Miss Barbara Rice was born c 1922. She was interviewed on 11 December 1998, when she lived at 30 Ebenezer Close, Witham.
For more information about her and the Rice family, see Rice family including Barbara Rice in the People category.
The original recording of this interview is held at the Essex Sound and Video Archive. To listen to the recording, please contact them at email@example.com or 033301 32500.
[???] shows words that are not clear enough to interpret and so have had to be omitted.
[?] after a word shows that its interpretation is not certain.
Later explanatory additions by JG or the transcriber are in square brackets [e.g. explaining locations etc.]
Continued from tape 181
[chat about family tree, not noted]
[about report of father’s funeral
Miss R: What they used to do then, the reporter would come to the funeral and he was the one who put down who was there and who wasn’t.
Q: [???] [reading] ‘Well known local entertainer’.
Miss R: His brother Sid had a dance band, Sid Rice and his band.
Miss R: Yes.
Q: I mean that was really important, no television or anything. People relied much more on the local entertainers.
Miss R: When him and his family got together, they used to all do their party piece you see.
Q: Did they, when [???]
Miss R: Well, when we were kids. Yes.
Q: In the house you mean?
Miss R: Yes. See Sid’s wife Florrie, she used to play the piano very well, [???] got on my nerves, she could play very well and she knew she was going to play, but we had to coax for hours before she did it. [laugh]
Q: So did you have a piano yourselves.
Miss R: Yes we did. But I couldn’t get on, I didn’t like it. I did try but you got fed up. There was no other heat in the house was there, and it was back in the front room, and then ready for your practice, she used to light the [???] oil stove and I also associated this oil stove smell with practising the piano [laugh]
Q: Where did you go to learn?
Miss R: Miss Griggs.
Q: Did you really? Goodness me.
Miss R: I think that was a waste of money. I thought years after, I could have done much more with that money that’s been wasted on me.
Q: Still, I remember you saying they sent you to typing lessons as well. Was that in the town?
Miss R: Yes. I went to Miss Rowles[?], she used to, used to pay her.
Q: So they were obviously doing their best to improve you [laugh]
Miss R: Speed[?] that was their trouble.
Q: I suppose it was a lot of pressure on you in way, if you felt they wanted you to be really good at these things.
Miss R: Yes it does. Yes. That’s why I thought since, if you’ve two or three of you, that takes their mind off you a bit doesn’t it. If, when you’re a bit older you can slip in late with not being noticed, whereby if you’re the only one, see that’s it.
Q: So were you tempted to get in late?
Miss R: No [laugh].
Q: Even when you were sort of, cause you were living with your mum obviously when you were quite a lot older weren’t you, did you still feel you’d got to toe the line did you?
Miss R: I suppose it gets habit. I think it’s often good when children have to go away from home for school or whatever for a time, I think that gets a … but I mean we got on very well and there was this Doll there, cause old Madge Glass that used to live opposite the garage down Braintree Road, she was friendly with Doll and she’s often said to me since, ‘Cor,’ she said, ‘she’d never seen three women get on so well together in a house’.
Q: That’s really good, yes.
Miss R: So she said, well we all had our own jobs, stuff doing, when they were done, you didn’t interfere with somebody else. Doll washed up, I dried up, Mum put away. Mum had cooked it. And when we did, cleaned the house, did that Friday night, even if we were going to a dance or something we still did that first. I did Mum’s bedroom, my bedroom, Doll did her bedroom cause it was bigger, and she did the landing. Never any different. Mum did down the stairs, did the front room cause you had to keep going through that bit. The kitchen fireplace I always did on a Sunday [???] cause we had to have a good fireplace.
Q: You’ve got such a good memory, haven’t you, all these details.
Miss R: Well it was so methodical you couldn’t forget it could you, I could do it in my sleep now [laugh]
Q: Cause I was just trying to make sure I’d got that right, you moved, when your dad died you, was that when you went to Church Street?
Miss R: We moved to Mill Lane, but there were no houses except those very old ones …
Q: And then you moved to Church Street?
Miss R: Then we went into Mill Lane, well because it was cheaper you see.
Q: Cressing Road was a Council house. (Miss R: Yes) So did they, Mill Lane was private was it, you had to go there cause it was cheaper sort of thing, yes.
Miss R: Cause they started those houses in Cressing Road apparently in 1921, cause there was so people wanted houses, there was just nothing, and they started those, and that was the only places, they were all mainly ex-servicemen and that that went in them. And then, reminds me – I forget that heating goes off because normally if you’re messing about you don’t think about it do you.
Q: No I don’t have it on during the day.
Miss R: So …
Q: Was it was when you were about twelve you said? [when father died]
Miss R: Yes, so we moved to Mill Lane because that was near Auntie Nellie and Dad, and Auntie Nellie liked to have family round her, so we went there. But it was a cold house. It was old, they were very old, they’d been other things in their time, and you went into the, well, the one and only door, the front door, and grandad went all through it and papered it and painted it and that, it was all right, they’d got this old fashioned Victorian type fire, well it took for ever to get that going when you got home at night, didn’t it. There was one little range and what they called a kitchener[?] and the staircase went from that, but that wouldn’t cook anything, that was hopeless. And there was, there was nothing to heat the water with, so we had a oil stove and primus stove, and in the summer they were kept out in the shed, cause that was a great big shed, and two tables, and kept that on one. So went you wanted a bath, we had a bath in the shed in the summer because, they’d got this galvanised one, and you had to heat the water up on the, after having dragged it from the tap up the top, and, it’s funny, I suppose when you’re young you don’t, you accept things, I think that sort of thing didn’t worry me because it was something that just happened, you accept these things. I think for my mum, looking back, that was a rotten time, because at a time when she should have been getting somewhere better to live and more comfortable circumstances, and the work was getting better, they were a bit more sure of their jobs and things like that, instead of that she goes completely to the opposite, and I think at the age of forty that is a big difference.
Q: Cause Council houses had more facilities did they?
Miss R: Yes. The first, the ones on this side, they were very mixed, some were parlour and non-parlour, well the non-parlour the lavatories were outside, part of the house but you had to go outside, and the big bath[?] in this big kitchen was by the sink, people put boards, anyway the other one, the parlour type, were bathrooms upstairs. But having said that, that literally was just it, the bath. There was a cold tap but no hot tap. And the copper was down in the corner of the kitchen, and you heated the water in that, and you took it up by the pailful, which was extremely dangerous wasn’t it, and carried it up the stairs.
My mum said that they had a lot of sun on that bathroom, so she found out that in, most of the time when the sun was shining, you know, in the summer time, she used to in the morning, fill the bath up with cold water, and she said by the time after she’d done the dinners and that and washed up, that water was luke warm. So that’s how she used to have a bath you see, in that … [laugh]
Q: Advanced, isn’t it, solar heating.
Miss R: [laugh] If you were a kid you had it in front of the fire, so it didn’t matter.
Q: You still had the bath in front of the fire as well, you mean, in Cressing Road?
Miss R: If it was just me, yes, when I was just little, but after that I had to go upstairs. But it was a bit of a problem, all this pail, I mean I never carried one, but you had to be very careful with hot water going upstairs, didn’t they.
Q: I suppose it was an advance though, in that a lot of people wouldn’t have had a bath at all. Was there electricity or was it still gas?
Miss R: No. There was no electricity. This [Ebenezer Close] is the only house we’ve come into where there’s been electricity laid on.
Miss R: In the first one in Cressing Road it was gas, you see, and oil lamps, I can remember an oil lamp there. Then when we went into the other one [in Cressing Road also] they came round from the electric and said they were going to lay electric and put the electric street lamps down as well, and for, I forget, so many pounds, well it doesn’t seem a lot now, but whatever it was it was probably equal to a week’s wages, and they would put in three lights. So they put in one light for wherever you liked, you had three lights …
Q: This was in Church Street?
Miss R: In Cressing Road.
Q: That was while you were still in Cressing Road was it, got it, sorry?
Miss R: Yes. So then we moved out of there you see to go to Mill Lane, and there was nothing there at all, not gas or electricity, so the people before must have had oil lamps you see, an oil stove. So I said we can’t be without electricity now, so she paid again for the electric people to put that in. Which they did. Then, course we had to move out of there cause they condemned it, and we were told to go up to Church Street, but that had been, in 1939 we moved there, and that was still fitted out with gas and no electric. [laugh] So before they moved in they had to, she had to pay again to have electricity put on. Still the three lights. And used to do the ironing from the ceiling light, that was no problem, I don’t suppose you should have done but that’s we did. And when we came here [Ebenezer Close] there was electric. [laugh]
Q: I remember you said something about your Dad would have been shocked about goint into Church Street. (Miss R: Yes.) What didn’t he like about Church Street.
Miss R: I don’t know really, never had liked it. But he didn’t know about, they hadn’t built those houses up there then, it was just the old part, this was a lane, this part.
Q: He didn’t say why he didn’t like it?
Miss R: He just didn’t like it. Don’t know why he didn’t like it. He’d have thought ‘Well, looking at that house, even worse than what he’d had in Cressing Road’, so he wouldn’t have been very, you know, he didn’t like that a bit. But …
Q: Again, going back to Mill Lane, that was a lot harder then wasn’t it?
Miss R: Yes. Yes.
Q: What about the toilet there, I can’t remember if you said?
Miss R: Where, in Mill Lane? There was a short garden and it was at the end. Well, the thing was, the people before had got this rambling rose going right over the garden, right over the doorway, so when it rained and you went in there, you got showered with water didn’t you. So my mum got the axe out and she had that out. Oh, was old Olive Hutley cross about that. She sort of ruled the roost there you see. And she didn’t like mum chopping that down, well mum said ‘If you think I’m getting wet’, she said, ‘every time I go in there, you’ve got another think coming’. [laugh]
Q: She was one of the neighbours was she?
Miss R: Yes, yes, no she was quite a cheery[?] woman but she … there was a little boy that lived at the end, he was only about three then, and every morning you see, she’d got this flat step, and every morning it was scrubbed. Well no-one ever went over it, that was scrubbed, and often I used to see this little Tony, he’d be running over it, backwards and forwards, he’d say to me ‘I’m running over Miss Hutley’s step cause she’s out’. [laugh] Yes, I don’t know what she’d say if she saw the steps now but still …
Q: No, as you say, you don’t realise when you’re a child but it must have been, well it was hard for you as well, but for your mother … a shock as well.
Miss R: I think so, and going out to work as well. Because when we were up Cressing Road they were all going pea-picking cause it was all those fields and that there. So somebody talked my mum into going. She’d never been pea-picking in her life. And I think what amazed her was how quick some of these people could pick. She said they just seemed to put their hand over the rice and the pea pods had gone. But anyway she only went once or twice and my dad flew off the handle, he said, cause that was a point of honour, your wives didn’t go out. I mean there was enough to do in a house anyway. He said, what did he say now, something about going out, he said ‘If you’re going to go out to work I’ll pack up, I’m the breadwinner here’. So mum said ‘I wasn’t arguing about that, I packed it up, didn’t like it very much anyway’.
Q: So she probably never expected she’d have to work at all, did she?
Miss R: No, no. But best of it was, cause she chose the factory because of that and it was harder, it wasn’t so good for her, but the forewoman who had different records and that to do, and things to add up and things, used to take them to me mum to do [laugh], cause she was as sharp as a needle with figures and that.
Q: That’s where you got it from.
Miss R: After she’d retired and the butcher used to come from Loveday’s every day, if you, he used to come when you wanted him, and he’d collect the money on a Saturday. So when he came she used to have the money on the windowsill ready, you see, exact money, and he’d say, he was nearly always wrong, he used to say ‘Oh, yes, yours is so and so’. And she used to say ‘Just add it up again, will you?’ And I was there one day and he said ‘I don’t why I ever query it cause she’s never wrong’. I said ‘No, she’s pretty sharp with that, because people said, have said since, you know about the new money, the decimalisation and that, ‘I feel sorry for the old people’. I said ‘Well I don’t’, I said ‘my mother’d be drawing circles round you any time’, you never heard her mention it. She just, oh that was the new money and that was it. And I never heard her query it at all. She used to give me a five pounds sometimes, and say ‘Bring me five pounds worth of change home from work will you’, cause I used to [???] so she had five pounds worth of change, which was quite a bit then, she always kept it all together in her kitchen drawer, all loose, all over the place, and just pick out what she wanted. So when the people were coming for the insurance, for this and that, it was always on the windowsill in each pile for the exact money, so that she knew where she was, she said.
Q: It sounds as if they were quite something, your parents, weren’t they, one way and another.
Miss R: Yes, they were pretty sharp.
Q: Did she join in with the entertaining side …
Miss R: No. No. She used to say to my dad, I remember it was some British Legion thing. Dad said ‘I’ll go and do …’ he’d got some poem thing he used to say, and mum said ‘For God’s sake remember the words, you make me look a fool when you forget’ [laugh].
Q: I see here there’s the British Legion and different organisations at the funeral. Cause, the Transport and General, you said he was something in the Union?
Miss R: He used to collect the money, he was secretary at one time, he got a bit fed up with that lot. Well, I think like, they used to do things with the stock books, you know, well that’s only to see how many you can turn out in a certain number of minutes isn’t it, that’s done, cause really if you look at it they’ve got to know otherwise they can’t price the product, could they. Dad used to come home and he used to say to mum, ‘I’d fed up with it’ I said ‘I say to them, ‘Go at a pace you can keep up’, he said ‘don’t go like the bloody clappers and then you grumble afterwards cause you can’t keep it up’. He said ‘it didn’t matter what I said, when they came round, they worked like mad’. It was silly wasn’t it.
Q: They were trying to set a regular time for the job you mean?
Miss R: Yes. I mean they’re bound to time a job, how else can you make a business.
Q: I remember talking to Fred Cook, he used to be the time man at one time, I think he had a hard time of it, cause it wasn’t a very popular job was it. He was a quite clever bloke I think.
Miss R: Oh yes, I remember, that’s right. You see when these fellows went round as I say, they have to have a job timed, but all they’d got to do was to go at the reasonable rate. Not dead slow, but at a pace you could keep up, so in the end I think dad got fed up with the Union, he wasn’t …
Q: So it was the other workers he got fed up with. I made a note to ask you, were they involved in politics at all, did he get involved with any political parties [???] about the Labour party, did he do anything with them especially? It just mentions that there were some people from the Labour party at the funeral really. I wondered if he was involved with the Union whether he went to along to Labour Party things as well.
Miss R: Yes, I think he was a, yes, he did a lot with them. That’s why he’d got the different people he knew all over the place. There was always somebody trotting round for something. Yes.
Q: He was just sort of going out as far as you were concerned, you didn’t know a lot about what he was doing yourself.
Miss R: Not really. He always seemed to have a meeting, yes, he was on the committee at the Co-op and …
Q: An active chap then/
Miss R: Well I think they were in those days, because Witham was only small, wasn’t it, so they all got about with …
Q: Was that Mr Burrows, was he something to do with it?
Miss R: Yes I think he was in it, and then he went on the Council, so he knew both the Burrows’s, and I think between them they did a lot, yes.
Q: Something else I was going to ask you about, you said about yourself going out to dances and things like that. (Miss R: Yes.) Was there a lot of that sort of thing for you to do in Witham, entertainments and things, when you were growing up?
Miss R: Yes, and then I used to run the Brownie pack. (Q: Oh did you?) I went into the Guides and then another girl and I [???] there’s no Brownies, they’d packed up some years before, so we started it up with the Guide captain, got an eye on us and then we ran it, and then of course the War came and they commandeered every hut and hall there was in the place for the soldiers and we used to have the, we went in the hut, the YMCA hut that used to be, you know the Church House [Collingwood Road] and there’s some houses at the side, well that was along there, so the Co-op Hall, everywhere had got thingummies in it, so we didn’t meet for a few weeks, and by this time there was quite a lot of bombing going on and bombing, they didn’t all set out to bomb Witham but if the barrage was extra heavy at London they used to drop them on the way back. So we put the beds downstairs.
And mum said ‘Here’, she said ‘there’s not much left in that front bedroom’ she said, ‘you push all the stuff back you can have your Brownie meetings up there’. So that’s what we did. Because for a time I think, I don’t know if that was war time, I think it must have been, we had a room at the Guithavon Street school. Oh but Miss Welland was a pain in the neck, we were, I know we left it clean but she didn’t like us having it, and then I don’t know how that stopped but it did, and then after that when all the soldiers had all gone we had the Church House, so actually it kept going all right. We didn’t get much done up there but they used to play their little games and that was somewhere for them to go. Then the, see clothes were rationed so of course the uniforms were hard to get, and we had a rummage sale and somebody gave two beautiful nightdresses of Victorian times, they were beautiful, they were all hand made and tucked and frilled and it was beautiful fine linen, so I thought well, if I unpicked all of those, died it, I could make a couple of uniforms, so I sent to the headquarters and got a pattern, and I unpicked these things and died them, and with the uniforms, instead of them ever being wasted, cause we’d still those that were all bought, you know by people, and some of them used to pay every week and things, and I used to give them half a crown for them, and charge the new child half a crown, and when she got too big or she was old enough to leave, you got the uniform back, gave them the half crown back, and charged the new … so it never actually cost them any money, and these two that I made, they were all right, the thing they faded after a time because it was, it wasn’t proper dye was it really, but they looked all right.
Q: Very enterprising, yes. That was quite a lot of work for you wasn’t it, I suppose you got used to it.
Miss R: Yes so really we kept busy, you know.
Q: But you managed to go out and enjoy yourself as well.
Miss R: Oh yes, yes. But, oh dear oh dear, I don’t know what the uniforms were like thinking back on it, I reckon they were a bit home made, but nobody said anything and …
Q: I suppose, was there less going on in the war time in the way of dances and things …?
Miss R: There was quite a bit, the British Legion used to hold a dance ever so regularly at the Church House, and there was various other things. A few times when the Yanks came we went on a lorry and got to their dances. That was nice because they’d always got plenty of cake to eat, so that’s what we used to do [laugh].
Q: That must have been quite a good thing. Were they camping nearby or …?
Miss R: Yes, cause Rivenhall and Silver End, all round. There was places really that, like the villages in Norfolk that you’ve never heard of, actually a lot of those, as I’m doing the Norfolk ones for the Mickleburghs [family history] a lot of those villages I’ve heard of before because there were air places in every one of them.
Q: But they were actually staying at Rivenhall, they actually camped there or whatever were they, at Rivenhall airfield?
Miss R: Mm. The first people to go in were the Yanks and then they moved out, must have been ’44, late ’45 they had RAF there, but they were more or less, I don’t know whether you’d call them a regiment or what, but a lot of them, some had come from the Middle East and that, and some had come from here, so they were a mixed bunch. And then when they went they had all the Polish people go there and they were put into the huts and that there.
Q: I don’t know a lot about the war time in Witham, I mean, what can you remember that was special?
Miss R: Nothing special really. I mean really we weren’t worried a lot about what was going on, I mean my friend and I, she was in Cressing Road and my mother was round there and Sheila and I were going to a dance at the Crittall Social Club and we were all ready, and her dad came in and he said, cause there was an air raid on, he said ‘Can’t go’ he said ‘there’s mobile guns all up the road’. Anyway we did go in the end. [laugh] Cause you didn’t really think, we knew they hadn’t come to bomb us, it was only if you got the chance time one, and these, well I don’t suppose the guns helped did they?
Q: So the mobile guns were the ones on the ground?
Miss R: Yes, on vehicles like. Sometimes if the barrage was hit you would get … Cause there was two dropped, you know Church Street and the field that’s behind it, well there’s Glebe Crescent there now. There was Glebe Crescent and there’s the river walk, you know that bit, the river walk, well along there, and the Glebe Crescent wasn’t there, so we backed right onto the field, there were two bombs dropped and neither went off. So they detonated them the next day. And Doll’s brother was in the area and he called round and the back door was wide open, it had been blown open, so he fixed that and the plaster from the side just had to go back the best it could, it blew out the window in the shed, not the glass, it just … but that left two big bomb holes, well what happened to the first I don’t know, whether it just gradually filled in, but it was not long before I left work, I’d got the dog down there and there’s a stream, I don’t think it flows across now, but you get half way and there’s a hedge there and there’s the houses here, and there’s a stream going across there to the river, and it was full of wreaths and sheaths of flowers and ribbons, and the cards, and they were everywhere, plus the fact they were in this bomb crater, so I saw a man who used to be over there a lot with a big black dog, and he said ‘Where the devil are this lot coming from?’ I said ‘I don’t know but it’s a bit disgusting’ I said, ‘there’s cards there with ‘Memory of dear aunt so and so’ and all this sort of thing, and I saw him another day, he said ‘I found out about that, he said ‘they’re clearing them from the cemetery, he said ‘I met the thing’, he was on a tractor thing, and he said ‘Oh we’ve been told to put them here’. So I thought, I said ‘Well that’s a bit of all right, isn’t it.’ So the kids were throwing all these wreaths everywhere else, so when I got to work the next day I phoned up Kath Richards who was on the Council, so she said ‘They’re what?’ So I told her. So she said ‘Well I’ll enquire into this.’ So she came back on the phone later and she said ‘Well, as usual, it’s Mr Nobody, nobody knows anything about it’. I said ‘Well somebody must have told him to go’ so she said ‘Yes, I said, well it won’t take them long to fill up will it, and then what are they going to do’, I said, ‘and anyway that bomb crater was quite popular’. She said ‘Was it?’. I said ‘Well the kids played in it’. So she said ‘Well in your view was it dangerous, being so near to the pathway?’ So I said ‘Well no’, I said, ‘It was a few yards away and dash it all it’s been there since the mid forties and nobody’s fallen in it yet’. So she said ‘Well I’ve rung up a couple of other Councillors and we’re going to look at it tomorrow at ten o’clock, can you be there?’ So I said ‘no I’m at work’, so she said ‘Oh I’ll let you know the result’. So they had a look and they’d got so many wreaths in it then they arranged for it to be, soil to be put over. But why somebody thought of that I don’t know, it wasn’t big enough to take many. And I said to her ‘It’s not very pleasant’, I said, ‘if you’ve given a wreath to somebody and then find out there it is’ so she agreed, she said it should have never have happened, but she said ‘It’s too late to do anything about it, it was full.
I said ‘The thing is, if the children hadn’t knocked down the garage he’d never have got on to that pathway, it was only because the kids knocked down the garage that he could cut around and get there.
Q: Do you remember any of the bombs dropping at all?
Miss R: Oh yes, they bombed the Cressing, Cherry Tree, that had a Molotov breadbasket on it that was all it had but it set a few fires off. Cause we were in the, there was a lot going that night cause mum and I stood in the pantry cause it was partly under the stairs there, and I thought as I stood there, if it rattles much more that saucepan’s going to come down on my head. But anyway it seemed to be all over so I said ‘What if the Cherry Tree’s on fire, let’s go and have a look’. So we went up there to see, and Olive Hutley by this time, she’s living this way near us, so she said, she was a fat woman, there she was standing there, she said gruffly ‘Blooming daft to go and have a look’.
Q: What, she was up Church Street?
Miss R: Yes, she lived about four doors from us. She sort of, funny really, cause she used to comment like she, the girl next door to me she was younger than me and she used to go sit and have a couple of hours with her sometimes, and Pam then used to tell us what was said. She said ‘Old Olive said to me last night, “Arthur and them, what have they been doing” she said “That line was full of nightdresses and pyjamas and things”’ So I said ‘Well, really what it was, I remember why it was, the weather changes doesn’t it, and you discard one, and it was the previous week’s washing. Another time she said ‘They’ve washed ever so many knickers over …’ So it was Doll’s[?] and my washing gone out at the same time, cause we used to do our own, the sheets were put in the thingummy but we used to each do our own washing, Doll and I had washed more or less the same time. So we said ‘Oh, right’. So the next weekend we got every pair we’d got in the house, clean and dry and everything, and hung them all out. [laugh] Funny really. You know, you don’t realise anybody’s looking at what you’ve got on the line, do you.
Q: Did you think people were more, took a lot more notice of each other? Or was it just her? Was everybody watching out for everybody else, do you think?
Miss R: I don’t really know, we were always too busy, you know by the time we’d got home and …
Q: I suppose again, I was asking you about the war but you were both working hard then weren’t you, so you didn’t have much time to make any difference.
Miss R: Yes. See, Doll worked every other week nights at Silver End. She didn’t have any say in it, that’s where you were put, that’s where she had to be. Mum was at Crittall’s and I was BOC [British Oxygen Company] but I had to register for, my age group was the first to register for the Forces. The girl before me who was older, she had to register and, not for the Forces but some had to register for munition work, and then they brought out registering for the Forces. And but of course you see, really, I’d have had to have been put on clerical work, and the clerical work there was just as important as it would have been in the Forces. And anyway, I had my thing, form to go to Colchester, and I’d got to go this particular day, I think it was a Tuesday, and on the Monday about four o’clock the boss said ‘You haven’t got to go tomorrow’, which was a shame because I’d got a list of shopping to get in Colchester from all the girls, because we weren’t allowed to go to Colchester. So, couldn’t go that way you see, you could go that way, not that way. So ‘oh good, I can half a day in Colchester here’. And anyway he said ‘You’re deferred’. So every six months for all of us girls we had to apply for deferment. There was only girl went, and we never did know why he didn’t defer her but he didn’t. Unless they thought, they took one as a token, you know, we’ve had one of them.
But they didn’t let us go that way at all, not to the coast, cause, well it was if, the invasion you see, so they evacuated Clacton, we didn’t want to go there anyway with all the barbed wire on the beach and stuff like that, and then when my friend and I wanted to go on holiday, we couldn’t find anywhere to go, it was 1944, you couldn’t go on the south coast, you couldn’t go on the east coast, so Mum said ‘Well there’s only one thing for it, you’ll have to go to your auntie Florrie’s’ [laugh]. So we had to go to auntie Florrie’s, but the thing was, she watched us like a hawk, and we said, well on the Saturday night we’re going to the dance at New Brighton. ‘Our Reg’ll take you’. Sheila looked at me and I looked at Sheila but anyway our Reg took us?
Q: She was in Liverpool was she? Was she in Liverpool or Manchester?
Miss R: She was in Wallasey see, so, when she married she was living in Liverpool, they hadn’t lived there many years, and she moved to, across the water to Wallasey, which was, that was all residential, they’d got no thingummies there but what they did have was loads and loads of bombs because when the docks were so, they protected the docks so much and the planes, … so she lost, she had several lots of incendiaries, and then finally they had a land mine and that didn’t fall on theirs, it fell on the next the road, and sucked her house away more or less.
Q: Anyway so Reg took you. Did he stay there to take you home again as well?
Miss R: Oh he stopped with us all the time. (Q: All the time in the dance?) Nice boy. (Q: Was he your cousin?). He was my cousin. The other cousin was by then in the forces and then Reg had to go, and they all went, now what regiment did they go to, it was quite a good one, and when the youngest one, he went, he must have been National Service, the war was over with him, but each brother could claim the other one so they all went into the same regiment. The oldest one he drove a scout car, and I don’t know, it was France or Germany, and one stage they didn’t know where they were and lost their way and then when they did find where they were it was all German troops, well they were scared stiff so they kept still and waited ages and then they eventually got out of it …
Q: Do you remember many of the lads from Witham going off and not coming back?
Miss R: Oh yes, I’ll tell you what happened, a lot of them were in the Essex Regiment, and they were, a lot of them they’d had a, must have had a sort of push on to get people into the Territorials because my friend her brother, well they my second cousins actually, he was in the Territorials, they did it to get a few extra bob, and one of my dad’s sisters, her husband was in it. So they went in about the July time I think, and the regiment was captured at, I don’t know, Libya or somewhere, and they spent the rest of the war in the thingummy. The fellow that used to live next door, he was in the Air Force, and he was shot down over Germany, so he, he was a prisoner of war. My dad’s brother Sid, his younger son, his older son was a pilot and the other son was a signaller, and the war had just ended, the war in Europe, had just ended, and he was twenty in the June, and he was due home on leave, and they were just idling the time away before it was time to come away like on the Friday, and they looked in and said ‘Oh yes, you, you and you had got so many hours flying time, get up’ and they did and they were struck down by lightning.
Q: Oh no.
Miss R: Sad really isn’t he was a lovely boy.
Miss R: Got is photograph … [looking] … Oh that’s Dennis, just before he was shot down, I mean brought down.
[looking at other photos of the family etc, not noted]
Q: So your grandfather you knew quite well then. So he was the one with all the children. Oh you’ve got another lot. So that’s your family tree and all that is it?
Miss R: Oh yes, that’s the family tree.
Q: It must be good to live in the same place where they all were.
Miss R: That’s the only one I’ve got, I’ll do another one. I know where they were and all that so I haven’t put anything about that.
Q: This was your mum, Gladys, Mackenzie is that. He died in ’34. That was a big change for her coming down here, I must say, but I suppose people, she got accustomed to it.
Miss R: She said it was wonderful, she loved it. But yes, that.
[chat about copying family trees etc. not noted
Q: I’m interested in the Miss Pattissons because I don’t know if you saw in the paper the other, a few weeks ago, there was two chaps called Pattisson came down. (Miss R: Yes, because they’d spelt it wrongly [i.e. Pattisson Close]. Although they knew a lot about their family, they don’t seem to have known about these Miss Pattissons, so I must find out a bit more about them some time. The ones that lived in Witham. So what were you going to say about …
Miss R: Well, she was a very nice lady, something to do with the Sunday School, I think, that’s how I sort of knew her. And very nice. Well the first year that, 1920 Christmas, that was the first year my mum and dad were married and they’d got these rooms at the back of those houses in Bridge Street. And she had made some home made stuff, she didn’t say home made wine, she said something else, I don’t know what it was but it was intoxicating, and she said it was quite strong, well that was a good Christmas because although my dad was out of work, he was lucky, one of his brothers gave him a ticket for the cricket club raffle, and he won the first prize, the bicycle which was extremely lucky, she said it was the best Christmas we ever had. And he won something else, and he made himself, got a box and put some wheels on it. Then he contacted somebody with a load of potatoes, and he went round the streets with his thing with potatoes in it and she said he did a roaring trade, he did all the roads round that end.
And so she said we were quite well off. And she made this stuff, and I don’t know what day it was over Christmas but there were some people round there, and of course he’d been one of them, who’d had a little bit too much, and he was living in Mill Lane with his father and his sister then, and he came out full of joys of spring cause he was like that, and who should be going down Bridge Street but Miss Pattisson. And course he went right up to her and waltzed her all round Bridge Street. And the next day he came to. He felt awful, cause she was somebody to be respected, you see. So he got himself ready and he went up to her house and said he’d come to apologise. And she said ‘Not at all Mr Rice, I thoroughly enjoyed it’ [laugh]. I bet he did feel silly, too.
Q: I could see he was worried, but he was brave to go and see her wasn’t he.
Miss R: Yes, yes, well I think with being small he’d got to bump into her sometime hadn’t he. And I suppose that’s how when they were brought up, you know, that they’d got to … anyway she thoroughly enjoyed it, I expect she did, she took it in the spirit it was done, cause he wasn’t nasty or anything, he’d just had enough to make him extra merry.
Q: Cause the vicars as you say were all part of that, really. Do you remember much about the vicars and the church and everything like that?
Miss R: No. Well there was old Gussy Campbell, who was the vicar when we were at school. So he used to prance round at intervals. He was a bachelor and we always used to laugh and say we reckoned he was after Miss Welland [headmistress]. [laugh] I don’t think he was. She always used to be all smiles when he was there. But there was him, I don’t think we went a bundle on him, but I don’t know I never spoke to the man really. [???] You just didn’t speak to him, I mean he wouldn’t be bothered with us.
Q: Even though you went to Sunday School?
Miss R: He wasn’t at the Sunday School, there used to be Mrs Newman and different people that ran it, and Miss Pattisson. I can’t remember in what context I remember her but I know she was to the Sunday School but that bit’s a bit muddled. I don’t know quite where I was or where I saw her. But I know she was a very nice lady. And the Miss Luards were too, I mean, there was Edie, who sat upright on a sit and beg bike, and she was nice. Gertie was the scatty one, people used to say she was I don’t know, you say a lot of things when you’re kids and you’ll not really know whether you’re right or wrong, do you. Then there was Alice, the Grey Lady, who only came home at intervals. But Gertie was the collector. Gertie was the one that was frog marched out of the house [laugh]. I expect really they wondered what had hit them, didn’t they.
Q: Yes. After the War [First] as you say, they weren’t quite, they weren’t in charge the same.
Miss R: They no longer ruled a certain section, did they. Those days were over.
Q: Cause it seemed to be the same in a lot of places, I suppose it was in the First World War a lot the men were killed weren’t they, there were a lot of ladies like that at home, and, who did all these useful things really, didn’t they. Do you remember any of the vicars after, which vicar was it that your grandfather had the dispute with, it was an earlier one …
Miss R: I don’t know. Yes, I don’t know. Probably up in the church he was vicar of what or what. Yes, you see, that was my mother who told me cause she used to tell me every funny thing like that, but [whisper] the Rices don’t say anything about it.
My cousin Betty said, something she said, oh she was looking at the tree and she said [whisper] ‘Did you hear about Uncle Bert’s christening, stuck in Feering[?] in her house [???].That was funny, I thought it did that vicar good I should think cause you don’t talk to people, well they did then, didn’t they.
Q: Just to assume …
Miss R: I bet he wasn’t talked to like that before or since [laugh] I reckon he just hit a raw spot. I expect if the truth was known, grandad didn’t want to be there in the first place. I expect that was what it was.
Q: Did you go to church on Sunday, I know you went to Sunday school, but did your parents and your grandfather go to Church themselves?
Miss R: No. No. They had done. Like my grandad he used to play the band in the All Saints when he was a kid, but, no, he gave up that lark, and mum didn’t go, she went to the Congregational when she first came here but she said they were, didn’t mix very well so she, and I don’t think she pushed herself enough anyway. So she didn’t go there any more. But I used to go on a Sunday morning sometimes. I used to like All Saints. But I don’t like it now, not now it’s altered.
Q: What, All Saints, you mean?
Miss R: It was a nice church that was, it used to have a children’s corner at the beginning, when we were little at school we used to have to take it in turns to clean it out. Never wanted cleaning, it was always clean. [laugh] Yes. We used to have to go there for, like in the morning, for like Saints days and things like that, and All Saints day we used to have to take flowers and put on people’s graves that were round the church that didn’t have any flowers on. My mum used to say, cause that’s November the something isn’t it, All Saints day. ‘Rare time to have to take flowers when we haven’t got any in the garden [laugh]. Yes. And we used to go Easter every day at Easter. But we quite liked … there are some of them now that were at school then and they say ‘Oh lovely on a Sunday when they have the things, all the things we sung at school’, I said ‘Till they put the wrong words to the wrong tunes’ and they said yes, don’t like that. We did like that.
Q: Yes. I think you were quite musical really but, you were probably quite musical weren’t you with your family, your dad …
Miss R: I don’t’ know really, I suppose so yes. Used to have nice records and that. They had a wind up gramophone when we were in Cressing Road earlier on before the radios and that, and they had some lovely records they did, dad used to like choirboys singing, mum said ‘they’ve got empty voices, I don’t like them’. I said ‘Yes, dad’s right’, mum said ‘You shut up, you’re only agreeing with your father’. I often[?] here a tune now, that was a record I suppose they all got thrown away. They wouldn’t be any good now on these would they. Although that, can’t buy records for that if you wanted to now.
[chat about tape recorders etc., not noted]
Q: The cinema was open, did the cinema stay open during the war?
Miss R: Yes. Oh that was good, yes. We used to have pretty old ones, because every time you went there was the big picture, you know, the main thing, and the second one, which was probably shorter or something, it was always a cowboy, cause when Doll’s brother used to come down here, I don’t know as he went to the pictures, I don’t know, he might have looked to see what was on, and he used to laugh cause he used to say he reckoned Hopalong Cassidy had made a special bunch all for Witham, because that’d always got Hopalong Cassidy. And, yes, they were quite, it was quite good. Then they shut down. And then they opened it again and did it one night, every night but from seven o’clock, just the one showing. And then, we had some good pictures, they were really quite up to date, and then Braintree kicked up because they said they were, they should have certain pictures before, after Braintree, not before, so the man had to close it. I can’t understand how they got away with that. I think the cinemas are graded aren’t they, I don’t know if it’s an A B C D thing, or what, but I think they were graded.
Q: I didn’t realise that’s why it was, yes.
Miss R: But when we were kids we used to go, have fourpence to go, threepence to go in and a penny for a packet of pastilles. [laugh]
Q: Did you ever go outside of, you say during the war you couldn’t go to Colchester, I mean would you normally have gone outside of Witham sometimes, (Miss R: During the War?) shopping, if you could, sort of thing.
Miss R: Wasn’t much to buy really because they were rationed anyway. What we used to do at work after the worst bombing was over, we used to work till half past twelve on a Saturday. So then several of us used to go up to London and go into a show, get a snack somewhere, it wouldn’t be much but you could get a snack somewhere and we used to go in a show and then come back early evening. We got quite expert at counting how many stations there was, there were, to a certain spot where you wanted to go, because with the windows all meshed out, and just a little diamond to look through, unless that diamond showed exactly opposite the station name you didn’t know, did you, so you used to look at the thing and then say ‘Oh, six stops to Oxford Circus’, and even today I never look. If I was going to Oxford Circus, [???] Marble Arch if I wanted to go to a shop there, I just sit there and think ‘Oh yes, eight stops, Marble Arch, get out’.
Q: That’s clever.
Miss R: It just sort of comes to you see.
Q: So you had plenty of, you must have had a lot of energy in those days, cause people seemed to work very hard but they also did all these other things didn’t they.
Miss R: Yes. Bearing in mind too you might have been up half the night, mightn’t you.
Q: Yes. What you might have been up half the night, you mean during the War?
Miss R: Well if the bombers were over. We used to have an argument. Sometimes we didn’t bother, and mother came, ‘They’re only going over there, we’re not getting up waiting for that lot in case they drop the odd one’ and then Olive Hutley said to Pam [???] ‘Hard hearted lot there, they don’t get up every time the…’. I said ‘Neither would she if she’d got to stand all day in the factory’. But you know, sometimes you did, if it got bad and you didn’t quite know, if they weren’t getting through, you’d think, might think ‘Well we might get the chance one’. Well also, I was a fire watcher because you had to enrol for that, you could either be put to First Aid down at the police station, or I was put to fire watching. And at the end of the War I was given a badge for fire watching, or I think it was.
We had to, there was stirrup pumps and there, when the warning went you were supposed to go outside, I don’t know what I was going to do I’m sure. And Mr Winder[?] next door, he was a dear old boy, he was, he couldn’t read or write, he worked at Ratcliff’s farm over there, he was a lovely man, and he used to come along and knock on the door and say ‘Warning’s gone, all you in there, don’t worry about your fire watch missy, cause I’m going to do it for you’. So he always used to stand outside and do my… I never did stand out and do my fire watch. I mean it didn’t matter cause they didn’t drop any on us, but I mean, it was just a few of us did it.
Q: This was at the house? At the house, this was, was it?
Miss R: Mm.
Q: Cause did they have extra precautions at the factory. Yes, when they first went, when the War first started, we’d got an air raid shelter at the back of our place, right next door to the coolers and everything else, and course they used to send these lone planes over. Don’t suppose they’d got a bomb on them, I don’t know. So everybody left their work and went into the shelters. Well, of course they were wasting thousands of man hours weren’t they, all along the country. So they devised a system whereby they put people up on the roof, and then if something, the warning went you didn’t take any notice, and then if something was coming they sounded a thing and it went Uh Uh Uh Uh, right over the place. Crittall’s did ours, you see, and then you got under your desk. [at British Oxygen] But I don’t think we ever did. And when they dropped them, when they said they bombed Crittall’s when they came over the first time that time, the warning had gone, we didn’t take any notice, and Mr Sharp our boss looked and he went outside, and I’m right near the door so I followed him, and he looked up and saw the plane before me, and he dived between, the galvanising at Crittall’s had sort of things sticking out, I suppose they were taking air or fumes or something, and he dived beside one of them, I thought ‘Funny man’, and then I looked up and I thought one, two, three, four, five, six bombs, and they’d just left the plane so they came down like that. So I went like that. They went boom boom boom boom boom, one after the other, and then they shifted us into the thingummy but there was nothing else, they didn’t hurt the place.
Q: You sound very carefree about it all. Were you not frightened at all?
Miss R: Were sometimes. It wasn’t the [???] that frightened you, it was the news too, and all the ships being sunk and you thought perhaps we wouldn’t win after all. And then Churchill used to come on, you’d feel a lot better after Churchill, cause he, I mean I know they often take fun of it now, but if they’d have lived then they’d have realised what it was like. But, the second time they came over it was, did I tell you this, when they, second time they said they came over to bomb Crittall’s or wherever. It was a horrible day, it was pouring with rain, and mum had gone to work, she used to leave just after seven. She’d gone, and I’d got, Doll used to get in, she was on nights, so she went and set the table. And then I heard this plane. I don’t think there was a warning on, I thought that’s not one of ours, cause you could tell the difference in the engines, so I flew out of the back door and there was this thing, it was along there, it was along those fields, and it had a big cross on it, and it was low, so I knew he was doing his bomb run, so I shot into the kitchen and I got under the kitchen table, and that was pretty loud, so when that had gone, I thought ‘I bet Church Street’s half down’, but it wasn’t, there was nothing to see. And soon afterwards, about half hour afterwards, Doll came in, she’d got an attache case, cause you didn’t have bags in those days, where she’d took different things to work, her sandwiches and that, she’d got a case like that. So I said, ‘What’s wrong with that’. She said ‘Well mate, she said, going along that bus up the Rickstones Road, further up there, this plane got rid of its bombs so he didn’t know what else to do with his time, so he flew up there, saw the bus, and came down and he machine gunned it.
So the bus pulled up and they tumbled out into the ditch and, they didn’t hurt, I don’t think they hit the bus cause they came further on over, I don’t suppose he was a very good aimer, I don’t know, and Doll said, ‘Got the handle off my case mate’, cause the men were such a hurry to get out they knocked us all flying and one knocked the case right out of my hand with the handle off’’. So she said ‘That’s men for you isn’t it’. So we had our breakfast, she said ‘I wonder how your mum’s getting on’, so she said ‘We’d better go and find out hadn’t we’, so I said ‘Yes’, it was still pouring with rain, so we went down to Crittall’s and different ones came out, but she didn’t come out, and they said ‘Oh no, there’s one where the shelter was a bit mucked up and they were getting them out’. She didn’t say that that was her, she didn’t say it was difficult, I don’t think it was the shelter that was difficult to get of, there might have been a bit of mess further up, but she didn’t say anything about the shelter being, it wasn’t mucked up or anything. Then she came out. Then when I went to go to work they said ‘You can’t come in today’ because all the glass had been blown out, and they’d got to fill all the place up and put new windows in. Good job they didn’t get that oxygen, wasn’t it, would have blown that lot sky high. I don’t think …
Q: Must have been frightening.
Miss R: So the next day we went in and that was all all right, and I sort of got on with my work …
Q: It must have been frightening in that bus though, was she upset about that?
Miss R: Yes, it’s a dirty trick isn’t it, cause he knew it was only people in it. Doll didn’t say ever after whether it was frightening, she was too busy on about how the men had knocked her as she got off the bus, and then she lost the handle of her case. To lose the handle of her case was something, cause where could she buy another one from. We [???] but she was pretty annoyed about that.
Q: So was it hard to get things like that as well I suppose.
Miss R: Yes, everything, cause if you were like, household things were missing. First of all you gave up a lot of your saucepans if they were the right material, to go to munitions, cause there was such a shortage, so they took up a lot of people’s railings from gardens, and they also said to give up any saucepans and utensils you could that would help, so we did all that. We had got, it was enamel I think, colander, you know. When mum did her vegetables she used to put all the peelings in that and go to the bin, you didn’t wrap anything up, no paper, put them in the bin. Well she reckoned one day, when she looked for it, she must have tipped the whole thing in the bin and we hadn’t got one. So I couldn’t see it really mattered about one of them, but still, she didn’t like being without one, and there was none about, and then one day, I was cycling one Saturday afternoon, cycling over the station bridge, somebody I didn’t know that side, got one in her hand, cause, you see nothing’s wrapped. So I pulled up right in quick and said ‘Could you tell me where you got that from?’ So she said ‘Woolworth’s dear, you hurry you might get one’. I said ‘Did they have any left?’. She said ‘Yes they did’, so shot into Woolworth’s and there was a queue, so I joined the queue, you always joined a queue whatever, you didn’t find out what was in it, cause whilst you were finding out what was in it, the queue got longer, so what you did was say ‘What are we queuing for?’ ‘I don’t know dear, I’ll ask this one’ It’d come down the line. So then you’d stand in the queue, well this day I tapped the woman, I said ‘Are we queuing for colanders?’ She said ‘Yes’. So I said ‘Let’s hope they’ve got some left when we get there then.’ And they had, and that lasted for years.
Q: So word had got round.
Miss R: Used to queue for every mortal thing. It was the thing to do that you joined the queue and found out afterwards. Cause nine times out of ten you’d want it wouldn’t you. Cause nothing was wrapped, you see. [laugh]
Q: So where did you shop mostly for your food and that sort of thing?
Miss R: Well we went just at Howes[?] cause we used to go to the Co-op because when dad went on the Committee, he had to be, which he did do at Braintree Road Co-op anyway.
But she had her milk off an ordinary milkman that came round with a jug and that. And they, somebody at the Committee said he’d have to get his milk, they must have looked. Mum was wild. She didn’t like, well she said, if somebody served you right, she didn’t like changing. Anyway she had to change to the Co-op. Well when we came to live up here, she said, we still had the Co-op milk, but she said ‘oh, can’t keep going Braintree Road Co-op’, we’ll have that shop down the road. It was cash stores, and everything was the same price then anyway, so we went there, and then, and he used to deliver like the Co-op, and he used to, we used to register with him. And then was the butcher’s next door which was Lovedays, and we registered there for our meat.
Q: This was just down Church Street?
Miss R: Yes, in St Nicholas Close.
Q: And that was where, was it Howes you said.
Miss R: Yes.
Q: I see, that was there as well was it?
Miss R: Yes, he was a good shop, and if he got any extras he used to put them in with stuff, but if it was something you didn’t eat you just used to take it back to him. And you’d get quite a lot of stuff from there. All our basic rations came from there, plus tea and stuff like that. And our rations for meat came from Loveday’s at the side. And every third week at one time you could get half a pound of liver, but he kept it to every, so different people had it different times, half a pound of liver. And Saturdays we used to queue up at Cook’s [5 Newland Street] and might get some sausages if you were lucky. I don’t know, it was just all right, you see we had our meals at the canteen our main meals, so we just used to say fry up the liver and that for tea, so that was all right. And I suppose there was a bit of fish. Don’t know, there wasn’t much fish and we weren’t out when the shops were open really, except Saturday. Mum smoked a bit, Doll smoked a bit, and we had to, didn’t smoke all that much, so we used to queue up and get some odd cigarettes, and Doll and I used to go out Saturday afternoon, [???] shopping and go round the town and Candy King used let me have a bit of cake like this, and ..
Q: Who was that, sorry?
Miss R: Candy King, that wasn’t what was over his shop, King was over his shop, we used to call him Candy King, where the corner of Maldon Road and it goes like that and that was a sweet shop and a paper shop, so he used to let us have a quarter of sweets between us, and this piece of fruit cake, and that was a regular order. Then we used to trail from shop to shop, get any packet of cigarettes there was, and perhaps go to wherever, and then we put our little bits out when we got home on the kitchen table, and mum used to come and look and say ‘Is that all you could manage to get?’. Well she did it on purpose. And, yes, that was … One day I had a bit of luck, I went down there and Luckin and Smith’s, didn’t deal there, but they’d got Golden syrup, and it was in a glass jar which was unusual, and it hadn’t got Tate and Lyle it had got Criddle[?] over it, never heard of them, they were a north country thing. Well in those days, what was sold one end of the country wasn’t sold the other, was it, so, I thought, it looked lovely, so of course I couldn’t scamper home quick enough with that. I said ‘Look what I’ve got’. So she picked it up, ‘Cor that’s good’, she was pleased with it too, ‘Well I never, I’ve never seen that name since I lived in Liverpool. She said and her father went to work there, and she said they never ever paid for sick benefit, he’d only been there two years when he developed cancer, and he was ill for two years, and she said ‘Every week they paid him his wages for the two years he was ill until he died’. And they said that wasn’t normal practice for them, but he’d such a conscientious worker, they’d never had one so conscientious, that they paid him. It was marvellous really. She said ‘Oh they were a good firm’ so we ate that up.
Q: What were they called?
Miss R: Criddle[?] You never hear them now.
Q: So it was quite an art, shopping, then. It was quite an art doing the shopping.
Miss R: Oh yes, cause you had to go where the shop was, and get what you could, and it was all sort of crammed into just a couple of hours on a Saturday.
Q: And the Co-op was something a bit special then? That you sort of joined and you were a member of.
Miss R: Yes. So she. Anyway she said it wasn’t worth going all the way to the Co-op not for that, so we just went to Howes, and he was good, and he’d deliver.
Q: Did that embarrass your dad a bit, if he was on the Committee? It was difficult for him if he was on the Committee?
Miss R: Funny checking up on where they got their milk, wasn’t it. I reckon he’d [???] it to them. She wasn’t very pleased at all. We used to. I know where we were getting it, we were getting it from the Cherry Tree. He used to deliver twice a day. He used to milk his cows and then go down the road and deliver the milk.
Q: They had cows there did they? At the Cherry Tree. He had cows of his own.
Miss R: Oh yes. Then he had the cherry orchard you see. He used to make wine with that and sell that once. And you could buy cherries round, well, well after the War you could go to the side gate there and get cherries off them.
Q: I remember seeing the trees, they’ve not long gone have they really?
Miss R: I suppose they were all past it by then. Then they sold, the brewery sold it for those other houses didn’t they. I don’t think I should want one of those. Right on that, those that back onto the line are not too good, because before one was occupied somebody’d had a brick through those patio doors, cause they hang about on that top there.
Q: So the Cherry Tree was a pub as well, was it then.
Miss R: It was a beer house, he wasn’t licensed for wines and spirits.
Q: And he had the cows in the field as well.
Miss R: Yes.
Q: Did your folks go to the pub much, for entertainment?
Miss R: Yes.
Q: I suppose that was the handy one for Cressing Road wasn’t it.
Miss R: And anybody passing through, you see. He’d had it for donkeys’ years I think, then he died and the daughter ran it and then the daughter got married and they ran it between them.
Q: What was his name?
Miss R: Turnage.
Q: Oh yes I remember.
Miss R: He used to have his grey hair parted down here and then he had kiss curls all round on his forehead. And some of the troops, well like troops, a Yank or two would go in and they thought that was right quaint you see, [???]
Q: Cause did they have any British troops stationed around here?
Miss R: Did at first, yes, that was when they put them in the Co-op Hall and places like that, and then they all vanished and they were only there short times you see and then they pushed on somewhere else. Like they did in the First World War. I think they put them everywhere and some of those were even put into people’s houses.
Q: I suppose this was on the way out to the Continent, wasn’t it. It’s hard to imagine what is was like then, in war time. You sort of say you just carried on as usual but it was a lot different really wasn’t it.
Miss R: I suppose younger people, when you’ve got other things to think about, you adapt quicker, I think that is a lot of it. But it was, there were different things, you couldn’t get this and you couldn’t get that and then somebody’d said Bonds which is now Debenhams at Colchester, Chelmsford, got some dustsheets in, you could make dresses out of them. So you couldn’t get to Chelmsford quick enough to buy this flipping floral stuff, that, they’d come by it from a manufacturer I suppose, and the only way they could sell it was to say it was a dust sheet. Stuff like that.
Q: You were obviously pretty good at sewing and that sort of thing from what you say?
Miss R: Well I wasn’t really, it was just a case of having to. I was glad enough to pack that [???]
Q: Did you do much of that at school?
Miss R: Yes, we, they made, they got us some machines at one time, I think there were two, so we had a turn at that, and we had to sew, and embroider. Very hot on that they were.
Q: Well, like we said right at the beginning, it all comes in handy doesn’t it one day.
Miss R: Yes. I never embroidered though. Well I did that old cushion cover there about fifty years ago, there were two. You see there was a tree over the top but it’s worn away, washed away. Can’t find the other one. I put that there cause the other one wasn’t big enough, and I thought ‘Oh I can’t find a cushion cover’, and then I found that. Then that reminded me the second one had gone, I think I threw it away.
Q: [???]. Well done.
Miss R: Other than that I’ve got nothing left. I had to do anything like that, cause Mum wouldn’t sew. Well she could I know, well as soon as she said she couldn’t I thought well you didn’t like it in the first place [???].
Q: That must have been hard for her at work?
Miss R: Marvellous really how she did it, and I know the girl that used to live [???] she went into nursing, she was four years doing her training, then she stayed a bit longer at the London hospital. And she came in here one day, it was after my mother had died, and she came in, one day she was home for the weekend, and they go from different wards when they’re you know … I said ‘What ward are you in this week round there’. She said ‘Oh, cancer.’ I said ‘Oh dear’. Well she said ‘That’s not so bad as some really, cause she said there’s a lot they do do for it. She said ‘The saddest one for me is the clinic for the rheumatoid arthritis, where she said they’ve got a lot of youngsters come in, and you know that they’re never going to be any better’. She said ‘We had a woman come in when I was in it the other week, and she said to me ‘I can’t do a thing with my hands, dear, look at them’. They used to call my mum Rice, they didn’t say Mrs Rice or anything, that wasn’t derogatory or anything, ‘and I thought about Rice’s hands and all she did with hers’. Cause when she was little she used to come in here, and if it was like apple picking time her mum would go out apple picking. Mum used to say ‘Well I’ll have Denise and you go there’. Just showed what she noticed. She had a bread knife with a big wooden handle with ‘bread’ written on it. Now she always did her vegetables in that cause she didn’t have to put her hands round very tight, so she could hold that, and if I came down, doing round on a Sunday and might walk into the kitchen ‘Can I help’, ‘I’m all right, you go and sit and read the paper, you’ve done your lot’. And she did all that, she made the pastry and everything. But I don’t know how she did it. But she said if you don’t use it you can’t use them any more.
Q: I think that’s what they say now, they realise that more now, you’ve got to keep on. Cause when she was at Crittall’s she was on munitions especially was she, so that must have been quite …
I don’t expect the cold did it any good either, cause when she first had it, which was about the June of ’34, she went to the doctors, I don’t know whether she went more than once or when it was, but at about that time, it was Dr Ted she saw, and he said ‘Well I’ll send you to the Charterhouse clinic’, well that was a place that had been in Long Lane in London, I don’t know where it is but she said it was a long lane too, and they went to this clinic, and they prescribed injections and this horrible thick medicine. And he said ‘I’ll send you there, and if it does you any good I’ll try it myself’. So she said ‘That sounded good didn’t it’. Well they didn’t. She had the injections for about a year and then she wouldn’t go any more, she said they’re not doing me any good, I might as well not go. And she continued with the medicine for a time, and then she gave that up. She said ‘That’s not doing any good at all. There’s only one thing for it, I’ll keep just taking the Aspros’.
[more about Aspros and how they can give you cancer if you don’t have enough water with them, not noted]