Things I remember from my childhood
by Connie Beach (nee Yates)

Monday morning was always busy, as people came to pawn their clothes, they then fetched them back after their husbands were paid, ready for dressing up for the weekend. Sometimes their husbands didn't even know they had pawned their best suits.

The interest was something in the region of three halfpence (old money) in the pound {1.5 pence/240 pence = 0.625%}. They also bought bed linen, which had to be wrapped around with a curtain or something and a ticket was placed on the bundle and they had the other half. When they were so bad off they sometimes sold their pawn ticket to other people. If they didn't redeem their goods after 12 months, Mom gave them a warning and if they couldn't raise the money the goods were sold. Hence we always had plenty of bed linen!! Bad old days.

The wages were very poor and there was no family allowance in those days. Sometimes they had to go for help to the Parish as they called it and that was a disgrace.

The Miners had free coal and Grandma used to buy coal tickets for about 1 pound a ton plus what they called "the drawing", about 5/-. 1926, the General Strike, Mom told me all they had in the house was 2 pounds, and if the strike hadn't the broken they would have been bankrupt, and they had no more money to lend.

Grandma belonged to "The Friendly Society", which was before the time when you had a stamp stopped out of your wages {for health insurance}. Dad belonged to the Wolverhampton Hospitals Carnival Executive Committee (1926) and they organised carnivals for charity for the Hospitals.

We always (Mom, Dad and my elder sister Freda) had a float. Mom also had a stall selling cakes and pop, all for charity.

I didn't go to school until I was 6, because of the problem with my glands, the first day Freda took me because Mom couldn't leave the shop and Freda would have longer holidays. (9 years older) because she was at Dudley Girls High School.

We had slates to write on and always had a sleep in the afternoon. There was a fire in the classroom and a fireguard, and we took it in turns to fill the kettle for the Teacher's drink. There was a little girl died in our class and she lived in a small house in Ruiton Street, Upper Gornal and about six of us went to take flowers and we were asked if we wanted to go and see her, I think a few did, but I was terrified.

We always had a Sunday school party on Miss Howell's field (later Prior's Mill) and remember the archways. We used to have stalls in there. There was races and a bag of eats, we always had to take a cup and plate. 1935 Silver Jubilee of George & Mary, all the schools has a big party on Ellowes Hall, we all wore red, white and blue.

When I was small we used to have newspaper in the toilet and we used to cut squares and thread them on a string and hang them up. We also used to make spills out of paper to light the fire and the gas cooker because of course we had coal fires in those days. We used to have a candle in the toilet, which was at the back of our house for when we went to the loo in the night.

There was one night a week for bath night and a big zinc bath was carried on to the hearth and kettles of water boiled. It was lovely in front of the old black grate. Even when we lived in the Inhedge we had to do the same as we hadn't a bathroom until we went to Prior's Mill in 1955.

When we went to work, and if you had to go to the Doc's, you had to get a note to go on "the box" as they called it. You had a small allowance paid from whatever Society you had paid into. Dad's was the Mutual Benefit Society with offices at the end of the Broadway {Dudley} opposite the Technical College. But the Inspector used to call to check on you and you had to be in at 9 PM and if you were caught out you lost your allowance.

I used to catch the trolley bus to Wolverhampton when I worked at Wilson-Lovatts and from Highgate (Upper Gornal) to town was 6d return.

I remember Mom making bills out for the funerals for Dad, and quite a big funeral was about 45 pounds. She used to put the copies on a spike file and when people paid in those days you had to put a 2d stamp on and sign over it.

Quite a few of Mom's customers wore shawls and caps, and two (Mrs. Green and Mrs. Simmonds) always turned up at the funerals and would come into the shop and say "It was a lovely funeral." Mrs. Simmonds once told Mom that Dad was "Like an ile (oil) painting."

The women who used to work in Gibbons Brick Works in Dibdale (between Upper and Lower Gornal) used to go past our house and they wore boots, shawls and hessian bags around their waists (as aprons). It was very heavy work.

Then we used to have the salt people from Ruiton go passed the house with their horse and cart. They seldom bought any salt or whitening back into Gornal, they colleted it from Dudley Port railway station and sold it all over the Midlands. The women used to wear long skirts and lovely broderie anglais aprons and lovely linen bonnets.

In the spring then covered carts and the whole family went off with pots and pans and stayed away all the summer, living like nomads. The men wore tight trousers and bright blue plaid shirts with a neckerchief and cap, a bit like cowboys.

The largest family were the Wattons and Harpers - they called the Wattons Jiggys.

Joe Jiggy was supposed to say when he died that if he couldn't take his money with him he "wore gooin."

They were very wealthy people and one of the Wattons bought a house in Pale Street (Upper Gornal) and was said to have paid 800 pounds in gold sovereigns for it.

I remember going to the Co-op (Co-operative Society shop) and getting Dad 20 Players cigarettes for 11 pence and you had your "divi" on that. The divi was dividend, and everything you bought you had a small yellow receipt which they called a check. You has a large gummed sheet which you stuck them on and every quarter you added them all up and took them to the shop, they gave you a percentage which was entered in a pass book or you could have the cash. When I married I had my engagement ring altered out of my divi, it cost me 7 pounds.

Mom used to send me to Perry's the Butchers for four pork chops off the loin and gave me 2/6d which sometimes bought back change. When I was older I used to go for Dad's beer to Perry's (Brittania) {sic} or Bodenham's (Royal Oak).

Rag and bone men used to come with goldfish and balloons and we would race home to get something so that we could have one or the other. There was also a small roundabout that came to the top of the street, it was d , the man used turn it round with a handle.

The fishman (Hap Bunn), I think his name was really Absolom, came on a Friday, no hygiene in those days and it was a flat cart with boxes of fish and if he filleted it, it was done on the cart. I fetched a silver eel one day for Mom and put it on the kitchen table and it started slithering away. I was so frightened and chopped at it with the carving knife. I remember getting a good shouting at for chopping it up.

The Icecream man also came and we used to take a cup for it.

The days were so safe then and we used to play around the gas lamp until 9 PM at night or until our parents shouted at us to go in. Top and whip, hopscotch and skipping ropes were our games also statues and "Queenie I". No tele to watch in those days. We played fish and chip shops with grass for chips and leaves for fish, dirt for salt and water for vinegar (not many toys either !)

I had Scarlet Fever when I was about 9 and had to stay in the bedroom for six weeks because Mom wouldn't let me go to the Fever Hospital, she had to hang a sheet over the door soaked in disinfectant and use only plates etc for me and threw them all away when I was better. The children going to school used to wave to me and bring me bluebells and Dad made me the gramophone.

One of the highlights of the year was the Anniversary, when we all had white frocks and sat on the platform, we had to go to the Anniversary practice for weeks before. Ruiton Anniversary was always the first Sunday in May and the fashions were fantastic.

Mom always put on a fire in the front room and from about 5 PM it was a continuous string of people going to the Chapel, beautiful hats and dresses. They also used to parade the streets in the morning. Quite a lot of women had a different outfit for each service. In those days Mom used to make hats, because she was a milliner as well. The churchyard was awash with flowers. I think everybody tried to go one better than the other. They used to scrub the grave stones the week before and take all the gravel off the graves and boil them clean.

Mom used to keep fowl, White Leghorns and had 2 fowl pens made by Dad and a big run surrounded by wire netting. She would boil peelings and bread and feed them and it used to smell awful. They were given grit to make the shell hard.

We used to get the feed from Mr. Horton's shop opposite the Parish Hall of St. Peter's Church. I was sent off on a Saturday to deliver eggs to Mrs. Woodhall (Highgate), Mrs. Woodhall in Eve Lane and Mrs. j (Eve House) and the eggs were 2 shillings (10p) a dozen and they all used to give me a halfpenny (p). When the fowl were past laying Dad used to kill them and we had them for dinners. The pens were then empty until we had chicks and we children used to play "houses" after they had all been cleaned out.

Dad used to hatch mostly all his chicks, we had an incubator, but he used to buy some from Major Haden at Netherby Hall and I remember once he gave me a lovely black chicken. Once a week had a lady complete with cap and shawl come round with a large basket selling pikelets and then another day a lady came, again cap, shawl and basket, selling watercress.

Always had a large joint on a Sunday, beef one week, then lamb and then pork and chicken, and a large joint of sirloin beef used to last as roast Sunday, cold with hot vegetables Monday and what Mom used to call hash which I suppose we call stew. The joint would probably cost about 3/- a pound.

Mom and Dad had a Marconiphone wireless and I used to go to Moss's radio shop with the accumulator, with strict instructions not to get it near my clothes.

Miss Edwards from Park's Hall farm used to come to the house with the milk in a cart drawn by a horse, with large churns and you got it in your jug. I suppose the milk would be about 2d a pint in those days.

May Day we always had parties and on the 24th of May, Empire Day, with a day off school, and always had a Union Jack to take to school and sang Rule Brittannia. Sam Jones used to decorate his horse and carton May Day and parade the streets. There was often a pig roast on the recreation ground on the Quarry Park.

There used to be the buses with poles and often the poles used to come off and the conductor had to get a long pole {stored underneath the bus} and put them back on again. One of the conductors was a little fellow called 'Little Joey" and he used to race down the bus stairs and one day he ran right off the platform of the bus. Mrs. Baker and Mrs. Green always used to lay the bodies out, and one day when Dad went to measure a corpse, he complimented them and said "That's the cleanest old Joe has been since the Midwife washed him."

Connie Beach (nee Yates)
December 1992

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