Mr Jim White was born in 1915. He was interviewed on 8 February 1983, when he lived at 22 Cross Road, Witham.
For more information, see White, Jim, 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 email@example.com 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 62
[Mr W shows and talks about a German dagger he bought from a pilot at Hildersheim in Germany a few weeks after the Second World War ended. Also chat about photos of ship he travelled to Canada in, in convoy in 1941, on way to North Battleford, Saskatchewan, for three years as flight mechanic in the Air Force, at pilot training base. Chat about more photos, of views and people in Canada and the USA. Others in France after return from Canada, and then Germany 1945. Not transcribed. Transcription begins at about 30 minutes]
Q: So when did you come back to Witham? That was some time after, was it, you said ? Because you went away again I think you were saying.
Mr W: Let me see, I come back to Witham in November 1945, came home, came back and went back to work at Silver End, Crittall’s. (Q: Oh did you.) Yes and then I left and went on the building for a while. (Q: Uhuh.) I went on the building for a while and then eventually I came back to Crittall’s, Witham. I had a job to settle, after travelling round the world I had a job to settle. (Q: I bet you did.) and I sort of done a bit of moving around.
Q: You did say you worked at the glove factory at one time, that was earlier was it ?
Mr W: Yes, when I left school I was at the glove factory, I got a job there. I was only there two weeks. My father wanted to get me in Crittalls, so I worked two weeks, one week I got ten shillings. And the second week he wouldn’t pay me because I left. He never gave me, no, he stopped my wages, I don’t know whether they could do or what or whether it was the law but anyhow the second week I never got no wages, so I worked a week for nothing. That wasn’t old man Pinkham, that was Pinkham’s son. Of course the Pinkham’s are still about ? Do you know the Pinkhams ? (Q: No, I’ve never met …) They’re still about, I met one the other day in Tesco’s. (Q: Oh really ?) and anyhow, I never had no wages the second week. I mean jobs were hard to find, they found me a job. I will say this, they found me a job. I couldn’t find a job for sometime when I was a boy, they found me a job, and I mean I should have been grateful but the prospects were better in Crittall’s and the money was better, if you know what I mean.
Q: So what job did you actually do in the glove factory ?
Mr W: Oh I was sort of odd job boy. (Q: I see.) Done odd jobs. The foreman in charge, I believe his name was Groves but I can’t remember his first name, they had several work there, and his name was Groves.
Q: Because they were mostly women wasn’t it there ?
Mr W: Yes, mostly girls and women there, making the gloves. Yes, it was quite interesting, course I wasn’t there long enough to sort of get to know the place right. But I shall always remember it because it was the first job, of course, the first job I had you see.
Q: I should think you were quite pleased with yourself weren’t you, at the time ?
Mr W: Yes I was pleased to have a job, get some money, you know. (Mr W: That’s right.)
Q: You must have been disappointed when you didn’t get any more ?
Mr W: Oh yes, when I didn’t get, when I left he was right furious you know old Pinkham was, the boss, he was right furious, you know. Anyhow I never got no wages off him. (Q: No ?) Not for that week. So I was unlucky wasn’t I ?
Q: So there are still a Pinkham living in Witham are there ?
Mr W: Yes, they used to live down Collingwood Road. I know the house where they live.
[getting coal for fire]
But where the others, where the boys live I don’t know. (Q: No.) But, of course they all were a bit mad when they were young. They went in the Black Shirts, I think two or three of the boys went in the Blackshirts, you know Old Mosley’s lot. (Q: I didn’t know that.) And I remember when they walked about with their black uniform you know, I think they had a black shirt and black trousers, but eventually, they, when War [Second] broke out, I think they all, some of them went in the Army, well in the services. One was a pilot, a Wing Commander and I believe he got the DFC, so they were all right when the War started but they were in the Black Shirts, I remember, you know, in those days (Q: What did people think of that then ?) Well, they didn’t like the Blackshirts did they ? (Q: Quite.). I mean you see them on the telly now where they used to attack them didn’t they. Used to attack the Blackshirts.
Q: So that was at Witham, they used to walk around Witham with this gear on, did they, or …?
Mr W: Well, I used to see these Pinkhams in their uniform and they wasn’t parading. Used to see them go off to a meeting, whether their headquarters were in Chelmsford or what I don’t know. But they were going off to a parade or something, but where their headquarters were I don’t know …
Q: Were there any others in Witham that you know of or …?
Mr W: No, I only knew the Pinkhams who were in it. I think there was either two or three in it, probably two. (Q: That would be the young, what was then the young …) The young sons. There was the old man who started the glove factory. He was messing about inside there when I was there (Q: Yes.) but his son run it and then he had two or three sons and a daughter I believe. (Q: Uhuh.) They lived down Collingwood Road, right opposite where they used to go, where the girl Osborne had the ponies. They had a house there on the end there. (Q: And these were the ones were in the … ?) They run the glove factory.
Q: The ones that were the Blackshirts would be the old man’s grandchildren (Mr W: Yes, grandchildren.) They were quite young then I suppose.
Mr W: Yes, I suppose they’d be eighteen, nineteen, maybe twenty, something like that.
Q: That must have caused a bit of …?
Mr W: Yes, they were, nobody liked the Blackshirts and they were surprised they were in it really. (Q: Well yes, quite.) Because that type of more or less conservative type, Conservatives. ‘Cos Mosley was Fascist wasn’t he ?
Q: Because I’m sure somebody has told me that at one time the old man, was it, was the Liberal man for Witham (Mr W: Yes, probably was, yes.) So that seems surprising but that was probably in earlier days. (Mr W: Mmm.) Still I suppose just before the War that was a strange time wasn’t it. (Mr W: Yes, was a strange time.) Nobody quite knew who to stand up for. But then you’d already moved up here then hadn’t you ?
Mr W: Yes, we moved up here when I was about eighteen. I think it was 1932 or ‘36 round about that time.
Q: You moved to Braintree a little bit too and then …? (Mr W: Then we came back.) So down the Valley, can you remember what you used to do when you were a, going back further, when you were a kid down the Valley [Guithavon Valley] what you used to do with your spare time for instance ?
Mr W: Well we used to play about, you knew Blyth’s Mill. (Q: I know where you mean.) [Witham mill, Guithavon Valley] It’s a famous old mill down the bottom there. That was Blyth’s. They’re still going over at Braintree I think. That was Blyth’s Mill, and Mrs Blyth, I don’t know whether it was old, young, or what then, but she used to run a, have a sort of chapel or church, sort of chapel and had services there on the top of the house, on the top floor I believe, and my mother, we used to go. I remember when I went and we used to go there and have a service there. I don’t think there was many went but my mother went and I remember going. I mean my memory goes back, I can remember, I believe I can remember the First War, certain I can. (Q: Yes.) Even though when the War ended I was only, I was born 1915, the War ended ‘18 but I can remember the soldiers being down the Avenue. (Q: Oh really ?) Whether that was just after the War, they were still there in their tents I don’t know, but I remember soldiers being down there. It was all a park then. (Q: yes.) There was no houses or anything like that. I dare say you’ve seen some of the old photos have you ?
Q: Well, my next-door neighbour, Bert Godfrey, I think he showed me a picture of the soldiers, that must have been where you said I suppose. (Q: Yes, probably.)
Mr W: I can remember the soldiers being there. Anyhow I know once I’d got, on that bridge where Blyth’s Mill is, they had, they were doing something, I forget what they were doing, but they were building or repairing the bridge, ‘cos the water runs from the river downwards into, runs through the mill and downwards. I don’t know whether it does now, I suppose it does. It sort of run down Guithavon Valley and goes through the mill and drops in. There must have been the old mill there and I remember Mr Blyth, I don’t know whether it was the son or who it was, I’d dropped my shoe down into the mill, on to where the water goes, drops down. He said ‘I’ll hold you by your legs if you get it’. I said ‘No, no I’m not going to do that.’ I was frightened (Q: Yes.) and they got my shoe out with a pole or stick or something like that you know. [laugh]
Q: The water probably went quite quick did it ?
Mr W: Yes, yes it did. I remember I was frightened and I wouldn’t let them do that you know.
Q: Where the River walk is now, was it sort of meadows or, behind your house that would be sort of ?
Mr W: It was all meadows then. Of course the river was over this way more, have you see where the river has been moved (Q: I don’t think so, no.) Yes, well if you look, go down Guithavon Valley you can see the old river. (Q: That’s what it is. In the grounds ?) Yes that’s where the old river was and they moved it further over and my house was right on top, our yard was right on top of the river. I fell in one day and my mother fetched me out with a broom. I fell in several times to tell you the truth. And she fetched me out with a broom. Mind you it wasn’t deep. It was deep enough to drown you, you know, children.
Q: So you had a yard did you, rather than a garden ?
Mr W: You had a yard at the back and the yard run on to the river. (Q: It was a bit alarming ?) Yes. We had the Raiseys. You ever heard of the Raiseys ? They lived down there. The Capons, they still live here. One of them lives over the Homefield Road there. The Newmans, he was in charge of the Woods Farm up Hatfield Road. He’s about seventy odd now, Alf Newman. And the Emmens, old grandfather, the old boy, he lived next to us and they’re still about, the Emmens and the Heards, they lived the other side of us.
They’re still about, some of them and who they were further up the hill I don’t know. I forget. I believe George Ringe lived in the next yard. He was a boot repairer, chap named of George Ringe. You ever heard of him ? Well known Witham character. Actually eventually he had his boot and shoe place in where Shelley’s Yard is now. Is it Shelley’s yard, down in Mill Lane. (Q: Yes.) He had his boot and shoe place there. He was an old soldier and got wounded during the War. I don’t know whether he had one leg and a wooden leg, I forget now, or artificial leg, but he was an old Witham character. He was sort of, he got converted you know. He was a sort of rough and ready chap, used to be a boxer, soldier and he got converted and he spent his last few years you know a very religious chap. (Q: Really ?)
Q: What church was that ?
Mr W: I dunno what church, I forget where he went to I don’t know. Eventually he had his shop, you know that new chemists’ shop next to the surgery down Witham. [perhaps 124 Newland Street] He had a shop there. Boot and shoe. (Q: Oh did he ?) He had one there, he went and moved there eventually.
Q: You say you used to go to this chapel, to Mrs Blyth’s but that would be just sort of, well not exactly chapel, sort of ?
Mr W: Something she run herself I think.
Q: I often wondered, you know they’ve got the Evangelical next to Blyth’s ?
Mr W: I hope it’s interesting.
Q: It’s great, yes. You are very good at describing things aren’t you. A lot of people you say well what used to happen and they know but they can’t sort of put it into words but you can.
Mr W: It’s interesting. I think a lot of people say, I’ve heard a chap say, a chap talks about the War, (Q: Yes.) you know he sort of lives in the past but I look on the past as history. You studied history you said. I was very good at history at school. I used to like it. To me it’s history, everything’s history, isn’t.
Q: Well next week this will be history won’t it ? Its all part of life. Were the teachers interested in history at school when you were there ?
Mr W: Well, at Manor Street school, well there wasn’t, well average I suppose but it’s just something (Q: You took up for yourself ?) that I, something natural to me. I was just interested anything historical. You know anything like that. Like when I started work. I worked with all the old soldiers when I was a boy and they used to tell me where they were in France in the First World War. And you know France is entirely different, especially in those days, entirely different to our country and they used to tell me what went on, you know, what went on and what they went through and you know and the things they got up to and all that and that interested me. I found that very very interesting. It seems such a different country to me. You know the way they told me. All the things that went on there. Well it was, it was entirely a different country altogether to what we are. Even now France isn’t it ? (Q: Tis very different.) But now it’s got more modernised and of course we used to go, my brothers we used to go over there for holiday. We first went to Ostend. We had a holiday there. That was more or less like it was during the War and we found it very interesting. (Q: Was this quite some time ago, you mean?) This was in ‘37 we went to Ostend. And we went down Holland. We went to a place called Sluys, you every heard of it ? (Q: Yes, yes.) Then we went to the old battlefields, Hill Sixty-six or Hill Sixty was it. That was a famous old battlefield, Dicks [???] that was a famous old battlefield, St Julien, where the Canadians were first gassed. Ypres, went there, Ypres square. You know we thought that was marvellous. Of course this was ‘37, it wasn’t all that long after the First War, not really, was it, eighteen years, seventeen years.
Q: That was quite an, not many people went abroad then did they. (Mr W: No they didn’t.) How did you come to do that then ?
Mr W: Well, we sort of fell into it. We got three pounds a week, it was a lot of money in those days, same as a hundred and fifty pounds today I suppose. I mean we lived well on three pound a week. (Q: Of course, yes.) Of course we were all single like, so I mean it cost us four pounds the hotel and our fare and everything, four pounds four.
We went twice. We went Easter, we went in the summer then we went the next Easter. Four days. Then the same year I think we went to Paris. That cost us seven pounds seven shillings and we stayed at, near the Arc de Triomphe, Victor Hugo Road, Rue Victor Hugo. We stopped there in an hotel. And I went back in ‘76 was it ? And I went to look for this hotel in 1976 and could never find it. Couldn’t find it, whether it had been busted down, during the War. I couldn’t find it.
Q: So you reckon on three pound a week you were really quite lucky weren’t you ?
Mr W: Oh yes, marvellous, good wage, ‘cos the average wage, on the land my next door neighbour I think was getting twenty eight shillings and if they got thirty shillings that was a lot of money. We were getting double that, three pounds, sometimes we had three pounds five. All depended how the pool was you know and of course we were single like and we were quite well off.
Q: So did many people, did other folks go abroad and that as well ?
Mr W: No, I don’t think they did. I think we were … (Q: You were special.) I can’t remember anybody else going but we just said we’d like to go there to Ostend and Paris and we just went but I can’t remember other people going there in those days you know.
Q: And when you were a kid did you have any holidays or …, before you were working ?
Mr W: Well, up to the War [Second] we only had one week’s holiday. (Q: Yes.) That’s all we had.
Q: And did you go away ?
Mr W: We always went, my father liked Southend. We always went to Southend. (Q: Yes.) We liked that. He liked Southend and we always used to go there, to Southend.
Q: What, you’d stay the week would you or …?
Mr W: We’d stay a week, yes. We’d have one week’s holiday and that would be our lot but I think Easter or would it be Whitsun, Whitsun is it four days, I forget now, which is a long holiday, but I think we had a couple of extra days, we went to Ostend in 1938 for four days. We had four days there. But we only had one week’s holiday up to the start of the War [Second] I forget when the two weeks … They had two weeks eventually. I forget how long that was after the War, but for years we only had two weeks holiday. Then the last few years I was at work it went to three weeks and then it went to four weeks and I think when I left, when I retired, I think I had about four and a half weeks.
Q: I was just thinking, because you said right at the beginning, when we were talking about those houses in the Valley, that you reckoned you were working class sort of, and not very well off and didn’t have much room. Did you feel when you got the job at Crittall’s that you were …?
Mr W: Oh, yes we were a lot better off. My father was, see my father was out of work for a long time (Q: Yes.) after the War in 1923, before he went to Crittall’s I think he was out of work and we never had no money. (Q: I see.) I know, I remember now my mother used to give us a piece of bread and a piece of jam. Bread and jam for dinner. Mmmm. That was during that very very bad time, they’re always talking about. There was no child benefits, never had nothing for children (Q: No.) never had nothing for children or anything like that. My father had his dole money which wasn’t much and we had to get on with that. We never had no, I don’t know what they get for a child now, is it a couple or three pounds or something like that.
Q: You get the regular allowance which is, oh it depends on how many children, but its several pounds a week and then I suppose if you are out of work you probably get the extra as well, you know, you get automatically. So your mother had to make do I suppose. (Mr W: Yes, there was nothing like that.) Did she get any odd jobs or the kids get any odd jobs at all ?
Mr W: No, nothing like that at all. No, very very bad times. (Q: So there was no extra money or anything ?). No, we just more or less starved. That’s why, one of my schoolteachers when I went to school, I forget her name, oh yes, Mrs Gentry her name was, when I went to school she used to, I think was it, during the dinner hour, I forget now, but she used to bring, give me a big piece of apple pie or something like that because she knew my father was out of work. (Q: Yes.) And we had no food (Q: Mm.) anything like that and she often gave us food you know. I never forgotten her name, Mrs Gentry. That was in the Infants, when I was in the Infants.
Q: Were there a lot like you or did you feel different from most ?
Mr W: No, there was a lot like that, a lot like that in those days, yes. Oh things were very bad, very very bad you know.
Q: So, how did you do for shoes and clothes and that sort of thing ?
Mr W: I forget now, you know.
[General chat, not noted]