Mrs Vera Howell (nee Turner) was born c. 1910. She was interviewed on 16 June 1981, when she lived at 23 Podsbrook, Witham.
She also appears on tape 52.
For more information about her, see Howell, Vera, nee Turner, 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.]
Continued from tape 52
Mrs H: We did, I remember going away once when, actually I think my mother was ill, and I did go away and I stayed at Chappel, and I remember boxing a boy’s ears there. [Laugh] In fact, I can’t think what his name was but he is a baker at Faulkbourne. I often wonder, I don’t think he knows me these days. I often wonder if he remembers it. There was a crossing gate or something and there was a pub and this boy was the son of the publican in there and I was staying with some friends there. They’d got girls you know. And I don’t know what this boy said to me but he said something and I slapped his face. (Q: Oh goodness.) Now I wasn’t given to doing those sort of things. I wasn’t aggressive but something annoyed me intensely and I slapped his face. What a dreadful thing to do really ! I was a bit of a tomboy but I wasn’t aggressive like that. But he must have annoyed me intensely for me to do anything like that. I daren’t tell my mother because I know I climbed a brick wall, we’re talking about The Retreat, where the bungalows and that are now, I remember some boy dared me to climb up on the wall because they had a low bit of wall and then it went high and it was a high bit of wall and I came out of school, you see, Maldon Road school, and there used to be a teacher named Mrs Andrews who lived in the cottage higher up the road and she was friendly with my mother. And everything that I did at school used to get reported you see, she used to run across the road and anything I did used to be reported and I used to get told off about it. I always remember walking, they dared me to walk along the top of this wall. And I did. I climbed it and walked along the top of it and of course in the middle of me walking along the top of this wall who should come along but this teacher, this Mrs Andrews. I saw her go, as soon as she got to her gate she just went in her door and then out again across to my mother and I thought oh I shall be in for it when I get in. When I did get in my mother said ‘And what do you think you’ve been up to?’. Or something like that so I said ‘Well I walked the wall’. She said ‘Yes, I knew you walked along the wall.’ She said ‘A most unladylike thing to do’. I can, I remember those words. She said ‘You know it’s a most unladylike sort of thing to do’, she got on to me about it. But she said ‘I don’t like them coming and telling me tales’. So I didn’t get told off as much as I might have done because she said ‘I’m fed up of them keep coming over telling me tales, I don’t like people telling tales’.
Q: What did she normally do if she was cross with you ?
Mrs H: Oh, I used to get punished in not going somewhere or not having, ‘cos you didn’t have much pocket money in those days, and not having a Saturday ha’penny or something like that. My mother never hit me, nor my father.
Q: I don’t know if I asked you your mother’s first name ? (Mrs H: Young.) What was her Christian name? (Mary, Mary Ann, Mary Ann Young.). She sounds quite a person.
Mrs H: She was, I know I shouldn’t say it but she was a lovely person really. I was extremely fond of my mother. Can’t say the same about my father but I was extremely fond of my mother.
Q: Do you think she was a bit upset when you went away to work then, when you decided you wanted to go to work ?
Mrs H: Well, I think this was part of it. You see she was dead before I went to Chelmsford (Q: Oh, I see.) I was only sixteen when she died. And I’d only done one year of my apprenticeship then. (Q: I see. You carried on with the apprenticeship?) Yes. Because my sister came and kept house then, but I think she just wanted me around her. And of course there again my aunt, the Chaplins – you didn’t know Miss Chaplin did you, my cousin ? She lived over here, because they’d lived in Christmas House [98 Newland Street] and then moved, she went afterwards, my aunt died and that and then my cousin, she’d never married. Her and her father lived, they had got a house in Guithavon street and they moved in there and then my uncle died there, he was ninety when he died, and then she stayed on, but she was, she was ninety when she died. Long living that side of the family. (Q: Mm.) But my mother’s side wasn’t. Mum’s sister lived to be eighty but my mother was only 56 and my aunt, this Mrs Chaplin, was only 60.
Q: So when you went to Chelmsford you did …?
Mrs H: Well. You see my sister came home and kept house. But I’m afraid my father wasn’t erm as nice as he might have been really. And after my sister went away this girl Elsie that my mother more or less brought up, there was her and I and my father at home. And my father would not accept the fact that we were growing up. You know he still wanted to treat us as children and he never, didn’t like us going out. He, well he almost barred us from going. He tried to bar us from going to dances and one thing and another like that, and we got so fed up with it that we left him. And I did, I left him, and went, I was friendly with the man then that I married, I was friendly, I’d got a boyfriend. And we went up the road and stayed with some friends and he begged us to go back and said he’d be different and that and so we went back again but eventually he got just the same again.
And my sister came home after she married she came home, she came up for a little holiday. She took one look at me because I’d just lost weight and everything, I was so miserable and that really at home, and she said to him ‘Well, you don’t seem as though you can treat them properly.’ She said ‘They’re grown up’, she said ‘They’re not children and they need to get out’. Because that was dreadful if I tried to get out to a dance or anything. He used to lock the door on me and all that sort of thing and I know I came home one night and he had locked the door and he wouldn’t let my sister let me in. That was before she went away. (Q: Mmm.) And I said to him ‘Just tell him that I’m going straight up to the police station’. And with that he unlocked the front door. And he wouldn’t let me have milk. And I’d always been in the habit of drinking milk at night. No he wouldn’t let me. My sister used to sneak some up to the bedroom. I mean he was a good man in lots of ways, I’m not completely, I mean morally and that sort of thing he was a very good man and I mean he never let us go out with our shoes dirty or anything, he would always would see that our shoes were clean. He was a very good man in lots of ways but he didn’t know how to treat us really. So my sister took me back with her. And of course I was courting at that time but anyway I’d had to leave that job that I went to in Chelmsford when I finished my apprenticeship and went to Chelmsford and worked. And I wrote to those people that I had worked for to give me a reference and when they wrote back they said ‘Oh, don’t have a reference come back and work for us’. And that was in Chelmsford.
Q: Was that at …?
Mrs H: That was at Denny’s and so that was really such a different life and I was so happy up really there. (Q: What did you do ?) That was a drapers’ you see. I continued. That was where I used to do window dressing and all that sort of thing and they got me digs up there with these two sisters and they were marvellous oh they were marvellous people. And you know my boyfriend used to come up and he could come every Sunday if he wanted, to lunch and tea and they treated him so well. And of course I married from there. But I married in Witham. (Q: I see.) I married at All Saints church.
Q: So, when you were an apprentice in Witham, how were you treated then ?
Mrs H: Well, it wasn’t so bad then because my sister was at home then you see and my sister
could sort of keep things going. I mean my sister and I both used to go out then to dances and things and that was all right and there were various social things that I belonged to. But you see it got that he wouldn’t hear of us going out.
Q: Did you work in the evenings at all ?
Mrs H: No. (Q: What sort of hours ?) Well, I think they were similar to what they are now. No, the only time that we worked evenings was when I worked in Chelmsford. And they didn’t close till seven at night. Eight on Fridays and nine on Saturdays but by the time you’d done all your, we always used to have to do the stock and reckon up what wanted ordering and that you know and if they were away one of us used to have to do the cash and all that sort of thing if the people were away that owned it. Because two of used to sleep there when they were away but we never used to get out till ten o’clock at night and of course a lot of the shops were still open. You see that was up in Moulsham Street. And when you came down Moulsham Street at night, of course its all altered now, but when you came down all the shops would be open, the fried fish shops and the fruit shops. There’d be all the bright lights and that and we always used to walk that way home because the girl that I was friendly with lived in Fifth[?] Avenue same as I did. But some of that was the happiest days of my life really. Because I was free, you see, I’d got the freedom. I often think of children today. I mean they want too much freedom today but I can understand to a point of wanting that freedom. Really, because my mother wasn’t like that. I mean I was friendly with a boy when my mother was alive. In fact I was friendly with, I don’t know if you’ve heard of Bull’s the photographer. (Q: Mmm) Well they had one son and I was very friendly with Ken Bull. He was my first real boyfriend you know and I mean we used to go to Church together and come out and always go for a walk round. If I met my mother, my mother would chat. My mother didn’t at all, but it was my father was terrible.
Q: What about the people, well you said in the Co-op the woman told you to do something and you didn’t. I mean were you treated fairly [???]?
Mrs H: Oh yes, no, not really, very reasonably really. That’s just one of the things that’s stuck in my mind. Oh no they were very good, they were very helpful.
Q: Did you take money and everything at the Co-op ?
Mrs H: Oh, yes, we used to but I don’t think when I first went as a junior that I used to take it because I think you know I didn’t write out the bills at first, that was something that you gradually got on to, the bills and then take the money and that sort of thing.
Q: There wasn’t a separate cashier or anything ?
Mrs H: No, well, I can’t remember that there was. I think you had to go to one of the older ones and get them to check everything.
Q: Did they have accounts at all or …?
Mrs H: No, I don’t remember any accounts. ‘Cos we weren’t supposed to let people have credit, really. But if it was someone that I think that they knew if you asked the manager if they could take something on approval and if it was something that was somebody that they knew, a regular customer. I think they used to let them, more so than they would today. Because I mean they wouldn’t let them today would they ? (Q: No, but you weren’t really supposed to?) No, you weren’t supposed to let people take anything.
Q: It was more common really to run up a bill in those days. But the Co-op perhaps didn’t …?
Mrs H: Well I think there were the occasional one or two people that did run up bills.
Q: What about having stuff delivered ?
Mrs H: Well, of course, most stuff would be delivered if they wanted it delivered. I suppose there must have been a little credit given. I don’t seem to remember an awful lot about it. But I think there must have been a bit of credit given, but I think it would be to people that were well-known in the place you know.
Q: I see. And the stuff that was delivered how would it go out ?
Mrs H: Well, I think in the first instance, when I was very young, it was a horse and cart. Because that’s what I remember about Spurge’s, the grocers, at the end, Spurge’s shop there. I remember Bert Godfrey’s father driving a horse and cart and doing deliveries. And I remember the Co-op baker’s van going round, a horse and cart. And of course at the station there was always a cab, horses, you see. One of the Ottleys, I remember Mr Ottley driving a cab.
Q: I suppose you can’t remember how the stuff actually got to the Co-op. Like the material and stuff when, fresh stock …?
Mrs H: Oh I think that came on the rail. And of course the railway van had a horse. They would bring it round. You didn’t have to fetch it from the station. Oh no, there was a railway truck thing, covered in, sort of cart with horses. Well everything, I mean, bread, everything was horses. The milkman, everything was horse and cart really. I remember falling out of the milkman’s … I remember. I was a bit of a tomboy really. The milkman, the best of it was, it wasn’t really our milkman because that was Newman’s milkman and ours used to be, oh I think it came from Freebornes, what is Freebornes now really [3 Newland Street]. Used to be a Mr Drake I remember and I think that’s where ours came from, I think that really came from Freebornes. Anyhow I remember having a ride, used to love to have a ride in them, because it was a treat to have a ride really in those days you know. And this little seat they had at the back with the reins, it had got a spike on one sort of leg. It was attached to the cart but it had this one spike that went into the floor and you sat on that. And I know this seat couldn’t have been put in properly. It came out and I went out. Down the High Street this was (Q: Goodness.) right in the middle of the High Street, and I went backwards on my head in the middle of the High Street. Well I think I was slightly concussed, I remember them bringing me in and laying me down on the rug on the floor.
Q: No wonder you didn’t like school. Wanted to be out and about didn’t you ?
Mrs H: I mean can you imagine it happening today in the High Street. You’d have just been run over wouldn’t you ?
[chat about tea, not noted]
Q: That was interesting, I didn’t know you were a shop worker as well.
Mrs H: Oh it was all very nice but I mean you had to learn, you had to learn as I say to block the materials, that was winding it, and I mean it was quite an art because you could so easily do it and it was all go more …. You had to make sure that your hands were in level portions on the material to get it over to roll it and what else was it I was thinking about we used to have to do. Of course there was always the measuring and that but I was thinking of something else. And of course, when you came to linen, linen went by numbers, the fine and coarser linens, they all went by numbers (Q: I see.) I don’t remember that quite so much at the Co-op but it was at Chelmsford.
And when I worked at Chelmsford in the shop he was a very very strict man. He was a very keen business man. I don’t think he was a Canadian but he’d lived in Canada a lot and I think they were much stricter out there than they were in England and you know he used to, you see, because I worked with about fifteen girls there and we all had our own book and all your bills and you kept accounts and he used to average those out per customer [traffic noise] And if you were the lowest average you got jolly well told off. But it was most unfair because the girls that worked in the haberdashery were selling perhaps a packet of needles, a box of pins, cotton reel. Things like that. But then you got in what you call the heavy section where you were selling curtain materials or sheets or things like that and perhaps somebody would come in and buy all the curtain stuff for their whole house and you’d have a huge bill, you see and to have that averaged out per customer was most unfair really.(Q: It was.) But you used to get jolly well told off if you was the lowest.
Q: And at the Co-op did you ever get people from the bigger houses ?
Mrs H: Oh, yes occasionally, but the bulk of the Co-op stuff really was I would have said from the working class.
Q: And do you think that would be to make themselves do you think or get a dressmaker to make ?
Mrs H: Oh, dressmaker I would imagine. Most of them. But of course people did do more sewing in those days and as I say, the majority of people were, the majority of people, not only working class, but quite ordinary, quite comfortable middle-class people, they made sheets and pillowcases you know and the same about tea towels, they bought it by the yard. And like the roller towelling you see, that was always bought like that. That used to have to be joined, sewn.
Q: And was the manager there quite strict ?
Mrs H: Well, yes he kept good order but he wasn’t unduly strict with you actually but he kept you in order and things had to be done right. (Q: I can’t remember if you told me who he was?) The manager that I was under was a Mr Parker at the Co-op
Q: Did he live in Witham?
Mrs H: No I think there’s still some of his grandchildren I would think in Witham. Parker. (Q: But was he local?) I don’t think he was an original Witham man. Because I know he said that he had his training in Ipswich and I would imagine he would probably came from down that way.
Q: So did he used to take much part in town things ?
Mrs H: No, I don’t think he did, I don’t think he mixed an awful lot. [???] I don’t think he was the type that did. There was a lot, the Church did a lot in those days really. You belonged to a lot that was associated with the Church really. I remember Christmas time we used to do Nativity plays and all that sort of thing. I remember doing them in the Public Hall. (Q: Really.) I remember once being an angel [laugh] I had the most lovely blue velvet gown and they made these great big wings out of crepe paper and I remember somebody saying to my mother ‘Doesn’t your Vera make a lovely angel?’ You can imagine what my mother said can’t you, something like ‘I think that’ll be the only time’ [laugh]. But we used to belong to the Girls Friendly Society and the Temperance Society.
Q: What did they used to do ?
Mrs H: Used to have meetings and that really was run on well I suppose Church lines in a way. A lot of scripture came into it really. And the Girls Friendly was the same but really life was very nice in those days. I mean I had quite a nice childhood really. (Q: Mmm.) But as I say my father was always rather a bugbear but …
Q: Were you sort of poorly off or well off compared to …?
Mrs H: Well I would have said perhaps the middle. Middle, really. I mean I never remember being poor. I mean I never remember not having good food and clothes and occasionally outings. I mean we didn’t go far. I mean one of our biggest treats, Elsie and I, was, my mother used to take us on the train to Langford and we used to get off there and go across the, I never can remember what they’re called, there’s some waterfalls there.
Q: That’s not Beeleigh is it, Beeleigh?
Mrs H: Yes, Beeleigh falls, used to go through the fields to get to Beeleigh falls and my mother would pack a picnic up and we used to picnic there and from then we used to walk on into Maldon. Go down on that front bit and have our tea there and then we used to go to Maldon station and come back on the train and that used to be a huge treat in those days. (Q: Yes.) We didn’t have, I don’t remember going for holidays. I remember going once when I was a bit older, when I was about sixteen perhaps, my friend and I, going to a Girls Friendly Society Holiday house at Clacton. Just all the girls there. I remember coming back absolutely blistered you know. I was so sore. Yet we’d had a lovely week at Clacton. I remember going there, but of course, I presume my mother had to pay because I was only earning five shillings a week. When I first started I had five shillings a week and I had sixpence pocket money. (Q: I was going to ask you, you gave the rest to your mother?) My mother used to have the five shillings and give me sixpence. I mean that was just purely for sweets but and you’d get a lot of sweets for a penny in those days. [laugh] I mean you could go to the pictures for fourpence, we could get in the pictures for about fourpence. If you went to the first house I think it was on Saturdays, you could get in for fourpence and I used to go to the pictures on Saturday afternoon as child. My sister used to play the piano. (Q: Did she really.) At the pictures. This was when people name of Pinkhams. You know there was a factory, Pinkham’s, made gloves and things ? (Q: Yes.) Well the old Pinkhams used to run this cinema in the Public Hall on a Saturday afternoon particularly for children and then I don’t know how many evenings in a week, whether it was more than one or two, but my sister used to play the piano for the pictures. Till she went away. And of course I used to go with her and so I used to get in free. I was quite young, and we all used to be given a bag of sweets when we came out.
Q: Really. I didn’t realise the Pinkhams had done that. You didn’t ever consider going to the glove factory or that …?
Mrs H: Oh no, my Mother wouldn’t have let me go to a factory. Oh No! No! Wouldn’t have let me go to a factory.
Q: But there wasn’t really an awful lot, if you were going to work then and you didn’t want to go in the factory there wasn’t …?
Mrs H: Well, there wasn’t really unless you were interested in office work and I never really was. (Q: Quite.) Now Elsie, this girl that lived, my mother paid for her to have shorthand and typing lessons and she went, she worked in Bright’s office, solicitor’s office. But I didn’t want to do anything like that. In fact I don’t think I really knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to do something and when this opportunity came up, and I think this Mr Parker spoke to my mother about me going you see, and we had to apply and I remember going for an interview. The best of it was, the day I went for the interview I’d ricked my neck. Oh I couldn’t hardly turn me head. (Q: Laugh) I know I said to my mother, I was so upset. ‘I’ll won’t get it, I know because I won’t be able to turn me head’. But in the end of course I got it.
Q: Can you remember anything else abut the interview, the questions they asked ?
Mrs H: Well, no, I can’t really remember what questions they asked. (Q: You were just worried about your neck!) Yes it was pretty painful I might tell you. No, I can’t remember what they asked.
Q: They took quite a lot of care to make sure they got the right person though ?
Mrs H: Oh, I don’t know, but funnily enough I could have gone into the office there, while I was there. They were short in the office and they asked me if I’d like to go up there and I went up there and that was just dealing, it wasn’t really doing much office work. It was dealing with these cheques and checking up what people had sent in and said it was so much. You had to check it up to see whether it was right. I mean I was quite good on the old figures really as regards that sort of arithmetic, general arithmetic and they offered me a job up there but I didn’t want to stop at that. I think I’d have earned more money but they offered me the job up there but, no, it wasn’t my cup of tea.
Q: So, you were good at sums even though you didn’t like school ?
Mrs H: No, I didn’t like school and yet I suppose I wasn’t too bad at school really anyhow I sort of got through. I’ve done all sorts of things really you know. But music is one of my things that you know, I love music, almost every kind. I’m not too keen on brass band music. I’m not very fond of brass. Not inside. I love to hear a band outside, but not, I don’t like it inside. But of course singing, I’ve always sung, you know done a bit of singing, right from school days. I always used to be, there was one girl and I we always used to do all the solos at school (Q: Yes.) And I went on when I went to Chelmsford I went on and started having lessons then and I very much regretted not being able to keep it up but I just couldn’t afford it. ‘Cos I wasn’t earning you see when I came home and the silly part of it is, when I look back now, I could have, I really could have done a part-time job, but people just didn’t seem to do it because, like when I married my husband wouldn’t have let me have gone to work. I mean that just wasn’t done. (Q: Really.) I mean not when I married. You see by the time, I mean I had had Keith, I’d been married about two and a half years and I had Keith and then the War was on and my husband was in the Air Force and I let my house and went, he did his training and then he was stationed at Speke aerodrome near Liverpool.
Well, he’d got an aunt and uncle living at Runcorn in Cheshire and they said why didn’t I go up there, because I was living with my sister down in Hampshire. Took my father down there as well. We were living down there and of course they wanted me to go up there and I’d be been near to my husband you see, so I did and Keith was four years old then and I went up there and of course my husband was able to get a pass to come and see me. He wasn’t able to come every night but he used to come quite a lot. Keith had his fifth birthday up there and funnily enough I got a little job up there in the Food Office. Because the aunt, Keith started school. She was one of those, she said, ‘You can’t possibly send him down there to that school, there’s some docks down there you know. He can’t go to that school’, she said ‘Send him to Miss Baker’s. Well, of course that was the private school you see so of course we had to get him a uniform and send him to Miss Baker’s school. Well I was able to take him on my way to work in the mornings and I fetched him at lunchtime but I couldn’t take him back in the afternoons because I went at a different time; you see and so the aunt used to take him back in the afternoon. But, do you know, he didn’t learn anything there. Well, I mean he used to wear little white blouses and little grey trousers, and do you know nearly every lunchtime I used to have to change him. He’d be filthy. We used to say to him ‘What have been doing?’, ‘Oh playing on the floor’. And he did. Literally. And I mean he was a bright little boy really, I mean he could do sums and write and all his letters and figures long before ever he went to school. My husband used to get a little blackboard for him and he knew all that you see.
So when we … my husband was discharged unfit. And he’d never had a days illness in his life. But he was discharged unfit for National Service though he was all ready to go out to Singapore. So he came out and he had to wait for a few weeks till he was discharged. In the meantime Keith got whooping cough and he’d got a week’s leave due so he said well we’ll see if we can take him somewhere, perhaps take him to the sea because they say the sea air is good for you. Well we went to Rhyl and he said ‘Well I’ll go and see if I can find somewhere because it was a bit difficult with him having whooping cough’. Well he went all over the place, couldn’t find anywhere. Anyhow on the next day, on the Sunday, he said ‘We’ll go again. Perhaps, if you come you know’. So I went as well and we took a case of clothes and that with us and we went down on the beach and he said ‘Well I’ll stay here, with Keith and you have a look round’. But I must just go to the toilet first. So I went to the toilet, said to the woman in the toilet ‘Do you know of anywhere that we could stay. We don’t mind even if it is only bed and breakfast’. And she said ‘Well my friend up in the other toilets she takes in people, she takes in boarders’. So I went up there but when I got up there, she hummed and haa-ed and in a bit she said no. She said ‘The last people ruined my table cloths.’ and all this that and the other. So I went back again to this person and said ‘Well your friend said no.’ I said ‘She said no, she …’. ‘Oh, she said, she only stopped me last week and said would I recommend anybody. if I heard of anyone.’ She said ‘I’ll tell you what, I’ll take you myself, but you’ll have to look after yourselves, I’m afraid. I can’t do any meals but you’re welcome’. I said that would suit us fine. So I went to my husband and said ‘Well you better go and look and turn the beds back and see everything’s all right.’ [Laugh].
Well I could write a book about that house, honestly. Well I often think about it and honestly, he went back to look and he came back and said ‘Well, it’s a nice house. It’s a nice room. There’s a double bed and a single bed’. He said ‘We’ve got use of the kitchen’. And he said ‘The beds are spotless, everywhere’s spotless’. He said ‘I had had a good look round’. So we said yes, we’d go, so we collected the case from the station and off we went and we were very happy you know it was lovely … But when we got there, the husband was there and they were living in the garage [Laugh]. The husband and wife. They’d got a tortoise stove in this garage and they’d got a double bed and a single bed a chest of drawers, a table and chairs and that’s where they lived. They’d put an old carpet down on the floor.
But there was somebody in every room in that house. [Goodness] We had what would, I suppose, either their lounge or their dining room. It had got French windows out into the garden. It was a downstairs room but it was a lovely room, cupboards and everything you know. And there was a big tiled kitchen and a cooker, a pantry, everything to use. I mean we had a lot of meals out then. But my husband had only got a week you see. But in the front room she’d got an aunt and uncle, they were only staying there in her lounge. Upstairs in the little bedroom was a girl with a baby which I rather doubt she wasn’t married you know but she used to go out, a dear little baby. She used to go out every morning about half past seven to eight with this baby in the pram and we found out during the course of looking round the place, she worked in a café all day, and that baby used to sit in that pram. I expect she took it out meal times and that sort of thing. But that baby used to sit outside that shop in that pram all day. I suppose she just had to do it, had to work you see.
Then in the next bedroom was a soldier and his wife and little boy, living. In the back bedroom was an Irish woman with four children. (Q: Oh goodness.) Her husband worked on boats, travelling between Liverpool and Ireland, see. But she was a marvellous looking woman, very dark, lovely eyes, real Irish eyes and a lovely voice. And she used to sing. Oh, I used to say, ‘Oh, go on give us a song’ and she used to sing beautifully. She’d got a most gorgeous voice and the children were lovely too, they were lovely looking children. But I used to get no end of coupons off her. She used to, well I used to pay her for them. Because she couldn’t afford to buy the goods to use them all because she’d got these children you see. She’d got four children and herself and I suppose she had her husband’s coupons. But she used to give me no end of coupons. Well I used to give her some money for them. I mean, it’s illegal I know but so I could buy plenty of eggs and bacon and meat and stuff that we wanted really. Because I’d got these coupons.
We looked after ourselves I mean I used to cook breakfast but invariably we’d have our lunch out and then very often come in if it was not too nice. You see my husband had only got a week and he said ‘I wish we could stay another week because Keith was so much better with this one week by the sea, I do wish if we could stay another week’ , so we asked her if we could stay another week, and she said ‘You can but I can’t let you have this room, but you can have the front room only I charge a bit more for the front room’. So we had the front room and I stayed there until my husband was discharged which was just over the week and he came back and of course we had to go back and stay with this aunt and uncle for a while because we couldn’t get our own house then. We’d let it you see. And from there we moved out to a place called Harden just outside Chester and we got rooms there and my husband got a little light job, I think driving a lorry or something, just for a little while until we could get home. (Q: Mm) And that was in the November and my husband died the following April twelve months. (Q: Really) Because I had, no, two years, that’s right because I had Hilary the following Christmas after we came home, that one November I had her the following Christmas and then he died the following April twelve months.
But I always say I could write a book about the things that happened during the War that I’ve done. I often think about it. These people used to live in that garage the whole of the summer. They used to let the, he was disabled. He’d got a funny arm. (Q: Mmm.) But he used to do all the rough work, the floors and sweeping up and keeping the place you know. Nice garden they’d got and everything. They weren’t bad people. You see the thing is, she’d got one boy and I said to her, ‘Well, Keith’s got whooping cough, I must tell you that’. She said ‘It’s all right, my son’s had it’.