(Note: The contributor’s friend was present for the interview and sometimes joined in)
You’re going to talk to us about your memories of Mile Cross, aren’t you? You went to live in Mile Cross when you were very small?
Yes, I went to live in Mile Cross when I was about 5 years old, I think.
And where did you live?
We lived at the Gildencroft then, because we were Quakers, and my dad was thrown out of the Quakers because my dad worked at the brewery and he smoked, you see, so we weren’t recognised as Quakers you see, and they all threw him out (laughs)
They were strict in those days.
Oh they were strict then, and my dad was not claimed because my dad smoked and he worked at the brewery, and they didn’t believe in it. Anyway then we went to live at 78 Bolingbroke Road at Mile Cross.
And what kind of house was that?
It was a three bedroomed house, and it was a lovely house! Nice garden, lovely garden. Nice kitchen, living room, front room.
How many of you were there?
Well, when we went there, there was three of us. There was my mum and dad, my eldest brother and myself – and then my sister and then all my brothers were all born at__ Bolingbroke Road.
How many was that?
Three brothers, and they were all born up there.
You said you had a garden. Did your dad grow vegetables?
Oh yes, we had a beautiful garden. My dad did all the flowers and all the vegetables, and he used to make us go and water all the garden.
We lived right opposite the Boundary pub and when we were children we used to go round there and play with the A’s children, who kept the pub. Yeah, we went round there, played with them.
So was that in the garden of the pub?
Yeah. In the garden of the pub. We used to go up there, and Mr and Mrs A kept that then. And opposite there was Chambers, the fish and chip shop, where we used to go for fish and chips. Then coming down there was two little cottages, then there was the first Barnes’ butchers, and from there we used to go in Fenwick’s. It used to be a store.
A general store?
Yeah, a general store. Used to go there. Used to go and get our sweets in there. Used to go and get some of the groceries over there.
So you went shopping for your mum?
Well, my mother was very ill after she had my young brother. My mother had cancer, and I was 13 when I left school because I had to nurse my mother through cancer. Did all the housework, all the cleanin’, looked after my brothers, brought my brothers up. My dad was alive then. Nurse Cavell used to come in and inject my mum twice a day. They used to for cancer in those days. And then we lost her. She was laid to rest in our front room. They used to bring the coffins home and put them in your front room.
People came to pay their respects?
Yes. And my dad was alive then. Then just after that my dad died, of cancer too. That left me at home…..
So how old were you when your dad died?
I’ve got to think now. My dad was 50. My mother died when she was 40. My dad died after my mother.
Friend: Did your dad meet W? (That was her husband)
Ah! My mother had died and I met W when I lived up at Bolingbroke Road.
So was he a local boy?
Yeah, he was. He was a local boy, but he was in the Army up Britannia Barracks, and he was in the Military Police.
So how did you meet him?
Down at the Lido. Dancing. Down at the Lido. We used to go down there dancin’. Ooh, met lots of boys down there! (laughs) That’s where I met W, there.
Then there was Wirrals.
What was Wirrals?
That was all groceries and sweet shop and fruit, and every night I used to go over and help them to clear all the fruit away and put it away, take it inside. I was a bit rude sometimes because I used to nick some and take home to my brothers. I really was! I’m being honest here! (laughs)
So was that a paid job or did you just go to help?
No, he paid me a little. We were very hard up. We never had much money. We were the hard done kids, I’ll tell you! (laughs) We had to work hard for what we got. To keep my brothers I used to have to go scrubbin’ out offices and doin’ little jobs. Yes, I did.
So did you do that locally in Mile Cross or did you come into Norwich?
No, I used to do that for the doctor who lived up across the church where the bread place used to be and all that, up there. Up that way.
I shouldn’t think that paid very well.
No, I didn’t get a lot of money. Only got a few pennies for what you done.
That was nice up there. Nice livin’ up there then.
So you liked Mile Cross?
Yes, that was nice. As a child I loved it. It was a very nice area up there.
Was that because of the community spirit or because of the surroundings or a bit of both?
A bit of both. That was very nice.
People supported each other?
Yeah, they did. The neighbours were very good and they used to help me. Then when my dad died, they brought him home like my mother. They had him in the front room. I mean everybody congregate when they knew that we’d lost my mum and my dad. And my mum and dad went, and they knew that us children were there. My eldest brother, he was good and helped. Then, ‘course he got married and he left, and then my sister, she was only 18, but she left and she went and got married very young and went after a man, and she got married, my sister did, very young.
So that was before you got married, was it?
Yeah. Oh, my dad give me away when I got married, ‘course he did. I forgot that. Yes, they met W.
So when you got married did you go on living in Mile Cross?
Yes. I know my dad never wanted me to marry W, because I was engaged to a sailor. (laughs)
So you broke your engagement, did you?
No, as a matter of fact I was told that RC, the sailor, he was in the War, and I was told his submarine had sunk and that he was dead. So I thought he was dead, you see. I thought he’d passed on. So with that I met my W, and fell in love with W and married W. (laughs) I remember my dad sayin’ “That’s the wrong man. You shouldn’t have got married”. I remember him sayin’ that, but I had a beautiful 60 years with W. I mean, I was married 60 years and he was a good man, a wonderful husband. He really was a wonderful husband, my W.
So where did you live when you first got married? Did you stay at Bolingbroke Road to look after your dad?
Let me think. Looked after my dad. Done some of the work, and then, ‘course, my dad was ill and he passed away. Well then W took over. .. .. . when I got married W and I we took over 78 Bolingbroke Road. The Council put it over to W and I and we had the house to bring up the children in, and W took the house over, and we lived there.
So you went on living in the same house for a long time.
We were living in it for a while, and then as the boys were growing up W was still in the Army and he had to go away at times, so I was with the boys. Well then my eldest brother . .. . one of my brothers .. . we took D, my little brother (he’s just died, the little one) . .. We took him away with us to Lancashire, W and I did, ‘cos he was only 10 months old when my mother died, you see. And we took him up to Lancashire with us and brought him up. Well then we give the house over to one of my brothers, and then they took it over from the City, from us, you see.
So that’s been a real family house.
Oh yes, all the time! Until . . . let me see . .. . that was in our family for ages, 78 Bolingbroke Road. The name of M, that was in there ages and ages, in that house. But, of course that’s bought now. People have bought it, people that are in it now.
Let me take you back to when you were young. You told me earlier you went to Dowson School. Did you wear uniform? What kind of experience was being at school?
Oh gym slip. Gym slip and blouse. Oh yeah, I loved school. Loved gymnastics. I loved being there.
Did you walk there every morning?
No, I had a bike, had a little old bike (laughs) Used to ride to school on it and they all used to laugh at me because I always used to be getting punctures (laughs)
And who mended those?
What, punctures? That blew out once or twice, oh yeah! (laughs) But they always laughed about my bike, because I was still a joker and a teaser when I was at school, and I used to lark about all the while.
So you were a naughty girl at school?
Yeah, but they all loved me. I had a lot of friends. They all loved me, yeah. They used to say “Here she come”. Oh yeah, I got on well at school. I did well at Dowson School. Very nice school that.
Friend: Do you remember any particular friends?
Oh gosh! I can’t really. I used to go down Sloughbottom Park with a lot of them. I used to play netball and that. I loved netball. Yeah, we used to go down there quite a bit.
What kind of other games did you play as a youngster? Not necessarily at school but when you were in the park. Were you just mucking about generally?
Oh yeah, we used to muck about. We used to go to the Sports, have Sports Days, Have Runnin’ Days. Oh I enjoyed that, yeah.
You were a good athlete?
Yeah. And I used to get up and give them a song.
Friend: When did you first start singing? When did you realise that you had a voice?
When I was a little girl my mum and my dad took me to see my Granny A and my Granddad A up Steepin’ Lane , and when I got up there they said to me “Sing to Granny and Granddad”, which I did, and I sang “Daddy’s Little Girl”. I was only a little girl and they hold my hand and I sang it to them, and my mum and dad turned to each other and they said to each other “Our little girl can sing!”. And I could sing! And I sang as a little girl, and all my life I’ve sang to people, in Spain, in England, everywhere I’ve been.
So when you were a child did you sing at parties?
Yeah, I used to sing when I was at school, I used to get up and sing in the class. I was a singer then. I loved it, I really did.
Friend: So you never had any fear of standing up in front of people?
No, I was always a bit conscious, if you know what I mean. I mean, even now I stopped singin’ over the road to the women about three year ago. And that was the last time I sang, and then when my lungs were bad I couldn’t get my notes properly so I just packed up singin’.
That means you’ve sung for about 80 years!
Oh yes, a long, long while, a lot of years I was singin’. Always remember in Spain I used to sing in the bars, and the last time I sang in the bar was when I sang “My Way”, and the whole bar went quiet and everybody clapped, and my husband was that proud! I’ll always remember.
That’s a great memory!
It’s a good memory, that. It was beautiful.
When you were young you said you went dancing at the Lido. Tell me about the Lido.
Oh the Lido! Well we used to go swimmin’ there at times, and then that was covered over as a dance floor.
So was that at the same time, or it was a swimming pool and then they transformed it .. . ?
Yeah – into a dance floor, and then we used to go down there night times, dancin’ when they had the Dances on.
What sort of dancing was that?
Oh, foxtrot and waltzes.
Proper ballroom dancing?
Yeah, ballroom dancin’. There used to be all the Americans . . .
From the bases?
Yeah, all the bases used to come there. Oh yes, there was all sorts.
Was there a live band?
Oh yeah. We always had a band there.
Friend: where did you get your dresses from? ‘Cos you would have got dressed up to go out.
Well, I used to go to a jumble sale to be quite honest, and pick out what I could find. They didn’t have Charity Shops then, but they had jumble sales, and if you could find somethin’ in a jumble sale you were pleased. And you used to renovate it up a bit and make a nice dress out of it, and sometimes my sister had better clothes than what I had, so I used to borrow some of my sister’s sometimes, you see. And that’s how I lived.
So you were quite a needlewoman were you?
Yeah, a bit. Used to do a little bit of everything, I think, really. Yes.
Did you come into Norwich much or was it really a self-contained community then in Mile Cross?
Well, I can’t remember now. No, we didn’t. I worked at Howlett & White’s.
Whereabouts was that?
That was down Duke Street, and Baxter & Webster’s. Used to go on my bike down to there. Used to work there.
Was this after you were married or before you were married?
No, that was after I was married.
Friend: I suppose you didn’t go out to work to start with as your little brother was so young.
Yes, at first I used to be at home because I used to have to do the housework, and do the best you could to feed them and that.
Friend: How did you manage? I mean you were so young, only 13. How did you know what to do?
Well I suppose because I’d always been taught to do it from a young girl.
You’d helped your mum when she was still alive.
Yes, she shew me how to cook and what to do, and talked to me, ‘cos she used to have her bed down in the front room, you see, and I used to help my mum out of bed, and I used to carry her to her chair and put her dressing gown on while we were waitin’ for the nurse to come to her. And she used to make me get down and polish the old floor, the old lino up. Oh my God! Yeah!
And did you have to keep the outside very clean as well? People used to polish their doorsteps, didn’t they?
Oh yes, ‘course we did. We used to have to scrub all the steps, keep ‘em all clean. Oh yeah, I remember all the neighbours up there, remember all the neighbours who I lived near. They were all good neighbours up there.
And very houseproud? It was a smart . . .?
All smart. Yeah it were lovely, yeah.
Friend: Do you remember their names?
Yes. Mr & Mrs G, and their son G, they lived next door at 76, then there was Mrs D and their sons, the next one. Then there was Mr & Mrs S, the next one, then there was Mr & Mrs D, and then there was Mr M and then there was another road what went up. Oh yeah, I remember them.
Did the adults there, when you were left so young, did the other women help out?
Not really, but they used to ask if I was gettin’ on all right. There was Mr & Mrs H. Oh I forget the other names .. . there was the Js and the Ws. All sorts, all different people. I can remember most of the names . .. B and Fs. There was lots of people.
And did they have children who were your kind of age?
Yeah, they used to play with my brothers most of the time. Oh I had a lovely life. I ain’t grumblin’. I’ve had a marvellous 91 years, I have.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about Mile Cross or have you exhausted your memories?
Mile Cross was a very nice place. I remember the two bowling greens they had at Suckling Avenue, Rye Avenue, Kirkpatrick Road, Norman School. I remember all them.
You said about the pub, the Boundary, opposite where you were. Presumably it was mostly the men who went there in those days? Was it just the men?
No. Men and women. They used to sit outside and pass the kiddies a drink at times. And then there was all the shops all along, right down to the Coop, where the other lady was sayin’, right down to Barnes’. Oh yeah, used to go and get the old faggots. Used to have a basin and bring it home hot in the basin. Used to give me sixpence and you got a whole big basinful.
And that came from Barnes’?
Barnes the butcher, yes.
And what did you do about things like doing the family wash?
I done the washin’. I used to have a beer crate my dad used to stand for me in the kitchen, and I had a big old tin bath. I had a big old copper what we used to boil up, and I had a scrub board, and I used to have to stand up there all day doin’ all the washin’.
Was that Monday?
Yes. And then I used to have to put it all into the copper. I used to boil it all up.
How did you heat the copper?
Oh crumbs, how did I heat it? Gas, I think. And then we had a big old mangle outside. I always remember – I weren’t married to W then, but he used to come and mangle the old washin’ (laughs)
Did you use the old blues too?
Oh yeah, the old blues. Yeah, we used to use them. We had the old copper. Yes, I used to do all the washin’. And then I had one of them flats, ‘cos we had an open fireplace with two little hobs on, and you used to close them up, get the flats hot, get them off and iron with the old hot iron. Oh yeah, that’s true, I used to do that.
And what about cooking? What did you cook on?
Oh, we had a gas oven, a little old black, old dirty gas oven (laughs) And we used to do the cookin’ with that. That’s what I remember.
Friend: Was the housing all new when you went there?
Oh yes, they were brand new when we went there.
Friend: It must have looked splendid going to a completely new place!
Oh they were beautiful those houses were! The houses were lovely! Lovely houses up there. All the same.
With proper bathrooms with all inside facilities?
The bathroom was . . nice bath. There weren’t a wash basin, there was a big old boiler, or a geyser, and you used to have to light that up and the water run into the bath if you wanted a bath.
They used to flare up, didn’t they?
Oh yeah, ‘course they did, yeah.
Was the lavatory in there as well?
No, the lavatory was next door. That was separate and you went up a step into the toilet next door.
I know my brothers used to sleep top and tail in bed to get ‘em in bed, and my sister and I used to have the little bedroom where we used to sleep.
Friend: Did you share a bed as well?
Was that a double bed?
Yeah. Had to share ‘em. Oh yeah, we had to share beds. Yeah.
So that was a good life.
Oh, a lovely life. I had a wonderful life.
It’s interesting you say that, because a lot of people now would say that was a very hard childhood.
Oh, I did have a hard childhood. I worked hard all my life actually. I can honestly say, all my 91 years, I’ve worked hard, since I was 13 when I left school. And I’ve had a hard life, and I’ve been brought up hard and worked hard, and as a landlady I worked very hard all my life. Then when we moved from the Mitre on Earlham Road we moved to the Royal Oak at Ormesby, which was a hotel as well as a pub, and we worked hard there, and I had people coming in bed and breakfast, and fed ‘em all. I used to sit all people down. I catered for a hundred odd people at times. I did all the cookin’, all the cleanin’. I had staff come and help me plate up, and I used to serve it all out myself, and I used to set all the tables up. I had four girls come in and help, used to come and help me to set up. I had a hard life, very hard life. I worked hard all my life.
I should think you feel proud of what you’ve achieved.
I am proud of my life. I’ve had a good life, a lovely life. A wonderful husband I had and he was a good man. .. .
And you’ve lived to a ripe old age.
Yeah. I can’t believe that (laughs)
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