Archive for July, 2015

imagesFU1CMAQNWith Christmas 1945 approaching, Mum began to make the Christmas puddings, and all the family would have a stir of the mixture, which smelt lovely. While they were cooking, us girls would have to stay up half the night to make sure the water did not boil dry – the kitchen was full of steam, and everything had a layer of moisture.

When they were cooked they were left to cool, and then stored in the cupboard. Nearer Christmas, the mince pies were made, and the kitchen looked like a baker’s shop as Mum made dozens for our large family. Christmas passed quietly and we were now into the new year.images6C5NEUEJ

The year 1946 started very cold, and although the war was over everything was in short supply. People had to queue for most food and any household items the shops managed to obtain.

quntitledMum met her new friend in one of these queues, and without a doubt she was one of the dirtiest friends she had ever made. What my Dad would have made of Mrs Holten I dread to think. I can only remember her as a large lady, always dressed in black.

I could never make out how many children she had, as there was a continuous trail of boys and girls of all ages traipsing in and out of her house. There was one daughter called Rosie who tried to keep some order, but she was fighting a losing battle.

The kitchen where they mainly lived was like a tip. Everywhere were piles of dirty washing, all sorts of opened food packets, dirty cups and plates.

Once we went with Mum to visit, and there were even live chickens in the kitchen, one sitting on a chair. Rosie just brushed the chicken off to give our Mum somewhere to sit.

Edgar Hunt (British 1876-1953) Chickens in a Kitchen

Edgar Hunt (British 1876-1953) Chickens in a Kitchen

Amongst all this chaos sat Mr Holten, dressed in a smart dark suit and white shirt with a starched collar. He was a tall, good-looking man, and I never heard him talk much to his family.

He seemed to have a soft spot for Rosie, who would have a bath ready for him, and clean clothes when he returned from his work as a builder. The few times I saw him he always looked smart and appeared oblivious to all the mess.

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With a bit more money coming in, we could now afford to go to the public baths once a week. This was far more convenient than having to heat all the hot water for our weekly bath.BE26

From the outside, Bethnal Green baths looked a good solid building, but inside it was quite grim. Everywhere was painted dark green and a miserable brown colour. The walls were tiled halfway in dark green tiles. Inside there were rows of cubicles all with a bath, and a hook on the wall for your towel.

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.

You had to pay at the door, and as you entered a woman gave you a small bar of soap and a towel. Then we had to wait until someone came out, before the attendant would shout: “Next.”

The lady attendants always seemed very formidable to me. They would turn the water on from the outside, and whoever was taking a bath would have to shout out if they wanted anymore hot or cold water.

At first I did not like to shout, and so my bath was either burning hot or cold. After a few visits I learnt to make my voice heard, and could enjoy my bath more. Many were the times someone would bang on the door and shout: “Hurry up in there, people are waiting.”

Then it was a case of getting dressed as quickly as you could.imagesWTVH767A

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