I’ve got just a few questions about what your childhood was like, what you can remember about growing up in Sprowston and more generally in Norwich.
I was happy in Sprowston, I must admit, because a lady who lived near my mum, she used to think I was wonderful, I don’t know why, and she used to look after me quite a bit and then my mum had twins; one died and next thing we knew the house wasn’t big enough in Valpy Avenue so we got a brand new house on Ranworth Road and that’s where I lived until I was 16.
You mentioned just before we started the interview that you have six sisters and two brothers.
Six sisters and two brothers, yeah.
And how did you all fit?
We didn’t … We used to sleep top and toppen’, you know, at the bottom and at the top and what not.
You said you went to Henderson School?
Can you remember, as a child, can you remember the war?
Yeah, yeah, we didn’t get bombed. We used to… I mean my father put an Anderson shelter in the garden. We used to have to sleep down there … only the children, him and my mother used to sleep indoors and we just used to sleep in there. I mean houses around me got a direct hit and what not and things like that. I think people were a lot better in them days than they are now. I still … I think people today are a bit selfish. They don’t seem to… I mean we used to put … I mean when Mrs S, up near where we lived … my father and my brothers and all that went in and got all her furniture out and put it in the road. No-one pilfered it, you know. Things were different then than they are now.
Do you think there was more of a community spirit?
Yeah, yeah, I think so. Than that is now.
We will come back to that at the end and I’ll ask you about then and now. So what was your neighbourhood like? Did you … Where did you play? Did you go to the park or did you play in the garden or …?
No, we used to play out in the street. We used to play penny up the wall or whatever you call it. And we used to have a swing around the lamppost and if my father caught us we all got a hiding. And we used to go over… we did have a park and then there was … from Ranworth Road to Dereham Road, that’s called the Loke and we used to go over there and get apples.
The people who lived there.
And did you ever get caught?
And what happened?
Well, ‘course the police came round.
For pinching apples?
Yeah, that was … well that was a sin then weren’t it and, of course, I got a good hiding.
And did you always get told off the most because you were the oldest?
Did you ever go swimming or to the seaside or to the cinema as a child?
Well the only time I went to the cinema … well I’ll come up to that … was when I worked at Macintosh’s … well it was called Caley’s then weren’t it … because I went to work when I was 14 … but I never did ever see the end of any film because I had to be in by half past, by ten o’clock and I had to come out the cinema at half past nine to get home or I’d get a good hiding.
So you never saw the end of the movie?
I never saw the end of any movies.
Where was the cinema?
Down the Haymarket. That’s the nearest one to … it was called Caley’s when I first went there.
And was that still on the edge of Chapelfield Gardens? Was that the same factory space ..?
Oh yeah, that’s right, and the cinema was where Top Shop is.
Oh really! Very quickly . .. just about growing up in your house. Obviously you had lots of brothers and sisters and you obviously shared bedrooms?
Yeah, we did.
Was it a big enough house, I mean did you all …
No, not really there were only three bedrooms.
Was there one bathroom?
And did you have … you obviously had a garden as well. Did your dad or mum grow vegetables in the garden?
Well my father did after a fashion, yeah.
How did you get the job at Caley’s?
Applied for it. That’s when I left, first left school you know, I thought …
Did you have an interview?
What was the job then?
All I used to do was – I don’t suppose you remember all this – they used to have Cadbury block. They used to have a bar of chocolate with six different things in it and I used to wrap them by hand and that used to be my job and then I … from there I went on to decorating. I used to decorate the chocolate.
What does that mean? By putting things like sweets on top?
No, we used to sit on the conveyor belt and we had a tin cup with a load of loose chocolate in there, well there was more on me than in the cup … and then … when you think now it isn’t very hygienic. We used to put your finger in the cup and you used to do a scroll on an orange or three lines on something else. You know you all had your own …
And did you have gloves, like plastic…
No, no, used our fingers and that isn’t very hygienic now, is it? But I loved being at Macintoshes.
How long were you there for?
Oh God! I should think till I was about 18.
Goodness, so from 15 to 18?
Then I left there and I got myself a flat, up near the railway station, and then I worked at Boulton … no that’s a lie, I worked in the fish shop on Timberhill, V’s, as a waitress there and then I started to fry the fish. I can always remember that because Mr V came up to me and said: “how do you know when the fat is hot?” I said … and like a fool I stuck my finger in it. He said: “Good job that’s not hot or you’d have lost your finger.”
How long did you work there for?
Oh, about a year. We used to do waitressing and we used to have parties up there and things like that.
And you obviously had a lot of good friends at work?
Oh yeah, yeah that made … I think the biggest thing in my life was when I went to Boulton and Paul’s.
Yeah, tell me about that. When did you go there and why did you end up there?
Well. No, first of all I mean I was married – not to him, not to D – to K, and he was apprenticed down Macintoshes, no Colman’s, and we got a Colman house. We lived in Dereham Road then when we got married, and that was an old funny old house and what not and seeing I had my daughter … I didn’t really like it down there and the next thing we knew K had been allocated this house in King Street and we went and moved there. I didn’t go to work straight away. When T was three my mother-in-law said that she would have T so I went to Boulton and Pauls and I loved it there, I really did love it.
What is it? An engineering company?
That’s, no, they used to make, well in the wartime they used to make planes – bits of planes and bits of things like that but that’s more a steel factory and woodworking, there’s a woodworking shop; there’s the steel place and some different places, it’s a big place.
And where were they based? In Norwich?
On Riverside Road.
So how did you get to work in the morning? Did you…?
I just walked down the road
Of course, it’s King Street.
King Street, yeah.
Did you have a uniform?
No, I was in the office. Well that’ a lie, no I wasn’t, when I first started there I was in the canteen. I had a uniform then but then I used to serve the … I used to look after the staff and then one day some … Mr N come in and he say: “How do you fancy coming to work in the office?” “Oh”, I say: “I ain’t very brainy.” “Yes, you are” he said, “you’re very good, you are.” So I give up working in the canteen and they used to have workers playtime there and then I went up the office and I worked up the office and I used to do wage sheets
And did you like working in the office?
Oh I did yeah, yeah I did.
Why, because of the people who worked there?
Well yeah, I mean of course I used to smoke then and …
In the office? Everyone did.
They did, didn’t they? And that’s when I decided that I’d give up because there was three of us in this office I was in and they used to always be handing cigarettes about and then they used to have them back and then I got so I couldn’t stick it I thought, I’m getting out, I’m smoking 30 a day. So I decided to give up and I’m the only one who kept to it but they all three decided to give up but I’m the only one who kept to it so they all give me 10 shillings each – that was good wasn’t it?.
That’s great. So what were your hours then? Can you remember?
Nine till five.
And did you have a lunch break or … break times?
Oh yeah, we used to have an hour at lunchtime, yeah.
And did you go… did you bring your own lunch to work?
Well, no, we used to either go up the canteen or we used to go out. Fridays we used to go out. I used to go out with L who I’m still friends with, two of, three on them there, I’m still friendly with and I think that’s marvellous.
They are and there was L and R and one of them just now died but I’m seeing L next Wednesday and my friend R who I’m friendly with (she go in hospital today to have an operation) and I saw them all. I was very friendly with everyone there and what not …
Where did you go on Fridays?
We used to go down the Chinese and have a Chinese meal and that was lovely. But I made a lot of friends down Boulton and Paul I must admit, lovely place.
And everyone at work, there was a very good atmosphere. Everyone got on and worked hard?
Yeah, mind you we had strict bosses. And then I decided that I’d had enough. I wanted to go part time but then doing wages they wouldn’t let me, so in a huff I give my notice in.
How long were you there at Boulton and Pauls?
So you gave in your notice after 24 years?
Yeah, I regretted it afterwards. I asked if they would reject my notice but they wouldn’t. So from there I went on to Jarrolds, the shop.
Yeah, I know Jarrolds. So how old would your daughter have been then – because you were at Boulton and Pauls for a long time.
Yeah, well T had come to Boulton and Paul. She worked there and all.
That’s your daughter?
Yeah, she was 16 when she came.
And what did she do there?
She worked in the accounts and I think T was about three or four maybe when I first went to Boulton and Pauls.
You were there for such a long time you must have seen it change quite a lot over those 24 years or did it change quite a lot?
Well I don’t know about the factory so much ‘cos I was in the office. I seen some funny old accidents whilst I was there
Well, there was one bloke there that’s … as a matter of fact his wife always sends me a Christmas card … a big girder fell on his legs and took them completely off. Then he had to go to hospital and … but the gangrene set in so in the end he had ’em …
And did Boulton and Paul look after him and his family?
No, he come back to work afterwards.
Was he in a wheelchair?
No, he had artificial legs and sticks but he’s dead now. I was … still, his wife always send me a card at Christmas.
When you were at work did you have Christmas parties and did you celebrate? What was … tell me about the parties there.
Yes. Oh well, we used to have drink and a sandwich. We all brought something for the food and we used to have some drink. Our bosses used to perhaps bring in a bottle of sherry. We never used to have like whisky or anything like that; it was always sherry. But we used to have some good times. We always had a firm’s dinner and dance up the Norwood Rooms and we used to have some great times.
Did everyone get really dressed up to go to …?
Oh yes, yes such a lot then I had my hair done and I had a long dress and …
And was that every year right from …?
Yeah, yeah, because I used to go to D’s because Jewson’s used to have one and…
D’s your second husband?
Yeah, you know I’ve had a good married life – better than anything really.
So you’ve had a varied working life. You worked at Mackintosh’s, well Caley’s and then while you were there did it change to Macintosh?
Yeah, that went to Mackintosh’s.
And then you went to the chip shop.
Yeah, then I went to Boulton and Pauls and then I went to Jarrolds.
And what did you do at Jarrolds? What was it like back then because Jarrolds is a big Norwich institution?
I worked down office equipment so that weren’t too bad down there. I was only a cleaner but I was there 18 years.
And what was it like compared to Boulton and Paul? Was it …
Oh Jarrolds is very, very strict.
Oh … you had to go by the book. Everything was done by the book. [The owner] was a lovely man and so was his wife. I liked his wife very much. I used to clean the offices out but you know … I only used to work from 7 to 11 so that was enough for me.
And were there Christmas do’s there as well?
Yeah, we used to go there yes oh yeah, they all had, everyone had a Christmas do.
And you’ve been here in Miller’s Lane for four years, you said?
Four years, yes.
And where were you living before Miller’s Lane?
Lakenham. Theobald Road
And what was that like?
Well when I first. … I lived there for 40 years. I liked it when I first went there. I had a top flat and I had an old dear underneath me and she was a lovely old … Mrs S … but it’s like everything else when you’re old and you die you get teenagers in …
… and there was just drugs and very … I couldn’t stand it, I just couldn’t stand it. That‘s when we put in for this. Mind you we waited two years for this. By the way I’m glad we got this because I’ve got two bedrooms; no-one else has. This was the warden’s house and I got a lovely kitchen and everything else. I’m the only one on here’s got a washing machine so I’m really, really lucky.
It sounds like Lakenham changed quite a lot then over the 40 years that you were living there?
How else did it … What was Lakenham like when you first lived there?
Well, I used to like it, I loved it. I mean we belonged to the County Hall social club and then me and my husband we used to like dancing a lot. We used to go dancing every Saturday night.
Where did you go?
Down ‘em …
Oh, at County Hall
Down County Hall and we used to go to all the do’s and all the Christmas do’s they had there.
How did you belong to that then because …
Friends, yeah, really we had, we had some damn good … I can’t regret the life I’ve had with D – that was marvellous. I mean we used to go… we both liked dancing. We both practically liked the same things.
And how did you meet him?
Well again that was my sister, my sister E, she was mad on his friend, P, and when my marriage broke up I used to work in the Kingsway Pub opposite where I lived, you know, to get some extra money and he used to come in there and he said to my sister: “I’m going to marry her one day” and I thought … (well, I didn’t know all this till after we were married) and then one Saturday night – ‘cos I never had a lot of money – my sister said to me: “I’ve fixed up a date for us tonight” and I said: “Oh yeah” so she say: “with P and D” and I said: “mm” and she said: “Come on, you ain’t got a lot of money, you might as well have a free night out”. So that’s what we done and I went with him for five years before I married him. She married P and I married him.
Yeah, yeah it was. I don’t regret a day of it.
And what was his job?
He worked at Jewson’s. He finished up on the counter.
And did he like working there?
Yeah he’d been there since he were a boy. He used to work at Jewson’s down … Jewson’s used to have a place down near the river somewhere and him and P worked there. Then it closed down and that’s when they went to Cringleford.
He was there for his entire job.
Yeah, he was and when he was 60 he just walked out and no-one said: “Have a nice retirement”. No 65, when he, when he retired. That’s me, 60. When he was 65 he come home and he said no-one had ever – except for P organising, there was four on them bought him a bottle of champagne and some champagne glasses and he brought them along and put the stuff out, and in the end they give him a party.
Quite different to you at Jarrolds, then.
Yeah, but mind you we had a lovely time at his party, as usual. But now I don’t even drink.
So what kinds of things when you were younger did you do to socialise to have fun? Obviously there wasn’t much money around so …
No, we just used to, we used to play outside nearly all the time, like that.
Did you have a television?
No, no we used to have Radio Rental one way and the other way. No, I never had a telly.
Can you remember getting your first TV?
Yeah, I got that when I lived in King Street.
How old were you then? Were you working?
I was married then, I can always remember. There was a football match on and my husband, my first husband, get all the neighbours in to watch it but that was good, yeah.
And what about a car, another sort of?
No, I never had a car till I met D. D had a car. I used to ride about on a bike. I biked from Lakenham to Boulton and Pauls. I walked when I lived in King Street and I used to bike and I got knocked off my bike and I had a broken shoulder.
Goodness. And no-one wore helmets back then.
No oh no, no, no.
So do you think Norwich… obviously you have grown up here, do you think it has …?
It’s changed a lot.
It has changed a lot. Tell me about how you think it’s changed.
Well for a start St Stephens was only a little street like this and just enough for … you weren’t allowed to go up it but you were allowed to come down it and things like that.
And what about the shops?
Oh the shops were lovely. I mean, when I lived up Dereham Road, I used to go down Peacocks and we were always down Magdalen Street. They used to have sawdust on the floor and Frank Price’s, used to be Boltoph Street.
What did they sell there?
Well, that was a big store more like Jarrolds is now, and they used to have the money things in a round thing and you used to put your money in there and put it in this thing and they used to go all round to get your change and things like that.
Where did you buy your clothes from? Do you remember?
Mostly from C & As.
I remember C & As.
I don’t know where else I used to go.
Back then Gentleman’s Walk wasn’t pedestrianised was it?
No, no there used to be in the middle of the Walk there used to be Back’s, the pub, and we used to go in there with my first husband and then when T was a little girl we used to go in there … we used to go to the city Saturday mornings to do shopping and we used to put her in a children’s room and go and have a hot toddy.
The children’s room. Where was the children’s room?
At the back. I remember she had a … I bought her a signet ring and she went and left it in the toilet and someone pinched it.
Funny the things you remember.
Yeah, yeah. I don’t … it’s only sitting here talking to you … things keep coming back to me and what not.
Funny how you memory is triggered by talking about the past.
Yeah, yeah , but you know I’ve had a good life really, I suppose, and after all I’m 87 so …
No, I’m seventy eight! What am I saying… so I ain’t done too bad.
What do you think about Norwich today or this area, you know?
I think Norwich has changed a lot, you know, to what it was. I mean then I used to go… I used to go out and what but now I wouldn’t never go out at nighttimes.
Because you feel that it’s just more dangerous?
Yeah, more dangerous. We had a break-in here the other week.
Really! I suppose the other sort of questions are about … well, we talked a lot about the different jobs that you’ve done. Did you have a favourite place that you worked?
Boulton and Pauls, yes, it was and I’m glad I’m still in touch with people.
Did you get a summer holiday when you worked there?
Yeah, we used to get three weeks a year.
What did you do? Can you remember what you did?
Well we went, we used to go on holidays. I used to go Brighton way a bit. We went to Jersey when T was five years old and I thought that was marvellous. I think the first impressions is, isn’t it, and we went there, only went for a week because we couldn’t afford any more and then we used to go down Brighton. Nearly every year we went down Brighton. And we stayed in this hotel and there was a teacher there and he told me that my daughter would be very intelligent and she was … passed the scholarship and …
Where did she go to school?
She went to the Hewett.
Oh did she? I went to the Hewett.
Oh did you? Yeah, but you’re younger than her. And she passed the scholarship …
You’ve got a lot of good friends, people you are still in touch with.
Yeah, yeah I am. I have. I must say that and, as I say, I’m friendly with people here and what not. I’m a person that if something is, how can I say it, a place like this you’ve got to be careful what you say and I ain’t. I can’t be. If I’ve got something to say I’m going to say it.
What a place like this being Miller’s Lane?
Yeah, more old people they don’t want to be, they don’t want to be put out with anything. I’m on the committee now so I’ve got …
A position of power!
They got that, yeah, well we’ll see, but I do speak my mind I must admit.
And do you find that lots of people your age don’t speak their minds?
No, oh, no.
Well, I don’t know. That how you get when you are in a place like this. They moan about things but they won’t do anything about it if you know what I mean.
What do you do on the committee then?
Arrange to go out for the day; you’ve got to order a coach and pay for that and take the residents out if – a lot of them don’t go – go out for a meal or just go down to Yarmouth for the day or Lowestoft or Bury St Edmunds. You know we go all round.
Goodness you do get around.
Not so much this time of the year but, you know, when we get a little bit warmer we start going out and some things like that and we have a lot of do’s in the room. We have Johnny Cleveland. I don’t suppose you’ve heard of him, have you? He’s marvellous on the organ and we have Christmas dinners here.
What about Mile Cross? Tell me…I know you didn’t live there but do you know of Mile Cross? Tell me what you know of Mile Cross.
I don’t know anything. I’ve never been. I don’t know anything about Mile Cross because I’ve always lived the other side of the city. It was only when I came here …
Four years ago
Do you miss the other side of the city at all or are you quite settled here?
Yeah, when I first came here, I did. I liked my place I had at Lakenham and we done a lot to it, me and D. We had all new doors put in and all new windows and everything and a unit from one wall to the other, and course when I left it I just left everything in it.
Was that a council house?
Yes, a council house but I bought it. Yeah, I bought that. If it hadn’t have been for the neighbours underneath me I’d have been there. I still see someone from Theobald Road. We generally go out … We went out to lunch last Tuesday. We generally go once a fortnight.
Where do you go?
Up the Co-op. Yeah, that’s nice.
The Co-op’s been around for ever. Has it always been on that same site?
No there was a pub there. It was called the Dyers Arms.
Oh was there?
Oh no, the Co-op weren’t there. I mean where the Mall is now there used to be a Woolworth. How long have you been in Norwich?
Well you knew the Woolworths there.
Yes, I remember Woolworths where Marks and Spencers is.
No that used to be Curls at first.
That’s going back before my time.
Woolworths… Marks and Spencers… Curls was there first; then they bought the … Curls was where Debenhams is. But that got bombed out. There was a big crater there.
And then they … Marks and Spencers bought them out and then Marks and Spencers was there and Marks and Spencers keep adding other little bits to it, you know. Then Woolworths was there and then Woolworths moved up to St Stephens and things like that.
And now Woolworths is no longer …
No longer no. I used to like going to Woolies. I used to get a lot of bargains down there. I used to buy my kids and my grandchildren little … they used to have a make down there didn’t they?
Yeah, that’s the one. I used to buy them all their clothes down there. You got a girl or a boy?
Boy and girl
Oh, you’ve got two.
Yes six and seven.
Oh lovely, nice age.
Yes, very … handful
Yeah, you’re telling me because I had them two down here for Christmas. Oh my god, I didn’t know where I was.
Children of today!
We went down my daughter’s at Christmas and there was 16 of us down hers on Christmas day and I mean she got four grandchildren she have. She’ll have another one in July. She had twins my daughter did, and A has got a little girl, P, that’s her, and her and husband is now having a baby in July, yeah.
Keep you busy, babysitting?
No, not now. I mean I can’t even lift her up she’s so damn heavy.
When your daughter was little, who looked after her when you were out at work?
The whole time?
Yeah she, they, she lived at Wreningham until she went but then again, I was going to say, I mean when she came to school we never had anything. I used to go to work and leave my back door undone and my next door neighbour, she used to look after T when she came home from school and we never had no problems.
Childcare today is a problem.
Yeah, it is. T was a child carer. She was a child carer for years and years and years. She had some funny little kids and yet some on them have been marvellous; some on them she still keep in touch.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell me about your past or about your job or anything?
No I don’t think so.
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