MRS SANDERSON REMINISCES

CASSETTE SIDE 3

 

There was one lady ........... Mrs Moore..........she was always knitting me little jumpers and things. So I used to take her children out. My friend was Babs..... she lost her mother........no, her mother went to live with another man in our street where I lived and she lived in the next street. May, her mother kept an ordinary house but she kept the front room going selling greengrocery. They was my two friends. We used to walk miles, you'ld never dream that kiddies would walk so far up the country lanes just to get to one certain place where we used to run down the hill. And of course I used to take these two children out, she used to perhaps give me a halfpenny. "Right" I used to say, "What shall we 'ave, sherbert water or broken biscuits." So if it was broken  biscuits, halfpennyworth of broken biscuits .......off we'd go . There'd be May's brother, Bab's brother, Perhaps Babs would get hold of........ someone would want her to look after a kiddy. Off we used to go pushing prams. The boys used to push 'em. When we got to this  .......big field it was........the Daisybank, we had to climb over a fence. So I used to climb over, they'd hand me the baby, put her on the grass and the other little kiddy, and then the boys used to hump this pram over. We'd stay on the top there just playing about, you know Mip or something like that, or running down the hill. If it had been a frosty night we used to take an old big tray, tin tray, sit on that and push 'em down the hill. Then when it was time, off home.

 

During the summer, we used to go right down the hill, across the road, up a bank into a brickyard. And there we used to build our houses. The man came one day and told us not to touch the new bricks, showed us where the new bricks was. The old bricks, we come up the bank there, the old bricks was right along the bank there and the new bricks were in the kilns. They was only about that high, but they was new bricks and when they was baked, they used to be piled up. We could play with these but not with them. So we used to go round looking for old tins for saucepans, pull leaves up, that was for cabbage, stones for potatoes. The boys used to make a square - that was the kitchen - that was  the living room, that was the bedroom. Time to put babies to bed ! So in the bedroom they went.

 

That was a game I suppose we used to spend the time, and sometimes we walked round the road which was much longer than going up this steep hill. The kiddies must have been healthy, the way we used to take them out. I often think that, you know when they grew up. And there was another one I used to take out that went to Canada I think it was. One birthday me aunt Annie give me a big doll, and I never took it out because I said I was too old for dolls, I must have been about twelve. Anyway I'd shown it to this lady and she said "Would I like to give it to her little girl as a taking away present." Now this little one, I don't know if she was a weakling, but her mother used to say, "You've made her what she is. She's a fine healthy baby now." I can picture her standing at the door, saying that.  Then there was a Mrs Stewart, as we come up the side of our house she lived in Henry Street. I think she only had two girls. I used to take them out, either a halfpenny or if she gave me a penny I used to get sherbert water. I used to stick that in a bottle and shake it up and have a halfpennyworth of broken biscuits. The lady where we used to get the broken biscuits always used to save them for us. Us two girls, whoever got money first used to go and get them.

How many broken biscuits would you get then ?

 

Oh, you'd get a big bag-full like that Geoff.  Were these broken while they were serving them ? No, they was in tins. Did they buy them broken ? No, you would buy 1lb, half a pound or a quarter. But I suppose they used to get banged about bringing them in and there'd be a lot of broken ones. But there again there may have been a few left and she broke them up.

 

Mum, when we lived in Gillingham and I used to walk, I used to go and get a bag of broken biscuits. At the same shop that we used to get speck apples, that would be Woodlands Road, wouldn't it. You used to go under the railway bridge, and just the other side there were two or three shops on the left hand side, and that shop was a greengrocery cum general stores. We used to go in there and we either got a bag of speck apples or we could get broken biscuits. I can remember doing that.

 

You know you said you had a grandma and a grandpa on your mum's side. How many brothers and sisters did your mum have ?

 

There was Mrs Cole, I don't know what her other name was, Uncle Arthur, Aunt Maud, Aunt Annie. I don't think there were any more.  They were all Wells ?    Yes.  One brother she lost - he went swimming from Chatham Pier.

 

Where did the Wells come from.

 

No idea. Me grandma, I think she had this little shop for years, you went down steps to it. Me mum was born there if I remember rightly. Mum was a manageress on the catering side in a hotel and that stood up on a kind of a hill or bank. You come from Chatham Station, come down, went round and went up the slope and this hotel was up there. She worked there when she was young. And me Aunt Annie lived on the Maidstone Road just past the cemetery.

Me uncle Arthur lived on the Luton Road, he had a tobacconist's and the other one lived in an ordinary house.

 

This was about 1914, was it ?    Yes     Three of them had shops then ?   Mmm.   On me mother's side they was all business people.   What about your dad ?  He came from Chatham, just the same. His sister lived at Gillingham. He had another sister in Dell Street. I don't think he had any brothers. Did he drink much before your mum died ?  Oh yes. I won't say he was drunk every night, but he always had enough from what I can remember of him. If my brother wasn't in for half past ten, and that was when he was 16 or 17, he had the horse whip and he used to swipe him with it. No warning or anything,  he just used to say you're late. I think he put the fear of God into me.  I was only late once and he locked the back door on me. I kept banging and banging and Mrs Whiting, they had half of the house, she came down. " The old sod ". I think that was mostly why I left home. Because after that she said you should go. I was living home when I worked at the RAOB, I got eight shillings a week and I used to have to give my father seven. And that shilling I used to have to buy all me own clothes with. So I joined a club in the little shop at the bottom and paid her a shilling a week. I had no pocket money and this Mrs Whiting used to say you're a fool working like that just to keep him in beer. Then she brought the local paper, and said "Look, there's a job going. Go and see if you can get it." And that's when I went to Baldwins at the entrance to Rochester, and they kept a sweet shop cum newsagent  cum baby shop with all prams and things like that. You very rarely saw a shop on its own, they all sold something else.

 

When you worked at the RAOB how old were you ?  How long did you work there ?

 

A year, or two years. I was 14.  Herbert was working at Lovibonds.

 

And where was Bill ?

 

No, I lost me brother with the flu in 1915 I think it was. He was 16 or 17. It was before I went to work for the RAOB, there was this terrible 'flu. I forget what they called it. Anyway, I had me father and me brother, and they was both in the same bed. Couldn't get a doctor or food for love nor money. Nobody would come in to help you 'cos they was afraid of catching it. So I had to look after them meself. When the doctor come he said "Oh give them all the drink you can get." But I said, "I can't get anything." Milk - you got a quarter of a pint. Oxos ! You was lucky if you got one. Mmm - meat - I used to queue up at 6 o'clock in the morning to get meat to make stew.

 

Anyway, me brother died and I had to pull me father off the bed, pull my mattress off my bed, put me father on that and pull him down the stairs in front of the fire. I went for a neighbour - she wouldn't come - and one of the neighbours across the road who my mother had done a lot for - she was a gin drinker - and she wouldn't come across. They was all afraid of catching it.

 

Did you get it?

 

No. Well of course we had to bury him. Me father was still laying there and me grandma said you'll have to come and live with me, you can't stop down here now looking after him. Let him get on with it. But I wouldn't go.

 

And where was Bill then Mum ?

 

Out in Mesopotamia and India. He was in the Territorials and they called them up and they went out soon after war broke out.

 

He would only be about 17 then !   No, he'd be a bit older than that. How old were you when Herbert died ? About 13 ? If you went to the RAOB at 14, 'cos your Mum died when you were 11 - how long after that when Herbert died.

 

About the following year, 1915, 1916.  You used to see six or seven  funerals going all along after one other. It was a terrible time.

 

Mum, can we go back to your childhood ? Can you remember what sort of games you used to play ?

Yeah !  We used to play five stones. I suppose nearly everybody knows about that. You could buy them, but we used to get cobbles or something like that and play, any kind of small stones. You just put four in each corner - make a square - and one in the middle. The you'ld bounce a little ball up, and as you bounced the ball up you had to pick one of the stones up. If you either let the ball stop or the ball runs away and you don't pick a stone up you're out.

 

You had to catch the ball before it bounced ? Pick a stone up and catch the ball before it bounced again.

 

And then, after you'd picked all the four up and the one in the middle you lay them all out again and you pick the one in the middle up and then you scoop all four up in your hand.

 

How big a square then ?

 

Ohhh - small, about a foot square. And then there was hopscotch where you marked your pavement out, 1,2 3 and 4. You had to hop over the lines and go in each square. If you went on a line you was out.

 

And then there was your skipping rope and wooden hoops. Whip and tops - like turnips and mushrooms. Chalked on the top to make patterns. And then if you put a bit of orange peel in a puddle in the road and make it go all colours and stick your top on the top your colours used to come on that. I used to get different coloured bits of paper and stick on the top.

 

Did you have leather on your whip or did you have string ?

 

String ! You got a bit of leather when you bought them., but it was too harsh I think. It used to knock the top down, so we used to get string, and at the end of the string we used to fray it and then just damp it a bit and then it would go. The next one would be, we used to have races. We always used to collect outside our house. I don't know why, whether it was because round the next road there was a lot of children in the houses so it may be........    Next to our house was the alleyway, and when we started these races one would go one way and one would go the other right round the houses, the next street and right round - we just used to do it for the love of it. And if we were , what shall I say, cheeky, as they set off, one would try to get off quickly before the other and then the one that was left behind used to go through the alleyway, wait until the other one had gone past the alleyway, and then he'd be home first. So , what we used to do, make out we was running up the road and then stop and watch for the other one to run down the road. And if he didn't we used to come back and see him running through the alleyway. So, as they went down the alleyway that way we used to just go and meet them coming out the alleyway that way.

 

Another one was hanging a rope on the gas lamp on the bar that stuck out. They used to come round lighting the lamps with a little hook thing and pull a little lever down. There was always arms sticking out and we used to put a bit of rope round that and make a swing and have a swing on it. We couldn't have been any weight or we would have broken the thing off. Another thing is that when me father used to have all the straw and hay delivered - as you know the straw is in big bales - the hay was as well. It used to be put above the stables in what we called the loft and there was a door outside where they used to put it on a hook and with a rope pull it up and then pull it into the loft. Well when my father used to be out, we used to be daredevils and put this hay and straw, throw it down the big hole in the stable, a trapdoor like, and we used to sit on the trap door and drop down and see how many could do that ...... somebody would be counting how many we could do in the least numbers. That was another game we used to get up to.

 

Tying the letterboxes, you know there always used to be like a little handle on the letterbox, and we used to tie a piece of string on one, 'cos both doors would be like that, and we used to knock at the door and scoot like anything, go round the corner and look at them trying to pull it open. But people in the house got used to this kind of thing, so when we'd done it - it had to be dark - one night we'd done it and we'd got round the corner and there was one of the men round that corner, another man round that corner, and the woman answered the door. So, as we was standing there giggling and running along, so both men grabbed us. We never done that one again, at least not those two houses. They swiped us good and proper. Mothers never complained in those days. If you went and told your mother Mrs so and so gave you a good smacking round the behind or on your arm or anything, she'd say "What have you been doing, it serves you right," and you got another swipe from your parents, so you kept quiet about it.

 

This happened when me mother was alive. We used to put on little pantomimes in our yard and this particular one stands out in my mind - Sleeping Beauty. It was two chairs, me mother brought them down, and there was a plank went across the chairs, so it laid like a bed. And a big pillow or cushion, and the sheets off my bed and Sleeping Beauty laid on it. The Prince was an Irish boy, Danny, and as he came to kiss the girl his foot kept going under the chair. We used to charge a farthing or a halfpenny and if say six come in, before we started we used to go round and buy some sherbert water and broken biscuits and put them in our kitchen. Me mum used to let us have some mugs or something like that. Sometimes the mothers of the kiddies used to look over the fence at us. Right, to go back to Danny. He was kicking underneath the chair and one of the girls said, "What are you doing that for Danny ?" So he said, "Where's the pot ?"  LAUGHTER  In those days people didn't take any notice of it but it caused a laugh. I said, "Oh, princesses don't have pots under the bed." So anyway, the princess was laughing now and he said "You shouldn't laugh. You have to wait until I kiss you before you wake up." But I can't remember anything else after that but it caused quite a laugh. We used to have quite a few of those, Saturday afternoons.

 

What was that game you used to tell me about, Cherry Oggles ?

 

Oh, when the cherries was in we used to rub the stones so that all the cherry was off them and dry them. Then we use to put, we had drain pipes, and they used to come out like that and go up like that. We used to put a ring round the bottom of it. We used to throw so many cherry stones, perhaps two or three, and you had to wait for them to come down. We used to sit on the ground and throw them up the pipe and as they came out, those that didn't go into the ring the other people used to have 'em. But those that went in the ring it was yours back. No, you left them there and the next person come along and they'd do it. But the one who got most in the ring first going off claimed all of them. I don't know what happened to the cherry stones afterwards. But that was another game, but it was only cherry time we had that.

 

Another time we would think, oh let's go out into the country. Let's go scrumping in the orchard. It wasn't far, along by the waterworks we used to go, and there was a man along there used to let us pick up the falls. But of course the boys couldn't find enough so they used to go along there and give the trees a good shake. But when we'd got enough, our pockets filled, we'd go off back home again. That was over half an hour's walk there and halfhour back. Of course then again, when the hop-picking come along quite a few of my friends used to go with their aunts hop-picking. We used to get up about six or halfpast in the morning, seven o'clock we was on the road. It was a heck of a way when I think of it now.

 

Did you walk there ?

 

Yes. There was no transport. We had to go right out to the Waggon and Horses - oh I forget the name of the place. It was quite a long walk. Right at the end of Luton road, you turn round by the tram station then you carried on up until you come to the Waggon and Horses and you carried right on the first hopfield which was a long long way right by the oasthouses. And when that field was done you went to the next field and you was gradually making your way in towards home. And the last hop field was right by the Waggon and Horses, and it was always on a Saturday morning you done that bit, finished that bit.  And the people used to go in the Waggon and Horses and drink all the money they'd...........well they used to get what they called a sub. The men used to come round to see if anyone wanted a sub. I think it was mostly the people who come from London or anywhere like that and wanted to get home to give 'em their train fare kind of thing. But us kids used to have the time of our lives. There was always hops left in the big bins and we used to be rolled in those, and then they used to throw all the old sacks on top of us. Oh, I really looked forward to that day, and they used to bring us out bottles of lemonade to drink.

 

You used to take a picnic with you, did you ?

 

No, most mothers had their, oh I suppose you would call it a picnic, sandwiches and things like that, but it was generally a lump of boiled bacon and a lump of bread......great big slices of bread and butter.........you sat nibbling that.

 

How much did you get paid ?

 

It was so many bushels to the shilling.  About five bushels, I'd say the baskets stood about three foot high. The men had a hook and the pulled these vines down and the bins at each end was like that.  And then there was a long pole went right across these things and then there was sacking went round like that and there was a pole that side and a pole that side which you could sit on.........a bit hard to sit on.........and you'ld scratch all the hops off the vines, you know, keep pulling them. You had your own little bin to yourself and each individual picked their hops in their own bin.  The lady I went with, Mrs Packer, she used to say - "Keep yours out till the last Winn, we'll put those on top".  'Cos if there was a lot of leaves in they wouldn't have it, you had to keep all the leaves out. So she used to put some of hers in the middle then some of mine - I was called a clean picker. We used to go down every day and Saturday in the school holidays. The people from London stayed there in huts and had their cooking things there as well. The Londoners mainly went Canterbury way. It wasn't our way, it was more the other way. And the Palmers then, the people who owned the hop fields, used to have all these big huts waiting for them with cooking facilities. One hut was where they could sleep. I've never seen it but from what people told me it was a long hut or marquee with all these cooking stoves for the women to cook on. And also a big wash place where they could do their washing and have a wash as well. I don't know if they used to have their railway fare sent to them, I've no idea, but I know it was Chatham Station, no, not Chatham, I can't remember the station, but I used to hear me father say, "Oh the hop pickers have arrived." It was a holiday for the London children and a treat for us.

 

I first started when me mum was alive and she used to save all me old clothes up to wear out. Then when me mother died I went, I suppose a couple of years, and then this lady went into munitions when the war broke out but they still wanted people to pick the hops. So this lady said "Why don't you go on your own Winn." So my friend couldn't come, but her brother wanted to come with us, so he came to help me. So I said "If you pick well we'll share the money we make." But he used to go out playing half the time, so when it come to paying out, I told me father all about it and he said "He's not entitled to half of it then if he's not been working." So I didn't give him half of it and his father come round wanting to know why. So I told him and my father was there standing and said "You can't expect the girl to work while your son was playing around." So the father said to the son, "Did yer.?" Well he said "I don't like picking hops," so that finished it. His father gave him a clout and told him not to come to him with all his tales. But after that I got fed up with going out - wet mornings - trudging along in the rain, and I packed it in.  Of course they made it worthwhile during the war, you didn't have to pick the hops for so little money. You got more money because, I don't know if they made a medicine out of it, they do these days out of hops, but for beer. Labour was difficult to get. You got more money going into munitions. Londoners as well, they all went into this war work, aircraft factories, machinery things like that.

 

So then from hop picking I went to this lady I used to go hop picking with.  She was in munitions so one day she asked me if I'd go over and clean her rooms up. I was 12 or 13 then and I'd left school, so I used to go over, and more so if it was a cold day, I used to lay her fires, and clean up the room, wash up her breakfast things, go up and make her bed, dust round her bedroom and general keep things tidy. Before she come home, if it was a cold day, I'd go across and light her fire and bank it up for her and put the kettle on the hob so that was nearly boiling when she came in. Oh, I done that for quite a long while. Then, I think she had to give it up, it was in a rope factory, a tarry smell, I don't know what they was doing in there but it got down on her chest and I remember her being a short fat lady, but she was always so cheerful and she had beautiful long hair. She used to have headaches very badly and she'd say, "Winn come and brush my hair." And I used to brush her hair and put it in all different parts and she used to sit there going to sleep and when she woke up she'd say, "Oh that's better, have you been on it all this while." I can picture it now. One of the old grandfather chairs, wooden chairs, and she had a big cushion at the back and she used to sit in front of the fire, in the downstairs room, and her hair was golden or brown and lovely and long, and as you kept brushing it it went shiny. I used to love doing it.

What can you remember about Christmasses when you were a child ?

 

Very little. Of course after me mum died we had very little Christmas. Before she died we had nice Christmasses. We used to hang our stockings up, maker paper chains, a  real Christmas tree - we paid about 6d for it. Me father used to bring it home from the market. It always stood in the corner, there was a fireplace there, a window there, and my father used to sit in his big armchair there. The table was along here, the settee along there, on this side of the wall was the sewing machine and chairs either side. Then there was the door leading upstairs and then you come along on this side of the wall. There was a table in the middle which me mum had plants and photos on and there was chairs either side of there, then you come to the door that led into the shop and down the stairs. The fireplace would be on that side, like you come down there, the door there, and the fireplace was there, and the window here. It always used to be up by the window. But we didn't have fairy lights on it in those days, no electricity you see.

I can't remember what we hung on the tree. I think more or less we used to make the things. We used to cut things out made of paper or cardboard and crayon them. The presents would be tied onto the branches. I think it was the Christmas before me mum died she bought me one of those little pianos 'cos I was always playing on her treadle machine. After that me father never bothered. One Christmas Eve, he used to go and have his drink at the Magpie, he took me up there and I was allowed to go and sit in the room at the back where the people used to take their children. And the lady, I don't know whether she owned the pub, but I used to go up there sometimes and get me father a pint of beer in a bottle from the bottle and jug department, it was just a slip of a place, you could stand and drink but it was more........it was away from all the other part.  So she knew me, and I remember her bringing me mince pies and sandwiches and me father had bought me some ginger wine. I used to love that. I sat there until me father was ready to go home. Me brother on Christmas day, he just went off to his pals. I didn't have much Christmas, and after that, one of the neighbours where I used to go and look after the children, I used to go down there on a Christmas afternoon and the evening. I used to stop there for tea and the evening playing games........Ludo, Snakes and Ladders, and things like that. Of course as I got older Christmas didn't mean much to me. During the war there was nothing you could buy or do. No radio.

 

Did you have one of those gramophones with a horn.?

 

Yes we had one of those. Me favourite record was, When I'm Blowing Bubbles. I tell why we had that. Me eldest brother was apprenticed to a house decorator, and of course when he got called up as he was in the Territorials, he was put into the West Kent regiment and sent abroad. A young lad took his place and they come to paint the house up. He was always whistling and singing this, When I'm Blowing Bubbles. I don't know where we got the record from. Whether he gave it to us or me father  -  I can't picture me father buying it - or whether me brother bought it. But I know we had this record. He was always singing that. We used to call him the bubble boy.