So, when were you born?
14th April 1927.
Where were you born?
What, the address?
4 Chartry Road, Stockhill, South West 9.
Who were your parents?
Emily and Arthur Smith.
Did your mother work?
Not until the war, women were called up to do jobs, she went in her office as she used to be before I was born but she didnt continue working up until the war. And then she was a shorthand typist in an office quite nearby, nearby in (?) I think.
Can you remember who she worked for?
Oh I dont know.
And what about your father what did he do?
Oh he worked for the Evening News he was a, he was working on the printing he was on the… and he worked there for some years well, I was 12 when the war broke out so he had been working for them for about 10 years he was a what they called a casual worker but he was a fine cricketer and he was in the cricket side and he went to several matches and he was the star player, he won the matches against rival newspapers and the bosses said that he must come on and be a permanent because he is an asset, he was a good cricketer so that’s how he got a permanent job at the Evening News because of his, in so many cases if you are good at sport they want you when your winning and no, so that’s how he was there I mean. Unfortunately he had an accident at Christmas, the week before Christmas in 1939 and the war had started and this young fellow had a sheet of, I don’t know what they printed it on, metal I suppose on his head goes through a swing door and caught my father in between his eyes, cut open but being the sort of man he was he didnt make a fuss, he didnt report it because he didnt want to get the young boy involved or dismissed through it so there was no report of it ever happening and unfortunately it was the beginning of the end of him and through it as there was no report about the accident my mother lost out on any compensation so that was very unfortunate for her as times were hard during the war and she wasn’t earning a lot of money and had to keep the home going but she couldn’t work and it was a hard four and a half years of misery as it turned out to be a tumour on the brain and he suffered all that time because all the consultants, brain consultants were of to war to look after the wounded and there was only one man who could do the operation and they told him it would be a 50/50 chance whether he survived the operation but he went ahead and wanted to have it done and unfortunately they shaved his head all ready for the operation and the one and only consultant was involved in an accident so it was never done and so he died after, he died in November 44, at 43. So that was really quite a short life really.
He worked in the Evening News but do you know where that was?
Well in London, Fleet Street, they have moved out now though havent they. The whole of that road Fleet Street was full of, just full of newspapers but on my mothers side the newspapers were represented all the way through from the days of the Evening News, The Daily Mirror, The Herald, Standard, all of them, all involved on my mother’s side in the newspaper trade and yeah she worked for the Evening News as a secretary until I was born and she didnt do anything after until the war came and she had to, they wanted women working, either that or on the land and she was in her 40’s and was not a very strong lady she went back to her office work and so that’s how it went on until, she worked for 1 or 2 because she ended up working for the bicc company BICC, British, cant remember what it means but BICC a very…
British Industrial Cable Company or something like that?
Aye… yeah so she was there until she was 60 and then retired and then went on to do all sorts of good work for all the family not just immediate family, round to cousins, aunts and uncles she helped all of them in one way or another and then when she retired she went to every month, she used to go down to Watford to look after her Aunt who was dying of cancer so she did that for a year or more, that was her first year in retirement and then after that there was always a call for her from someone or she’s, if anyone had to go like my Aunts husband, if he had to go into hospital she would go and stay with her and then my cousins husband went into hospital and she went and stayed with her. They all called on my mother for something or another to do something for them and she did that all her life looking and helping other people, wonderful woman. The doctor said when he used to come into see my Aunt and he would say I know who has been here this week and she would say Angel. And he said I hope she will get her reward in heaven. And I hope she did. Yes, yes wonderful woman, very wonderful. I don’t think you ever met her.
Yes I did.
You did… oh?
She lived in St Peters.
Yes I met her in St Peters.
Oh yes cos you came around about 84 when you came back from wherever it was you were.
84 or 94.
94 oh cos she died in 96 at 96. 96 years old.
Did you have a happy childhood?
Yes, up until the war yes. Very happy I was an only child but I was very much loved by my parents and you know we always had our regular fortnights holiday a year, away at the sea, my father always went to a different place every year so we travelled around the south coast, we got as far as Devon anyway and the other end Great Yarmouth up to Devon and as I say we wouldn’t go to the same place twice and he taught me to swim he taught me to skate and taught me bridge and he was generally an all rounder, a good tennis player, fantastic cricketer, swimmer, footballer and yes very athletic and what else was there?
So you had a happy childhood?
Well yes I had a very happy childhood and I had everything I ever wanted, a dolls pram, a tricycle, a dolls house all those things that children in those days, there wasn’t a lot of money around and I was very fortunate. I did have a very happy childhood but of course that all came to the end with the war and that but life went on. My education was upheaval because I wouldn’t be evacuated, I wanted to stay with my parents so consequently for the first 3 months at least there were no schools in London so my father set me tasks to do and books to read and writing essays and things and that kept me going until during the January I started one week, morning and the other week afternoons and then gradually they did get around to opening another school and it was co-educational and we went full time and I left there when I was 15 and went into the city to the Guild Hall to work in the city solicitor’s office, I was at the side of Guild Hall and saw lots of things going on like Royalty coming and when war was over there was all the celebrations and I saw Churchill, Eisenhower, Atlee and the Royal Family and they are all coming in to lunches and banquets so it was quite an exciting time.
Who were you working for?
The Solicitors, City Solicitor. The City of London and as I say our office, if you look at the Guild Hall our office was at the side and there was the (?) who always walked with a sword in front of him, in front of the Lord Mayor and we did business that was, crimes that were (?), attacking people or robberies, all that in that little centre called The City of London and yes… it was quite an exciting time.
And what was your job exactly?
Well I was a shorthand typist on the telephone, receptionist just doing nothing in particular. I hated office work. I loathed it but it had its interests and then well I met Len at 15 married at 18 and left there when he was going of to India which he did and when he came back I left there and then… who did I work for? Cant think of my last job, it was working in the city for a company but I cant remember…
Don’t worry it will come back to you… can we go back to before the war?
Before the war, yeah.
You were brought up in Stockhill?
Yes there is Stockhill which is part.. it is Brixton then this sort off was Stockhill followed on from Brixton. Or if you went the other way you go into Camberwell. And so… quite well.
What was it like growing up in that area?
My parents never let me go and play in the street but I used to, we spent a lot of time walking up to and round Brockwell Park, which was well it still is a beautiful park at Herne Hill and which is near Dulwich and yes we went there a lot. Swings, everything, lovely park, beautiful park.
Did you have any particular interests when you were a child, or hobbies?
I played netball with the school, swimming, yes, and…
Dancing? Oh well yeah. I went to the dancing… well one of the teachers he was a good dancer, he formed a dancing class and that is how I met Len because Len went up to the teacher and said Who is the best dancer in the class and he said Pauline Smith and he said Oh right and that was the end of that so he had two left feet and I was supposed to make him a good ballroom dancer but I never did. But yes I loved dancing and during the war of course my Great Aunt and Uncle moved out of Norberry and went to Watford or Bushyheath and had a large bungalow there and we in turn the family used to take it in turns to go there and have a weekend rest from the bombs that were raining down on us.
Ok we will come to that. Can you remember the build up to the war, the time before the war started?
There was some talk about it the year before it started wasn’t there I mean Chamberlain went with his peace of paper and said he had sorted it all out waving this piece of paper but it didnt work.
Can you remember a feeling of anxiety or tension?
No, well I wouldn’t really at 11 or 12, all I could remember was when we had the radio on, at 11 o’clock on the 3rd September and Chamberlain was saying war has started as from 11 o’clock and my mother started crying and I said what are you crying for and she said oh you dont know, Ive been through, this is the second war Ive been through and she was very upset.
Yes, what about your father was he very upset to.
I don’t know he was called up, they all had examinations because by that time he was 30 something and my Uncle who lived across the road from us was 30 something, well he was called Grade 3 because he had heart trouble and my father well he just wasn’t fit enough to fight so he got put on duty fire watching at night, he had to go up on roofs and try and put out incendiary bombs and stuff like that and then my fathers illness started June 1940 and he was ill until he died in November 1944 at 43 so he was greatly deteriorating and he never got the operation that they were going to do and I don’t think he would have survived it anyway, it wasn’t to be and so here we are, but life went on, we had an Anderson shelter in the garden, it was dug down only the top half was showing but I hated going in there at night and in the end I refused. I said I am not going to leave my bed, Im going upstairs and Im going to bed and I dont care and my mother was very upset about that.
Did she sleep in the shelter?
Yes, with the dog and anybody else that wanted to come in and shelter from the bombs, but I mean in the summer of 1940 you could look up in the sky and see our Spitfires and the German Messerschmitts or whatever they were fighting overhead.
How did you feel when you saw that?
I don’t know, I just thought oh dear I wonder who is going to win.
Did you feel frightened?
No not really.
Can you remember the Battle of Britain?
Well that was the start of it and yes in August and September of that year, I remember it was a beautiful summer and you would go out n the garden look up and you’d see these way above 2 planes firing at each other…
How clearly could you see them?
Well they were quite high up, you couldn’t see the pilots, you would just see the planes up high fighting away but one of them would go down and we didnt know which one was which but life went on and I still went swimming in Brockwell Park, I still went roller skating at Tolls Hill, still went dancing, Ricardo’s as it was then and we just… life went on. We had very poor rations.
We will come to that.
I don’t know how we existed, they say we were fitter then than we are now.
Did any of your family join the armed forces, obviously not your mother or father… any other?
A cousin, well 2 cousins. A cousin on mm mothers side, he was in the army and he was at Dunkirk and he carried his wounded friend on his back to the little boats that saved them so he was a hero and went through El Alamein and all around, he had a long war. All of it.
Did he survive?
He survived. My cousin on the other side, he was a pilot, he went to Canada for training but I think, I don’t know if he actually saw active service. I can’t remember. On my fathers side there were nine children and they didnt sort of see each other very often but there was a nucleus of them, 3 sisters, Amy, Nora and Kate and they lived nearby so once a month on a Sunday evening we used to go over there and see them and my Auntie always bought the (?) and ices. I had coconut ice or what we were they called… she used to bring them out and I was… oh I hate them… barley sugar!! Urgh. But anyway, that was the latest thing… my father and my Aunt Nora they used to sing away. Yes it wasnt that closely knit family as the oldest was over North London and the oldest one had 3 children. One of their daughters Phyllis died 3 months before her 100th birthday had 2 sons and she wasn’t a Smith she was an Andrew and then my father was just me so out of 9 children there were only 6. Only 3 of them had children. Obviously didnt enjoy having a hoard of children running around and my dad was the youngest and I suppose there were about 20 odd years between him and the eldest one. Well the first ones that my grandmother had they were still born twins and then she went on and the doctor said don’t worry dear you have plenty of time to have some more and of course they had 9 more. That’s why when Susan was on the way the nurse said I think you might have twins because they didnt go in for all this business you do now with scanning and I think you might have twins and I thought… ohhhh.. I don’t know how Im gonna manage one. I never had contact with babies in our family either side and so you know… it was quite a shock. Anyway she was the largest baby in the ward and I was the smallest woman so work that one out I don’t know how but all these big women having 6lb babies and then me having a 9.5lb one!! So there we are. It was at Kings College Hospital, both were born there at Dulwich, Kings College is a very famous Hospital but…
Are you ok?
Did any of your family join the home guard, I know you mentioned your father doing fire watching.
My uncle yes, they did but my father started but became ill in June 1940 so there wasn’t much that he could do, he was graded 3 for his health and he was never called on to do anything, well because he was too old to do anything anyway.
So did you ever worry about the war, that Britain might lose for example?
No I think I was too young to worry about it, we had these wonderful speeches from Winston Churchill which Im sure helped win the war, I really do. He was so decisive and cheering us on, I don’t think anyone else could have done it, not in the parliament at that time they were all so.. you know Chamberlain and all, they were all too weak. And he was so forceful and so determined, we are never gonna give up.
So did you listen to his speeches on the radio.
Oh yes! Yes he was very forceful and that’s what we needed, we wouldn’t get an ummm I dont think we are going to win or call it a (?) we nearly were!! Somebody talking about trying to make peace with Hitler. But, no went on. It went on for 6 years and even in 52 which was 7 years after the war food was still short, I don’t know how we existed really. You know 4 ounces of meat a week, 2 ounces of butter and all that, amazing. We used to keep rabbits, I remember putting my fork in and thinking which one is this. Father would say Mary and I would think oh poor Mary but that’s what we had to do. We had to queue up if there was any and again this went on because I can remember queuing up with Susan in 1952 when she was 2 years old, I was queueing up outside the butchers and I think she was teething at the time and I went inside moving up the queue and she was screaming her head off, no use I must go get her out and get her to sleep, I would walk round and round the houses, got her to sleep then go back to the butchers and when I walked in he was like here you are I put it aside for you. We had liver, hearts all boxed out, offal. Yes, it was, even 7 years after it was over it was still like that.
Was the spirit in your neighbourhood good?
Were your neighbours cheery despite everything?
Yes they seemed to be. Yes they seemed to be, life just went on. I mean I just went about and did things that I would normally have done. Swimming, skating, walking in the park and that sort of thing, we didnt let it curb our activities really.
Apart from the food was there much change in your day to day life because of the war?
Well the alarms went of mainly at night times, we had to make sure there were no lights showing, they had to have big thick curtains so there was no light showing from above, they cant see them when the planes were going over. Oh there is a light there, I will bomb that you know. No, as I say people used to go down in their shelters or go down to the tube stations and sleep there on the platforms and of course one or two came a cropper because the bombs dropped at the entrance or that, they were all killed, that happened and that’s… I would never ever go down the tube station I would rather be up above. I got fed up of being in the shelter and I used to go to my bed downstairs in the lounge and slept in an alcove in the lounge, windows were shattered and I was covered in it in my alcove near the fire. I was covered in soot, my belly was covered in soot, my face was covered in soot… oh dear. Things you know you laughed about.
What was the nearest that a bomb dropped to you at home?
The nearest was on the railway lines, it was a mine. A land mine, on the line going from Brixton up to the city and that was the nearest and that is what blew our windows out and caused damage to the roof but no injuries…
Can you remember the noise of the explosion?
Oh yes, yes and when the V1’s first started we were standing near the entrance to our cellar and it was shaking, this noise shaking, rattling noise when all of a sudden dead silence. Oh whats happened and the next minute it exploded over the house and over towards Clapham or somewhere near us.. so it stopped dead silent then BANG! That was it and that’s how it went on. Then on top of that we had fog which sometimes the tram that I was on stopped at Camberwell Green and I had to walk the rest of the way home. It was quite a walk when you could see it but when you were in the thick fog, you didnt know where you were going. That was in the wartime as well.
You worked in the city at the time, was there much bombing in the city?
Oh yeah, I can remember coming back with my uncle from Bushy Heath having been down there for a weekend and a nice sleep and I walked in through the big night when they were bombing, they thought they were going to get St Paul’s Cathedral and all around there and I was stepping over embers that were still burning, hosepipes and they were still putting out these fires and bricks everywhere and dust and the wood was still burning after a night of those bombs being dropped. Also I was on a bus once and the bomb went of and shattered the window behind me so I got all the glass on my shoulders and I thought oh well but when I got of I could hardly walk my legs were like… urgggh… scared I suppose. My legs had gone to jelly sort of thing but anyway I headed home. Like I said being in the city in the solicitor’s office I stopped at half past four so of course I was home by just after 5 so I started with the dinner but god knows what we had, I cannot understand what we had but there was a (?) at the side and I would make the fire up put the kettle on, the saucepan with the potatoes in so that when my mother got in about half past six whatever we were having was ready… that’s how we got on.
Did you ever go hungry?
I don’t know really. I mean we had dried eggs dried milk all that sort of stuff, all synthetic stuff you know. But no… ok. I was under 8 stone but that didnt matter we were healthy, we were healthier then than we are now.
You still went roller skating and ice skating!
Yeah roller skating, swimming. Dancing…
Did you get enough to drink? Was there any shortage of water or…
Oh now and again I think there was a shortage we’d have to go up the road and pick up, they’d have a tap in the middle of the road you could get buckets of water from…
What about washing? Did you have enough water for washing yourself, washing clothes?
Yes I mean we had to be careful, the old King, George VI he said only have 5 inches of water in the bath. That didnt get very far… no because there were no showers or things then like now today. I don’t know how we coped but we did… we did. And of course another thing was coupons, clothes were rationed as well, that went on after the war as well.
So you had coupons?
Yes… for clothes and food. I don’t know whether the bread was in short supply or what. I remember at one stage they brought in whale meat so we used to get .. a fishy sort of .. well because it was whale it would taste a bit fishy. And then another time we were having horse meat you know, just one of those things?
Did you still have your dog?
Oh yes I had my dog, our first dog was when I was ten and until just before Susan was born so yes he was 13 when he died or we had him put down. So all through the war we had our dog.
What did you feed the dog?
Well horsemeat. You had to queue up for it you know, queue up for everything. The rumour was always oh so and so has a queue, go queue up for it. But no… I think bananas were scarce, didnt see many bananas because they were bombing all our boats that was bringing stuff over to us. Lost a lot of people a lot of sailors bringing food over for us.
How did your dog react to the bombing?
He didnt seem to worry.
I don’t think he barked about it… no. If bombs were going of I suppose he would get under the chair or something, under a bed. He was a mongrel, lovely black with a curly tail. And we always had a cat…
Through the war you had a cat?
Always had a cat… right from when I was a baby there was always a cat in the house. Ive grown up with cats.
How did the cat react to the bombs and so on?
She always seemed to be around, we didnt lose her, she…
She survived the war?
Oh yeah, yes she survived. Yes so it was quite… as I say it went on for so long and you would think when war was over that it would get back to normal but it didnt. No it didnt. 7 years on and there were still shortages.
Can you remember anything particularly funny in the war… anything particularly funny that happened to you or someone you knew?
No can’t remember anything really funny no…
No I can’t think of anything.
Anything particularly sad or tragic? Obviously your fathers situation was very tragic but apart from him?
Well we were worried about… especially my cousin, you know he survived Dunkirk, we thought that’s his war, thats that over you know but it went right on until the end of the war. He went to El Alamein all round there so he had a long war and came through it very well so no he was very brave getting his injured friend, he carried his friend on his back and got to a little boat which came from Ramsgate which went out to pick them up but that was a wonderful thing and when he got to the main roads where all the shops were at Brixton and there was the railway going over the bridge and there was all these soldiers come back from Dunkirk hanging out the windows cheering and shouting and oh that was quite something and waving to them. Yes, that was quite momentous.
Did you see that as a defeat… Dunkirk?
As most of them got back safely oh it was wonderful, those brave men that went out in their little boats, they were heroes. They really were.
Did you used to go to the cinema during the war as well?
Yes my mother didnt like that very much, there was a lot of things. She was very nervous of me going out at night to the cinema but yes we used to go to the cinema. I can’t remember what things we saw but probably Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers, something to brighten us up. Life went on… somehow or other we went on with it until it finally came to an end. And then of course I mean it hadn’t finished although VE Day was May, May 8th I think it was but then of course we were still at war with Japan and that didnt finish until August and that went… lost a lot of boats… poor men… and of course that’s when America came in at Pearl Harbour. America came in because they lost so many boats and men but no we heard terrible stories about this Bridge over the River Kwai with all the poor Japanese prisoners of war… oh it was terrible. You used to see how they worked them without hardly any food and Dr Marshall, his father was on that railway during that because he suffered terribly, he came back but he was alright but it weakened his heart so he was only quite young, early 60’s when he died all through what he had been through as a prisoner of war at Japanese hands but yeah…
You said Japanese prisoners of war but you meant prisoners of war of the Japanese.
Yes, they were terrible to them.
Did anybody you know get killed in the war?
No I don’t think anybody, mother said that during the First World War she said that nearly every family had someone who had been killed… it was a real slaughter so it was but your father was in the Army.
Yes my father joined the army at the end of the First World War, but he served through the Second World War, I think he served from 1919 to 1947.
Oh was he abroad a lot?
Yes, he went to Egypt and Iraq, Greece and before the Second World War he was in Hong Kong, Shanghai so he travelled a lot.
Did your mother travel at all with him?
My mother, my mother and father met in Hong Kong and got married in Hong Kong…
Was this your fathers second wife?
Yes his first wife he met and married her in England and she died in England and my mother was with her father in Hong Kong when she met my father and they got married in Hong Kong and they came back to England in 1936 and my older brother who was born in 1937 and my other brother who was born in 1939 and I was born in 1947 and so in 1939 my two brothers who were little boys were living with my mother near where my father was based in Colchester. Anyway back to you. So when the war ended you were still working in the city?
With the solicitors?
I left there when I had the note that Len was coming back from India so I left in November 1946.
So you worked there throughout the war?
Yes and well I was 15 and then when I came out I was 19. 4 years. And then after that I worked for Blue Circle Cement up in Victoria and I was there until I was expecting Susan in 1949 and she was born in 1950 and I didnt, my Aunt worked for James Walkers the Jewellers and I always wanted to work in a shop I hated office work so she got me a job on a Saturday. Susan was about 2 so Len and my Mum used to look after Susan and I loved every minute of it just working on a Saturday but now and again I was able to find somebody to look after Susan when my mother was working and Len was working so that I could do a little bit extra at Christmas or Easter or whenever. I wouldn’t have gone back to office work if I could help it at all. I hated it.
Do you have memories of the celebrations when the war ended?
Yes, well we didnt go up to London up to Buckingham Palace and round there. We went up there for the coronation, we went up in the evening because the King and Queen kept coming out waving to us and I said I must go up there and see if I can see them and we did and then the wedding came I was working at Victoria and I sneaked out during my lunch hour and over the lunch hour to see them. I just seen the top of the carriage and the next minute they were out on the balcony so that satisfied me I was able to see them and that was in 47.
When the war in Europe finished there was a lot of celebration.
Yes Len had come back he went back on the Sunday after we’d been away on honeymoon but he was back on the Tuesday because that was VE day and there was some drink left over from the wedding reception which was at home, none of this going to hotels and all the rest like they do these days and so there was casks of beer and sherry and it was a sophisticated drink in those days, sherry and port and things like that and so the family came round to fill up on drink and food and my uncles a lovely pianist so he was playing all the songs, it was a sing song so that was that but the one in August Len was away in Cornwall I think so I went down to Bushy Heath and we had a bonfire and we were dancing round this bonfire on VJ night, that was good fun.
So what was the date of your wedding?
28th April 1945.
Ok so just before the war ended.
Yes. The first part of it VE was May 8th so that was only 10 days after we got married but the other one like I said Len was training in Cornwall and I was down at Bushy Heath and I said we had a lovely time dancing round a bonfire.
When you look at the pictures of VE and VJ day you see lots of pictures of people dancing in the streets did you do that?
Well I didnt go up to London as it was too crowded but yeah we danced round bonfires and that just enjoyed ourselves.
Sorry to go back a bit but when you were working in the city and living in Brixton, if all being well how did you get to work?
Tram or Bus.
Was it just one or did you have to change?
Just one tram, can you remember what the fare was.
The tram was #33 and it went over Southwark Bridge and stopped there and I had to walk up Thames Street, almost a deadline to Guildhall, you could see it in the distance from the top of the road which was Upper Thames Street and I don’t know what the name of the road was that led to Guildhall. River on one side and a building that had been bombed the other. Building all around it were damaged by bombs.
Did you feel relief when it was all over.
Oh yes. It didnt stop us enjoying ourselves during the war to be perfectly honest. You just went on and had to accept the fact that we could be here today and gone tomorrow.
You had a radio at home, did you used to listen to the radio every evening?
Yes, Henry Hall and his Orchestra was the favourite of that time and Billy Cochrane, Geraldo, all those. Yes it was good, we had some good times.
Anything else you can remember?
Going to see my first 2 operas whilst I was away and I’ve never been to an opera sinc and they of course were the main, most popular, Madam Butterfly and La Boheme and never seen an opera since, I’ve never been to a full length ballet, I’ve seen bits and pieces of it and I quite liked that, the ballet. I went to one or two just after the war, Albert Hall and saw Andre Kostelanetz and Lily Pons who was a famous singer and it was his wife and she was killed in a plane crash not long after, I went to the Albert Hall a few times and then the London Palladium, Jazz nights on a Sunday so used to go to them especially when Len was away in India, I used to go with the girls and used to go to these jazz shows, very good, very enjoyable. That was at London Palladium.
Do you remember the Americans coming into the war?
Yes, they were all over the place.
They joined the war in 1941, did it make you feel more confident that Germany could be beaten?
There were a lot of them, all over the place, we had them at Manston for a start…
But in the war when you were living in London did you see a lot of Americans?
Not around Brixton but if you went up to Victoria or all the different stations they were there and Hyde Park and Piccadilly and all round there yes you would see them.
Men in uniform?
Yeah, oh yeah. We borrowed their tandem and went up to Hyde Park and my skirt kept blowing up and I had to keep fiddling with my skirt to keep it down and all these Americans were whistling and all the rest of it. Dont worry about them, concentrate on what your doing!!
Who were you cycling with?
Oh right ok.
We only did it once. There were one or two things that made us laugh. Yes we used to go up to Hyde Park, Green Park, we got around mainly buses and we used to go sometimes to Richmond Park or Wimbledon Common, that was our favourite we used to go to. You know you wouldn’t think twice of going on a bus or tram to get to places like that now it’s all cars, cars isn’t it but our first car was when Susan was 18 months old in 1951/52 that was the first car but after that god knows how many cars we’ve had in our lifetime… oh dear.
So when you went to for example Wimbledon Common what did you do there?
Well we walked over it.
So you just went for a walk?
Yes. Went through it. We met a little dog, we always talk about it because we didnt have a dog at the time, actually we did have a dog at the time and it was this little dog only a mongrel but it was so full of tricks, begging, oh we can’t take it with us on the tram and we had a dog at home but she was so adorable and we felt so guilty that when she wasn’t looking we ran away. Never know what happened to that poor dog, I bet somebody took it home. I hope because she was so sweet. I feel very guilty about her. At Richmond Park we used to go… again it was all buses but we didnt think anything of it you know, just jump on a bus and go somewhere. Now you wouldn’t think about it.
So of the wartime in particular 1939-1945 is there anything else you can remember that maybe you haven’t said so far?
Well there was only one wedding in our family and that was my cousin who was an airforce pilot he got married in December and we got married in the April apart from that no other weddings in the family, no births in the family. Quite an ordinary family.
Ok well I have run out of questions unless you got anything else. I’ve asked you lots of questions that are not on here and if there is nothing else you can think of…
No as I say I think the main thing of course was worrying about food really I mean we were.. I can’t remember how many coupons you needed to buy a coat or whatever or a dress or anything or shoes but yeah we had to have coupons for that coupons for food,
So did your mother do a lot of mending?
Oh a very good needle woman yes.
So she mended clothes and what about bedding and sheets that sort of things?
Oh we had quite a stock of them but I don’t remember anything about buying bed linen really, cant remember. I mean furniture what you call utility furniture, nothing fancy, very very plain and we had a dining room suite that was very oak, pale oak I suppose but it wasn’t heavy and there was nothing fancy about it but I know with our lounge suite my mother or grandmother had an old settee and we had 2 armchairs and we had somebody who covered them and turned them into more modern shapes as opposed to that curled round that they used to have but straight down, we had that made up into a suite. Brown beige piping but that was… anything that there was shortages of you had to be right there on the spot because as soon as it was seen that was it.. carpets and that, people went for them. It was only coming back after the war when they started up factories for carpets and suchlike so everything was in short supply, what with the food clothes and everything else you got by somehow or other and of course they had those, they were temporary little houses, prefabs all over the place but they were only supposed to be used for the wars but were still around years and years later, there was very little sort of middle class who bought their own homes they were all rented.
So the house you lived in was rented?
So did you rent the whole house or just a part of it.
Well my grandfather was the distributor for papers in Margot or all round Thannock and so he died in 1915 now he was the manager now if my mother had been say 2 or 3 years older she used to go in with him and help with his accounts, count up all the money and all the rest of it so in those days he actually got a hundred pound in 1 week, in 1914/15 that was a lot of money and had she been that much older because he collapsed and died in the blackout he was just going to post his mail to the office up in London and he collapsed and died by the pillarbox. My mother was 15 had she been 2 or 3 years older she would have been able to run it herself. But as it was there was a very nice man and his wife and he was to have it if anything happened to her father so, well he had to go to war so his wife took over. My grandmother was asked who would you like to have the business, whatever his name was cant remember now so he had to go to war, she was expecting a baby so he overstayed his leave t be there when the baby was born and consequently he was sent straight to the front line, posted a letter to her and he was blown up so that was that. Well his wife carried on and she made a good job of it and made a lot of money. But it was through my grandmother saying she could have it that she bought 4 Chantry Road for us to live in.
So who bought 4 Chantry Road… your grandmother?
No the woman that she gave the business to bought 4 Chantry Road and that was in about 1915 or 1916 and I was born there in 1927 in the house. So yes I was born there and I loved there for 35 years until I moved and we bought our first house so yes that house has a lot of memories.
But you had the whole house?
Yes, my mother moved downstairs when Len came back from the war. She had the downstairs and we had the middle and the top so there was 2 bedrooms at the top ours and Susans and there was a little kitchen and a bathroom, a small dining room and a large lounge and so that was I was there from the time I was born until I was 35. then 4 years in Somerset then we came down here and I think we moved 5 times in a very short space of time, all that time in that one place then we come down here. We first came to a little cottage next to the pharmacy Rolands on the corner, the little cottage beside it. We were there for 6 months, couldn’t stand it because it was right on the pavement and all these old dears used to stand in front of the window nattering away and nobody could get past and then on Monday nights they had a bell ringing practice. Only stayed there 6 months. Then we went to Maudlin Court and (?) then we came here. And we have been here 40 years, can’t believe it … 40 years last October we came here, goodness gracious who would have thought it. Time does go quickly especially when you get to 40. The decades come faster than the one before.
End of interview.