Where were you born?
Wife: Alma Terrace. That’s between Aylsham Road and Waterloo Road.
What was it you said it was before it was Alma Terrace? What was on that site?
Wife: Oh there was a swimming pool…
Wife: There was a pool. Before that got bombed there was a school when that got bombed so we were bombed out.
And were you born at home then?
Wife: Yes. Oh yes, they didn’t take you in hospital then.
That was in 1927 wasn’t it?
Can you remember where R was born?
Wife: Were you born at home?
Husband: Number 39 Lawson Road
Wife: Yes, he lived on Lawson Road then.
39 Lawson Road
Husband: And then 43 Lawson Road
Wife: And then they lived at 43. They moved a little after that because he had a big family and that was a little bigger house. I think that’s what he mean.
Husband: So we changed them with my grandfather. They lived at the shop and we lived two doors from it. Then we took the shop and he moved.
How many brothers and sisters did you have?
Husband: I didn’t have no brothers
Wife: All sisters – there was 5 of them
Husband: All sisters
Wife: And they were only little houses.
Were they terraces?
So what were your parents’ names?
Wife: My father’s name was Arthur Edward M.
Wife: and my mother’s name was Gertrude – M when she married.
And do you know where they were born?
Wife: Well my mother lived at Mattishall, out in the country and my father lived in Norwich.
And how did they meet? Do you know?
Wife: Well he was a bread chap, you know, used to work in a bakery then they got to… then they got to the time when horses went out ‘cos he used to go round in a horse and cart after he’d done the baking; go round in a horse and cart for the bread, you know, off to the houses and then course when they went out all the … that’s how he met my mother like that. She was at one of these houses where he went.
He brought her some bread?
Wife: Yes, so that’s how they met. And after the horses went my father couldn’t see very well so he couldn’t drive a car or anything so he went right into the bakery then and then he worked at the Co-op up Queen’s Road.
Wife: And he used to do the bread by hand then; knead all the dough and I’ve heard them say that the dough used to come right up to his elbows, you know, as he kneaded it.
Did he work all night then? Can you remember?
Wife: Yeah, but during the war of course they weren’t allowed to work night-times. That’s the only time he went to work during the day. Other than that we never hardly saw him because he was in bed during the day and we were at school and he went to work about 9 o’clock time and he used to walk right from Alma Terrace up to there so of course he used to leave about a half hour or so more and we never hardly saw him because we went to bed.
When there was rationing during the war did you always have fresh… obviously you always had fresh bread?
Wife: Oh yeah, but my mother used to go to the Co-op ‘cos you could have a number and then you got a dividend when you got so many out; once a year or something. I can’t actually remember that properly.
Husband: We got sixpence in the pound
Wife: And so she used all the Co-ops: the butchers and everything and when we got old enough to write – because we used to write our orders for groceries – and she knew all the prices of them and all that and she used to add that all up and then when we got old enough to write we… because I was a twin – and she used to write it one week and I used to write it the other.
Wife: And I also had a brother but he was…
What was his name?
Wife: R and… I forgot what I was going to say. He was a year older than us. He was born in 19.. well a little over a year… 1926 he was born, in March.
Husband: She was born in 1927. On the 30th of December.
Was that your birthday on the 30th?
Wife: Oh, I was first, yes, ten minutes older than her. Ten minutes.
Wife: She says she used to wonder whatever was happening when J come. She said: “Ooh, whatever is happening”. They didn’t know then when they was going to have twins or what.
No, of course. No scans.
Wife: So she never had no idea that we were going to be twins.
That’s very exciting. A big shock.
Wife: That is a shock.
OK. Well you have just answered my next question. I was going to say how many brothers and sisters do you have but you have a twin sister.
Wife: And a brother.
And a brother, R. What was your sister’s name?
J. Do they still live nearby? Do they live nearby in Norwich… your brother and sister?
Wife: Well, they are both dead. My sister died with multiple sclerosis and my brother died ‘cos he used to take it…. When they lived in Heath Road after we were bombed out we went and lived in Heath Road. Well that’s a house and course that’s when she started having the … you know, being ill and he used to carry her up and downstairs and he died of a heart attack when he was 60 and my had sister died then… before then about five years and we said, I said to the doctor then: “Is it through that?” but he said: “No, that’s nothing to do with that” … you know carrying her up and downstairs but you don’t know, do you?
No, not at all
Wife: But anyway they got out of there when she just had to have a wheelchair and got into a flat.
Childhood games and childhood illnesses
That’s hard work. What I’d like to do next is ask you about Mile Cross when you were younger.
Wife: Do I know much about Mile Cross?
Yes, from when you were…. your earliest memories of Mile Cross.
Wife: Well no, actually I can’t because we used to… we used to go chestnutting and getting acorns, because we used to have a pop gun and all that, you know and there we always used to go down… when you go down Angel Road and further up.
Husband: Catton Grove.
Wife: Catton Grove and right up Old Catton. We used to walk up there from Alma Terrace and walk back and collect chestnuts. It weren’t just chestnuts, well acorns, you know the other things. I’ve forgotten what they are.
What are they now? Conkers?
Wife: Yeah, conkers.
That sounds good fun. How old were you? Was that when you were quite young?
Wife: Oh about nine.. Well we walked everywhere didn’t we? We didn’t go on a bus.
Did you have a bicycle? Did you have a bike?
Wife: No I never had a bicycle but in the terrace the other children, some of them had bikes so we used to have a little ride on that and one boy he had a scooter and that had a brake on the back, you know, where you just put your foot. We used to love going on that. We used to go round and round the passages or round up the back and come back round the front.
That sounds great fun
Wife: Then we used to play stick and top all up and down, then we used to jump over each other, you know. I forget what you call that.
Hop… What is it? Toad in the .. no, not toad in the hole.
Wife and Interviewer together: Leapfrog!
Wife: We used to do that all the way up and all the way down. And skipping, we used to do that.
Did you have lots of jobs for your mum and dad that you had to do?
Wife: No, no, ‘cos my father was at bed, wasn’t he then, so we had to be quiet so we were out of doors more than anything actually.
And your mum, did she work as well?
Wife: No, she never did.
… or was she looking after you?
Wife: She was a… she worked in people’s houses, she worked at some doctor’s and she worked at the man who kept Garlands and all that. I can’t remember all of them but they’re the ones I can remember.
She had lots of small jobs?
Wife: Yeah. Well she lived in, you see, when they went to the big houses.
Husband: She was what they called a skivvy.
Wife: And then anything happened and they had to move, then she got another job somewhere else.
What did she do then? Was she a kind of housemaid?
Wife: Yeah, yeah. I would have said that. I’d forgotten.
Was that before you were all born?
Wife: Oh yeah, of course. She didn’t go to work then after she married. So that was that.
Can you remember much about Alma Terrace, about the house that you lived in? How many bedrooms were there?
Wife: There were only two – only two bedrooms, a back one and a front so the three of us slept in the bigger one, me and J slept in the big one and my brother in the single and I can remember my sister got … I don’t know what it was … some disease but they had to put all brown paper all up the window so the air and that don’t get out. She had something very bad but she got over it but she didn’t weigh so much as me and she won’t so strong so that’s why she got it and I didn’t, I don’t know. But I can remember having mumps.
Wife: Of course we pretended we were asleep when the doctor come once. I can remember that as plain as this and we weren’t at school
Why did you pretend to be asleep?
Wife: I don’t know. Anyway he say… He come up and he say: “They look alright”. He say: “You’ve don’t wanna pretend you’re asleep”. He knew we were foxing it. Oh blimey!
Did your house have a garden, a private garden of its own?
Wife: Just a little garden. There weren’t a lot but there was a garden, yes.
And did you grow vegetables there or was it a proper garden?
Wife: No, my father didn’t do anything like that. Well he was abed all day weren’t he? My mother looked after the garden but we always had flowers and she used to sort of put them in … and … flowers I remember anyway.
And did you have an air-raid shelter there?
Wife: Oh yeah, that’s how come when we were bombed out that we were … happened to be in the shelter.
So you were in the shelter and the house was…?
Wife: And the window all come over me and J’s bed so it was a good job that we weren’t in there as we probably wouldn’t have been here now.
Can you remember what year that was?
Wife: Oh no, I can’t, no when did I get bombed? St Augustine’s and all that …
Wife: Was it? I can’t remember. I don’t know how old I was now.
Husband: You started up Start-rite1941.
Starting a life in the shoe industry at 14 – men’s and women’s roles
Wife: Yes. I started work on my fourteenth birthday.
Wife: Yes, that was our birthday when we started up there.
Wife: No, it weren’t Start-rite We started at one on Drayton Road.
Husband: Edwards and Holmes.
Wife: Edwards and Holmes, and then of course when we had been bombed out, then, and of course that was all smashed up so we had to get another job.
Oh really.. the entire factory was destroyed?
Wife: No, and we hadn’t been there long so they didn’t want us, you see. They just took the ones that they could take, you know, the older ones and we were to go to the City Hall then about jobs and they sent us up Start-rite and that’s how I come to be there.
Husband: They didn’t send you up Start-rite in the war.
Wife: Well that was Southalls then. They called it Southalls then.
Husband: Start-rite in 1953.
Say it again: it wasn’t Start-rite until 1953 and before that it was South…
Husband: That was the oldest boot factory in England… the first boot factory in England.
Oh really the first one? The first boot factory.
Wife: We used to make shoes for the Queen and all them.
I’ve got lots of questions about work but we’ll get there in a minute.
Husband: That was one of our famous shoes, the white….
Wife: What, those little sandals? And these, look…
Oh goodness …
Wife: Little pram shoes.
Mary’s showing me beautiful … What are they …. ceramic?
Wife: That’s a pram shoe for a baby.
But it’s absolutely beautiful. It’s white with gold heel like a Mary Jane.
Wife: They were in red, white.
Husband: Ah well they didn’t, they didn’t have no heels. They did that… we got that when they was two hundred years old. That was the year two hundred; they started, 1792 they started.
Lovely, a lovely memory
Wife: Yeah. I was a post-trimmer and that mean putting the lining into the outside and when you get them little ones and you have to get them round that, oh, that was awkward because they had small… oh, there’s a bit of dust in there.
And are those ones there, the red ones on the side; are those real shoes?
Wife: No, no they’re…
It looks like it… they’re even tinier, the size of a thumb
Wife: Of course they were for bigger children, they were. They were big, you know – a sort of school size and older.
My children wear Start-rite.
Wife: They just made the model of them.
Wife: My daughters bought us that, one for him and one for me. That’s the first time they’d ever seen any in the shop like that so they each bought one for us.
Seeing we’re talking about Start-rite can you tell me what it was like to work there? What kind of place was it? You started when you were 14.
Wife: Oh it was big.
Wife: Start-rite. How big is the place… or was it? They knocked it down now.
Where was the factory?
Husband: They started on the market, behind the market and moved up to where they opened the new factory in 1909. Father went there in 1910.
Where was the new factory?
Wife: That was up Silver Road.
Husband: Behind George White School.
Wife: Oh yeah, that will be better for you.
Husband: We were one end of the road and Chiddocks the other. There used to be about … there’s 15,000 shoe workers belong to the union and about 5,000 who didn’t because a lot of them were married; there weren’t a lot married women went to work before the war
And were you in the union?
Husband: I was in the union, yes.
Wife: Oh yeah, you had to all join the union.
Husband: If you were … the men had to work – you’d got to belong to the union but the women didn’t bother about it so much. Most of them belonged to it….
Was it mostly men or were there equal numbers?
Wife: Well, they had different rooms.
Husband: There was what … 200 women?
Wife: Yeah, I suppose so, in the machining room; that’s where all the machinery was and people who solutioned and all that sort of thing.
What does that mean: solutioned?
Wife: Solutioned – that’s sticky stuff and some odd things they had to stick on so that was all ready for the machinists, if you know what I mean. See they used to have like patterns then, well that was all stitched.
This was kind of decorations on the front of the shoe.
Wife: … and you had to go round them – a lot of the plain machinists all had to go round them so that was just a vamp when they got it. Because when like what I done – post trimming – the shoe was all made up you know I mean the outside and then I put the lining in and machined all round it like that, and then that go through the men’s room and they put the sole on it.
I see …
Wife: And I always call it the men’s room but that’s where they always put the soles and all that on. And his was a men’s room because he’d done … What did they call you what you cut them out?
To cut out the leather.
Wife: Cut out the leather – all the shapes.
Husband: And the reason they called them clickers was when they always used to be hand work and when you got the shoe and pulled the knife out that clicked.
Wife: Yeah. ‘Cos that was a handle and then a knife on and that curled like that and they used to go down the leather like you know along the patterns and go round them.
So did someone teach you what to do? Was there a lot of training before you started the job?
Wife: Oh yeah. When I were in the machine room…when I first went I done solutioning like I was now saying to you and then after you had been there a little while and they wanted someone perhaps on another job they change you over and I, we, me and my sister, went on lacing-up and of course they were mostly, they were war shoes and oh they were thick.
When you say “war shoes” were these shoes that people…?
Wife: What the soldiers wore and the ATS and all them and of course they had big eyelets and this lacing-up machine had like needles across and you had to put the eyelets on that and put your foot on and luckily a great big needle like that used to go through. You had string all attached and that used to come back and then tie up all ready for when the soles went on. So we were on that for a good while.
That sounds dangerous
Wife: It is; them bloomin’ needles used to go into the machines sometimes and break.
What happens if a machine breaks down? What would happen?
Wife: Well they had mechanics there. And if that was something as I say breaking that needle they should come almost directly to do that because you are stopping work aren’t you and you got to keep up with the others. But that was really nice then but later years ‘fore I left I was glad to get out.
Wife: Well there was a lot of younger ch… and they just spoiled shoes. They just didn’t get told off. Yet if we spoiled one when we first went on post-trimming and what I say, well they used to come after you as though you had murdered someone.
What did they do? Did they take money off your wages?
Wife: No. No, no, no. They never done that but you were to mend your own things, you know – pull it all out and get it all done again and as I say the younger ones, see, they are like what they are now – cheeky. They walked about anyhow. We didn’t used to have to get up off our stool at all and they used to… well used to just spoil things. No-one told them nothing. Now they used to have – the later years just before I left – that’s what I done – post trimming – but mending other people’s work and some of them, well they done six, perhaps more than that, shoes that I had to all redo so…
Quite different to when you first went there.
Wife: Yeah, if you done anything wrong they were after you like a ton of bricks.
Was your manager a man or a woman?
Wife: Well, we had men managers but in the rooms, because they were up the front office, managers, in our room we had a lady forewoman. Well when I first went there, there was a woman there and she was a big woman but she was old so she wasn’t there all that …
Husband: Called HB. She was lovely.
Wife: And then M.
Husband: Miss S. was the…
Wife: And G.M. she took it over after her
Husband: Miss S. was the general manager and Mrs B. was the forewoman and what was the name… in the dark glasses?
Wife: The dark glasses? I can’t remember.
Husband: She was in charge of the post-trimmers before you got on there.
Wife: I don’t know about before I got there. I can’t remember her. That ain’t… that’s up to you that one.
Well, all these names from a long time ago. When you first went to work can you remember how much you were paid?
Wife: About 15 shillings.
And did you get paid in cash weekly?
Wife: Yeah, weekly. We used to go up…. They used to bring a big tray in with the things all in, you know the little packets and they shouted the number out and you went forward and picked it up.
Can you remember your… did you have a number?
Wife: Yeah, 29 and my sister was 30.
Husband: I was 21.
Wife: I’ll always remember that. I don’t know why.
And when you got to work in the mornings did you have a time clock?
Wife: Yes, you clocked in, yes that’s like … when we went then that was a great big ring like that with all the numbers and little holes and you had to just ding it in and that marked that up on a little plate on a cardboard or paper or something.
And was it like that when you eventually left?
Wife: No they had one then so you had a card and you had to pick that out of the thing and stick it in like a clock.
So a lot of changes. Did you wear a uniform?
Wife: No, you just had a’ apron or overall or whatever you liked to wear.
And can you remember what hours you worked?
Wife: Oh 8 o’clock to 12 wasn’t it?
Husband: 48 hours a week.
Wife: 48 hours altogether – we had an hour and a half for lunch then
Husband: I got seven shillings a week for the first two years.
Seven shillings when was that? Can you remember what year?
Husband: Yeah, that was 1931. £17 a year.
Wife: Yes the men.
Did it seem like a lot of money back then?
Wife: Well actually it was.
Husband: It was. That was the men, piece-workers, they could earn about £2 – £3.50 but the day workers they got £2.50 – well when they were finished the year before last – yeah, they finished because all the shoes are made in China now – but they were getting £380 a week for the same job I used to do.
Quite a difference. So you just said you got an hour and a half for lunch
Wife: Yeah, so we could go home because people used to have dinner then didn’t they?
Wife: So that was alright. Well then I left, of course, when I had my children and I never went back there until my oldest daughter went to college – she went to train as a domestic science teacher and I did go back then but course I used to do shorter time so it was about nine till three or four. I can’t remember exactly. But I know I used to go in at nine because I used to get the dinners all ready and put it in the oven if that was a cooking one and that was all ready when they came home from school
Husband: That went from 48 hours down to 35.
Wife: And they get about £300 and something now.
Yeah, quite a change.
Wife: Well in the men’s anyway. I don’t know about the women.
Husband: But there’s no clickers now. I don’t think they do handwork – that was…
Wife: If you earned your money you got …
Husband: What was the factory next door? After Chiddocks – what do you call it?
Wife: Oh I can’t remember. I can’t remember the names what of things. But they changed but that was still a shoe factory …
There were lots of shoe factories …
Wife: Yes, but that was only a small one though. My sister used to work there; well, one of them did.
Husband: There was 32 factories. Some of them only had about 20, but there was 15 big factories.
And was Start-rite the biggest factory?
Husband: No, no that was – not Edwards and Holmes – Sexton and Everards.
Wife: I should say that was the bigger one.
What was the name of them?
Wife: Sexton and Everards.
Husband: Sexton and Everards. Then there was Moore, Howletts….
Wife: But they’re all shut now. Mind you Start-rite as I said shut down and sacked … well made everyone redundant and they sent their shoes all out, not China but one of them sort of places, because they were getting the work done cheaper than what they paid us and course now on the new place – they got a place where … just a place where you can go and get shoes if you want to go.
That’s where I take my kids there to buy shoes.
Wife: Oh, that’s …yeah.
That’s out at Broadland.
Wife: That’s right. I couldn’t think of that. That’s been there since that shut you see so there’s a few people work there still, but course as I say they sell the shoes and they send them out to the shops as well.
It’s quite different now.
Where did people buy the shoes? Could you buy the shoes from the factory?
Wife: At the factory, yeah.
And did you get a discount?
Wife: Yes, yes and actually if you had children and they had made a new shoe … they used to get … if you had the size your child could wear they used to wear ‘em for a little while and you used to fill a form in what you’d done or what they’d done with them and all that sort of thing; when you cleaned ‘em and everything.
Really? Did you like working there?
Wife: Yes, I did, but not as I say at the end of the time. That wasn’t quite so nice. Well, unless that was ‘cos I was getting old and I felt I wish I could go. It could have been that.
Well it probably had changed quite a lot.
Wife: Oh that did.
Between when you left the first time and …
Wife: Oh, you know these little shoes.
Yeah, the little red ones you showed me earlier.
Wife: With the patterns, when they cut them, well, it was a good while before I left, they used to have someone tracing and then they went and cut ‘em out but in the end they used to have big machines and they used to just put a pattern in and that cut it all out and some of them stitched round so they were finally getting rid of the machinists. I forgot all about that, yeah.
Husband: They had pattern cutters and the rest press cutters.
What are press cutters? That’s when you press…
Husband: That’s…. am I ….have you got me on there?
Wife: Oh, your photo.. .no, he ain’t on there; he had to go on the telly once – they asked them questions about different things. I can’t remember now what they were and someone took a photo off of the television for him and brought it to work and give him. That’s what he was thinking about. He was thinking that shew you about the work. He forget things a bit now. Well I forget a lot, I do.
So do I ….So was it quite a good atmosphere? Did you have friends at work? Did you socialise? Did you go out after work?
Wife: Yes… I used to go dancing.
Where did you go dancing?
Wife: Samson and Hercules and the one up Aylsham Road … Lido. Sometimes we didn’t go that far ‘cos we lived at Alma Terrace then and that was a rather a long way to walk home.
Oh that’s fantastic. R’s showing me a black and white photo of you with … who’s this?
Husband: That’s… he was the foreman of the machining room.
You look very happy.
Husband: Because I think that I then got my watch.
Yeah, did everyone get a watch when they retired?
Husband: When… you got to do 50 years to get a watch.
And does it still work? Have you still got it?
Husband: Yeah. Of course, they were decent then to …
Wife: … what they are now…
Husband: She took it to be repaired once; he took it for a battery first, then he said he could repair it but he charged £60 to repair it and now she took it the week before last or, a while ago …
Wife: A month I should imagine
Husband: And she said that cost £75 to clean it.
Wife: That really wanted cleaned.
Husband: And that would cost well over £100 to have it done properly.
Wife: See, that was that shop on, sort of come round on London Street – I forget what it’s called.
Is that where they do the shoe repairs as well?
Wife: That’s where they…
Is that where they fix the shoes as well where there’s …
Wife: No, this jeweller’s where they bought the watch I’m talking about. That’s in London Street. But that come round and go down that little alley.
Dipple and Conway?
Wife: Well Dipples is round there but it weren’t that … another one just round there and you had to knock on the door and they opened it for you ‘fore you go in. Well it is a big jewellers you know. So of course that’s where they bought it, so he say that’s where you’ve got to take it and that’s what they want.
So they should fix it for free.
Wife: that’s right.
Husband: There is a picture of someone with a watch on… a woman who has left for 45 years.
Get the watch …
Wife: Have you got that one with me on it?
Husband: I was then looking for it but they aren’t there.
Wife: Oh that’s a pity.
That is a fantastic photograph. Have you got a picture like this when you retired?
Wife: No, well they didn’t do it then like they do for the men, but the girls round … course they took photos but I ain’t got any; they kept them all themselves.
So when it was your birthday or when it was Christmas did you have a party at work? Did you celebrate?
Wife: Oh yeah. They always used to have a dinner. Usually anyway. Not when we first went, not during the war, after the war we used to have it.
And where did you have it?
Wife: We went up the Lido once or twice; that’s about all I can remember to tell you the truth… the Lido. Well then, I got a friend who live up … wherever that was you was going to ask us about…
What did I say?
Wife: Up ..you know where that girl come and asked about… Mile Cross. I met her at the factory but before I started during the day – they had a night thing up there so there was about 20 of used to go in the evenings and that’s how I met her, and that’s… well it must be getting on for 40 years now – and we see each other each other Saturday.
Still! That’s lovely.
Wife: And we get a cream cake, fresh cream cake.
Husband: There she is! That’s the day you retired.
I’m now looking at another photo.
Wife: That’s me standing there if you can’t see it …
Husband: That’s the first time I retired.
Wife: My daughter see this the other day because he got them out all ready and she say “Cor, you look young there, you must have been 50 and more”.
You do look young there. How old were you?
Wife: About 50, she said.
But you are…
Wife: I’m 82 now, nearly. I’ll be 82, won’t I, Christmas? After Christmas.
Husband: That was taken in …
Wife: Oh, that’s when he’s in the war.
You were in the navy.
Husband: Well, yes and no.
Wife: What’s that, then?
Well tell me …
Wife: He had a navy uniform.
Husband: I was in naval uniform but we weren’t actual navy; we were what they called defence, the defence of merchant ships, petrol tankers, we were gunners on merchant ships
Oh were you?
Wife: But I never knew him during the war; that was when he retired when we first met.
Oh really? So when did you… where did you meet then?
Husband: In the pub.
Wife: In the pub.
Wife: The Leopard on Bull Close Road. Well, actually the girl I worked with – when I say we used to go dancing and that – well, her father died and her mother used to like to go out for a drink, so we got so we went in there Sunday nights with her just to have a drink. And that’s how I met him.
And that was after he retired?
Wife: And that’s over 60 … after he came out of the army.
Husband: It was the navy.
Wife: And we’ve been married 60 year. We’ve got the Queen up there look
Did she send you a letter?
Wife: Well it just say, you know, sort of happy to hear that you’ve been married … that sort of thing, you know.
Wife: That was September when we were married 60 year – last September.
Husband: 17th of September.
Wife: I knew him three years before that … we went out together for about three years and then we decided to get married.
Did you have a honeymoon?
Wife: No, we didn’t. We’d then got into a new house, well not a new house but a house on Knowsley Road, so we just stopped there and we’ve been there, we had been there … When did we go up Lilburne Avenue? How long did we live at Knowsley Road?
Husband: Five or six years.
Wife: Yeah I thought it was.
Husband: Lilburne Avenue we lived just over 12 years.
Wife: Twelve years and then he fell down so that’s how we came here.
Husband: We’ve been here five I think.
Wife: We’ve been here five, yeah
And do you like living here?
Wife: Yeah, I do.
Husband: No, I don’t.
Wife: He say he don’t. Well, he can’t get about now you see, I can get out to coffee mornings and all that. Well he could but there’s only three men go; we’re all women. He say they’re old men. So I go. But when we first come here he used to go on the outings – because they have outings you know, like to Yarmouth and that sort of thing – and he did once or twice but then he got so he couldn’t walk. He say: “Well you can go” so I go with my neighbour next door but …
Husband: We generally go coffee morning – half past 10 or 11, but she sometimes come home quarter to twelve.
Wife: Well we get talking afterwards.
I know that. So has this area changed a lot in the time you’ve lived…?
Wife: A good bit but actually this place – they were all houses before they built this. My youngest daughter …
Husband: No this wasn’t houses. This was allotments.
Wife: Oh, was it. Well I can’t remember that; I ain’t that old.
Husband: Millers Lane was the first, Millers Lane itself was the first houses. Then there was the school, that children’s school, H’s school then they … Rosebery Road, then the Mill Tavern, the Mill Tavern was just here, then they closed it down last year was it?
Husband: When they closed the Mill Tavern down – last year was it?
Wife: Yeah I think so …if I remember rightly. But where this place is my daughter, my youngest daughter used to go to Angel Road and she see LN and they got friendly and it would be about here where she lived.
Really. Before I forget, before we turned the recorder on you were telling me about when you were at school. Was it Angel Road?
Wife: No I didn’t go to Angel Road. St Augustine’s.
St Augustine’s. Can you tell me a little bit about what school was like before you left? You were 14 when you left.
Wife: Well I went to Dowson School after I went to the … and I left when I was 14 and I went to … started work on our 14th birthday – I told you.
And were you happy to go to work or did you miss….?
Wife: Oh yeah, I thought that was going to be lovely, you know. Well it was, that was nice but as I say that got bombed there, ‘cos I went to that one on Drayton Road and we had to go to Start-rite then. Of course that was a lot bigger than that one and I thought: “Blimey, look at that” and anyway we got on alright and I worked there ‘till I had my children and I was 21 then. I think I bin nearly 22, no I’ll be 22 when I had my eldest daughter because she’s 59 now. She live at Coventry, she does.
Oh does she?
Wife: Well she … that’s the one who I said … she went to college and she passed as a domestic science teacher. She went and got a job when she left college at … what’s that college she went to when she first worked?
Wife: Wymondham, that’s right. Yes, she went to Wymondham and course that was a live-in job then. And then course she met … well she knew Andrew a long while because they used to go to the same church and he used to follow her home. She used to say: “Boy have followed me home again”. And then funny enough when she went away to college he went out there and saw her, and that’s how they sort of got on with each other. And then, as I say, she worked at Wymondham College and they had started going together. He used to go there and see her and all that sort of thing, and then they decided to get married; well of course she had to come out of the job then. If she’d have been the man they could have kept there. Of course she had to find another job so that … when they got married they lived on Stacy Road and she got a job up … where J live? Sprowston.
Going to the Hippodrome on the tram, and changes in the City
Basically you have lived in Norwich a long time.
Wife: Yeah, all my years.
Obviously it’s changed a lot.
Wife: Oh yes it has, ‘specially the city.
Do you often go up to the city?
Wife: Not now I don’t so much, only unless I really want something up there. But I used to walk up. Well I can walk up there now, but I come home on the bus. And ‘cos we got six great-grandchildren, well they’re young. The oldest one I suppose is nine, I think. Anyway we usually get them presents for Christmas but the older ones we always give money, you know, to the daughters. So my daughter who live up Sprowston, she say: “I’ll take you round the shop and get what you want for them” and that’s what we did. Well we were walking round and round, she didn’t know what to get ‘em. Oh I thought, oh make haste and go home.
Norwich is quite different now.
Wife: Yeah, I don’t know half the shops. She say: “We’ll go up so-and-so” and I say: “I don’t even know where that is”.
What do you recognise still? What’s the same?
Wife: Some of the things are the same.
Jarrolds is still there.
Wife: Oh Jarrolds, yeah, and all that area. That’s all the same more or less, but of course when I can remember – Saturday nights – my father had Saturday nights off ‘cos there weren’t a round you know – they didn’t sell bread, did they, Sundays – so he used to always have Saturdays off and he used to take us all … especially for my mother, I suppose really, to the Hippodrome.
Where was that?
Wife: Well if you know the Guildhall? Well it was up that hill there where that car park is now on the right there
St Giles car park.
Wife: Yeah, that was where the Hippodrome was where we used to go.
What was there? Was it live music?
Wife: Oh yeah, that was all live – that weren’t films or anything like that and we used to go there when the circuses were. They used to have a circus on there, sort of Christmas-time, you know and they used to take us there. Well, we went up in whatever you call them – the Gods or something. I don’t know what you call them. But we used to go up there anyway because that was cheaper, and we used to come down a lot of steps and go out the back way and where them animals were … oh…that was a horrible smell – you know what animals smell like. I ain’t saying they weren’t clean but you used to have to walk through there to get out.
So how old were you then? That was when you were a child.
Wife: Oh yeah, when I was right little. That was before the war that was – because you see my father was working night-times then – and ‘cos they didn’t have a lot of things like that when the war was on and when we used to get the bus to come home. Because that was when we lived at Alma Terrace and we used to be able to get a bus. There used to be a big ring, you know, where Debenhams is now, there used to be a big ring there and that used to be where all the buses stopped. So we used to walk down to there, past the Market and to there.
Husband: That was where the trams stopped.
Wife: Yeah, we used to go on the trams and all that, yeah.
Husband: They finished in 1936.
Wife: When you were going on one way; if you were going this way you moved the back of the seat over.
Oh really? In the tram itself? That’s clever.
Wife: So when you went the other way you pushed it back again. Anyway, we used to get on the bus there, on that ring, and go home and that used to go nearly up to St Augustine’s school so we were alright. We didn’t have to walk too far.
How much did it cost to get home?
Wife: I can’t remember that. About a penny, I think. That weren’t very much. I didn’t care – I was then got on the bus.
And was it quite safe going home? Was it …
Wife: Oh yeah, there weren’t many cars then was there?
Husband: When that was trams you could get on the tram at the bottom of where I lived and you could get off the first and you could go on another tram that was going in a different direction and you didn’t pay no more.
Wife: You didn’t have to pay no more. I can remember that.
Husband: And that used to be, I think, the biggest tram ticket was two pence.
Wife: I can’t remember how much it was.
Husband: It was only about tuppence. Now … how much did it used to cost?
Wife: What now? About £2 or something – but of course we’ve got a free ticket now on the bus. And my friend who live at Mile Cross, her husband had cancer; touch wood he’s alright now, but he have to keep going up the hospital. Well, not thinking, she got passes, they said before 9 to be up the hospital, never thought about it, got on the bus and she had to pay. And they had to pay .. what was it … £2 or something she had to pay.
Because it only starts after nine?
Wife: And that’s after nine when you … half past nine but my neighbours’ son … I was telling him about that ‘cos he said I go up on the city now up on the bus – he got a car but he say it’s easier to do that – so I say “Cor, I say my friend who live up Mile Cross, she had to pay because she couldn’t get on it ‘till half past nine” and he say “Cor, you should be up ours”. They live up Reepham Road way, on one of those roads off there. He say: “We can go at 8 o’clock free”, so why the difference?
Wife: He say you’ll have to come and live up there, he say.
Husband: Well we can here now, Saturdays and Sundays we can go over 6 o’clock in the morning. But mind you some of the drivers are alright. You get on them, you get on they give you a ticket and there’s no price on it, but the others they say that ain’t half past nine yet.
Wife: Some of them will let you go. See, it’s actually … we only got one bus here now. When we first went up to Lilburne Avenue there was two; a 16 and a 15 (but they cut the 15 off) and by the time that get up here, unless you go right early that’s full, you know, to go, and you have to stand all the way.
Husband: Well, you still have to pay if you go on and they don’t get out, what is it, Anglia Square, that still cost you £2 something.
Wife: Yes, because that’s all different now you see. You used to have it in little sections and where you went that’s what you paid – but now you have to pay the fare what would be in the city. So it’s a good job we’ve got a pass.
Husband: I mean we used to get on at Lilburne Avenue -well, actually the bus started at the aerodrome – that’s over a mile away from … but it’s still £2 something.
I was just admiring your Christmas decorations in your window.
Wife: Oh! One time we used to have loads all up on the ceiling but they got asbestos in there so we mustn’t stick anything in the ceiling. They told us that when we first come here, so we don’t put much up now actually.
Christmas at home and celebrations at work
Remember I said I was going to ask you some questions about Christmas?
Wife: Oh yeah.
Quickly. Was Christmas when you were young very different from today?
Wife: Oh yes, it was.
Tell me what it was like.
Wife: Well actually it was lovely. As I say, we used to have our presents down the bottom of the bed and we used to keep kicking to see if they were there, and I never used to go to sleep ‘till about 12.
Of course not. Did you have stockings?
Wife: No, no we didn’t have them. We just had, you know, down the bottom of the bed. We used to open ‘em when we first woke up. Well I woke up a long while afore my brother and sister and actually when my father was on night work I used to wait until they’d gone to sleep and I used to go and sit with my mother and read, you know, or something. But how I got back to bed I don’t know – so whether she carried me up I don’t know. I was only little; I’m talking about a long while afore the war. Anyway, I liked Christmas then and I did when my children were little ‘cos you never saw no shops with Christmas things up ‘till nearly just before Christmas. Now they have them in August, when you go on holiday you can see all the things can’t you… crackers and all the … trees… well not trees, but all…
Lights and decorations
Wife: Yeah, so that ain’t so nice as that. And now, of course, as I say, the children are gone there’s just us two; that don’t seem the same. It used to be really lovely.
It’s different with kids isn’t it?
Wife: That is.
Did you put up decorations at work?
Wife: Oh yeah, then in the later years they said you mustn’t …
But about Christmas, did you have a Christmas party at work? Was it a special time at work? At Start-rite?
Wife: The last day we used to take things to eat and drink. We shouldn’t take them there but some of them did, you know we used to take cakes and little things like that. But you used to sort of not do it so the forewoman didn’t see you, but then they got so we used to go up the Lido. They used to have a night up there and we still do have one for pensioners.
Yes tell me about that…
Wife: We’ve just been to that. Well, when he first retired that used to be in the canteen at the factory because there weren’t many then what had retired. Then they got so they went to the county thing – it’s on Thorpe Road somewhere,… no, anyway that was bigger so we went in there. Well then they got so many more, now we go to The Oaklands and that’s a hotel that is, just round the corner from the county – city council thing.
And is that every year you go to a Christmas party?
Wife: Yeah, every year just before Christmas.
And is that a nice time? Obviously you said now you don’t know so many people.
Wife: Well we don’t know so many now ‘cos there was a lot of new ones after we retired, well after even I retired.
Husband: Oh we had so many factories, see. I mean they say Edwards and Holmes, they always used to do Start-rite work.
Wife: Then they used to send shoes … somewhere round about.
Did they share work then, the different shoe factories?
Wife: Well if we had a lot of orders and they couldn’t get them done they did send them out.
Husband: We had a factory at King’s Lynn.
Wife: Oh yeah, King’s Lynn. Where was that other one?
Husband: It was King’s Lynn. I used to go there sometimes with the band.
Do you still wear Start-rite shoes today?
Wife: Well I don’t, no. Well, it weren’t a woman’s place. It was just children’s shoes.
Was it? I didn’t know that.
Wife: Yeah, it was just children’s. Mind you some of the big ones what they done you could get them on.
So during the war they made war shoes. Was that just because it was the war? They didn’t normally make ordinary shoes.
No, they didn’t do them normally. They done ‘em just for during the war.
I didn’t realise that. I should have known. I should have known with the picture of the Start-rite children.
Wife: Oh yeah, shoes and …
Did you get a Christmas bonus at work?
Wife: You used to have a raffle. A chicken in every room – but I never won once. Nor dint he.
Husband: A chicken. That was about that size.
Wife: That was a nice size. A decent size.
You never won?
Wife: No, not all the while we were there we never won it did we?
Husband: ….. When the manager give it to him, he give it back, didn’t he?
Husband: That ain’t… He said that won’t feed me and my missus never mind the kids. They never give a lot away.
Wife: I’ve now remembered something else.
Husband: I was a blue-eyed boy with the governor and the manager couldn’t bear the sight on me.
Wife: Because he’s sarcastic. That’s a wonder I ain’t gone before now.
Husband: After I’d been away for three weeks retired he sent for me one day. She say: “Mr H want to see you up the factory”. Would I go back for four weeks; close the factory down at, where was it?
Wife: In Duke Street that one was.
Husband: Somewhere down that way, then I was there 13 year.
So that’s why you didn’t retire fully first..
Wife: After he was 65 they asked him to go back, to go to this, just for four weeks and he was there all that while. That wasn’t cutting shoes or nothing that was just sorting shoes out what were going to the shops. That wasn’t…
So that was easier work?
Wife: I now thought of something and I’ve forgot what I was going to say. Oh, I know. During the war they used to have raffles in our room. I don’t know if they did in his. You know like cigarettes and different things like that what you couldn’t get during the war – and I used to get number 15 if I could and I bet I won nearly every time on that.
Really? That was the number of your …
Wife: Yeah, 15 I don’t know why I picked that but I kept winning on that every time I got it.
So where did they get the cigarettes and things?
Wife: I ain’t got no idea about that. There used to be crackers and different things, because they used to do that afore Christmas and I bet I won that nearly every time when I had number 15 – mind you I couldn’t always get it but when I did….
Husband: I had the works number for 51 years.
Wife: Yea, number 21 his …
Husband: Number 21 and I never won. The only time I won was when the foreman used to… we were drinking pals, we used to go out together and he used to get it every time. I never won once I played that one.
In all those years. That sounds like it was quite good fun.
Wife: It was. I’ll tell you that was nice then, course …. oh I don’t know that I ought to say that!
Wife: During the war we all used to sing; they used to start singing and then gradually so everyone was singing. That’s only in our room, I don’t know about his.
What songs did you sing?
Wife: Well all the ones what were of the time, of the year, you know, what we used to dance to and all that. Well then there used to be, I don’t know what he was, he was something up the front office and he was a little old weedy man and when you see him: “Here come Charlie” and we used to sing Charlie is my Darling. It’s a wonder we didn’t get the sack.
Husband: He was the manager.
Wife: We all, well I don’t know what he was; I knew he was up the front office.
Did he get angry?
Wife: No, his face was as straight, he never smiled. That’s why we used to sing it.
That was great.
Husband: He married a S.
Wife: Oh did he? No wonder he was ….
Husband: He was alright.
Wife: I don’t know. I never spoke to him.
Husband: I used to go up there and repair his fence, I mean, and he used to say: “Where’s your pal today?”
Wife: When you didn’t have so much work during the war they used to have to do odd jobs, you know.
When you worked during the war and there was an air-raid, where did you go?
Wife: Oh yeah, you had to get out right quick. Well they used to have shelters round the back of the factory when we were Start-rite and they used to make us get out and go down there ‘till the all clear.
Read on in Part two of “Mile Cross from the twenties to today” …
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