I will be interviewing O & R about Mile Cross, growing up on the estate, and what they think of it now and what it used to be like. So I guess the first question is when did you live there? Were you both born there or did you move there as children?
No, I was born at my grandmother’s up the top of Kett’s Hill.
When was that?
O: Well I’m now 87 . . . R: No you’re 89, darling.
How about you? Were you born there too? R: Oh no. I was born in Appleyard Crescent at Mile Cross.
And when was that? R: 1929
And how long did you … did you grow up there in Mile Cross as kids?
O: Always in Mile Cross but we didn’t stay in Appleyard Crescent. We went to Losinga Crescent then moved to Gowing Court
R: No we didn’t, O. Let’s get Appleyard Crescent sorted out first, O. We’ve got an older sister, J, and she live in Australia and she’s now 91, two years older than O, and our mother came to Mile Cross, but she rented a house in Spynke Road.
R: That’s right rented rooms in Mile Cross, because O was then born when dad came back from the War. And then she got the house in Appleyard Crescent because they’d then started to build Mile Cross, and that was our first house.
And did you buy that house or were you renting it?
R: They didn’t buy them then did they, in those days? O: I think that was about 9 shillings and a halfpenny, what I can remember.
Per week or per month? Both: Per week.
R: That was at Appleyard Crescent. Then there was a brother between O and I, K; he was born there and I was born there.
So you were all born at home? You weren’t born in a hospital?
R: No, no. The youngest sister, F, she was born there, and then mum moved to Losinga Crescent.
Why did she move?
R: Because she wanted a 4 bedroomed house. But she was in Appleyard Crescent all those years till she had F, because O & J were then out to work, got the boyfriends and that sort of thing, and she wanted a larger house, 4 bedrooms, and she then had brother J there, and that was the only time she ever went away to have a baby.
Why did she go to hospital that time?
R: I don’t think she went to hospital. She went to a Maternity Home somewhere.
And did she go off and have the baby there because by that time that’s what everybody did?
R: That was the start of things, people having babies away, weren’t it?
So when was that? Can you remember when he was born?
R: I think he was 5 years younger than me. Because mum seemed as though she always had a baby when one started school. That’s how I always felt. So he’s about 5 years younger than me. And then J left home . .. .’cos, O, you were married when you were 21 weren’t you?
So when you all left home did you stay in Mile Cross? Both: Yes, yes.
And did you then find places with friends or did you move in with husbands?
R: O had a flat off Woodcock Road. O: Bullard Road.
R: When I got married . .. I think P was only about 3 months . . . I got a house at West Earlham, the steel houses, when they built all them, new. I got one there. But up till then we lived at Mile Cross. And Pa’s mum lived at Mile Cross.
So your mum and her mum were . . ? Both: Sisters. R: They were sisters, and she lived at Civic Gardens, I went to school all the time at Mile Cross.
Which schools did you go to? R: I went to the Infants and . .. what did we call them then? . . .that was an Infant School and . ..
Middle School? Junior School? R: No they didn’t call them. .. . and then you went to Senior School.
Which Infant School did you go to? R: Mile Cross.
It was called Mile Cross? R: Yes, and to the next one up, like till you’re about 11, is it? And then I changed and went to Dowson School on the Drayton Estate.
And did you do the same, O? O: No. I passed half of the scholarship, so I went to the Steward Central. That was in Duke Street.
Is it a school? O: That was a school then, yes.
And what kinds of things did you both do at school? Was it that different to today?
R: No, you still learned your sums, as they called them, didn’t you? They didn’t .. . well they did call it Arithmetic, but you were given sums to do, we did English, we did laundry.
What, learning how to do laundry? R: Yes, when I went down to the Senior School we had to learn how to do all laundry, yes. And I never got electric iron and that broke my heart.
Why not? R: Because she wouldn’t let me have one (laughter)
What did you use? R: One on the stove. Where they heated the old iron ones.
Goodness! So did they have electric irons? R: Yes, they had electric. But they were then sort of just coming about, and I used to go home and cry to my mother and she said “I’ll give you some ironing to do” (laughter)
And you said “No thank you!” R: No! We had to do it.
Did you do lots of jobs at home for your mum?
R: That was when mum didn’t have ironing boards when they ironed on the table, and what she used to do, she used to use half of that table, because they were all scrubbed top with a chenille cloth over, and then she’d set you in the other end .. . . O: … plugged in the light and that used to fling across the room as you ironed! (laughter)
So what, you plugged the iron into the light bulb fixture? Both: Yes.
Really! R: And then she put you the other end to do the socks and the hankies and that sort of thing.
How old were you? Me? Well I went to school when I was 5, so I’d go to that one till I was .. what would I go to to the Infants? Then I suppose I went up when I was about 7 and then left at 11 and went to Senior School.
Did you take the 11+? R: Yes I took the 11+ but I didn’t pass. O passed half. I weren’t clever enough (laughter)
Right, I’ve got some questions about where you lived. I suppose it would be Appleyard Crescent. R: 129 … . oh sorry, 121.
What can you remember about the actual neighbourhood, the house? O: That was a passage house
So tell me what a passage house is. R: That just had a passage between the houses. Like in twos. And we had the passage, didn’t we? Lovely back garden. Big garden. O: Dad was keen on gardening, our dad was.
Did you grow vegetables? Both: Yes. O: Potatoes one side, and I can always remember dad this side – ‘cos we had the path up the middle – had just a show of sweet peas, we called them, lovely them days. He always had just one line.
Did you help with gardening? Both: No
R: Brother J was the one who did that, the brother younger than me. He was a keen gardener, weren’t he? We had a bigger garden than ever ‘cos after losing the Crescent, and O and J . . . J, I don’t know, J had so many boyfriends didn’t she?
O: Yes. R: … and O, you see, ‘cos O got married when she was 21, mum moved to Gowing Court. That was off Marshall Road.
And that was a bigger house with a bigger garden? : No. That was a big garden, but we were back to a 3 bedroom then. She couldn’t afford to pay the rent.
What were your neighbours like? Can you remember? R: Tell her about Mrs H! O: Oh, what opposite? What shall I say? What, about when she used to sing?
R: Yes she always was a singer, but tell her about . .. can you remember when you used to go to the Co-op? Go on!
O: When I had to get the stale pastries on a Wednesday. Always had to hurry home from school, basket or bag or whatever tucked on my hand and I had to go after the stale pastries. That was yesterday’s pastries, you see. You got ‘em half price then.
Where did you get them from? O: Co-op on Aylsham Road.
R: And tell her about Mrs H then, when you were going to get the stale pastries. What did she say? O: “Don’t eat one on the way home”. R: That was mum said that. She used to call you “O, bring me some”.
And did you eat one on the way home? You weren’t meant to. O: No, no, no! You’d better not do that! And when I used to have to get the savoury ducks on a Friday for dad I always used to have a little bit (laughter)
What are savoury ducks? O: Well, that was like a beef mixture, weren’t it? There used to be kidneys and everything, all that done up in it.
And what was that for – to make a pie? R: No they just had it on a plate and eat that. Dad loved that. That was for dad. And we used to go and get it.
Friday night meal? Both: Yes.
So where was that from? Was that where you did most of your shopping? O: Barnes the Butchers. R: There was one at the bottom of Aylsham Road and one at the top. They were brothers, weren’t they? O: I’ll tell you all them shops.
Yes, tell me. That was actually one of my questions about where you went to buy food and newspapers and sweets when you were kids.
R: I’ll go right from the bottom of Woodcock Road ‘cos that was across from Mile Cross, weren’t it, the Catton Estate? There was Mr M. Right, Mr M. He sold just everything, and he sold the straw and the rabbit .. . you know, all that sort of thing.
R: Dog biscuits and grocery. You went up a step to the grocery department, didn’t you? And then we had a pub, the Mile Cross that was called, the Mile Cross pub. Then next to that was the fish shop, Thompson’s the fish shop.
O: And then the two little ladies’ shop. R: Yes, the two ladies where we went on a Monday. That was a job I had to do, go and get the pickle ‘cos we were having cold meat. Johnson’s that was called.
Were they the two little ladies? R: Yes, two ladies owned that, two spinsters. They were both two M’s. So that was Johnson’s. That’s now the Funeral . .. Then you had Barnes the Butcher’s and then you had the Co-op section, which was fruit .. . the fruit shop was first, then the bakery and then the grocery shop.
And were they all separate shops? R: No, the Co-op ones were in a row, but all the others were all separate. And we used to have to go and get the sugar and the tea one side, the dry goods I call it, the dry goods one side. And that was when they used to put it in the paper and fold it and put the string round. And then over the other side you got like the butter, and they used to pat it (demonstrates) . .. and the bacon. Oh you were in there ages ‘cos that was all cut off fresh.
Did you all have to queue up for the person behind the counter to serve you? R: Yes. There was three on the dry side, and I think two on the butter side. Yeah, that was the Co-op.
And did you go every week? Did you each have different jobs, or did your mum go shopping? O: She didn’t have time. R: She had to do all the hand washing. There were seven of us in the end, weren’t there? Washing was like driven snow.
Where did she do the washing? R: In the kitchen.
In the sink? R: Yeah. Everybody had a deep sink, a really deep sink there, but we only had hot water when we lived at Losinga Crescent. That had an old geyser over the bath and dad used to have to light that. That was the easiest bath we ever had, weren’t it? And then in Gowing Court the bathroom had the copper in it, so one washed at the sink and then the other one, if there was two of us got to get off at the same time, mother’d heat a kettle, put it in a bowl and stand it on the copper for us. She’d turn the lid upside down ‘cos that had a big wood lid and a handle. She’d turn that upside down and put a bowl and you’d wash in the bathroom. I think the oldest one got the bathroom, the younger one got the kitchen. (laughter)
You obviously didn’t have an electric cooker. So what .. . .? O: Gas. Mum was a lovely cook.
Did she cook every night? R: Oh did she! And when I think now, everything they cook now is done separately, where, on a Sunday morning she’d have a joint in . . . and that would be a big joint ‘cos we had it cold on Monday , didn’t we? . . . and she used to put shortcakes, buns, all in while the meat was cooking! She was a nice cook, weren’t she?
Did she teach you both how to cook? R: Well, we helped, yeah. She’d let us mix up and .. . ‘course everything had to be done by hand then.
O: Always had a stir (laughs) R: And then Sunday we’d have roast dinner, wouldn’t we?
All nine of you? R: Well, how many? .. .. yes, because after me there was F, weren’t it? She was born in Appleyard Crescent. And then we moved to Losinga Crescent and mum had brother J, and then we came to Gowing Court and mum had S, our youngest sister.
Did you all eat together every day? R: When we were all here we had to, didn’t we? Always ate at dinner time. Always had your dinner because everybody came home from work then in those days, cycled home from work.
And did you ever go out to eat, restaurants and that kind of thing? Both: No, no. R: I can’t ever remember going out. Had a bag of crisps outside the pub (laughter)
So as children you obviously helped your mum a lot, going to the shops and doing errands and stuff .. . R: We had our duties to do in the house.
What did you both do? R: Well, I can remember when O lived at home, ‘cos T, her husband, her first husband, ‘cos T was killed. He was in the Navy and O lived at home then, didn’t you, in Gowing Court.
O: Yes, ‘cos you must have got married from Gowing Court. R: Yes. And we all had a job, and one thing what can stick out in my head is on a Sunday morning we had to . . . ‘cos we used to eat all in that one room, you see. We only ever had what they called a living room then; never called it a dining room. Kitchen, well you don’t eat in there. And we all had a duty and mum asked me to put two milk bottles out. Milk bottles used to sparkle on the step, didn’t they? And O had just polished the floor, and something she said to me as I went through, and I went like that to her and the water went on the floor, so I had to go to my bedroom for the rest of the day. Honestly – till teatime.
Really?! But it was an accident. R: No I purposely did it!
Can you remember what O said? (To O) What did you say? O laughs.
R: Don’t know what she said to me, unless she can remember. Something I didn’t like! O laughs.
Sisters! What about weekends? Obviously you had friends. Did you often go out after school to play with them? Where did you go, what did you do?
R: Mostly played in the street, with a top and a .. . O: Took her out to the seaside . … . R: Oh yes, you must hear this one. O: . . . on the back of my bike, upright bike. And they used to have these sort of woven baskets, didn’t they? R: You tied it on with string
On the front of the bike? O: On the back. And I took her right to Cromer.
You biked to Cromer? O: To Cromer and back. I often think of that ‘cos I think to myself you couldn’t do that now. Nobody could ride a bike on that road now, with the traffic, ’cause there wasn’t much traffic then was there?
That’s 40 miles! There and back! O: Yes, and we were sunburnt.
How old were you? R: I was only about 3.
O laughs. What did you do in Cromer? O: Just went down on the sand, yeah. I don’t know if we had anything to eat or what we did (laughter)
How funny! And did your mum know where you were? Both: No, no. O: Got a damned good hiding when we got home. (laughs) R: ‘Cos I might have been killed. O: One of the girls from next door come, didn’t she? ‘Cos she had three girls. R: Mrs R, yes.
So if you were 3 .. . R: O’s 9 year older than me, so that’d make her about 12.
I can’t believe you biked to Cromer, with you in a box on the back of the bike!
O: Upright bike, that was. With dress cords. (laughter) You wouldn’t know nothing about that, would you?
No! Explain! What’s an upright bike?
O: Well, a really old-fashioned bike.
R: They were upright. There was no racers, or, you know, nice handlebars. And the seats were pointed .. .
O: Leather weren’t they? As hard as anything!
R: On the back of this bike – ‘cos O have told me all this story lots of times – she had like a carrier on, they called them a carrier, a metal carrier. The sides of it, pieces came down and screwed on the back wheel, and that was where the box sat, with me in it! (laughter)
And of course you didn’t wear bike helmets back then. Whose bike was it? Was it your bike?
O: Yeah. 12/6d. Twelve shillings and sixpence.
And how did you pay for that?
O: I didn’t pay. My dad bought it for me, yeah.
Were there any play areas or parks in Mile Cross?
R: Oh yes! We spent hours on the park.
Which parks did you go to?
Both: Waterloo Park.
R: Wensum Park . . . but mostly Waterloo Park was our park, ‘cos that was just down the Aylsham Road, like, from us. Hours and hours!
And did you go there after school?
R: No, we weren’t really, were we, allowed to be out for long after tea? We weren’t allowed to even go out of mother’s sight, were we? We could out and play, like, on the grass verge. Well when we lived in Gowing Court that was nice, weren’t it, there? And there was a boy rode a motor bike, but that didn’t have no engine in it. He used to run it and jump on it (laughter). We used to have good times, we did. We played marbles, I did anyway.
It does sound lovely.
R: Can’t grumble at all. We had a good mum and dad.
What was the estate like generally? Was it good, neighbourly . . ..?
R: Oh yes, it was that! Everybody’s garden was tidy.
O: … nice, yes.
R: And that was lovely to see all the washing blowing on the line. Everybody had a big line, ‘cos all those houses then had big back gardens. And then when we moved to Gowing Court, actually our back garden there came to the bottom of the one at Appleyard Crescent. That was built behind there.
O: My brother was friendly with a girl who lived in Appleyard Crescent. .. we lived at Gowing Court .. and he used to wave to her and blow a kiss goodnight to her.
Over the fence!
O: Over the fence, no – quite a way.
R: He was at the bottom of the garden and her house was … sort of . . . there, weren’t it?
Tell me more about the estate. Did you know everyone? Did everybody know . . .?
R: yes, everybody knew everybody.
O: More or less.
R: But you called everybody by their surname. I mean, even if you went to call for a friend you always called their parents by their surname. And I had a friend called E.P., and she lived just at the top of Gowing Court, Marshall Road, ran off Rye Avenue to the Boundary Road, and I had to wait in the porch. You weren’t asked in to wait. She was still, perhaps, washing up. See, big family again, they all had their jobs.
Were there quite a lot of big families?
R: Yes, everybody had a big family, what I know of, yeah.
Earlier on you mentioned that a friend of yours was telling you a story that was made into a book. Can you tell … . ?
R: Well, now, this friend wasn’t brought up in Mile Cross. She do live in Glenmore Gardens now. Her daughter said “You must read this book, mum”. She actually wrote the book, this girl. She got herself pregnant and her parents turned her out, and she turned to prostitution, because in them days . .. .
How far back was this?
R: I don’t know all that. V was just telling me the outlines of it. But she had to do something, because in those days you didn’t get any help, did you, with children or anything, and V said she can tell you so many tales, you know, about Mile Cross and the city.
Can you remember things like that happening as you were teenagers?
R: No, I can’t remember any, and I can honestly say I didn’t know anybody who had a baby. No, I can’t, no, not at all. Our mothers would have turned us out.
Did you ever get into Norwich? R: Mostly mum shopped in Magdalen Street. She always went down there to the Maypole. She used the Co-op as well, but that was the only time she really ever went out.
And did you ever go with her? R: Yes, the Maypole, and the Home Stores. O: All together. Perks.
What’s Perks? R: A grocery shop. Oh, and they had the Doll’s Hospital there. What’s that? R: Oh that was a beautiful place where they’d put the eyes back in … . when they were real china dolls. Oh, spent hours standing at that window looking! Did you ever get dolls fixed there? R: No, I never had one fixed there, but we all had a doll, didn’t we, yeah. We didn’t want for little things like that. Didn’t get big presents like they do now. (laughter)
Kids today! What about school? Did you have to wear a uniform to school? R: No.
Can you remember your teachers or what their names were? R: I always a man teacher. Mr R his name was, and he took the top class before you went to senior school. And I think how I remember is because there was a boy in that class what I liked and he came from a very, very poor family. They lived on Gresham Road. That was at the side of Mile Cross School. He lived on Gresham Road. And if ever . . . well, he did something wrong every day, and he always whipped his bottom. He always had to go over the chair, and oh I didn’t like that. I used top go home and cry about that.
Did he have friends? R: Oh yeah, he had friends, but he always seemed to do something wrong and got punished for it every time. And how did you know that he was from a very poor family? R: ‘Cos I knew all the family, all the children, like, you know. O: We were all poor. R: I mean, nobody really was rich in those days. I mean I had a friend who lived in . . . well, actually O moved into that house, didn’t you, from your flat? On Bolingbroke Road. Thelma Thorne her name was, and she was an only child, and of course her ribbons in her hair were always . . . . her mum used to wash ‘em at night and wind ‘em round the rolling pin, and she used to wear something different every day. And, ‘course as we were going in for morning prayers the teacher’d go “Oh you look lovely today”. We were all kept clean, but mother couldn’t afford to change us into something different every day, could she? Little things like that … sort of . . . you know.
Did she make your clothes? R: Mum knitted. She did sew but she used to knit. Yeah, she knitted lovely, didn’t she? I can always remember her knitting herself a suit, my mum, and she washed it, and the skirt … Shrunk?
R: No it didn’t shrink. That just dropped. That was in that sort of bouclé wool and she looked lovely in that, and she pulled it out and she knitted F and I a cardigan with the wool. I can remember that vividly. What colour was it? R: That was sort of brown with a fawn in it. That weren’t a coloured one.
Where did you buy clothes, or where did she buy . . .. ? R: Frank Price. Frank Price in Magdalen Street and the shoes from Tylers. O: Tylers, yeah.
R: ‘Cos dad, when he was at work, he belonged to what you called a draw, and he used to pay in so much money each week, and then you had the vouchers to go and spend. So then you could spend ‘em at Prices and you could spend ‘em at Tylers Shoe Shop. So that is how they saved ….
They still do that today. Where did he work? R: Gas Works.
O: Then there was that other shop in Magdalen Street on the left hand side, sort of in the middle, what used to sell the cottons and all that, if you wanted a reel of cotton or anything, and there was this wooden floor . . ..
R: Oh, Peacock’s! O: Yeah … and you had to walk, say from there to there, and that was a wood floor, and if you were the only one in, do you know what I mean, you’d be clippety, cloppery to the bottom just for a reel of cotton! (laughter) R: Ever such a narrow shop, that sold everything, Peacock’s. That’s still Peacock’s now. My granddaughter love Peacock’s.
When did it begin to change? Because you said a little while ago that Mile Cross was quite different back then than it is now?
R: Well I actually lived on Mile Cross, ‘cos I got a house when I first got married.
Was that rented?
R: Yeah, that was rented. I got married when I was 18. I didn’t have to get married, but my husband, I met him when he came back . . . he was. .. what was he? … eight year older than me. And we just fell in love and got married.
He came back from the War?
R: Yes, he come back from the War. But the only way you’d get a house was if you had children. Well I fell with P . . I’d been married three months. I had him, like the following May. I was 19 in the March and he was born in the May. And I got the first . . . when they started to build West Earlham. I don’t know if you know anything about West Earlham? And they built steel houses. They were beautiful houses weren’t they? All had radiators, but there was old ones what stood out. Lovely house it was, and I can always remember what the rent was: 26/3d a week, and my husband was earnin’ £5.
What was he doing?
R: He worked at the Gas Works, yeah. When he came out of the Forces he just went on the building sites, you know, took whatever jobs there were. And then he went to the Gas Works, and then he ended up being an engineer and blacksmith, and so we got an exchange to a flat round on the Woodcock Estate, Bullard Road.
I was just showing O the photograph of the Dance Hall, the Lido. Did you go there as teenagers?
R: That’s where I met my husband.
Did you go there on Fridays . . . at weekends?
R: Saturday nights. O used to take me when her husband was away. Mother would only let me go when O took me.
O: I used to dance with her in my arms (laughs)
R: No, sorry, O. No darlin’, I’ve got to correct you there. That was S, our baby sister. You couldn’t have danced with me in your arms when you went to .. . ..
What did you wear on a Saturday night?
R: I can remember having a red two-piece; a skirt with pleats all the way round and then like a sort of little red bolero and a white blouse. I had that on when I met my husband.
And how old were you then?
R: Me? I was only about 17 then, ‘cos I met my husband when I was 17. We used to go on a Saturday night when the Americans were there, didn’t we?
Tell me more about that.
R: That was lovely! We jitterbugged and O used to throw me over her shoulder and through her legs and over her head. (O laughs)
And why were there Americans there?
R: ‘Cos that was the War, wasn’t it? And they were still stationed where the Airport is now. Horsham St Faith’s that was called. Yes, Horsham St Faith’s.
And did many of your friends also use to go?
R: Yeah, we all used to go on a Saturday night when we went to work and earnt a little money.
O: Was it 1/6d, R?
What, to get into the dance hall?
R: Yes, and I only earned 15/3d.
Where did you work?
R: I worked at the Silk Mills.
R: I was a winder. That was like skeins of wool on like a big wheel, and we used to have to keep them runnin’ onto a bobbin what they then used for the weavin’
Where were the Silk Mills?
R: Do you know the Falcon on Cromer Road? Right at the back there. I think that’s a big tile factory now.
O: Yeah, that is because S shopped there, and got some tiles.
R: That had a massive drive to it. I always remember it because my mother said . .. all my friends started at Frank Price or Boots the Chemist . . . and my mother said that she weren’t going to let me go in a boot factory, and … oh I wanted to work at Boots the Chemist, that’s where I wanted to work.
Why? R: I just fancied it. I liked the smell of it when I went in there. And, no, they didn’t pay enough money, so I said to her “What am I going to do?” She said “You best take yourself, young lady, to the Silk Mills and get a job there.” And I had a friend called D.B. She weren’t as old as me. She hadn’t left school. And I asked her if she’d go with me. I dare not go on my own, and I cried all the way there, and there was, I can always remember, a big drive up to this factory. Oh, and that was so noisy ‘cos the weavin’ machines . .. that was all in one shed. And this car passed us, and when I got to the top near the factory, this man jumped out and he said could he help me. And he was a foreman on the pern winding, he was. And I said “Oh my mum has sent me here for a job, but I don’t want to work here.” I said “I’m frightened.” I told him I was afraid.
What were you afraid of?
R: Oh I just didn’t want to go into a factory. So he said “We’re ever so friendly, really lovely, friendly crowd here.” So I went in and I got the job.
How long were you there for?
R: I went up on the Saturday morning and I had to start work Monday. And did you work every day . . . a full time job?
R: 9 till 6, and Saturday mornings we went 8 till 1. You were the same, weren’t you?
Is that before you were married?
R: Yes, ‘cos I got married, as I told you, when I was 18. I met some nice girls, because they came like from St Faith’s and Horsford. They used to walk across the cornfields, you see. Where the Airport is now, they used to walk from Horsford.
How did you use to get to work? Did you bike?
R: Oh I didn’t have a bike until I bought myself one. I walked. We weren’t far from there. Mum lived in Gowing Court. She always used to say “Come on!”. There used to be a programme on radio called “Lift Up Your Hearts”, and that was like a hymn and a prayer, you know, like before 8 o’clock. And she’d say “Come on. Lift Up Your Hearts is on. You get your feet lifted up and get to work.” I always remember her saying that, yes. (both laugh) She was a lovely mother. We had a good mum and dad. Dad liked a drink, but my mother was never short of her housekeeping money, was she, O? Never!
What were their names?
R: My mother’s name was R, same as me, and dad was S. S.S.
Just before we paused I asked you about how Mile Cross was different today. How it has changed.
R: It’s gone down. It’s rough!
Why did it change and when did it begin to change? Was it because people lost jobs? Where did most people work who lived in Mile Cross?
R: Mum and dad, they then went into a flat on Bowers Avenue, didn’t they, mum and dad? And I suppose that weren’t really till after mum and dad died that that went down, was it, really? And then my youngest son, Ph, he took us round, gave us a tour of Mile Cross, didn’t he, O, and we were shocked! Cars in the garden ….
When was that?
R: Oh, must have been . . when there was just R and L. Before T was born, weren’t it? And he’s now 14. And oh that was really scruffy, that really was. And they had the bowling greens, you know. We overlooked them when we lived at the top, at Losinga Crescent, ‘cos Losinga Crescent was half, and Suckling Avenue ran right through the middle, and we were the top half, weren’t we? And oh that was . . . we were so proud of everywhere, weren’t we?
Who looked after the communal areas? Who mowed the lawns . .?
R: Council, weren’t it? ‘Cos Boundary Road when I lived there, that was just up and down, and masses of trees, and then, when they altered that, they were all cut down, and widened it all. We had a dog track on Boundary Road .. .. .
O: Greyhounds. R: …. where B & Q. And that was about all we had there, weren’t it? The Dog Stadium. And then, of course, in our summer holidays we used to go while they were cutting the hay, buildin’ the haystacks.
Did you just go to watch or to help out?R: Yes. We had 6 weeks summer holiday, and off we went with a bottle of water and a bag of bread and jam. We used to go blackberrying didn’t we? Our dad would never come home without he had blackberries in his cap, would he? Yes, we used to do all that sort of thing. O: Yeah. Lovely!
And why do you think it changed, the neighbourhood, Mile Cross?
R: Well, I don’t know. I suppose the lifestyle changed, did it? I don’t know. People just didn’t seem to bother, did they, after that. That really went down, it did.
Do you think it’s because people lost their jobs? Factories closed down and businesses shut . . .?
R: And I think they … when they started to build these new estates like West Earlham, and then there was Tuckswood, weren’t there, so many people moved and went into places like that.
Why do you think they left?
R: Well, they were more up to date, weren’t they? More mod cons.
What sort of things did West Earlham have in the houses … like radiators?
R: Yes. My steel house had radiators, and they didn’t have such big gardens, and I suppose people thought that was a step up in life, weren’t it, for people, you know, who could afford the rent.
Do you think they had smaller gardens because they weren’t growing vegetables . . they were buying . .. ?
R: Well, not so much then. They weren’t buying everything like they are now. There weren’t the supermarkets, were there? Weren’t even the supermarkets then. But Mile Cross just went down. It did. I mean, at one time the Woodcock Estate used to be the roughest, when we were being brought up, weren’t it? That was really the roughest estate. Mile Cross was really up market.
Why was the Woodcock Estate rough?
R: That was really rough. I don’t know. Bigger families and that, yeah. And then I suppose the school . . . well, no, they’ve still got the schools, haven’t they? They did close the senior, Norman School, didn’t they? Your C went there . . well, he was there till he left school, weren’t he, C? And then the senior school changed, but I’m sure they’ve still got the Infant School there and the Primary School.
O: S went to Dowson, didn’t she?
R: I thought she went to Angel Road
O: No, she went to Dowson first. I’ll tell you for why. The other week when she brought me home we went for a little ride round, and she say “I’m going past the school, mum.” She said she just wanted to do it.
R: What, Angel Road?
R: That’s still there, Dowson School. We used to have a lovely allotment down there. Not the family, the school. Miss B her name was, our Biology teacher. That was what that was called then, wasn’t it? Biology teacher. We used to go, yeah, once a week. She’d take like different groups, and if you planted anything she was pleased with you’d then get a penny. And I would go to the Drayton Road shops and buy myself a stick of arrowroot.
I can remember that, yeah. She was a lovely teacher.
All the vegetables from the allotment, were they . . .?
R: They were used in the school.
R: Cookery lessons, you see.
Did you take packed lunches or did you have hot lunch?
R: No, we all came home for dinner ‘cos we had two hours, 12 till 2. Had long dinner breaks, and then we went back, 2 till half past 4. We didn’t have a playing field.
What about the swimming pool? Did you get there?
R: I just started goin’ swimmin’. I could never swim. I started to swim. They then turned the Lido into a ballroom, but the Samson was still open as a swimmin’ pool, and I went twice, that’s all, so I never learnt to swim. And then that was turned into the ballroom and now it’s all flats. All apartments now.
1935 .. . I was only 6 then, when the swimmin’ season opened with 97 girls. Yeah, ‘cos you never went swimmin’ until you went to the senior school. That was a scruffy old place.
(To O) That’s where you learned to swim at the Eagle Baths. Have you read this? That’s where you learned to swim, with Mr T.W.
Were there Youth Clubs that you went to? R: Yeah, I used to go to Youth Club, to the school on Middleton’s Lane, because, working at the Silk Mills, as I say, I met a lot of friends from Horsford and St Faith’s. Well they all went to school at Middleton’s Lane, and I used to go to Night School there, play table tennis, and kiss and tell with the boys (both laugh).
So when you went to the dance hall and you obviously met boys, where you met your husband . . .? R: No, we met the Yanks. I did. I only had one school boyfriend, called W.W. He took me one Sunday afternoon to the woods, and I was late home. And course I had my lipstick all round . .. we used to put a bit of lipstick on, E.P. and I, and I had the lipstick all round my face when I came in, so I was ordered straight up to bed.
When was this then? How old . ..? R: This was when I was at school, when I suppose I was about 14. No, ‘cos I went to work at 14. Must have been about 11 or 12. And my friend B.P. . . . they were stepbrothers and they used to go to the Methodist Church, and we used to come out of Sunday School and go and meet them, and they suggested going down the woods on Boundary Road. That was all woodland and cornfields, you see, and the golf course behind it. And course we had a game of kiss and tell, and when I came home I got sent to bed. And then mum and dad always went for a walk on Sunday evening. And I thought to myself “Oh well, they won’t take me out. I’ve been a naughty girl and I haven’t had any tea”. But I was ordered downstairs, and I had to hold on the side of the pram. The kids were all in the Court taking the grin at me (laughter) but they daren’t say anything, you know, not like they would now.
Who was the strict one, your mum or your dad, or were they both . ..? R: No, I don’t think any of ‘em were strict. You just got punished in that sort of way, up to your bedroom. No, I can’t even remember having a . . might have had a smack on the bottom once or twice, but that’s all.
Sounds like you were all pretty well-behaved. R: Yeah, we had to be didn’t we, O? O: Yes, we had to be.
I read recently that when they first built the Estate they planted loads of trees, and those trees now are coming to the end of their natural lives, so they’re doing a lot of re-planting. R: Yes, ‘cos it was all trees up Suckling Avenue, weren’t there? It was a lovely estate when we lived there, it really was.
O: Well, it went on a lot of years after that, and then all of a sudden it went to pot. Different ones moved, didn’t they, you know, went further afield and that was that weren’t it? Same as we did. R: And a lot of the old people died off, didn’t they? And then they built all those places off Soleme Road I think it was, on Drayton Road. They built like a lot of places for older people, didn’t they, to sort of retire into? But I lived on Boundary Road, I did. On the main Boundary Road.
Did you always rent or did you buy? R: No, there weren’t no buying. Always rented. I lived there because I lived in the flat, as I say, we couldn’t afford the rent in the steel house, and we went to . . Palmer Road, I lived, and then my husband’s youngest brother, his wife, they had twins, and then they had another boy, called Ian, and she was very ill, and she had to go to. . . where they used to go when they had lung trouble. I think they all had TB then, didn’t they? Oh dear .. . out near Cromer . . . I’ll think of it in a minute …..
Like a hospital? R: That was like a convalescent place, and she had to go away, and her sister had Ian, the baby, and I had the twins, in a two-bedroom flat!
How old was P? R: P had to share a bedroom with them. P was about .. . what would I say the twins are? …. I suppose the twins are in their late 50s. He weren’t that old. He was still at school, and then the Welfare got me a house on Boundary Road. My youngest sister went to school . . she went to the Blyth Secondary, S did . . . and she was friendly with this girl whose mum lived on Boundary Road, and we got in touch with the Council and said that we knew they were movin’ out, ‘cos S had told us her friend was movin’ away, and we got the house, because of the twins.
How long did they stay with you for? R: Oh, they were with me for about 9 months. Long time. And then that was when I had Ph, at Boundary Road, and he was born 1961. “New house, new baby”, that’s what my mother told me. That’s why she had so many! Everywhere she moved she had a new baby! (laughter) You see I went 13 years, 13 years between my two boys.
That’s a big gap. R: That is a big gap! O told me every day I weren’t pregnant – and I was! (O laughs) When I went to the doctor and told him I thought I was pregnant, he said “Think! You are!” (laughs) I always remember that.
It does sound from what you’ve said that you all really supported each other.
Both: Yes, we really did! R: I mean, there was only J really that moved away, weren’t there?
Where did she go to? R: Well, J, she met . . . her husband was a librarian at the Lazar House, and she was living with an aunt, and the cousin came back from the library saying what a good-looking man was there. So what did J do? Up and put her coat and hat on and went …. (O laughs) … and that was L. She’s married 63 year, but then, of course, he went to the War, didn’t he, and she lived with his mother then in Lewes, and she worked in the bank, and then they emigrated to Australia.
Are you still in touch with her? R: Oh yes, she was home just after I came out of hospital. Yes, she came home, and she had three months, and then she went back and she was 90 in the January. She went back on Boxing Day.
Has she got an Australian accent?
R: No. She’s still as English. She do speak really nice English, she do. Yeah. Still as English as she was the day she went. And I’ve got nieces in America. B, she’s still as English. Never changed the accent. Of course they came from Kent. They’ve got a different accent altogether to us, haven’t they? But we did have a happy life, I think we did. And then I met some nice girls when I went to Dowson School, because lots of them had been to the Infant and the Primary School at Dowson.
One of the questions I was going to ask was: Did a lot of the boys you went to school with go off to the War?
R: What was I when I left school? 14. Well they didn’t get called up till they were 18 did they? And I was married then. That was after the War. But they all done two years National Service, ‘cos our brother J done National Service. He was stationed at the RAF where the Airport is now. But that is where the Americans all moved into.
Did any Americans stay here? Did they meet local girls?
R: I was bridesmaid to a girl when we worked at the Silk Mills, and she went to America to live, but I don’t know of any what stayed here. And then two sisters, B.S. and her sister, lived on Suckling Avenue, and they were evacuees in Canada, and they both married Canadians. Went back and married. Our mum wouldn’t let us be evacuated.
I was just going to ask: Did anyone come to Norwich from London, say, or were people at Norwich being evacuated?
R: Me, I was at school. I mean, O was older, weren’t you? I was at school, ‘cos I wanted to know why were my friends being evacuated and I weren’t, so “Not letting my children be evacuated!”.
Where did your friends go? R: Well, they went to Canada and America. I think more of those from London and that way went to people further out in Norfolk, didn’t they?
People from Norwich, your friends, went off to Canada? R: Yes, and married, yeah. The two girls I knew.
Do you think Norwich has changed a lot more generally? R: That’s nice to see, but O and I used to walk miles. We never went on the bus, O, right? After I lost my husband we walked everywhere, and we were really interested in the riverside, because there was Boulton & Paul’s, there was Laurence … my son Ph worked at Laurence Scott, he was a welder. He worked there till he went redundant. And we watched that build, didn’t we, O? We used to go down there every Sunday just for a walk, right?
And what were you watching? R: Just watching how that changed. And then before I was ill we used to go down to Morrison’s, didn’t we, and have Sunday lunch, and walked over the new bridge. We saw that all built.
And now there’s lots of luxury apartments and night clubs! R: Clubs and everything now. I think the last time I went down there was to the cinema when we went to see the Calendar Girls. O: That’s right, yeah. But my daughter took me to where her son have moved to, S. I wouldn’t want to live there. All new places.
O: What’s that, out on . . .? R: Dereham Road. Where Sainsburys and… they’ve got an Asda there now, and the big shop at the bottom.
O: And when she came down she said “I’ll show you where S’s going to move to.” Well, I wouldn’t want to live there. Say his house – you know, ‘cos that said Sold on it – is there. I shouldn’t think there’s much difference from you to me. This little tiny road, just the two cars. I don’t think two cars could pass actually. (laughs) Never see anything like it.
R: Well, they’re like rabbit hutches.
O: I say to S. She say “I’ll just take you down to where S’s going to move to.” Couldn’t believe it! I say “Which one?” She say “That one. Look, where it say Sold”. I say “Whatever’s he thinkin’ about?” You know if you’ve got children – I mean young children – you wouldn’t dare let ’em out of the door.
Also there’s no neighbourhood. You know, no community.
R: Well, the ones as you go out on the left hand side, my grand daughter always say it look like a holiday camp as you approach that, ‘cos they’re all alike aren’t they?
In Mile Cross they didn’t all look alike? O: No. R: Well, they did a bit. They were mostly passage houses, weren’t they?
O: But then we had more space, didn’t we? Where he’s now going to live, if you know what I mean…. see we’ve always had a little bit of space wherever we’ve been living.
R: Well, Suckling Avenue, I couldn’t believe it ….
O: See that’s the one, where my window is and that didn’t seem as though from out there to here, and then there was this little road, well I don’t think two cars could pass till you came out to the main piece. See they were still building, so that looked a little bit of a muddle.
But they want to make as much money as possible.
R: You live at Cringleford, don’t you? I used to live at Cringleford.
Did you? Where did you live?
R: On the slip road where the Round house. . .. Yeah, I used to live there. That was actually called Newmarket Road, and I lived number 60.
So now the A11 cuts right through. Lots of my children’s friends live right there. I live on the Ridings, right next to the grassy area.
R: That road where I was was more or less opposite the school. The school’s right opposite there. And they were all greenhouses out the back, but now they are all hospital houses aren’t they? Built for the doctors and the surgeons and . ..
Yes. That Roundhouse development’s quite new.
R: I watched them do that Round House up. That’s been there for years, hasn’t it? Beautiful place. At one time you could just watch the traffic coming down, ‘cos I used to drive then, you could slip over the road to my house. Well then that started so you had to go down further and turn off, and then you got a roundabout. And then it all got altered again ‘cos of all the bypasses.
That roundabout right next to the Roundhouse development is so dangerous. There are always accidents there because it’s so tight. Even the roundabout’s quite small.
R: There’s a lot run off that roundabout. Yeah, my P always grumble about that. He says “This weren’t thought out very well”. Have you always lived there?
No. I have been there for two years, but before that I lived around here. We rented houses just off Unthank Road. I was in America for a few years. I worked out there. R: What, while you were single? No. I was pregnant. My husband came out too, but he couldn’t get a job ‘cos he’s English. And I worked and he looked after my daughter when she was a baby and now he’s obviously got a job. He’s at the Norwich Union, and I work part time and do this too.
R: And you’ve got two children. ‘Cos I had a chat with her on the phone and I know she’s got two children.
I’ll turn this off now, unless there’s anything else you want to say about what it was like to grow up in Mile Cross.
R: Well, we just had a happy childhood, didn’t we? O: I think, when you think of it, I think we were brought up well. We were fed well, plain livin’ and that sort of thing. R: It was a good estate to live on.
O: We’re still here, so it couldn’t have done us any harm, could it? That’s how I think of it. We’ve seen the bad days and the good days. R: And we always had to walk everywhere, didn’t we? O: Used to walk miles, didn’t we? R: My grandchildren do. They walk everywhere.
If you were ill was there a doctor’s? R: Oh yes. Half a crown a week, mother used to pay. Half a crown a week! NO! Half a crown a month. In case anybody was ill.
And did any of you get ill? O: Couldn’t afford to get ill (laughs) R: She used to wrap the scarf . . . I always remember that – we used to have . . . what was that? …. rubbed on our chest (laughs)
O: Used to be awful! R: And when we went to school she used to pin our scarves, ‘cos they were always thick scarves, but she made us cross them and then she pinned it at the back so they didn’t . . . And then she’d say to F “Now you undo R’s pin and she’ll undo yours”. And we got to school. We really had to wrap up warm, didn’t we? We only had the one room with a coal fire. The bedrooms were freezin’ . . . and the white sheets! (laughs)
Did she warm them up with hot water bottles? R: Yeah, we had a hot water bottle.
O: Then when my dad, ‘cos he was a Luton man, he used to have the friends from there, the family, brothers and that, when we lived in Appleyard Crescent we went up the stairs like that, and then like that, and then when we had, say from the unit there to R, we had like a little square piece. Well, when they all came they had to have the bedrooms, didn’t they, and we used to sleep on that square.
R: Well, I can remember sleepin’ in the bath! Really! R: Honestly! I can remember sleepin’ in the bath at Losinga Crescent. That was our four bedroom house, weren’t it?
So who was staying for you to sleep in . . .? R: Oh, when dad had his . .my dad came from a big family, 13 children, boy-girl, boy- girl all the way down the line. And of course they spoiled him, didn’t they? He was the only one what ever left Luton. He came here and was stationed in the barracks, and that’s how he met mum. Yeah, I slept in the bath with F. Put a blanket in the bottom, mum did, and we had a pillow each, and we had to sleep in the bath. Sounds quite cold! R: Well, I only worried about that geyser! (laughter) But that never ran … O: But I say that never did us any harm ‘cos we’re still here, aren’t we?
R: And, of course, we got spoilt when they came, ‘cos they all had wonderful jobs. He had two spinster sisters and a bachelor brother, my dad. And Uncle A, when he came down, we always went into the city and he bought us a panama hat, and him and dad . . . ‘cos V was trying to think of the name of that pub at the back of Woolworths … ‘cos Woolworths was where Marks & Spencer’s is now. There was an alley. Well, they’ve still got that alley, haven’t they, at the back there, and there used to be a pub, and we used to have to stand outside, and Uncle A’d bring us a bottle of pop out and a bag of crisps. And when he left Norwich he always gave us a half a crown, which was a lot of money then! Mum would then share it out for us each week for a little something extra. Yeah, we had good times. O: Well, we’re still here, so that couldn’t have done us any harm, could it?
What did you do when it was your birthday? R: Well, we had a little party and mum’d make a cake and put candles in. Didn’t have candle holders then, did we? Used to stick the candles in the cake.
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