Then and Now

It was 1940, I was 9 and a half, the start of the war really. To be quite honest it was right fun for us, all the bombed houses were like adventure playgrounds! We picked all the shrapnel up, you went and swapped it. We were only children you see. We just dug about, under the bricks and there was settees in it, and people’s pots. We didn’t’ realise that it was somebody’s home. It was just, wow, look what we found. And when you went to Walney pictures on a Saturday afternoon and there was Tarzan and that lot on. It was just adventure.

Blackout didn’t bother us. We got bombed and the windows all blown out with the blast. When we got evacuated, Mum took us to her grandmothers who lived in Bury. We stayed there about 6 weeks. I thought we’d been there a long time but when I asked my mother later she said it was only 6 weeks. That was quite an adventure because it was somewhere different you know. Little brooks and all that sort of thing, it was really nice.

My dad, he worked down the pub, poor old soul he was never home. He worked twelve hours a day, he was in the NFS (National Fire Service) at the weekend and fire watched. We hardly saw him.Girl in TA uniform 1948

I left school at 14, in 1945, and got a job Ashburners, a furnishers and upholsterers in Scott Street – it’s long gone. All women, sewing. We used to furnish the ships out. I had to make all the piping and as the apprentice I’d do all the cleaning up, light the fires, wash the toilets, do the messages, all this sort of gear you know, but, it was good. I went five years there, served me time. The girls started at 14 and went on till they were 19, the boys started at 18 and went on till they were 21.

 

A lot of the lads, they went out to the army or the air force and then they came back. I didn’t have to go cos I wasn’t old enough and by the time I finished my apprenticeship the war had finished. So I joined the TA when I was 18 and I was in the TA for 4 years, which was great fun.

And then came first love

Oh my god, it was a bit of a mix up. Not a good time for me. I’d gone out with this lad and thought oh great, he’s lovely, that’s him you know. He had me going for about 3 years and then somebody told me he was married. So I kicked him into touch.

Got to camp, met this other guy, went bloody mad, and then got pregnant. It was a hard time. I had to go up in Kendal and I had my daughter adopted. I found out later when she was 26 she lived in Carlisle. I’m still in touch.

I finally got back with the first man. It took me twenty odd years! The thing was, he was in the army from when he was 16. He’d been all over with the army, and had gone to Ireland, met this girl and married her. But after the war, she didn’t want to live in England and he didn’t want to live in Ireland so it wasn’t exactly, you know. He just strung me along, such a bloody liar – took me a long time to find out! Ah God, but yeah, it was alright, apart from that, and I had two kids with him.

My husband, he died, he was 84. I said, ‘I’m not going before I have the same time on this planet as him!’ And I’m coming up to 84 now! My granddaughter looks after me, I look after her.

What’s different now than then?

If I think about when I was my granddaughter’s age, what life’s like for her and what it was like for me, Everything was different.

Everything. Everything is so easy now. We had nothing. When my daughter was on the way we had nothing. I got a room in Blake Street living with an old bloke, he was deaf, so quite happy with me having a baby. I made poof cushions out of bits of hide that I brought back from work, my partner brought bags full of sawdust home from the shipyard, we filled it inside the poof; they gave me a single sheet from work and cut it in half to make some cot sheets, and that’s all I had. I started making a patchwork quilt for myself. And that’s all we had. The clothes we stood up in, perhaps one change of clothes.

When she came, I’d managed to get some nappies, but they weren’t keen to employ married women, or women with children, anybody. I couldn’t get anything without his signature. It was still really closed off for women. I couldn’t buy anything without his signature, on the never, you know. From Stollers or somewhere, he had to sign for it.

It was still really closed off for women

I wanted a mangle, I desperately wanted a mangle that turned down into a table. I had nothing to wash in, nothing. And I had a mop bucket a sink bucket and I used to put that on the stove and boil the nappies up in it. We had no hot water. Even the iron, we had a box iron – you’d put it in the fire until it got red hot, that’s all we had at home.

My great grandson comes over and wants something to play with and I give him this load of bobbins and he said, what do they do? Me – what do they do?! They’re just bobbins, you just play with em. But he’s ‘where’s the buttons, where’s the batteries!’

Did I have a car? That was for posh people, rich people. We didn’t have a car! God, I learnt to drive when I was 33. I’d stopped smoking, saved all me 2 bobs, and saved 70 pound, and couldn’t keep it to myself any longer so told the old man and he went out and bought an old post office van. It hardly went, but we used to take our kids and any kids that were around over Walney to the beach.

It’s like the stone ages when you think about it. Vacuum cleaner? No! Some people had an old Ewebank if they were posh, but we didn’t have carpets. A rug down, floor boards. There’s absolutely nothing around now that we used to have – we had candles to go to bed, no lights upstairs.

We had a sewing machine at home. I’d been using that machine since I was five, my dad built me a box fixed on the treddle so as me legs could reach, so he taught me how to sew, but I had to do that when my mum wasn’t around cos she was frightened of it. That was about the only mechanical thing we had I think.