Mr Hayes was born in 1904, and Mrs Hayes in 1903. They were interviewed on 23 June 1977, when they lived at 8 Chalks Road, Witham.
For more about them see the post in the People category entitled Hayes, George, and Hayes, Mrs Doll (nee Bright); and Hayes, Miss Ada (Sis)
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.]
Continued from tape 18
Mr H: I had music lessons when I went to school, both of us, Sis and I. The school master Thompson was my music teacher and soon, ‘cause when I was a boy I wouldn’t practice. As soon as I got, I suppose I was about twelve or thirteen, to Witham Town Band and then after a time Crittall’s, they started a band up, we had, our bandmaster come from Portsmouth College of Music, Naval College of Music and we started up there, and oh I had quite a few years, I played in Crittall’s Band, Braintree Band, Legion Band and once or twice the Maldon Band, I played in Maldon Band.
Mrs H: They used to play on the Prom at Maldon on Sunday afternoon and you got told off because, what were you playing, oh dear. (Mr H: The steam[?] song.) The steam song, can you remember it.
Mr H: Do you remember that, ‘Drink, drink’. ‘Cause that was on a Sunday.) they played the “drinking song” on Sunday. Then Whenever we played there we used to have submit a programme of what we was going to play.
Mrs H: Couldn’t get anything in the wardrobe for three uniforms. One was navy blue and red, one was a green and gold and Crittall’s was a pale blue and yellow wasn’t it?
Mr H: Yes. I had a cornet for years, and in the, while, all during the War, I was in the fire brigade in the works. I was in the Red Cross, the Red Cross, and in the band so almost every night I’d got something on. And I said ‘As soon as the war finished I am going to give it all up.’ and I did except for the fire brigade over here and I stopped in it.
Mrs H: And then at the finish I had him, you know when there was a scare in nineteen, what was it. You took Civil Defence lectures, didn’t you. He was an instructor.
Mr H: Each firm – Crittall’s had a firm at Heybridge, Witham, Silver End and Braintree. They sent two each from each firm. There was Courtauld’s, Warner’s, Lake and Elliot’s, Courtauld’s had two or three, there was another one. Say there was about thirty-nine or forty of us and actually speaking me and my pal we was the only two, what shall we say, workmen. All the others were staff you know and in the finish there were only four of us that passed so I got an instructor’s certificate.
Mrs H: Yes, it was like the vicar said, he slept with somebody who knew it. Because I’d already taken my instructor’s exams. (Q: Of course yes, when was, that was in …) This was, I took instructor’s exam before the Second World War. I joined the Red Cross in 1935 and then I took instructors and I was an ARP officer wasn’t I for all of Witham here for a long long time. (Q: I should think you hardly saw each other.) Well we didn’t. You see Ian used to go. (Mr H: I’m going to have a smoke, I can’t sit here without having a smoke.) If I was doing anything, Nan would always look after Ian, you see. So that’s how we managed. I went to the Civil Defence College to Falmouth. I enjoyed it.
Mr H: Actually speaking that come a little bit too much, I used to do the surgery at the works when Sister was on holiday. Really it was a responsible job and they didn’t sort of appreciate it when they was working on short time, the rest of the staff come home and I had to stop there because I was …(Mrs H: First Aider.) And you know, during the night sometimes they’d tell you sometimes they wouldn’t, somebody have an accident. Perhaps it was snowing or pouring with rain, you’d got to come to the lodge, get the key, go to the surgery and do the job. I had to take the responsibility of it, and I got rather fed up with it in the finish so I said, Sister [???] came round and asked me if I would do it so I said ‘By the way’, I said, ‘If I, suppose [???] ill in the night if I want a doctor, if I send for my doctor he’ll swear at me ‘cause I didn’t call your doctor, now who do I send for.’ And they came back with the answer that if I wanted a doctor to phone the number at Silver End, the first aid man, and he’d come over. Well if I wanted a doctor, I wanted a doctor, I didn’t want another first aid man. So I give it up, you know. You got no help and no appreciation really. Still it is nice to know what to do. It’s nice not to have it to do, anyway.
Mrs H: Well you knew what to do when the old girl set fire to herself just here. Yes, because, old Mrs Seager, she was always rolling about, ‘cause she had pernicious anaemia and she used to have a lot of drugs, she was inclined to have brandy, brandy with it.
[description of rescuing Mrs S from fall on one occasion, and from fire on another, not noted.],
Mr H: I’ve saved two lives and got married once so I can’t expect much more can I.
Mrs H: And Tom Rushen you pulled out of the river, didn’t you, when you was a little boy.
Q: Did you? Well done.
Mr H: I got fourpence for that. I don’t know whether it was him or his older brother, and his sister, took me by the hand and took me to the grandmother. And the poor old lady opened her purse and I think it was, I’m sure it was fourpence was all she’d got in her purse and she give me that for pulling him out the river. And I had to take it home. If I’d have gone into Hasler’s shop and Hasler had seen that he’d have wanted to know where I got it from. Because kids had a farthing or ha’penny that time of day, that’s all you had you see. If you’d got a penny they wondered if you’d pinched it. I got fourpence for that. [???] (Q: ???.) I think our Sis and I had a ha’penny each and we was more than satisfied. We didn’t worry about the other you see.
Q: Is Sis older than you or younger than you?
Mrs H: There’s a year and a fortnight’s difference in between them. She’s younger. She’s just younger. A year and a fortnight, that’s all.
Mr H: All I got for the honour of getting married was a black look … [Laughter]
Mrs H: He doesn’t look so bad on it does he ?
Q: So you wouldn’t reckon you were all that well off then? Your people wouldn’t have regarded yourselves as being well off?
Mrs H: No. Oh no I suppose not. We was living on a farm and supposed to be well of.
Q: I suppose the railway was at least a sort of steady job was it.
Mr H: Oh yes that was steady but I think Dad’s money, I wouldn’t be sure, but I think his money was round about half-a-crown more than the average and he always had an allotment, we always had plenty of vegetables, he mended shoes, he was pretty useful on anything like that. Well I think we was that much better off so that both of us could go to music lessons. (Q: That was extra was it?) (Mrs H: That was extra yes.) What did they pay, fifteen shillings for ten lessons they used to pay. Of course that was a lot of money at that time when they was working for about ten or eleven bob.
Q: That’s interesting. Were they musical? I wonder why they chose that. Were your parents interested in music or was it the schoolteacher?
Mr H: No, no, they wanted me to go Braintree High School but I was more useful with the catapult so I didn’t go [laughter]. (Mrs H: He could have done). Well they did, they wanted me to go, you know. Well I was unfortunate when I went to school because however much I tried to write well the last time three blots appeared across the page, you know from the inkwell. Every time it happened. Now sums, I could do most sums in my head, and I often used to get in trouble for having no working. I could do them, I always come out top in sums. But writing and drawing well, as I say I was more useful with the catapult. [Laughter]
Q: So who was it wanted you to go to the High School, the teacher?
Mr H: Dad and Mum. Both of them yes they wanted me to go. And I didn’t go, things got a little bit better and our schoolmaster then said, ‘cause we had a boy named Gibbs who was very clever and his father was superintendent of Bridge Home and he didn’t pass and they wondered why. When I was at a music lesson, I heard the schoolmaster say that if they think they can afford, to send him. Pay to send him. You’ll pay. But I didn’t really want to go I wanted to stay at work and be as big as the others.
Mrs H: Well when Ian passed we had to pay ‘cause George was earning so much we had to pay something towards him to be at the High School.
Mr H: He passed a year before his time.
Mrs H: Yes, he did, he passed when he was ten.
Q: So with you, you reckon they could have afforded to ?
Mrs H: Yes.
Mr H: Only by the … Put it like this, as I said, he used to keep us in vegetables and shoe mending.
Mrs H: And your mother used to make Sis’s clothes
Q: I was going to say did your mum do any work ?
Mr H: Yes, that made a lot of difference, you know, by them doing that that added extra to the income. ‘Cause we’d have had to pay for having shoes mended and that sort thing. I think there was a lot of poverty about really. Kids going to school with you know, toes out of shoes and that and often they couldn’t send them ‘cause they’d got no shoes. Especially these agricultural workers and that sort of thing you know. There was real hardship but everybody was more or less the same. You didn’t take any notice. I used to call for a boy to go to school and there was several children in that family and honestly they used to have their breakfast every morning, bread, broke up in a basin, hot water poured on it and a little piece of margarine and salt and pepper. That was their breakfast every morning. Their father used to like his half-pint so I suppose that went that way instead of going into the house. Dad didn’t drink a lot you see.
Mrs H: [???]
Q: So what would you have had for your breakfast ?
Mrs H: Egg and bacon. He always had it and still has it. He does honestly.
Mr H: I enjoy my breakfast. I do honestly.
Mrs H: Always has egg and bacon for his breakfast, and sometimes fried bread and I get into trouble ‘cos he’s getting a bit of a paunch.
Mr H: Well I have enough and both of them her and Sis pile my plate up and I don’t like it. I’d sooner ask for more you know but I never get the opportunity. They just pile my plate up and I don’t want it.
Mrs H: We’s always been one for our tummies[?] haven’t we. really. He never wants much tea but he has something before he goes to bed.
Mr H: Always have a cup of tea before I go to bed and four or five biscuits.
Mrs H: Or sometimes more than that, if you have been out when you come back you have cheese and biscuits or something like that. He likes his Gorgonzola cheese. Do you like it? He loves it.
Q: What would you used to have for your dinner when you were little ?
Mr H: Oh suet pudding. Always had suet pudding. Father used to catch a rabbit very often and we had meat and that sort of thing. I try to tell the boy, Christmas time, plenty of families up the street, if they had a rabbit and a couple of sausages cooked with it that was a marvellous dinner for them for Christmas. You know, have it for Christmas. We always had, well, we more or less always kept chickens. ‘Cause years gone by we had this meadow where the houses are built from this side from where George Bradley lived [14 Chalks Road] down to Mrs Wadley’s [Dean House, Chalks Road]. There used to be a meadow there. We had several hundred chickens on there. For Sis had lost the use of her hands and feet, and it was started up as they thought she’d be able to look after them but she couldn’t you know. So we always had poultry and that sort of thing.
Mrs H: She had what you call it [???] didn’t she George and she had absorbed lead poisoning through her skin and it affected all the muscles of her legs and she was [??? motor bike noise]. She had been at the National Orthopaedic Hospital for six months when I first knew you hadn’t she ? (George: Yes).
Mr H: When she waved goodbye her hands were all laid back. She had no muscle there, that was all hollow. They tried electric apparently on her and found the muscle moved there was hopes you see and we bought her batteries so she had done it herself, and now she can play the piano, she knits and …
Mrs H: I told her, she did learn the piano of course before then but I said if she could start playing again, that’d be the best thing out. She often gets in there and has a tune on her own now.
Q: Who taught you the piano then – do you remember the teacher?
Mrs H: The schoolmaster.
Mr H: Thompson.
Mrs H: You know Cecil Dudley don’t you, used to be in the Operatic as the leading man a lot. Well him and George used to go to the same schoolmaster and Sis went to …
Mr H: Sis went to him as well. But Sis went to Braintree, a music shop in Braintree near Braintree station, she went there to start with …
Mrs H: She likes classic music. He can’t play anything by ear he always has to have the music.
Mr H: [???] [???] If I started to play the King I’d get halfway through it and then I’d lose myself. I’d want the music. I could read two lines of music and look all round. As long as that was there for me to look at I was all right.
Q: Did you go after school to lessons or ?
Mr H: Yes, after school and because I wouldn’t practice I used to have to take my dinner and practice on the school organ half-an-hour every dinner time. And it didn’t do no good [laughter]. [Mrs H: ???] (Q: I’m surprised they got you to learn at all.) I think it is a waste of time teaching children music that haven’t got the gift of music. Now Len Hammond he can go into a pub and sit down and play almost anything by ear but I couldn’t. What I know has been drove in and I know when its being played right. I know the tone and hear the notes but can’t play. Sis plays more or less classic music.
Mrs H: I went round yesterday afternoon and she was in there playing away there.
Q: We’ve just got a piano, an old … Philip’s just started going along to Miss Griggs.
Mrs H: Oh she’s awfully good. ‘Cause George’s cousins, Mrs Belsham and Sis are cousins and their boys went to Miss Griggs, their children go to Miss Griggs, and you know all those children, well there’s three in one family play in the Grove orchestra. Peter Belsham, Martin Belsham and Susannah Belsham.
Mr H: The youngest boy he went to London.
Mrs H: The youngest boy went to Royal College of Music and passed his exams, from Miss Griggs..
Mr H: They’ve got the gift you see. If you’ve got the gift you can get a tune out a mouth organ then you can teach them music cos that’s half the battle.
Q: You’re saying you haven’t got the gift ?
Mr H: I haven’t got the gift, no.
Q: I wonder why they decided to send you, did they like music ?
Mrs H:/Mr H: Yes they liked music.
Q: Did they play anything ?
Mr H: Dad always insisted when he was in the army. Apparently he could have played the piano. He could’ve entertained them every night. It wouldn’t have cost them anything. Well you know for your own entertainment and other people’s everybody looks up to you.
Mrs H: When Lil’s boys was in the army and Roy Belsham, you know, the architect, that’s one of Lil’s boys the other one is Peter well those two had their violins sent out to them when they abroad so they used to entertain you know, one another at night.
Q: So you used to be kept pretty busy after school then ? Did you ever go to work, odd jobs or anything while you were at school or ?
Mr H: Down at Freddie Hasler’s on Saturday mornings I used to get sixpence for running a few errands and filling monster bottles – you know they used to be the ginger beer and then a bottle of water under the gas and I used to get sixpence for that. It was a lot of money at that time of day. [Mrs H: That was his pocket money.] Twenty four farthings [laughter].
Q: You didn’t have to go out and do field work or anything ?
Mr H: We went pea-picking once I remember. Behind Rivenhall church and they were tiny little peas and the three of us and from early morning till oh about half-past one to quarter-two, we picked one bag between us and there was a terrific thunderstorm and mother wouldn’t shelter under the trees or anything so we had to come home, wet through and we didn’t go any more. I said I’d rather go fruit picking so we went to, now just this side of Hatfield, Morse’s, picking strawberries. And one day I done it very well, the women there were picking them and when they come weighing up time they’d get about fourpence worth, something like that – I put my basket on the scales, sixpence, sevenpence. Took all morning to pack mud on it so it weighed heavy. [Laughter]
Q: Little monkey weren’t you ?
Mrs H: Little devil I reckon.
Mr H: I got caught at night ‘cause I waited for my basket, I wanted it next day, ‘Oy, what you got here?’, they tipped out and put on the scale – I think I got about a ha’penny that time. But I done very well all day. I’d got nothing to grumble about.
Mrs H: Oh he’s told me some tales, I said ‘You little devil you’. His mother said she used to put a new suit on him, he’d always come home the first time wearing it, with a three corner slit in it.
Mr H: Just bad luck, wasn’t it. [laughter]
Q: Some people I suppose had to go fruit picking and pea-picking and that didn’t they ?
Mr H: Oh yes. I remember years ago Ashcroft he was bricklayer and as I say they used to work three or four months of the year and down at Hasler’s shop, they used to let them have credit, you know, ‘cause they’d pay up, they was honest enough to pay up, when they’d got it. And the first ten shillings he earned. Nellie the oldest daughter lost it between their house and the shop. (Mrs H: It went down the drain) so she lost that.
Mrs H: Dreadful isn’t it? It was a lot of money in those days. Golden sovereign that was.(Mr H: Half sovereign.] Half sovereign. Oh I’ve heard all these tales many a time. We were stuck out six miles from anywhere on the farm. There was one farm here and one over the road. I can remember she’d got seven or eight children over the road and Mum used to give her our clothes we left off to give them. We was well off really. I mean we had milk, coal, rent, eggs, everything you know.
Q: And even the fruit picking – you reckon you didn’t have to have to go …?
Mr H: Only just while the strawberry season was on, you know. I used to do very well picking raspberries. I can’t bear raspberries and I couldn’t eat them. Strawberries I could.
Mrs H: That’s a thing I haven’t done.
Q: Did some people, did gangs used to come specially to for the picking, did some people come over specially ?
Mr H: They used to have to walk there and a woman down the road Mrs Everett, her husband worked there you see, so they used to save when they went, down they used to pay out hundreds of little stamps same as the Co-op give, and at the end of the week you used to have to paste those on to a piece of brown paper – count up how much that come to and put it down, and then they’d check and they’d pay you out Friday. Used to have to walk. (Mrs H: Fancy walking all that way.) Work all day and walk back. But I remember the postman here, Sprawling, he had three or four little kids no bigger than yours [three and six], he’d have three or four with him and they’d walk from Witham, well from where the running pump was [Highfields Road] over to Doll’s place picking blackberries (Mrs H: that’s six miles.) I’ve seen them several times you know when I’ve been over to Doll’s. [Westocks farm, Fairstead]
Mrs H: Sis and I used to bike over home. My sister Laura she lived, or used to live on a farm about a mile further than where we were you see. I couldn’t do it now. There’s not a bus nor anything there. Three miles from the main road Braintree to Chelmsford. That is a real hamlet you know.
Mr H: When I was biking over there there was no roads. There was just where the horses went in between in the grass and then the wheels and in the wintertime it used to be ever so muddy. I used to ride on the wrong side of the road so I knew[?] the bad patches coming back. If I’d have come off I’d have laid there for three or four days before anybody’d have found me. There was nobody along there.
Q: Quite a difference when you came to live in the great city of Witham wasn’t it ?
Mrs H: [laughter] I was always breaking things when we came in here. Well we had a huge – a huge place, you could just drop this in one room. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I was turning round and breaking everything. (Q: I suppose you just had everything there you wanted.) Yes. Used to be the grocer come round and the bread came round. I mean the coal we had in by the ton and you know that sort of thing. We’d always got, Dad always used to get rabbits, or a chicken and egg and the meat used to come, Mr Greatrex who used to live down here used to bring the meat round twice a week and the bread used to come from Terling. The groceries used to come from Braintree, Mr. Biggin[?]. [i.e. to Westocks]
Mr H: Poor old dears used to go down to Greatrex’s when I was a boy and used to get pennorth or two pennorth of block trimmings – you know the odd pieces of meat they used to cut off on the block – used to have those and make a meat pudding.
Mrs H: Mum died when I was fifteen and there was Laura, Edie, and Violet and I brought, we had a housekeeper for six weeks. She robbed us right left and centre. Mum always used to make us … I always used to have to learn how to do things, Saturday morning. We had a great big pantry with slate shelves. Ever since we were kids we were taught how to do things and we used to have to do our work you know. So I used to have to scrub that pantry out, there was what they called the milk bin and the egg bin and we used to have a dairy and used to bring the water indoors and used to have pull those out and the children across at the other farm were out to play. They didn’t mind whether they worked or not. Anyway, I used to have to do my bit. And I thought I’m not going to pull these out, I’m going to wash round them and Mum came and had a look and she said ‘You haven’t pulled those out now do it all over again’. I had to do the lot over again. It taught me a lesson. She used to teach us how to. I was fifteen when she died, or just on fifteen and I said to Dad, she’d taught us how to cook, I said to Dad ‘If you have a woman to do the hard work and the washing I can keep house’. And I did until I married George. I was twenty-three then.
Q: You had sisters ?
Mrs H: Yes, I brought my sisters up. My sister Violet, she was six when Mum died. I brought her up and Edie, the one that died over at Panfield, and Laura, she was a year younger than me, a year and two months she was. She stopped at home till she was about fifteen helping me and then someone from Fuller Street – that’s the other farm – they wanted somebody to, other place down there, up in London, a girl we went to school with she was kitchen maid at Sir Douglas Shiel[?]’s Nursing Home in Hyde Park and Laura went there as scullery maid. She worked herself up and she got a diploma from Princess Beatrice for a cook. And then she came home when left, when I got married she came home and kept house for Dad. Then she met her husband, well, we’d always known Harry hadn’t we? And after Laura married Dad went to live with me other sister at the farm at White Notley, till he died.
Q: Would Sis have to help in the house ?
Mrs H: She didn’t do any work until she went into. She went to Hoffmans with you for a little while?.
Mr H: She was at Hoffmans, yes. I was annoyed when I was at Hoffmans ‘cos Sis used to get more money than me. I was apprenticed you see. [Laugh]
Mrs H: And that’s when Sis …
Mr H: I said to Dad, she’s getting worse because she used to walk to the station. She didn’t know whether she’d got her foot up or not. And they used to flop, flop, flop. And then took her down the doctor and National Hospital – she was up there seven months.
Q: But when was it that it happened ?
Mrs H: 1916 when they came there [11 Chalks Road] they stripped the walls down and there was red paper and they reckoned she absorbed the lead. It stained her hands.
Mr H: That’s the only thing we could think of. Actually the doctor’s asked her if she’d tried to commit suicide by lead you see. They’d got to get the bottom of it but that’s the only thing we could think of but it was in the paper.
Mrs H: And she didn’t do anything more, she wasn’t doing anything for years after we were married until she was offered a job as cashier down at the butcher and she was cashier until she was about 60, oh how old was she? 63 I think when she left. She’d got a good head on her for figures too.
Q: How old would you be when you moved up to here ?
Mrs H: ’16, your were fourteen, no twelve.
Mr H: Yes there was no houses up that side of the street [north side of Chalks Road], none at all and there used to be the hedge with the grass, just, there wasn’t any path either side. They put the paths in afterwards you see. ‘Cause old Bill next door he saw the deeds of our house you see and he said we ought to have more length in the garden than we’d got. I said but you’ve got to take into consideration I says there was no path there. How much they bank up you see for this. How much have you got there which is now a path which was more or less a ditch down the bottom. You go through to the road down the other side. So I said I don’t think we’re far out.
Q: I suppose you can remember them building Crittall’s then? You can remember them building Crittall’s?
Mr H: Oh yes, The Unit Construction Company. They made the concrete bricks and it was just built of concrete. There’s just one place over Crittall’s with same concrete bricks. And then they built a piece on every year or two years, So actually its been all the winter we had the roof off you know while they was building and had just got the place built with the club and everything about a year before war broke out. And of course we was bombed [???].
Q: It made quite a big difference then when they built that I suppose ?
Mrs H: Oh yes. That made Witham really didn’t it ? Crittall’s did ?
Mr H: Yes, well they, you see before then as I said, it was an agricultural village. All the land all the people were agricultural workers. Well if you get a factory coming in they put the wages up. Courtauld’s would have built a factory here years before and they wouldn’t let ‘em. You see you had Percy Laurence, Pelly, Luards. You see they was all land owners that was on the Council and they wouldn’t let them come. But Crittall’s got in here and that was the start of it. (Mrs H: He was Labour MP, the first Labour MP after the War [First World War]. Valentine Crittall.
Q: Did they make a fuss when Crittall’s came as well ?
Mr H: Well, I don’t know what happened. Anyway they got in. That field years ago was a gravel pit. So was this really. But that was the end of the gravel pit. It belonged to the Co-op before Crittall’s took it over. Crittall’s had a little piece of it and built up this side here which helped them out and I think when they built Silver End they was very nearly on their last legs. They invited all the workmen to put a little money into Silver End. Well it was a very good idea because you didn’t get so much money as all that but if you put a half-a-crown in a week you didn’t miss it because you didn’t draw it. And come the finish when they got on their legs again they paid it all out. You got several pounds.
Mrs H: You put five bob in a week in didn’t you?
Q: So when you say Courtauld’s would have come, how did you know that ?
Mr H: I suppose it was up before the Council and they wouldn’t. I suppose the agricultural place, would spoil the place, if they’d have had them come here and know what it was like years ago and you wouldn’t dare to look over somebody else’s fence at that time of day.
Q: I’ve often wondered why factories didn’t come sooner because they had them at Braintree and Maldon and everywhere.
Mr H: Then Witham was a junction but anybody working at Maldon they’d come under an industrial area. So everybody at Maldon got sixpence more than they did in Witham, whatever class of job it was. It was an industrial area. And I don’t know now whether Witham is an industrial area. Could be now they have got the other places here but for years …
Mrs H: You never got as much in Witham for their wages as they did in Chelmsford did they as it wasn’t an industrial area and I don’t think they do now ?
Q: I suppose as you say the farmers, it was the wages they were concerned about, you reckon, why they didn’t want the factories to come.
Mrs H: They’d take the men away, wouldn’t they.
Mr H: Well I mean there was other employment, they’d got all the servants they wanted that time of day. People don’t have servants now you know but they’d got all the servants they wanted and there was nothing else for them to do and you’d got to do as you was told and if you didn’t you got the sack and everybody else that employs, knew you’d got the sack. You didn’t stand an earthly you know. No, they have improved all that.
Q: I’d not heard that about Courtauld’s, that’s interesting. There was a glove factory wasn’t there ? I suppose that was mostly women working there ?
Mr H: Yes, there was all women there. They didn’t pay a lot either. You know, it was very low. Pinkhams had a little place with another place built on to it. (Mrs H: They had one built down in …) Devon.
Mrs H: But they went crash, I think. But they used to make some lovely gloves.
Mr H: Sis worked there a little while before went …. Sis worked there a little while, I think they went on strike and they got the sack. So she went to Hoffman’s.
Mrs H: Gladys worked there till she married. Mrs Revett who just lost her husband. George’s cousin. I think she worked there, she was more or less supervisor.
[chat about George smoking, started when he was about twenty. And when he was in hospital trying to get a smoke, after World War Two, and keeping people in bed after operations]
Mrs H: During the War the soldiers used to be kept in bed for three weeks and then they found that was causing adhesions you see. When we first started over there [Black Notley hospital] there used to be terrible burns cases there came from Clacton. It was all soldiers you know, what we had there. There was one ward for women but there was all soldiers and he was lighting a fire, got one of those big houses along the front at Clacton, he thought he’d put paraffin on to light it and it was petrol. He was burnt from top to toe. Oh it was dreadful and they had just discovered then they used to put tannic acid jelly on, and there was an airman come, and instead of that he couldn’t put his hands [???] they thought we won’t have that and put what they call saline baths and that pulled them down so they could get the pus and that off. Well this poor soldier he lay in a saline bath and sister and I that used to take us two hours to dress him and other young girls, there was a sister, staff nurse, and a sister and I then there was others what they called auxiliaries well you’ve got to have a good stomach to cope with anyone like that. But he got on, he recovered. They took him down to Roehampton after he got home from there, skin grafted him and all that.
Q: Did the soldiers come from Clacton ?
Mrs H: All over the place. We had a lot of Americans soldiers till they got their own place over at White House at Braintree. Didn’t like the Americans. Oh I didn’t like them. They just gave you like that and you run to them. One chap there, Oh I didn’t like him ‘Come on honey’. I said leave go my hand, I’ve got a son as old as you and I nearly boxed his ears for him. Oh they were horrible that way. All the girls fell for them. They’d buy them silk stockings. They’d run a mile after an American soldier. Horrible.
Mr H: They used to have the Crittall’s club during the War you know, for a free night, hot dogs and all that sort of thing, free beer and all that. If we was on Fridays we used to have a good night down there.
Mrs H: I can remember 1939, 1940, what the Essex soldiers were stationed in Witham weren’t they, and they had your club for a do and the Red Cross went up to see them and help look after them. It was the only time I’ve been the worse for drink. [Laughter]. Oh dear, they kept giving me, well I didn’t know they were gin and lime. And they were nice, I liked them. And I went home and went to sleep and I had got lino in there then and I can remember it was on a Saturday morning and I bent down to polish it and that came up and hit me ! I was sick as a dog, I’d been to sleep and forgotten all about it. Just as if somebody’d hit me. It was the first time I’d ever been the worst for drink. That was the last, I see that didn’t happen again. Oh dear. But they had a lovely time up there, didn’t they, they really did. Everybody helped one another in those days. That’s more than they do now, really. We used to, didn’t we, oh we used to, if anyone ill along the street you’d all do one another’s washing and help one another.
Mr H: All over the country with ill and wounded soldiers they’d take them nearer home, Liverpool, Edinburgh, Truro. With the kiddies evacuated from London she worked with several lots of those.
Mrs H: I’ve been away nights and days. One day Mrs Wright, and I you know the builder Wright’s wife who died last year. We took a patient from Black Notley hospital – it was a girl – she was an ATS girl and she’d got TB and they used to take them to the hospital nearest their home if they were going to be long term cases and her parents lived at Wick, right at the north of Scotland and we were supposed to be at Edinburgh at six o’clock at night. We went up from Notley hospital by ambulance to Kings Cross and we had our own carriage you see. And outside Darlington we stopped on the line for three hours, there was an air raid in Darlington. So were late getting into Wick. We didn’t get there until ten o’clock at night and they took us to a hospital, Bangor, oh it was a beautiful hospital outside Edinburgh, twenty miles outside Edinburgh. It was just as if it was Switzerland. All these mountains around it. We had the night there and put us on so that we should catch the half past eight train back from Waverley station, ‘cause we had passes you see. It didn’t cost us anything for money, the train fare. When we got to Waverley Station I said to Mrs Wright she looked at me I said ‘I’m not going back today. We’ll have a day in Edinburgh’. Well I mean we were doing it for nothing, we weren’t paid or anything. All the work I did I did for nothing and we travelled back overnight. We went to Edinburgh Castle. We went to Holyrood Palace. We saw a guard on duty there and said could we go and see but it was not open, but we said ‘Oh we’ve come all the way from Essex, we’d got our Essex badges on, you see, Essex two four, that was our number, he took us in and showed us all over. Oh it was lovely. I’ve been to Truro, been to Wales. Oh yes we went to see Old Mother Shipton in Yorkshire. Oh I don’t know where I haven’t been. All with children or soldiers or ATS girls.
Q: It’s a quiet life now ?
Mrs H: Yes ‘tis quiet now. When I gave it up well I retired or resigned in 1956 as Commandant didn’t I because I’d got too high blood pressure and it was too much.