I live in Marden, a tiny village 6 miles from Hereford.
My brother Chris (Compton) was born at 49 Redcliffe Street in 1938 and I was born there in 1947 (the year of the big snow so I’m told) and we moved to 34 Montague Street in 1952. The end house next to the vicarage. (I was often in trouble for climbing the vicarage walls – oh memories). Spent many a happy hour down Mannington Rec. during the school holidays with my old mongrel, Spot.
Wonderful to see some of my old teacher’s pictures. Remember Mr Davies, headmaster of Jennings Street school. He seemed such a huge man to me and I was quite in awe of him as I was also with Miss Griffiths who was equivalent to head school mistress. She was very strict but nice. I got on well with her because of my love of reading (creep). Also see there is a picture of Mr Archer. He taught maths at which I was (and still am, hopeless). I clearly remember him trying to explain to me some math problem. I never did ‘get it’ and still don’t till this day. Also there is a mention of Miss Sprittles. She taught my brother to play the piano for many years. He will be fascinated. Also the picture of Miss Dilnott. She informed me one day that I had ‘not bothered to wash your ears this morning’. Oh the humiliation.
I still remember the Jennings Street school song or some of it, anyway. It went :-
40 years on and afar and asunder
parted are those who are singing today
When we look back and forgetfully wonder
what we were like in our work and our play
To be honest it was the most depressing song I had ever heard, and still is especially as the 40 years are well past.
It did and still does fill me with a profound sense of gloom. Dreary isn’t the word for it.
If I remember rightly Miss Fursland welcomed me to Even Swindon Infants School. I presume about 1952. I did nothing but cry all day. Later in the day everyone had a little bed to lie on to rest for an hour. I refused. For several days I sat next to Miss Fursland as she patiently explained that the minute the big hand of her watch was on such and such number and the little hand was on such and such my mummy would come for me. One day I once again started bawling my eyes out. When she asked me why I said it was ‘because everyone had a little bed to lie on except me’. From then on I became resigned to school life.
I remember Mr and Mrs. Vivash. They were very nice. Mr Vivash once gave me 50 lines to write out saying ‘I must not peep through the windows whilst teacher is marking the exam papers’.
I too remember ‘Mary’ from the cake shop who used to bring the cakes over to the railings at at Jennings St at ‘play time’. I don’t think any cakes tasted as good. No one could make lardy cakes like that bakery. Twice a week my mother used to send me there to pick up a fresh loaf. It never got home in one piece as I could not resist taking a couple of chunks out of the end as it smelt so good, warm and fresh.
There was a fish and chip shop at the bottom of Grove St? Those fish and chips were lovely. We used to go and ask for the ‘scrumps’ which were the crispy bits that came off the fish he had cooked.
In Montague Street there was a shop on the corner of the road leading down to the Rec. It was run by Mr and Mrs. Gane. It was referred to as Ganes (obviously). They had penny trays and halfpenny trays of sweets to choose from. I think there was also a two penny tray for those who were really well off.
Going down to the rec was a speedway track. I remember it well. There was a big tree there which I used to climb. It had three forks at the top and it was great to sit there especially as it would sway in the wind. I was 13 when they built the houses on the speedway track. My friend Eileen Davies, of Redcliffe Street, and me would go down there and torment the workmen building the houses (hussies). At the rec. itself was the River Ray. We used to fish for ‘reddies’. Also there was the cinder track that came out at the bottom of Redcliffe Street (I think) and there was the Echo Bridge. It was a tunnel leading into the hillside. It was really creepy as we couldn’t see very far in but could hear water dripping. I tried to walk in there once for a dare. I got a couple of yards when an animal jumped into the water. (probably a rat). I came out of there a lot faster than I went in. We kids always used to swear that one could see skeletons coming out of it.
I remember my first visit to the Palladium on my own. I can still see myself setting off up the backsies with my little red handbag with a sixpenny bit in it and a handkerchief. I was so proud.
I was confirmed at St Augustine. Sometimes I read the lesson at the evening service. My brother was in the choir.
I also went to Sunday school. I hated that so to liven up proceedings I took my pet mouse with me. Well, it certainly did that. I can still hear the screams.
When I was about 10 the factory where my father worked (G Shop I think) decided to have a cull of the pigeons there. My father rescued these two and bought them home for me. I called them Dot and Carry. One day the vicar asked my brother if he knew who owned the pigeons as they used to perch on the vicarage windowsills and make a mess. My brother, thinking on his feet, said no he had no idea. Vicar said he thought that was odd as they also spent a lot of time perched on our windowsills as well. Oh dear. We had to re-home them. I took them across the rec. and set them free. They were back at my house before I was. In the end we went with my father to Reading and let them out at the station there. We never saw them again.
I was playing cricket in Montague Street one evening. A neighbour came by and told me that if I wasn’t careful I would break a window. I’ll be careful I said. Next minute a terrible crash as ball went through a neighbours window (she happened to be one of the most miserable people we had ever known). I slunk home. Mum asked what was the matter as I was ever so white. I was going to lie but then realized someone would ‘tell on me’ so I confessed. Dad went across and sorted it. What really annoyed him though was the fact that although we paid for the window she charged double for her own son to fit it. Dad never forgot that.
I remember only too well the bitter cold. No central heating of course just a coal fire. My brother Chris had the larger room at the back of the house. The ice used to form on the inside it was so cold. To make matters worse when he was old enough to have girlfriends I used to sneak into his room and make him an apple pie bed, or sew up the arms and legs of his pajamas, or both. He would come home at midnight or 1pm freezing cold and discover what I had done. He used to be furious. Also when he used to be saying goodnight to his girlfriend (s) outside the front door I used to lean out of my bedroom window (which was over the front door) and make silly remarks. He used to get so angry. We had a living room and a front room. To have a fire in the front room was a special occasion. We usually lived in the living room. Sometimes as a surprise my mum used to do a fire in the front room on a Sunday. I loved that as it was much more comfortable there. Trouble was often the chimney hadn’t been swept we used to sit there and billows of smoke used to come into the room along with smuts of soot. We used to cough like anything and could hardly see each other across the room. One Christmas we were all sat there and we had put chestnuts in the ash pan to roast while we watched TV. Suddenly there were terrible explosions and nuts flew everywhere as they cracked in the heat. Frightened all of us and the dog wouldn’t come in the front room for ages after that.
My first boyfriend’s mother came to visit us once. She said how horrified she was as it was obvious we were ‘posh’ as we had ‘bay windows’.
In Rodbourne Road at the top end near Redcliffe Street was a general sort of grocery store which we kids used to refer to as ‘Dirty Dicks’. Think more to do with shop being shabby than owner himself. Was an open secret that we could buy 5 woodbines for a shilling or 2 for 6d. My first port of call especially when my pocket money went up to 2/6d.
When old enough often used the Dolphin Pub. Was in the lounge there when it came over the radio that President Kennedy had been assassinated. How stunned we all were and upset.
The worst day of all was the Sunday. Morning not too bad but the afternoons (after sunday school) were dismal. Everything shut down. Not allowed out unless I played ‘nicely’ (how does a tomboy play nicely?). Most of the time had to put on a nice dress and go for a sedate walk. No playing on the swings or roundabouts in the rec. In the evening the radio would be put on playing the programme ‘Sing Something Simple’. Oh dismal. As bad as ’40 years On.’
I used to be really cross as my brother could stay out till all hours whereas I could only stay out til 10.30 on a Saturday provided Mum knew where I was and who with. If a minute late Mum would be waiting at the front gate and would ask ‘what time of night do you call this young lady’. (Usually about 10.40 pm). Used to query why Chris could stay out late the reply was ‘because he is male’.
I remember the faggot shop in Rodbourne. Think it was quite close to the Dolphin. I used to love the faggots sold except for the ones that had streaks of fat across them.
I also used to play Jack o’ Lantern round the backsies. This consisted of the person who was ‘it’ had the torch and the rest of us had to hide from the beam. Once caught in the torch beam that person became ‘it’. We used to climb over the fences and hide in the gardens especially in Redcliffe Street. Could only play this when it got dark early as all had to be indoors for tea.
I used to play being a doctor by bandaging up my dogs legs and tail. Then he would get fed up and go out (via a hole in the fence). Goodness knows what people thought when they saw him.
We only had expensive things like chicken on special occasions like Christmas. One day friends of my parents asked them if they would look after their poodle for a week as they had to go away. My parents agreed. On the due day the couple arrived with their poodle plus a huge bag of chicken as they said that was all their dog would eat. We ate like kings that week whereas the poodle seemed to thoroughly enjoy eating the same kind of dog food as our dog did. Needless to say we were sworn to secrecy.
I went to work for a couple of years at Rentaset/Radio Rentals in Percy Street. I worked in an office there and enjoyed it. Then I left Swindon to join the WRAF as a dental nurse.