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Archive for June, 2015

I was surprised when one day Mum said she was going to start work as a cleaner in a pub. As the hours were during the day, and we were all at school, I do not know who looked after our sister Lorraine as she was still under school age.

pubuntitledAfter Mum had worked there a little while, the regulars got to know she could play the piano. This led to requests for different tunes, and also a few free drinks for our Mum.

I would not say Mum was ever drunk, but she was certainly a bit merry at times. She worked there for a while, then she found a job in Bethnal Green Hospital which suited her more as it was in the evenings.

It was while she was working at the hospital that Mum met Tom. We were all quite shocked the first time she brought him home. To our eyes Mum was an elderly lady, and for her to think of going out with a man seemed all wrong. With hindsight I see it differently. Mum was only in her forties, and still an attractive lady with a ready smile. She must have missed having someone to talk things over with, and to take her out now and again.

Clark Gable and Constance Bennett in the 1935 movie 'After Office Hours'

Clark Gable and Constance Bennett in the 1935 movie ‘After Office Hours’

What Tom thought of our large, noisy family I have no idea. He had led a very sheltered life, never marrying, and living with his Mum and unmarried sister. After his Mother died he still shared the house with his sister. Most of his working life he had been a hospital porter.

He was a large, ruddy-faced man, and had a deep monotonous voice which echoed through the house. He was also a mean man, and I do not remember him ever treating any of us. I found him a boring person, completely the opposite of our Dad, but Mum must have liked him as the relationship lasted a good many years until he died.

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We soon settled down to our new life. We had a long walk to our new school as the one near us had been bombed. We were used to that, having had a mile walk each way when we lived in Wales. I always enjoyed school, so starting a new one was no problem to me. However, it was different for my brothers who had always found lessons hard to get on with, and dreaded starting a new school. It was lucky they were all good at sports as this made them popular with teachers and pupils.

London Chest Hospital

London Chest Hospital

Our Lil found a job in The London Chest Hospital as a cook, which was only two streets away. Mary, who was always quite clever, could have taken her education further.

Unfortunately, Mum needed the money that Mary could earn if she was working, so Mary lost the chance of gaining any qualifications. She found herself a job in a small factory named Kent, a high-class brush maker. It manufactured all kinds of brushes from toothbrushes to clothes brushes, and these were sent all round the world. Mum now had a little more money coming in, which was a great help to her.

Lil worked very hard in her job, not only cooking the meals but – because of staff shortages due to the war – also staying on late to do the washing up.

wuntitledIt was no ordinary washing up as there would be stacks and stacks of dishes and the biggest saucepans and roasting dishes I had ever seen. Mum would send one of us along to help Lil, and it was hard work.

The first night I helped, my hands ended up red and sore from the soda we used, and my arms ached from lifting the huge tins. The tins were the worst job as the soda was no good at removing fat and they never looked clean.

No such luxury as dishwashers in those days. I was always glad when my stint was over.imagesBNW049MU

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untitledtrainOnce again we made our way to the railway station to catch the train to London. I was quite excited at the thought of seeing our new home. The journey seemed to take forever, and by the time we arrived at Paddington station we were all very tired.

As we boarded the bus to take us to Bethnal Green the conductor said to Mum: “You’ve got your hands full there, Mrs, are they all yours?” Mum nodded her head and smiled proudly as she looked at us all. The bus dropped us at the Bethnal Green Baths, which was the nearest stop to Approach Road where we were to live for the next two years.

Bethnal Green Baths and Washhouse before the building was demolished in 1999 and converted to flats.

Bethnal Green Baths and Washhouse before the building was demolished in 1999 and converted to flats.

Approach Road was quite impressive, with the houses set back off a wide road. The houses looked very posh to me with their lovely long windows and arched doorways. They consisted of a basement and three storeys above. Nowadays they would be called town houses. The road led to Victoria Park, where we were to spend much of our time.

I thought we would have a house to ourselves being as we were such a large family, so I was surprised when Mum said we had the top four rooms and shared the only lavatory – which was in the yard – with the family downstairs.

This arrangement was to cause many an argument in the future, as to get to the lavatory we had to go through the other family’s kitchen. Not the best arrangement, when you consider there were nine of us traipsing through their kitchen.220px-Crapper's_Valveless_Waste_Preventer

Our four rooms were arranged with the kitchen and living room on the top floor, and the two bedrooms below. The kitchen was a medium-sized room, with only enough space for a table, chairs and cooker. When all the family were home it was a bit of a squeeze.

The living room was a good size, but we were not allowed to use it very often. The two bedrooms were the same – one medium and one large – with the three boys sleeping in the smaller one, and Mum and us five girls in the large room. It was very cramped accommodation for such a large family.

It was lucky for the family who lived below us that the living rooms were at the top of the house, as you can imagine the noise nine people made.

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