yes, that was in the office, that was in Richard’s office that was, when he used to take the reps from other countries, or salesmen from other countries, used to entertain them in there. It was a big office. It’s strange when you look back, you know, really. Yes these are all the girls. I was fourteen years old when I worked there, they’d left school. They was all leaving school, fourteen and fifteen. I mean that was the only job around here for girls at that age. It was Pinkham’s for the girls and the women and Crittall’s for the men. Because that was the only two industries down here as I remember. It was only since the War. I mean I came down 1940, so it’s fifty year ago, isn’t it. And as I say, that’s all it was, Crittall’s and Pinkham’s that all the work there was here for anybody. It was only after my husband died that I started to go out to work. [Says later that it was after her daughter was killed, and not long before her husband died]
Q: I see, you didn’t work until then at all ?
Mrs P: No, and then from Pinkham’s, as I say I had that job, that cleaning job and then I went to Hurst Gunson and I worked in there for eight years, seed packer. Down Avenue Road. They were the only two jobs I had in Witham.
Q: And did you say you were cleaning then as well, or actually doing the packing?
Mrs P: No. I was on the packing machine. I was a packer.
Q: What was that like then?
Mrs P: Oh it was lovely. Cushy job. It was work, but you had to keep going. Because as I say you had to go because the cogs[?] with the machine, and the seed was going round and there was pockets what the envelopes the seeds went into, and the machines were rotating all the time and you couldn’t stop the machine. If you did, say you missed the pocket then all your machine was out of gear so it had to run level on a routine basis. And once, it’s like washing machine, if you stopped that you stopped your whole programme, you know. So you had a programme that goes round, filled the pocket, round, sealed it and then they come out so all you had to was pack em in a box. It was interesting but as I say it was all round, rotation.
Q: So these were these paper packets were they, things that you get, like you buy seeds in you mean?
Mrs P: That’s right, yes, they call them pockets and I don’t know if you see it on the, well I don’t know if they’re still there, must be still on the market, now what was their trade name now. I can’t think, they’ve got like, had a trade mark. I can’t think now. Like Suttons’ and them places, but Hurst Gunson’s.
Q: So what were the seeds in that you had to …?
Mrs P: They come down from the hopper over the machine, it was like a big cup and every so often it would drop so much and these packets had to be the same weight as they come off the machine. You had to take an individual one and weigh it on the machine. It was grammes, you know, so many grammes and it had to be so much. And every so often the forelady would come round and she’d pick one at random and weigh it and if it wasn’t right, oh, stop the machine and they they’d have the engineer come down and see what was wrong.
Q: So they were filled up automatically?
Mrs P: Automatic. They was filled, sealed and all we did was packing.
Q: You didn’t have to check the weight. That was all done.
Mrs P: Oh yes that was at random. Just pick one up occasionally. And the forelady would come round and she’d pick behind you, and she’d snatch one out, and if she found it wasn’t right, stop the machine and then you’d have to go through, some, not all of them, but the last batch you’d done as she’d come round, so the machine was going, she’d pick one off the machine and weigh it and if that wasn’t correct, stop the machine, and watch it come off that batch then, about five minutes, you’d have to go and weigh them.
Q: See what was going on? Were a lot of people doing that then?
Mrs P: Oh yes, there was eight machines going. And there was four girls outside sending orders out to customers. I mean people would write in and say I want a dozen packets of tomatoes, lettuce, or whatever, and that customer, every, they’d get a customer sheet, say half a dozen lettuce, half a dozen cucumber seeds, tomato seeds, peas and beans and there was all these different packets and say half a dozen of those, half a dozen of them, get them all banded up and pack them and put them in a carton, send it down to the transport. Every job was interesting. There was always something you’d got to keep your mind on.
Q: So even quite big orders they would send them out in these little packets?
Mrs P: Yes there were big cartons and there’d be about, six, seven thousand, say seven thousand packets of peas, seven thousand packets of tomatoes. That was distributed through different shops. I mean you’d take it, send it to Woolworth’s and Woolworth’s would put them on their stand so many at a time, like in a frame, they’d be selling tomatoes, lettuce and cucumbers, all on a frame you know, so as you know you go into Woolworth’s and pick up a packet of seeds out.
Q: Was that in the old building or the glass one you were in at Hurst Gunson’s?. (Mrs P: Yes. There was only one building down there.) I thought there was an old, perhaps it was before, there was this one, a sort of green glass …
Mrs P: No, you went down Avenue Road yes, straight through there and it was there and you had to stop and that was the Hurst Gunson’s entrance, and then you went in there. And as you say, they were glass, yes, glass fronted windows. (Q: Quite a new sort of building, not there now.) That’s where it was, yes. That was on the left hand side as you went in, and then you sort of went down Avenue Road out to the main road, that’s right.
Q: And there was a sort of square piece, squarish building, then a long one.
Mrs P: Yes, well that was Baird’s wasn’t it?
Q: I thought that was all Hurst Gunson?
Mrs P: Well I suppose that was a continuation because Baird’s was the other side of it, so everything would come out of the factories went straight onto the railway for transport.
Q: So did they have canteens and things there as well?
Mrs P: Yes, they had a big canteen, had women working in the canteen, cooking, because they used to cook for the office staff as well as for the factory staff you know. And then there was on the warehouse where all the seeds used to come in in big sacks. You know they’d all got to be distributed and sorted out and in storage they used to make a big, what you call it, a big mound. They’d empty all these seeds out and they’d got to all be graded. They had to go through the grader. (Q: Oh I see.) Oh, there was a lot of work to it, yes. I mean they emptied them into a big hopper, what they called a big hopper, it’s like a big bin and that used to trickle through and everything used to be graded and they’d throw out any shells or any stones or that, throw all that stuff out, all the waste out into sacks or into bins.
Q: And that was in a different building from what you were in?
Mrs P: Yes, that was over in the warehouse.
Q: Quite a lot of people altogether then?
Mrs P: Oh yes, and a lot of men worked there too, come from Feering and Kelvedon. Because it belongs to Kings as well. You remember Kings? (Q: Mmm.) On the railway going to Kelvedon. Well that belonged to them as well. The was all amalgamated, weren’t they, with Suttons, different places.
We used sometimes to do a promotion sale, like say, Marks and Spencers or the Co-op, with their goods, give a packet of seeds with whatever they bought. What we called a promotion sale.
Q: Who was in charge of you there, then? A forelady, was it?
Mrs P: Oh she lived up Rickstones Road. They had, Hurst Gunson’s had their own private houses up for their staff. I tell you who built them, was Hey and Croft. Then, what was the name up there now, Little Elms, you know, up Rickstones Road, there’s a Dorothy Sayers [Drive].
Q: Oh I didn’t know there was Hurst Gunson ones.
Mrs P: No, that was only some of them, only some of the workers, at Hurst Gunson, they used to pay Hurst Gunson for them, you know. Yes, we only had one forelady and the others was the governors, I suppose they was managers and under managers and that. But we only had one forelady on our floor.
Q: So that would be the person you really had to look out for was it?
Mrs P: Oh yes, because she was on the same floor. She had a little desk in the corner, and she used to walk round all the time. As soon as she heard a machine shut off she knew when a machine stopped by the clatter clatter clatter. The engine was going clatter, clatter, clatter. That’s how the pockets were, used to go round the machine and go that noise. And soon as that noise used to stop, so she’d be up on her feet looking round to see what machine it was. She was happy go lucky. She wasn’t a driver. No, as long as you did your work you were all right. As long as you kept your head down and did your numbers what you should do, no slacking.
Q: You were paid by the hour? (Mrs P: Yes.)
Mrs P: Two and threepence an hour. I used to get thirteen pound a week.
Q: What hours did you, when did you start work in the morning? What time?
Mrs P: Half past seven till five. All there, wherever you worked down, it was all half past seven starting. Like Crittall’s. Everybody started at half past seven in the morning. Until five. Used to have a break half past twelve till half past one. Lunch break, we used to have ten minutes in the morning and ten minutes in the afternoon.
Q: And did you used to stay there for your lunch?
Mrs P: No, I used to come home. Only up the road. I could get home. Only took five or ten minutes. (Q: You walked up?) Walked up, walked back.
Q: You stopped there for your tea. Did you manage to get a cup of tea in the afternoons?
Mrs P: Oh yes, you’d get a cup of tea, as you used to go downstairs in the canteen just downstairs in the canteen, ten minutes and she’d come, the forelady would come down with us, and then she’d watch her watch. ’Right girls’ and up we’d go. And it would start again clank, clank, clank.
Q: And so when you went there, did you go there when the glove factory shut then?
Mrs P: No, before that. I got fed up with the dirty job at the glove factory. It wasn’t the job I wanted, I didn’t want know toilet cleaning, you know. But it was convenient for me because I’d lost my child then. She got run over by a car, got knocked down by a car and killed and after we’d buried her I wanted a stone for her grave and I had to go to work for that purpose. And that’s when I started to go to work. After we lost Kathleen. She’d been buried and I thought to myself well, I didn’t like the idea of her laying in that ground without any knowledge. So of course my husband and I, I went to work and got the money for it, and it wasn’t long after that my husband died. My son went to New Zealand. After we lost Kathleen everything seems to have gone wrong. Kathleen got killed. Four years after that Kenny got married. He went to New Zealand. Two years after that George died, my husband. That’s how it went. Seven year cycle, you know, these things seem to happen in seven years. So I’ve been on my own since. So that’s when I went to Hurst Gunson, after I lost George.
Q: When was that?
Mrs P: 1964, didn’t go Hurst Gunson because I was working down the paper shop in Church Street, behind the counter there. I worked there and I went to Hurst Gunsons in 1979, no 69, after George died ’64, ’65, yes, ’69.
Q: So you stayed there until you retired then did you?
Mrs P: Yes stayed till I was 65.
Q: So you were at the glove factory, that was in 19?
Mrs P: That’s be in 1973 (Q: Cause you were there first weren’t you?). Yes. That’s when I went first there. Kathleen was, put it this way. Kathleen was born in ‘53, right she was four years old when she died, that’s ’53, ’57, right, and then I went to Hurst Gunson I suppose it would be about ’58 [probably corrected below to Pinkham’s], after she died, and she’s buried, I wanted a stone for her, about ’78, right? No, ’58, that’s right. And then Kenny got married four years after that, about 1961 that’s right, and three years after that George died. Yes, ‘64. So it was ’64 and I was out of work, I didn’t go to work then until ‘69.
Q: And then you went to the glove factory in ’69, Oh I was thinking it was the other way round?
Mrs P: No, I went to the glove factory in the fifties (Q: That’s what I thought.) Right. (Q: So you were there first?) I was at the glove factory first before I went to Hurst Gunson’s. Hurst Gunson’s was my last job.
Q: So you were at the glove factory (Mrs P: ’58) In ‘58? At the glove factory in ’58. Right. And then you went to Hurst Gunson’s in about (Mrs P: ’69) ‘69 or something? I’m with you. Sorry to tie you in knots!
Mrs P: No I get a bit confused with the whatsername, you know, dates. Yes.
Q: So the glove factory shut down after?
Mrs P: Oh yes, a long while after I left there. After I left Hurst Gunson’s. They’ve put flats on there now haven’t they?
Q: Yes. Because Hurst Gunson’s has shut now?
Mrs P: Yes, they’re gone now. Cause I went they all went.
Q: You did get out before they went, you didn’t go down with them, did you? (Mrs P: No, no.) Do you hear from your, do you hear a lot about, do see the New Zealand family, hear from any of them?
Mrs P: My son? (Q: Yes.) No, he’s been out there thirty years. I hear from him. I phone once a month or he phones me. There’s my son, my son and three grandchildren. Yes.
Q: Oh yes.?
Mrs P: Son, daughter’s wedding, there he is again. (Q: So he’s getting on now, isn’t he? 52. There’s the grandchildren. (Q: Goodness, they’re lovely aren’t they. They’re all different though aren’t they. The boys are a bit alike.) The boy and the girl’s alike, and he’s more, the boy and girl’s like their mother and so is he like his sister, and he’s like his father.
Q: They’re lovely aren’t they. It’s a long way to go and see them isn’t it?
Mrs P: They’d have to build a bridge across the roof before I go. There’s no way I’m going to fly, and no way will I go on sea.
Q: I see. That does make a bit of a problem doesn’t it?
Mrs P: Certainly does. Good job we’ve got the telephone.
Q: Actually I was talking to a lady from South Africa the other day who’d come to visit Witham and she says her son is in Australia and they send these faxes to him. Fax machine instead.
Mrs P: Oh yes, yes. She’s got a machine for that sort of thing. (Q: They must be near where there is a machine I think.) All I’m waiting for now is to see him on the television, you know, you can see him when you are talking to him.
Q: Yes, that’d be nice wouldn’t it, these phones with a picture.
Mrs P: Because I think that’s what they’re going to do, and technology, cause I think they did say one time that’s what, the technology’s coming round to that way of thinking.
Q: I imagine they could do it now, it’s just that it’d be expensive, wouldn’t it.
Mrs P: Oh yes, connect that up with your telephone, and you’d look up and say ‘Hello Ken’.
Q: So, it was 1940 you came to Witham did you say?
Mrs P: Yes, I came in 1940, evacuees from London, women and children out of London cause the War started then. Well it started in 1940, didn’t it. It started in ’39, they started bombing in 1940. Then of course, September 1940 I came down? My Kenny was ten month old then. (Q: I see.) We lived in 51 Church Street. A house belonging to Mr Richard. You know Richards the builders. Well now they’ve got the, at the corner of Church Street, Chalks Road, he had a builders yard there, not on the corner, in a bit you know. (Q: Where Keith Brown’s is.) That’s it, that was Richards’ yard that was, and as I say he used to own the little houses in Church Street (Q: Those little brick ones down the other side?), just past the chapel you know. 51 we had, number 51, and it was, the house was, it wasn’t inhabitable so he said ‘I’ll let you have it’. The Reverend Newman[?] the church, he was Evacuation Officer then, and they was opening these condemned houses. (Q: I see.) So he said ‘Well’, he said ‘you can have the house but you have to do your own decorating, your own repairs inside’. So of course, my mother come from London got someone come down and decorate it inside, and fetched all the furniture down, we lived in there.
Q: That was hard work, a hard job I should think, with a baby as well?.
Mrs P: Yes, well, we’ve got, well you do don’t you, you’ve got to overtake something like that, you’ve just got to go along, and don’t take no notice of it.
Q: Cause did, I thought most of the evacuees lived as lodgers.
Mrs P: Oh yes, there were, we were evacuated with a Mrs Kelly. But it wasn’t suitable, we couldn’t stay there, well she had four children anyway, and there was no sleeping accommodation as such. I mean you had to bundle all in together. And that’s when we went to the Reverend Newman[?] and told him the situation wasn’t up to our standards, and was there anything he could do about it, and that’s when he see Mr Richards. And he said ‘Yes’, he said, ‘by all means, I’ve got these condemned cottages there if you would like to repair, the accommodation is yours. So that’s what we did. As I say, came down and then I went back to London, during the War like, well after the War, I was backwards and forwards to London, my mother was down there I was backwards and forwards to London because my husband was working in London, and of course I came down here after that to live, I took [???] went down the Council house, to the Council and got me name on the Council list and that’s how we come down to live. My husband changed his job. Unless you worked in Witham you couldn’t live in Witham, take a Council house over.
Q: Where did he come to work then? Where did he work when he came? Was he at Crittall’s?
Mrs P: No, only, last time, after he had to pack his London job up, because he worked at Odhams Press. (Q: I see.) Odham’s press. He had a good job there. He was travelling backwards and forwards to London until it got too much for him and said ‘Sorry, we’ll have to have some other arrangement’. So that’s when I went down to they Council and they said ‘Unless your husband’s changed his job there was no chance we could have a place. So that’s when he changed his job from Odhams Press, he had to go to Crittall’s which was quite degrading I tell you [laugh] Especially as he was earning good money, I mean he come down from twenty-two pounds down to eleven, that was a something wasn’t it, that was a big jump. And of course when I went back to London, before then I went back to London, because I fell for Kathy, after fifteen years. I didn’t think that was going to happen but that did. I was 39, I thought I was starting the change, when I come back from me mother’s and that. That’s when we had to see about accommodation, he couldn’t stand going backwards and forwards, the condition I was in, he said ‘No, we’ll have to come to some arrangement’. As I say, that’s when we went down to Crittall, to the Council office..
Q: That was what, in the fifties.
Mrs P: ’53, when I had Kathleen.
Q: So were you living in number 51 all that time?
Mrs P: No (Q: Oh you went somewhere else after). No, I got, I was living there until I got a Council house, yes, and I went over to, give me a house in Southcote Road
Q: So even though they said they were condemned, it’s funny that they said that 51 was condemned, though, and it was all right for you to live in.
Mrs P: Oh yes, the only thing was, the ceiling was low, they weren’t delapidated, there wasn’t no ruins or no rats or anything else there. It was just that they’d condemned them because the ceilings were so low. That house is still going, there’re still people in it.
Q: That’s it, yes. Did they have a bathroom there?
Mrs P: No bathroom and an outside toilet.
Q: That’s what a lot of people had then wasn’t it?
Mrs P: Well yes, no-one had luxury baths then did they? (Q: Mmm.) I mean they’re only up market now because the Council had to put them in.
Q: So, when you first come as an evacuee, did you think then you might stay or were you wanting to get back?
Mrs P: No I didn’t. Oh, no, the country, it was too much country for me, wasn’t my style [laugh]. And of course when we come down during the War people would say ‘Oh here comes the bomb dodgers’. (Q: Really?) Yes, oh yes, we had a lot of that. I used to put Kenny in the pram and go down the town, my mother, to get her pension and that, because she was getting an Army pension from my brother, we used to go down there, to get the pension, as we walked down there, we was going to Woolworths, cause I’d a big pram, I had a big, cause that’d be London, being big, you know, I’d got a big Swan pram. [???] I don’t suppose you, how long have you been down Witham?
Q: 26 years
Mrs P: So you wouldn’t know Mrs Bennett out the Avenue?
Q: Don’t think so, no.
Mrs P: Belongs to a family of heirs[?]. Oh no, I don’t suppose you would because they was, oh no, the old ladies were, of Witham, we used to call the thoroughbreds of Witham. Anyhow carrying on with the story, I went through Woolworth pushing the pram now, and looking round, and I caught this woman’s heel, and my goodness, she said ‘Ah, bomb dodgers, here come the blasted bomb dodgers’. Of course my mother let rip, being a Cockney, she would do ‘It may be on your doorstep before long’ she said. And on that very Monday morning they dropped one at back of Crittall’s! [Laugh] Scared the pants off them all. Of course it was the talk of the town then. ‘Oh, the raids’. I thought to myself ‘You haven’t seen nothing in London, when half of London was burning’.
Q: Quite. So it was quite a change then for you to decide you wanted to stay here?
Mrs P: Yes, it was, as I say, we had no alternative, it was either that or, well you’d nowhere else to go, but go back to the bombs in London. We got bombed out twice even up there, before we come down here.
Q: Oh did you? Whereabouts were you living in London?
Mrs P: Finsbury Park.
Q: When you say you got bombed out, the house actually was destroyed was it or …?
Mrs P: No, it was more or less shrapnel, windows all blown out and fireplace and soot was all whatsername, all glass and that. It was more structural. They didn’t demolish it.
Q: Were you in there when it happened or were you in a shelter?
Mrs P: No, I was down at the Tube station, sleeping at the Tube. We had to go down at six o’clock at night, soon as we used to go over [???] the warning used to go out at about six, just after tea time, just as you were going to get ready for tea so the warning would go. So you would grab everything and run, and of course I had a permanent bundle standing by like, blankets and Kenny at the stair with his [???] so I had to grab him, grab the bundle and run. It was all fun, fun and games now you think of it. But then you marvel, how do you ever get over it, how did you come through it all, you know. (Q: Well, exactly, if it happened now we’d be terrified wouldn’t we.) Oh God, you can’t explain [???] I mean we’re so resilient to that sort of thing, weren’t we, I mean we are, because I mean I saw, when you think we had that for four solid years, bombing London and really they used to bomb London, not just a spot here and there. The whole of London, docks caught a lot one Sunday night. I mean there was never a night’s peace. I mean, once the siren’s go, well that was it, hold on to your hats sort of thing.
Q: So how did you come to be chosen to be evacuated?
Mrs P: Well, we went to the creche, we used to have to go the creche for the children’s welfare, being weighed, creche, used to go over there, take them down to be weighed, and see the doctor and that. Examine him every Wednesday, used to have to go down there, take the children, see if they was developing all right. Because he was only a month old. And then it come that women and children had got to get out of London. Mind you you weren’t forced to, it was optional, but for our own sake, knowing how things were, it got a bit dicey at Finsbury Park. So it was getting nearer and nearer, I thought God, so I said to my husband ‘What shall I do?’.
Q: Knew the area, did she then?
Mrs P: Well her husband, he was in the Army, this chap he lived in Glebe Crescent and he was talking to him and she wrote to her husband and said she’d got to be out of London and he spoke to this chap he was in the Army with and he said, ‘Well’, he says, ‘would they like to go, my wife lives in Witham in Essex’, you know. So of course he wrote back and asked her and she said to me ‘What about it, Vi’ and I said ‘Well, if it’s all right, find out’. So anyway we waited till this person found and her husband said it was quite all right, we could go at a certain time, and we’d be met at Witham station, which we were and course we walked up Church Street, loaded pram loaded, you know [???] and as I say we went to Glebe Crescent. We were there for a few months, [???] it could have been only months.
Q: So what did you think when you first arrived then? What did you make of it when you first arrived here?
Mrs P: We come out the station and we’d got the bottom of Church Street, mind you, we were asking people where Church Street is, we was right in it. Course when we walked up the road, there was all the people out on their gateways, leaning over their gates and that, and I thought ‘God’, I said to Dolly, I though ‘God’. So she said, ‘Yes, all they funny’. And they was all out over the streets. I said ‘Oh’. Course, we was the main attraction, walking up with [???] and cases you know. Everyone was looking at us, Oh, God. Anyway we got where we wanted to go and when we got in there, God. Four kiddies. She was a lovely woman, very helpful and that. She couldn’t have done enough for us. Mind she was getting paid for taking us in, she was getting evacuees money. You didn’t expect anything else, you couldn’t expect her to do it for nothing, but I never dreamt. No. I kept saying ‘Oh’, I said ‘no, I think I’ll go back and face the bombs, I think I’ll face the bombs’. She said ‘Don’t be silly’, she said ‘You’ll be all right, you’ll get used to it’. Well we did eventually.
Q: Were there some people who were quite nice to you then? Or did you feel everybody was a bit wary of you?
Mrs P: Well, it was just a habit of people looking at you strange and that, and the way we spoke, because we were real Cockneys you know. And then our behaviour was attracted to us, you know. Cause you went down the shop and they’d say ‘Hello girl, how are you?’ ‘All right, missis thanks very much’. ‘Oh, I feel sorry for you poor Londoners’. And ‘You poor Londoners’. And then the Londoners did come down and they started to build over Templars, [in 1966] they built over there and, and of course there was over-crowded. ‘Oh that’s it, the London overspill’ [laugh]. We’d be condemned wherever we went.
Q: There was more of them to stick up for each other wasn’t there. Whereas there weren’t very many of you I don’t suppose really?
Mrs P: No, see, no, but when you get them mob-handed like that, there was only me and my friend. Of course we had [???] sort of thing. All right, accept it, you know. Be polite, do as much as you can, but don’t harass them and don’t provoke them in any way..
Q: So that was the people up here were suspicious as well you think?
Mrs P: Yes, they were more biased than anything. ‘Oh Londoners, oh yes, bomb dodgers’. I’ll never forget that woman, Mrs Bennett, Miss Bennett. She had a big robust woman she was. She had this grey uniform on and this hat, and I’ll never forget the hat. That was a big, a velour hat with a band round it with WVS on it and the main thing was, she said ‘Are you all right for clothing and that’. I said ‘Yes, I think so’. ‘Well if you’re not, go and see Miss Bennett at the WVS’. I thought ‘No way’, not if I was naked I wouldn’t go to her. [laugh]. After she called us bomb-dodgers. Oh no.
Q: Terrible. Were there a lot of people like her then?
Mrs P: Mm. I mean you were beneath them, like, you was the scum. You really were. We went down the town, there was a Mrs Rawlings that used to own the pub down, the White Horse, there was her, there was Miss Bennett and there was a few more townies as I call them. They all belonged to the WVS. Oh but you daren’t approach that lot, crikey.
Q: Because you think of it being like that years before, you know, but I’m surprised it was still like that in 1940.
Mrs P: Well, that’s it. See, you were all, you were all English, you know, you wasn’t, you weren’t Germans, you weren’t coming over, the Germans wasn’t coming over after you. But you were, they was really, oh. Well, that’s what I’m saying, cause, country folk, and I suppose we didn’t want to upset their environment I suppose.
Q: There were only two or three of you, you were not going to …
Mrs P: No, but then, say, as one lot came in they were gradually creeping in, they were sending kids from the schools. (Q: Of course, yes.) They sent a trainload of kiddies, and scattered them around Essex. Terling, and places like that, you know. A lot come from Edmonton in London.
Q: That was just the children then?
Mrs P: Yes, that came from the schools, and children, yes. And of course when the children got accommodated so their Mums came down. And of course their Mums got into the shopping areas as well, [???] around the town, and it was ‘Oh here come the bomb dodgers again’, because they come down to visit their children at weekend. (Q: Oh dear.) Oh yes, you’d be surprised how we got treated. And that’s when they called them bomb dodgers that was, oh, that was a right upset, that cramped my style. [laugh].
Q: Well I’m surprised you didn’t just run back again, it must have been awful.
Mrs P: It was. Oh yes, bomb dodgers.
Q: Then I suppose your son wouldn’t go to school until after the War would he?
Mrs P: No, because we went back to London he passed the grammar school. That was another thing. We weren’t there twelve months and as I say I fell pregnant. Kathleen. So we had to come out of there, out of London. (Q: Oh you went back, that was when you were back in London, was it?) Yes well I fell, when I went back to London and fell for Kathleen, and then of course come back to my Mother, had to go and see the Council and that and that was that.
Q: Did your Mother come out here with you? Was your mother in London all the time, or …?
Mrs P: No, she come down after. After we got evacuated and my Mum come down after. That’s when we got the house.
Q: She lived near you in London?
Mrs P: Yes, quite near. My brother went into the Army and she was left alone, so I had nothing alternative but get her down here, see what I mean.
Q: I was thinking about your son, when he first went to school, you’d be in Witham then would you, when he was little, when he was five or whatever?
Mrs P: No, we was in London, we was in Finsbury Park.
Q: You were in London again by then.
Mrs P: That was when the War had died down a bit.
Q: I was just wondering if he’d gone to school here, how he got on with the kids, but he didn’t have to do that?
Mrs P: No, no, when we come back to live down here he went to Bramston School (Q: I see.) and then from there he passed an exam and he went to Further Education at Braintree. That’s where he finished up, before he went to Crittall’s.
Q: Oh he went to Crittall’s as well did he?
Mrs P: Yes, he went, served an apprentice at Crittall’s. That’s how he come to get to New Zealand. Through Crittall’s. (Q: Really.) Yes, because he worked there, as I say, as an apprentice. He passed his apprentice at Crittall’s. He got married. Then the notice went up on the board on the notice, anyone wishing to, emigrate, and there was emigrate to New Zealand, Australia or Lagos, Africa. So he come home and said ‘I’m putting in for emigration, mum’. I said ‘Whatever for?’ He said ‘We want to go to New Zealand’. He said ‘It would only be for two years’. I said ‘Oh yeah’ I said ‘Who’s idea’, I was right cross, you know, I said ‘Who’s idea was that, Dawn’s’. So he said ‘No’, he said, ‘we just decided we want to’, because he didn’t like Witham. He said the mentality of the men at Crittall’s he said it was degrading. He couldn’t understand it. He said ‘Mum’, he said, ‘the mentality of the men over there are half wits, I can’t take a lot of that’ he said. When he first started there that’s why he didn’t like it. They used to do all silly tricks to him.
He put a pair of overalls on and they made paper spurs, as he was going up the ladder, they put a pair of paper spurs on him, on his feet, on his legs, and of course he discovered that, and oh, my God, the next day he went in, on his overalls they’d got a big L on it. He was hot tempered he was. He said ‘No, I can’t take a lot of that’ and that’s when he decided. He said ‘But we’re only going to be there for two years’. I said ‘All right, fair enough’. And whilst he was, went out there, he was working for Crittall[‘s, he’d got a contract for two years with Crittalls, so he had to be with Crittalls for two years. And he thought after that he was coming home. But anyway apparently he got to like it. (Q: I see.) And then during that time when he went his father was ill and died and of course I, well, sent him a telegram to say what had happened. He telegrammed back ‘What shall I do Mum?’ I said ‘Well stay, there’s nothing you can do now, stay’ And stay he has. No, but what could he have done? Couldn’t have done nothing. He had his life, he’s got his life to think of. So there I was. But apart from that as I say he’s done all right. He’s got a good job. He worked for Champions, the spark plug makers. He worked himself up to a manager’s job and then they went bust because America sold out or something, because it was an American firm, sold out. Now he’s got another job doing all right apparently.
Q: Its all you can hope for isn’t it? That’s good.
Mrs P: That’s it. I think he’s done all right meself. I mean he’s had no financial help from me at any time. Never wanted it, he’s never asked for it. Apart from, well I do say now ‘How are you managing?’ ‘Oh I’m OK mum, don’t worry’, you know.
Q: So how did your husband find Crittall’s when he went there? How did your husband find the people at Crittall’s when he went there?
Mrs P: Well he didn’t like it but he had to tolerate it, he had no choice.
Q: What was he working on ?
Mrs P: He was in the packers. Packing the windows, putting them in crates and everything else. No he didn’t like, well he had to like it but he never complained about it. Not like Ken did. Ken, he got a bit bolshey about it he did. It wasn’t his style at all. Every day he’d come home and say ‘them there, the mentality of those fellows, how do they stand it’.
Q: Was that just because they were teasing him you mean, or what?
Mrs P: Yes, but I think it was as much that he disliked to the old people, you know. He always think they belonged to the Bridge Home, he said ‘they should be in Bridge Home’. He couldn’t understand it at all. I don’t know perhaps they had a different way of life that they did in London. But no, he couldn’t stand it. That’s a fact, he couldn’t take it, no doubt about it. He didn’t have a sense of humour. He would say everything was so serious, you couldn’t make a joke of it, what he said. I mean what he was he was sincere. He could couldn’t see nothing, he’d no sense of humour, he could pull a joke on you but you daren’t with him. Oh no.
Q: And I suppose if they got wind of that, they would tease him even more wouldn’t they?
Mrs P: Yes well that’s what I’m saying. I said ‘If you let them see it upset, they’re going to it all the more’. He said ‘I’ll thump one of them’, he said ‘I’ll thump one of them, I know I will’. George used to say, ‘Oh don’t take no notice’. ‘All right’ he said ‘You take it, I’m not going to take it, they ain’t taking it out on me, they take the mickey out’. Oh I said.[???] would come in ‘How’s Kenny?’ Take no notice. He’d come in, his face was blood red. I said ‘What’s wrong, now what’s upset you?’ ‘I’ll go back this afternoon, I’ll thump him’ and that was the foreman! [Laugh]
Q: Oh dear, what was he working on then?
Mrs P: He was on the maintenance. Every time there was a job up over here for the belts or that, and the wheelwright’s, you know, they’d have to get Ken to go up there, and that’s what [???] get it, cause they used to get him up, go up on the ladders up there, doing up top or something.
Well I mean, he’d only just served his apprenticeship so he couldn’t refuse to do the job, only once, the sack.
Q: So what was he apprenticed as?
Mrs P: A millwright (Q: I see.) Hydraulic. Because they was all hydraulic presses over there and he had to deal with that.
Q: But he finished his apprenticeship?
Mrs P: Yes, and that’s when he went there. Because he got high grades. He was top boy one year of the Further Education. Got top marks for the year. It was in the paper. Yes, proud of himself in the paper he said ‘Look Mum’. ‘That’s a good fellow, knew you could do it’. He said ‘I know I can do it.’ He’d got lovely handwriting, perfect handwriting. As I say he passed English, what was his main thing, was Science and, oh what was the other, Science and Arithmetic, can’t think of the word now, where they do all the measuring up with squares and whatever.
Q: Algebra? Or technical?
Mrs P: Algebra
Q: Does he get that from you then?
Mrs P: No, his father, not from me. I couldn’t read and write until I left school.
Mrs P: No, I left the scholars behind.
Q: Till you left school, you say?
Mrs P: I mean really, I was a dunce. I never bothered because I wouldn’t learn. So I learned more out of school than I did in.
Q: How did you go about learning to read and write after then?
Mrs P: My father used to help. ‘He said the more you read the more you’ll learn’. Course he got us down. I could read, I knew what words were but I wouldn’t put it down in writing. I wouldn’t stand up in the class and read to a class, I used to stand up and read the paragraph out and no, I couldn’t, I’d stand there dumb. I wasn’t dumb, I was insolent. I just didn’t want to do it.
Q: Sounds like your son. Sounds like your son.
Mrs P: I didn’t want to do it, I didn’t want to do it.
Q: Where were you at school?
Mrs P: In London.
Q: Was that in Finsbury Park as well?
Mrs P: No, that was in Islington, more Highbury way.
Q: Where your father worked?
Mrs P: Yes, my father was an exhibition fitter. He worked at the Olympia when they had these shows you know. The Agricultural hall, Earls Court, White City, anywhere there was an exhibition. So he was there doing the stands. Exhibition fitter. Stands, all that sort of thing. Carpentry actually. He was a carpenter.
Q: What was his name? What was your name before you were married? (Mrs P: Rodd.) What was his first name? (Mrs P: John) But he’d died before you came to Witham had he?
Mrs P: Oh, yes, he died long before the War, ’35, 1935.
Q: So you’ve had quite a varied life haven’t you?
Mrs P: Oh yes, I’ve had a cocktail of a life [laugh]. Oh yes, I have. I’ve enjoyed it.
Q: What did you used to do with yourself when you were not at work? Did you have any hobbies or did you go out anywhere?
Mrs P: Well, since I wasn’t at work, when I left Hurst Gunson, I did cleaning, various jobs of cleaning. I worked for the bank manager, cleaning his wife’s house. That’s on Chipping Hill, you know the cobblers? There. She lived there first and then she moved up to Maldon Road.
Q: What was their name? (Mrs P: Watson.) Oh I know, I remember when they used to live up here, yes.
Mrs P: Mary Watson and Geoff, her husband, she had two kiddies. And then went, I worked three places at once. I went to Watsons, then I went to Sawyers the butchers, and the butcher’s daughter. I used to do them in rotation. Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. I was never out of work and then I worked at the paper shop. Used to do a couple of days at the paper shop, serving and cleaning in there. I’ve never had an idle life, I’ve always done something. I had to do something. I couldn’t be idle. The last regular job was at Hurst Gunsons, that’s when I got a wage, from Hurst Gunsons, the other I done casuals after I left Hurst Gunson’s.
Q: So how old would you be when you were doing all those other jobs?
Mrs P: 65. From 60. I stopped work definite at 65.
Q: So you did all those other things between 60 and 65. I was really thinking what did you do when you weren’t working? Perhaps you always were working?
Mrs P: There never was a time when I wasn’t working. I was doing something, cleaning.
Q: I mean sort of in the weekends and the evenings and that sort of things
Mrs P: Oh, went out with my friends, go down the Labour Club. Socialising down there, Crittall’s Club, socialising there with friends. Oh I was never sitting indoors twiddling my fingers.
Q: So you managed to get to make friends with the Witham folks in the end then?
Mrs P: [laugh] Oh yes, well, it was compulsion wasn’t it? (Q: Not much choice really was there?) Compulsion. I mean my brother after he come out the Army he married a local girl, Dora Witham[?], [???] do you know her? (Q: Don’t think I do) Do you know John Rodd my brother.
Q: Oh that’s your brother, I didn’t know he was your brother. Yes, so really your family was down here as well. That would help wouldn’t it really.
Mrs P: Yes, after my mother down here and me brother come out the army, course he had to come and live down here. Because once he was demobbed there was nothing going back to London for, there was nothing in London, his home was here.
Q: So you lived in a lot of different places in London then didn’t you? You lived in a lot of different houses in London did you?
Mrs P: No, only two.
Q: Only two, Islington and Highbury
Mrs P: Highbury where I was born and Finsbury Park when I was married.
Q: What sort of houses were those?
Mrs P: Well, three storey houses.
Q: Because they were quite big.
Mrs P: Yes, they were up the steps the three storey houses. There was a [???] first floor and a top floor. They were all tenement houses weren’t they.
Q: So they must have seemed a bit small over here?
Mrs P: Oh it was, like a doll’s house [laugh]. It really, well you come here a multi-storey carpark more or less, there were three storey, three rooms on each floor. But when you come down here you’ve got two storey houses with two up and two down. As I say it was like a doll’s house. But it was cosy, it really was. Because every house is what you make it isn’t it. You make it comfy for yourself well that’s it.
Q: Was Crittall’s Club was always there since you’ve been here?
Mrs P: Oh yes. Only just recent it’s come out, hasn’t it, since Crittall’s closed down, sacked all their workers, it’s all finished. But they used to have a Social Club up there, they used to have dancing up there. Well they used to have a table tennis, didn’t they, clubs up there, dancing, old time dancing up there.
Q: You husband didn’t like that sort of thing did he?
Mrs P: No, he didn’t. He didn’t socialise. No he didn’t socialise. It was only me after he died.
Q: Course when he was working up in London I don’t suppose he had time for anything else.
Mrs P: No, dinner time was at seven o’clock at night time he got home.
Q: Did he not even go there when he was working at Crittall’s?
Mrs P: No.
Q: Did he get to like Witham in the end do you think?
Mrs P: Yes, he knuckled in down Witham, yes, he got in all right. Course he never boozed. He never went out drinking. I mean I like to drink and he’d say ‘Right’. He’d take me out. He’d sit there with a glass of beer and that’s it and I’d have what I wanted. That was enough. I knew what I wanted, he knew how much I wanted, it was, just that it was company for each other, we used to go out. It wasn’t for boozing. We’d take a stroll down the town, walk right down and come up again, call in the White Horse up here and home. That was [???] Sunday evening.
Q: It’s quite a nice part of the town to live up here isn’t it?
Mrs P: It’s not too bad. I mean it’s better now than what it was. It has been a bit rough some times but I think they’ve all got acclimatised to it now, I think they all got older. There’s not so many children running about like there used to. Were there’s no vandalism up here is there, not as such I mean, what it’s like in the town I don’t know because I don’t go down the town.
Q: But most of the people up here have been here quite a while haven’t they? There’s many familiar faces.
Mrs P: Oh yes, they’re all old Witham, aren’t they, the majority are Witham born and that.
Q: Did you know any other evacuees that stayed on here?
Mrs P: No, no, I don’t, strangely enough. I think if there were any more they’ve either died or gone back to London.
Q: I think my impression was that most of them went back to London even before the War finished, cause they got fed up with being away from the …
Mrs P: Well, I think once you, if you’re London, if you know London you stick to it. Well it takes you really. I mean you have to be more or less a victim of circumstances.
Q: Did you used to go back there after the War at all?
Mrs P: Oh yes, weekends backwards and forwards. See the rest of me family and that. Relatives and that. Me husbands relations were still up there, used to go backwards and forwards. But apart from that we just got acclimatised. We became home dwellers as you call it. Not bomb dodgers any more. Oh that was a sore point that was.
Q: That wasn’t just her that said that then?
Mrs P: No, she was with these women walking through Woolworth’s, and of course if she hadn’t have been with these women chatting in a group like they do, and I of course I had to push the pram past and of course I caught her foot, hard luck.
Q: Did other people call you names as well?
Mrs P: Oh, no, it was only that one. There was no other instances. What got up my back, I mean there was remarks, yes, but you get a lot of that anywhere. But when she come out with that, ‘Bloody bomb dodgers’, that’s what cramped my style, that really did, that went right to the core that did. Then my mother let fly. ‘It may be on your bloody doorstep before you know’. They did learn. It was Monday morning. Bombing Crittall’s. Dear of dear, a laugh that Monday. Oh dear, half past seven. It was crazy it really was.
Q: What happened, do you remember?
Mrs P: My mum said ‘Did you hear that last night?’ So I said ‘No, what was it?’ Apparently she got the milk off the step or she met the milkman coming up the road on the milk float, he told her something. She said to me ‘You know what happened last night?’ I said ‘No, what?’ Only that a bomb fell over the back of Crittall’s. I said ‘Oh was that where it was?’ ‘She said ‘Didn’t you hear the thump?’ I said ‘Well I did I suppose’. You hear so many thumps you don’t take notice when you’re in the country.
Q: So people were upset about that were they?
Mrs P: Oh yes, ‘Oh, should never have happened. Oh’. And then another time I think on a Monday morning when Crittall’s was going to work, half past seven, a dare devil, an aeroplane come and machined the whole of Braintree Road. Machine gunned it right along. (Q: Oh dear.)
That was another talk of the town that was. ‘How’ve you got the audacity to come down to Witham’. Scared them. Machine gunned Crittall’s. Oh my god.
Q: Still I suppose you were able to say then, ‘I told you so’, sort of thing, were you?
Mrs P: Well more or less, ‘How do you like that now, how do you like that. Now that’s what we had to put up with, now you know what we went through. We gloated over that. I mean not intention, not wickedly, but we thought to ourselves, ‘Well now you think, you had it, and you’ve had nothing, you don’t know what we went through and that’s only a little bit’
Q: That’s right, yes.
Mrs P: Oh yes, that was the talk of the town, ‘Oh dear, they’re trying, they’ve bombed the back of Crittall’s, and they machined all Braintree Road [???]’ Oh my God.
Q: I think there was a bomb up in Cressing Road wasn’t there?
Mrs P: Oh up in the tower?
Q: Looking down in a hole or something?
Mrs P: Yes, like a crater. That’s where it fell, it flew over Crittall’s and that, and that’s where the thump was, the vibrations from that crater. It fell in the field. I mean it’s a good job it didn’t go on the houses. (Q: That’s right) Of course they kept saying ‘He knew Witham, he knew it was Witham, he knew’. I thought ‘You bloody fool, how could he know it was Witham!’
Q: They thought he’d picked them out personally did they?
Mrs P: Yes. Said ‘Oh yes, he knew we was Witham, he knew there was people living here’. Well what about London. [laugh]. So he was entitled to bomb London but he wasn’t entitled to come down here and disturb the peace.
Q: I suppose you laugh now more than you did then?
Mrs P: Well we used to have a laugh indoors and, go down the town and you’d hear ‘Oh, did you hear it last night, dreadful, did you see it?’ And my Mum would say ‘God, whatever’s going on?’ And then you’d get a snapshot ‘Oh, they bombed behind Crittall’s. Yes, bombed. And then they come along Braintree Road machine gunned all that’. It was something to talk about. As I said they’d never seen nothing like that. Disturbed their peace down here, it was dreadful.
Q: Cause I suppose people didn’t go up to London much from here during the War did they? (Mrs P: No. Oh no.) And I suppose would they read much in the papers or were they keeping that quiet?
Mrs P: Oh, yes. ‘London was bombed such and such’. Yes it was in the daily papers.
Q: I just wondered if they kept it a bit quiet so the Germans wouldn’t think they were doing so well?
Mrs P: Oh yes, they wouldn’t say where they actually bombed, yes London was bombed again last night such and such. Oh you never knew where you was because it was whatsername, the enemy mustn’t to know, they’d all the, well the railway stations was all blocked out. You never knew where you were.
Q: So they didn’t really have much idea at all, did they, of what was going on in London?
Mrs P: No, they had to see it to believe it you know.
Q: I mean was anybody interested if you talked to them, were they interested in you telling them what was happening or not?
Mrs P: Well no, not really. That didn’t bother them really, they wasn’t interested, I don’t think so, no. Not as such, they knew there was bombing going on but they didn’t have no location where the bombs were. I mean you couldn’t stand and say ‘Oh I was bombed down…‘. You didn’t brag about that sort of thing, you know. They knew you’d been bombed out because why wasn’t you living in London, you’d come down here, so you must have been bombed out. Oh no you didn’t go round telling people that sort of thing.
Q: And your husband was still working up there? (Mrs P: Yes he was working at Odham’s) Was he still living in the same area then? Was he still living in Finsbury Park then? (Mrs P: When?) When you come down here, he was up there on his own was he? (Mrs P: Yes, living in Finsbury Park, yes.) So he must have seen a few
Mrs P: Oh yes cause he was working, until he was working, before he went to Odhams Press he was working at the Ministry of Buildings, Whitehall, where Churchill had his dugout and he was working there during the War. For the Ministry of Works and Buildings. And after the War that was when he got himself a job at Odham’s Press.
Q: Oh I see, so he had to stay up there.
Mrs P: Yes, cause he was on night work up there. While were down in the Tube he was down in the deep dugout where Churchill.
Q: Did he say you much about that, what it was like?
Mrs P: No, no comments about that. I think it was more of, you must not tell things sort of thing, all hush, hush. No he never spoke about what was going on. It was only after the War we knew. He told us but there was nothing I think it was at was scrutinised you know, secrets and that.
Q: So you didn’t know at the time where he was working?
Mrs P: Not really, we knew he worked in Whitehall, but what he was doing or where he was doing it we didn’t know, because as I say it was night work. We went to the shelters at night and he went off to work.
Q: What sort of things was he doing?
Mrs P: Electrical work, he was an electrician.
Q: So it was a change when he started packing then at Crittall’s, wasn’t it?
Mrs P: That’s what I say it was a come down for him, it was a let down.
Q: He couldn’t get any work as an electrician?
Mrs P: No, the Union card you see. He’d had to put his Union Card in. He’d had to leave that job. He could have carried on with his Union dues down here but there were no jobs going, not at Crittall’s, not for electricians. So he had to take what it was, a labourer’s job. That’s all it was. There was nothing qualified in packing, it was labouring.
Q: Quite hard work I should think isn’t it, the heavy stuff?
Mrs P: Well I should think so yes, all the labour, hammering nails making cases up, packing windows. It was all that sort of thing. But he never minded. (Q: I suppose he did what he was told.) Well he had to, really had no argument, could he, it was either that or nothing. As I say Crittall’s was the only jobs, weren’t they, there weren’t no other jobs down here. Everybody lived round about all worked for Crittall’s. Don’t matter who you are. You all worked at Crittall’s. That’s all it was, Crittall’s and Pinkham’s. No there was no other jobs around, so we had no choice.
Q: You didn’t ever do any actual glove work at Pinkhams?
Mrs P: No, I didn’t no. No I didn’t have nothing to do with that. I was on the domestic side, toilet cleaning. Lavatory cleaner [laugh].
Q: But you cleaned the office as well.
Mrs P: Oh yes, office cleaner is what I was classed as. Well they are offices.
Q: So did Pinkham’s, I’ve forgotten when it was that Pinkhams closed down but it was some time in the 1960s wasn’t it I think (Mrs P: Oh yes.) Did Mr Pinkham stay in Witham then?
Mrs P: Yes, because he had that big house, Greystones, didn’t he, in Chipping Hill. That was Pinkham’s house, the old man was in there. John lived down at, where did he live, I think he was at Maldon, no John lived down Collingwood Road, yes he lived in Collingwood Road, John did. David lived in Maldon Road and I think Richard, I think he lived at Maldon. They all lived more or less local.
Q: So they stayed round about here when it closed down. Cause was that a big upset when it closed down? Or don’t you remember much about it?
Mrs P: No, it just closed gradual. There was nothing drastic about it. I think the trade went and they lost all the customers and that’s it. It just went faded away sort of thing. There was nothing drastic about it. Not like Crittall’s, there was hundreds laid off at Crittall’s, wasn’t there. They laying them off by the fifties at a time at Crittall’s. But there was nothing like that at Pinkham’s. I think it just gradually died away. The trade did. I mean no one was wearing gloves like they used to were they. Only the royal family and Society was wearing gloves for the banquets and everything else, but I mean not for local people. Common or garden people they weren’t wearing gloves.
I mean used to be days if you was wearing a hat you’d got to wear gloves. That was the days when the gloves was popular. If you bought a hat, you’d got to buy gloves, you couldn’t wear your hat, if hadn’t wearing gloves, if you couldn’t wear gloves you wasn’t wearing a hat. That was the etiquette. Oh yes, that was how it goes. Oh I thought you’d have known that, you can’t be dressed up, you’re not wearing a hat, you can’t be wearing gloves, you’ve got to have a hat and gloves, you can’t go without a hat and gloves.
Q: I must have escaped that. I didn’t used to wear either much [laugh]. But I suppose by that time Bert Pinkham would be getting on in years anyway?
Mrs P: Oh yes, he was well over seventy when I was there.
Q: So did he work there all the time when you were there or did he leave it to the others.
Mrs P: No, I wasn’t there very long was I.
Q: No, I mean did he work there all the time?
Mrs P: Oh no, he was backwards and forwards to his house. He used to come backwards and forwards and dodge here and there. He was never in the factory all the while. Occasionally he’d come in unexpected, he’d come bowling through, barging through, up the stairs and slam bang goes, when you heard the slam bang you knew the governor was around. Oh he was a big brute, horrible man. He really was. You know if they asked him, he’d go ‘Ugh, ugh’. See him calling across the office, you know, he’d talk to a secretary like that, ‘Ugh, ugh’. I used to say to him, well, Richard’s secretary, I used to say to her, ‘Ain’t he a bully’ and she said ‘Yes, he’s ignorant, don’t take any notice of him’. Oh I said he wouldn’t talk to me like that. Be she said ‘What would you do?’ No. You’re not all animals are you.
Q: What, you were shouted at you mean?
Mrs P: Do you know, if he wanted anything it’d got to be there and then, he wanted it whatever. Book, pencil, or someone on the phone or get him a number on the phone, or get him something.
Q: He didn’t say ‘Please’?
Mrs P: No, what, crikey, no, no please nor thank you. I know once I was up there and he was coming up the stairs and I was just about to come out, and I stood back and held the door while he walked through, there was never a please nor thank you nor nothing.
Q: Cause I thought you said you got on with him all right?
Mrs P: Not him, no, Herbert, Herbert Keeble the manager I got on all right with, not the governor, oh no the governor, not him, no, he was a Mr Pinkham. I didn’t like him. Keeble was all right. All the Keebles was all right, but him, no. He was a big burly man. He was a horrible man. He really was, he was a domineering, bombastic, horrible bloke, you name it, he was, he was really horrible. No, Keeble were all right, he was a lovely man old Herbert. (Q: Yes he was nice wasn’t he.) Yes he was. All the fellows, all the Keeble boys were nice, I mean Victor was a lovely chap. I liked him and Sid, I see Sid the other day, well about a month. I went to Broomfield Hospital, the opticians and he was there with his wife Chris. Quite a polite, lovely man he is. (Q: Is he keeping all right?) His wife was there with her bad eyes. But he was all right, Sid was all right, he’d got a stick, but he was all right, quite old Sid you know. ‘Hello deary’ he said, made quite a fuss.
Q: What about the other Pinkhams then? The sons, were they the same?
Mrs P: Oh they was gentlemen they were, except for Richard. I didn’t care much for Richard. He was a bit of a character, but John and David, was quite nice, they were, they was gentleman, but as for the old man, he was nothing like a gentleman at all. It seemed everyone sort of scattered when he walked through.
Q: Did you clean their offices as well? Did you clean the Pinkhams?
Mrs P: Yes, well I had to do them first.
Q: But you had to get out of the way before they came?
Mrs P: Yes, I had to be there first. I’d do Richard’s first, that was downstairs, of course that’s where he held all the receptions and tradesmen used to associate with them, and do his first, then I’d go upstairs and do John’s, along the corridor I’d do David’s last. And then I’d do the main typing office. Dust and hoover with a vacuum polisher.
Q: Did they have carpets?
Mrs P: No they had parquet flooring, had to polish them with an electric polisher. Oh you had to go, you had to keep going. Once you’d got the polish on the floor, so you’d got to take it off.
Q: Yes, quite. Did they keep the offices tidy or did you have to do that? Were there lots of papers and things lying about.
Mrs P: Oh yes, [???] you never disturbed the tables, oh no you mustn’t disturb, you just dust round them, don’t disturb one paper, don’t take one paper and put it anywhere else, leave it as it was, if you moved an inkstand leave it, dust it, put it back. Oh no, you couldn’t disturb what anything on the table. There was nothing shown on the table, nothing business like. It was all drawered and put away, it was all locked in a desk. There was nothing there you could stand and nose on it. You couldn’t sort of, peep and say ‘Oh what’s this’, you couldn’t stand there like that, you didn’t understand it anyway. Oh no, everything was put away. Even to the sample gloves. If they had any gloves in the office they was samples, they was all collected and put away in the desk and that. No, go in and that’s all you see. As I say once you was finished that side of the building, the office building, you’d go the other side – the workshop.
Q: And did, was Mr Pinkham like that to Herbert Keeble as well, was he unpleasant to him?
Mrs P: Oh I think he knew he was his guv’nor. You had to know he was the guv’nor and I think Herbert used to stand to attention more or less. Oh yes, he was domineering, there was no doubt about it.
Q: Because Herbert had been there a long time wasn’t he, he must have known the business very well?
Mrs P: Oh yes, he must have started there, yes he must have, and the brothers. They all started, fourteen sort of thing.
Q: They must have known the business pretty well.
Mrs P: Oh yes, they must have done, cause I mean to be a cutter, you’ve got to know what you’re doing, it’s like dress making isn’t it, you’ve got to know how to cut it and how to finish it. Oh yes, they went right through the trade. They must have done.
Q: And what was the name of Herbert’s job? Was he a foreman?
Mrs P: No, he was the manager, he was the manager, and Sid and Vic they was cutters.