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Ellen Sidaway - memoirs of a Lye Lady

The memoirs of Ellen Sidaway

Stourbridge.com is privileged to be allowed to publish the memoirs of Lye lady Ellen Sidaway. Ellen celebrated her 102nd birthday in June this year, so her memoirs provide a wonderful insight into life in the Lye and Stourbridge area, particularly in the 1920s and 30s. To make it more manageable I have split the memoirs into chapters, more will be added shortly. A few things surprised me on reading Ellen's memoirs, for example I didn't appreciate that people commuted to Birmingham on the train even in the 1920s - I always assumed commuting was something done in the 60s onwards.

In the beginning – 1914 (Published 22 Sep 2016)

My mother’s husband died young, leaving her with two boys, Fred and Stan. She married again, and I came along. I was born at 143 Hay Green Lye, a small house just two rooms up and two down, facing Lye football ground. Fred was fourteen years old and Stan eleven years. Fred worked down the pit at Oldnall Colliery and when Stan was thirteen he went to work in the pit bank. Mother had to be up at six o clock to get the fire going to boil the kettle, and cook the bacon for the lads to take with them. We had no stove, everything had to be cooked over the fire. Stan was a terror to get up in a morning, and having to keep calling him always woke me. I would creep downstairs, Mom would give me a piece of bread dipped in the bacon fat, and make me sit up the corner by the fire until the lads had gone to work. That was my earliest memory.

I started at Stambermill School when I was three years old. Every Monday morning we had to march into Stambermill Church for a one hour service. My mother went to work at a brick yard at Hay Green which was quite near the school, and during our lunch time break, twelve noon till two pm I would go to her. The places where the women worked were called STOWS. It was quite warm inside, they wore large calico aprons and bare feet, why I don’t know, but to me it was fascinating to see them making bricks.
Saturday night was bath night for me, in a little tin bath in front of the fire. I had long hair, and mother would put it in rags, next morning I had long ringlets, and I used to go to the cottage next door to show the old couple my lovely hair. So much for my early memories.
When a little older, I went to Sunday School and I remember going to Abberley Valley in Samuel Johnson’s coach, it was a big open thing with no top. This was our Sunday School treat, when we got there, we were all excited and started to run down the valley. I fell and grazed my knee, but that didn’t prevent me from winning the next race. My prize was a printing set which I kept for years. Sunday mornings I would be around five years old, mother made me visit my relatives on my Dad’s side. There was my Aunt Alice in Summer Street, Aunt Ellen in Belmont Road, Aunt Leah on Waste Bank, and Aunt Donnie who lived on top of Waste Bank. She was my favourite, not having any children, they made a fuss of me. She kept a little shop at the front of the house, made and sold her own bread. The Sunday joint was cooked in front of the fire, the meat tin was placed on top of a big biscuit tin, and the meat was attached to a large hook, which she turned and basted as it cooked. I often stayed to dinner and sometimes to tea, when the best china tea set would be laid out, (something my mother didn’t possess) and when I was ready to go home, Uncle Ben would give me a penny, and Aunt Donnie would give me some sweets all screwed up in newspaper. I loved to go to my Aunt Donnies.

Every year there was a horse fair at Bromsgrove and Fred decided to go, there was no transport and he had to walk all the way, and he came back with a horse. He put me on its back and off we went to show our Gran who lived in Engine Lane. Mom was mad, what to do with a horse. The first night he tied it to some railings around our house, what happened to it afterwards I can’t remember, he probably sold it. My Gran was getting old and frail, and she had two unmarried sons living with her, Noah and Steve, and Mom was finding it too much for her to run two homes. I was eight years old when we left Hay Green and moved to Engine Lane to live with Gran. We were overcrowded, but somehow we coped. My old gran could neither read or write as she had never been to school. Although we had gas lights Gran would never use it, always kept to her large oil lamp in the middle of the table. I remember reading a book to her called Uncle Tom’s cabin, she had a good memory and would always tell me where I had left off. It helped to pass our winter evenings.
Fred left the coal mine and started buying and selling dogs, mostly puppies. At the bottom of the garded there were two pigsties, Uncle Steve looked after the pigs, my Dad had pigeons in a large pen, and Fred kept the dogs in a large shed with a stable door, while waiting to be sold. He would advertise them in a paper called “Our dogs” and send them all over the country. My job was to go up Lye and buy crates from any of the shops which he would make into little boxes for the puppies and I would carry them to the station to catch the 8pm train. Animals always had to travel by night. They always had a good meal and water before being dispatched.

Mom had left the brickyard, Monday was washday, she had to light the fire under the cast iron boiler to get the water hot, everything was rubbed out in a tin bath in the sink, then into the dolly tub and given a good dollying, then through a good old mangle, and into the boiler. From there they were rinsed and whites put through a blue water, and then all shirt collars, tablecloths and pillow cases were starched, and although mom paid the woman next door to help her, it seemed to take all day. The boiler was thoroughly cleaned out, and next day Uncle Steve boiled a sack of potatoes for the pigs, cleaned out again and Wednesday he brewed the beer. Always two barrels of beer in the pantry. My job was to fetch two penny worth of balm from a brewery in Pedmore Road, and an enamel jug full of finings from Harry Homsey’s in Lye, these were used to make the beer.

Every year at the beginning of November the fair would come to Lye known as Lye Wake, most exciting event of the year. Late one Saturday night Uncle Noah went round the fair and won a big doll for me on the Chair-o-plane stall. I was in bed asleep but he came back and woke me up, he couldn’t wait till morning. It was the only doll I ever had and I treasured it. In later years Mom persuaded me to give it to a little girl who was dying from consumption, so I said goodbye to my doll.

Fred did well selling dogs, and with his savings bought an old car, and learnt himself to drive. Uncle Noah had a lady friend named Lucy who lived in Kidderminster and one Sunday Fred said, come on Gran, who hadn’t been out for years, didn’t possess a coat, but in a tin trunk upstairs, Mom found her old Melton cloth cape and her Edwardian bonnet. Mom dressed her up and away we went in the old jalopy. I sat in the back with Gran, Uncle Noah and Fred in front. We thought we were royalty. Later on Fred had the car converted into a lorry, stopped selling dogs and went into the fruit and veg trade, and went around the streets of Stourbridge, hawking. The produce was delivered from Birmingham wholesale market. Apples came in big barrels, individually wrapped in paper, and tomatoes in baskets of corn. I would help to unwrap and polish the apples with a clean cloth, tomatoes too, any bruised were put on one side and put in the swill tub for the pigs. He only sold the best.

I was eight years old when I went hop picking for the first time, Mom couldn’t go, but her friend Mrs Dimmock offered to take me. We went to Worminghton Court, Stoke Edith, near Hereford, and loved it. Down in the hop field,  she would open her umbrella, dig it into the clay upside down, and when I had filled it with hops so many times, I was allowed to go and play. Twice a week a man came into the hop fields selling lardy cakes, we named him the lardy cake man. He would carry them in a large basket on his arm, and shout as loud as he could LARDY CAKES! And you had to get to him quick before he sold out. Mrs Dimmock always gave me a penny to buy one. I made friends with a boy named Joey Nicholas, we were exactly the same age on the same date June 3rd. There was a large shanty with a big open fireplace, if it rained we would all congregate in there, and if it had been a nice day a fire would be lit outside, we would keep the fires going, as this was the only way of cooking or boiling kettles. The farmer provided the coke. It was a rather isolated farm, no houses or pubs, everybody went to bed early as we had to be up at seven o clock and down the hop fields as early as possible. Saturday afternoons Joey and I had to fetch the lamp oil, from the one and only shop about a mile down the lane. It seemed like two miles to us, but it helped to pass the time, and left Joey’s Mom and Mrs Dimmock time to do other chores. A mobile shop came to the farm twice a week, and eggs and milk we had from the farm. We were there for five weeks. On my return Mom got me transferred to Orchard Lane Girls School, a much nicer school and I was happy there. I made friends with several girls who lived in Caledonia, I will refer to them later.

Christmas was hectic at our house, a pig would be killed a week before by a proper butcher. All our neighbours would order a joint and Christmas Eve I had to deliver the meat and collect the money. I always hung up a sock, but what did I get? A new penny, nuts and some sweets, but this one Christmas I had a surprise, I had a new scooter, only to find a foot of snow had fallen during the night and I couldn’t ride it. Fred bought a new gramophone and records, we had to lift the lid, place the record on the turntable, adjust the needle, close the lid and wind it up. Remember there was no radio or television in those days. My favourite record was “In a monastery garden” Fred and Stan bought their friends to listen to this novelty, that Christmas we had a house full of men. Mom didn’t mind, having killed a pig, there was plenty of roast pork, barrels of beer in the pantry and music laid on there was no need to go to a pub.

Later in the year as the weather improved Mom decided I should start taking my Dad’s dinner. He worked down a marlhole getting out clay for the bricks, for the brick yard on the Hayes. I would come from school, and while Mom was getting his dinner ready, I would go in the pantry, cut myself a piece of home made cake, and draw myself a small glass of beer. The dinner she put in a basin, tied it up in a large red and white spotted handkerchief and I would tie it on the handlebars of my scooter and away I’d go. Now to get down to the bottom of the marlhole was very tricky, just a narrow path down a steep incline. I always rode down keeping one foot on the back wheel to steady myself. Dad and his mate would stop work and watch me, probably wondering if I was going to make it, but I never had any mishaps.

We seemed to have long hot summers and all my free time I spent up Caledonia with my school friends. There was Hilda Allport, Irene and Elsie Cartwright, Amy Gorden, Phylis Hayes, Winnie Carradine, Fred Edwards and Joey. I say up Caledonia because it’s on a hill, there’s a new estate built there now, but apart from a few houses and one pub it was all fields. On the side of the road was a big tree trunk, where they would sit and wait for me, from this point they could see me coming down Engine Lane. Fred gave me two pence every night for helping him and I would call at a shop in Dudley road and buy a quarter of sweets which I shared with my friends. There was an area known as the Jackass, where we would play hide and seek. At the bottom was the River Stour where we sometimes went to paddle, it was quite shallow, not dangerous. The lads would tie a rope around the lamp post, and we would take turns to swing round. They were gas lamps in the streets in those days. Then there was hay making time, the pranks we used to play it’s a wonder the farmer ever got his rick built.

Section 2 - Published 30th Sep 2016

Every August Bank holiday they held a fete at Corbett Hospital. I had never been, or seen a firework display, so with Mom’s consent I stayed out later to see the fireworks. I remember we climbed on top of a hill and had a wonderful view as they lit the night sky. The next year we all went to the fete. We had to walk there over the fields and we had to go through a tunnel. A murder had been commited there years before and it was known as the murder tunnel, it was a bit scary going throughit in the daylight, but coming back it was pitch dark, we clung to each other and ran screaming our heads off. I never forgot that tunnel.

Saturday afternoons we would all meet up  and go to the Vic picture house (cinema). Admission 1d special kids films and always a serial, ending in the most exciting part, so you couldn’t wait to see what happened the next week. Joey always sat by me, and one Saturday it was our birthday and while waiting for the film to start, he took something from his coat pocket and gave it to me. It was a mirror on a stand, it was a birthday present he had bought for me, from Bill’s, a little shop opposite the Vic and it had cost him 4d, all his week’s pocket money. I kept it in my sewing box for years. His Gran lived in Caledonia and his Mom visited her every night, when she left we knew it was time to go home, and one night while waiting for her we sat on the step of the Staffordshire House pub, singing “On mother Kelly’s doorstep”, very appropriate. On the way down the road he told his Mom, that when he grew up he would marry me, but that wasn’t to be, when we were thirteen years old his family moved to Wolverhampton and that was the last I saw or heard of Joey.
September came round again and I went hop picking with Mrs Dimmock to Leigh Court. Everybody had a large tin trunk, they needed to be large to hold everything you had to take with you for your use. Two buckets, two pots, frying pan, kettle, teapot, cups, saucers, cutlery, bowl, plates, tea, sugar, tins of milk (fresh milk went sour too quick). Towels, pillow cases, bed clothes, plus our working clothes, plus strong high lace-up boots and mack’s, not forgetting a very keen knife for cutting the vines in the hop fields. I carried my clean clothes and oddments in a cardboard suitcase. On arriving at Leigh Court station, large wagons drawn by shire horses would be waiting to take the hop picking boxes to the farm, farm labourers would load and unload them. It was a very large barn which we all had to share. When everyone had decided which part of the barn they were going to occupuy they would start making the beds, spreading out the straw to make a mattress, and filling the pillow cases. Next a cart, loaded with army blankets would arrive, each family would be allotted one pair, they made the beds warmer and softer to sleep in. Then the boxes would be brought in, placed at the foot of the bed and unpacking would commence. The tin trunk was used as your table, this was the routine every year.

As you entered the barn there was a place separated from the living quarters, known as the shanty, with a large fireplace, where cooking was done and kettles boiled. It was all very primitive and absolutely no privacy, but everyone got on well together and I can’t remember there being any  dispute between them. Of course we were in the hop fields all day, weather permitting, Saturdays we finished at twelve o clock. I loved the weekends, I was never without a friend, we would go scrumping in the orchards, or walking down the lanes looking for filbert nuts in the hedgerows, we even found wild strawberries in the old Church yard. Fred got rid of his old car and bought a new Chevrolet lorry, and during the hop season he would go hawking around the Herefordshire farms. On Friday nights on his way home he would call to see me, and give me all the sweets he hadn’t sold. He would beg me to go home with him, but no, I was happy to stay. Mrs Dimmock was very good to me, and she must have liked my company,  as she took me every year until I left school.
The next year new huts had been built for us, in a field just down the lane. So after my month’s holiday it was back to school, in those days you had a choice whether you wanted to take the exam to go to technical college or not, and I declined, for one thing I didn’t want to go in for teaching, and I didn’t think My mother would want the expense of the uniforms if I had passed. However I must have been on the bright side, as they moved me from standard four into standard six, which was the top class. I sat on the back row next to the piano, on which was a large brass bell, and at playtime and lunchtime I had to go into the cloakroom and ring it as hard as I could. The Headmistress shared our classroom, sat at a large desk at the back of the room, so we all had to be on our best behaviour. During my last term I had to make two nightdresses for her, a pale pink and a pale blue, ankle length and long sleeves, every seam filled and done by hand. But I loved sewingand she was very pleased with my handiwork. I finished school on my fourteenth birthday, the next day I went on a school outing to Rhyl, we went by train and it was the first time I had seen the sea, and on the following Monday I started work. Fred had a lady friend named Edith, whom he later married and she got me my job at Fawcetts sewing factory, in Allison Street, Digbeth, Birmingham.

 I had to do six months apprenticeship at five shillings a week, six days a week, for we had to work Saturday mornings till twelve thirty. I was allowed a special train ticket for two and sixpence a week during my apprenticeship, the normal price was ten pence a day. I had six pence pocket money. It was there I met Carrie, I sat next to her and we became lifelong friends. It was a very large factory, three stories high, ground floor was the cutting room, pressing room and packing room, second and third were all machinists, between two and three hundred. They were very high powered machines, I remember having my finger under once, the needle went right through my finger, one of the girls unscrewed the needle out of the machine and took me down to the tool room where a mechanic pulled it out with pliers. There was no canteen and no breaks morning or afternoon. We could have a cup of tea for 1d at dinner time, from what they called a kitchen, which was just a small room with a table and a large urn. We had to provide our own cup and sit at your machine to eat your lunch. At the end of the six months Carrie and I made the grade, you had to have speed and stitch perfectly, so we went piecework. To start off with they put us on overalls, ten pence a dozen. It was slave labour.

Five nights a week Ede would come home with me for tea and we would call at Elijahs for a two penny fish and a penny worth of chips, they were beautiful. It saved Mom having to cook and enabled Ede to see Fred, as she had to be home by eight thirty to serve in the pub her Dad kept. You may have wondered why I haven’t mentioned my brother Stan, but he was the quiet one, his only interest was football. Stan and my Dad left the brickyard at the Hayes and went to work in the brickyard in Thorns Road, my Dad worked nights as night watchman so I didn’t see much of him, as he was in bed all day and at work all night. Uncle Noah’s lady friend passed away and Uncle Noah was taken ill and had to go to Knightwick Sanatorium on Ankerdine Hill. I remember Fred taking me in the lorry to visit him. He improved and allowed to come home again.

Meanwhile I had made friends with some girls who attended the congregational Church Sunday School Bible class and they got me to join them. I also joined their Girl Guide group and was made patrol leader. So many activities went on, they put on operettas, I was always in the chorus, the biggest show was put on at the Town Hall Stourbridge. It was too early to go home after our various practices, I had to be home by ten pm, so we would walk up and down the High Street, all teenagers congregated on the High streets, they were known as the monkey runs, shops kept open all hours, so they were well lit. It was on a Saturday night, I saw Stan for the first time, he stood in a shop doorway, and as we passed he offered me some chocolate which I refused and carried on, from then on I saw him often. Then one night he asked me to go to the pictures with him, so I thought why not, on 6d a week pocket money I couldn’t afford to go mid week so I arranged to meet him by the library, the following night. He was there waiting for me and we stood chatting for a few minutes, looking across the road, there was my mother, and the look on her face. I knew I was in trouble, I told Stan to go as she came over to me. She asked me if I was with that lad and I said yes, and where were you thinking of going, so I told her in the Temp (cinema). Well, she said you can forget that you’re too young and you are coming home with me. I was fifteen and Stan eighteen, I had been at work for twelve months but I felt like a little school kid. However going back down Lye who should we meet but my friends from the Congs and I told Mom I would stay with them, but I met Stan later on and he took me home. At the end of August he told me he had packed in his job and was going hop picking with his Aunty Lily, to, of all places, Leigh Court. This set my mind working. So I asked Mom if I could go to Mrs Dimmock for a week’s holiday and she agreed, providing Mrs Dimmock was agreeable too. I was quaking in my shoes when I went in the office at work and asked for a week off, but they were quite nice with me, so I had my holiday. Stan had the shock of his life when he came out of their hut and saw me under the shanty, for he knew nothing of my plans and Mom never found out.

I still went to the “Congs” and had a special friend May Chance, and May and I decided to have our photograph taken at Hals in Stourbridge, I had six, kept two and gave the others to friends. I came home from work one night and Mom was all excited, we have a visitor, Bella Everson (she was later Mayoress of Stourbridge) had called to say I had been chosen as an attendant to the Carnival Queen, and would I go to her home for a dress fitting. I didn’t want to go as I knew nothing at all about it. Another girl from our Sunday School had been chosen too and although I never found out, I think it must have been our Superintendent that sent our photographs to Sir Cedric Hardwick (the actor) to be judged. So I was on the 1930 carnival at Lye, I was sixteen years old.

Life carried on and I continued to see Stan despite all opposition. My brother Stan was going with a girl from Stourbridge, but she worked in a fish and chip shop and didn’t finish until 11pm at night, so during the week I had Fred and Stan trying to track me down, I was always in trouble. My Uncle Noah was ill again and had to stay in bed and one night, I went upstairs to have a chat with him before going to meet Stan, and I found him hanging over the bed, dead. I ran downstairs to Mom, terrified, and when I met Stan that night I sobbed my heart out. I loved my Uncle Noah, the only one I could confide in and he never split on me. That was the first tragedy in my life. Fred married Ede and went to keep a pawn shop in Upper High Street, Lye, but life still wasn’t easy for me. Every Sunday morning I had to clean Gran’s room. The floor was all red quarries, just one podge rug on the hearth, which I had to take outside and give a good shake, clean the black leaded grate, and with a bucket of hot soapy water and floor cloth, I had to get down on my knees and wash all the tiles, and it was a big room. I hated doing it but it helped Mom as she had so much to do.

In Orchard Lane there was a bar across the road to stop vehicles going past the school, and one night Stan and I stood by this bar talking, and he said he wished he had a book to read, I said I had some he could borrow, so I went home to fetch them.  Mom wanted to know where I was taking them, so I said I was lending them to a friend. I had just given them to Stan, looking up the road, there was Mother, waving an umbrella and it wasn’t raining. I told Stan to go and realising she couldn’t catch up with him, she walked me back home. She never said a word, but when we got back home she beat me unmercifully, my Dad who had come back for his supper, had to pull her away from me. I cried my eyes out on the stairs, I was innocent of doing anything wrong. So the next time I saw Stan I told him our friendship was finished, I couldn’t take any more, but later fate was to step in. I told Mom and she was delighted, and I started to go dancing with Irene, an old friend. There was going to be a big dance at Stambermill Church Hall and I hadn’t got a long dress to go in (they were the fashion in those days). Mom said don’t worry I’ll get you one. She went to Jeavons second hand shop and bought me one, and I wore it. The compere came over to me to start the dancing off, me in my second hand frock, and he was the son of the man who owned the brick yard where my Dad and brother worked.

Section 3 - Published 5th October 2016

A few weeks later when I got off the train from work, Doris, Stan’s sister, was waiting for me. Stan was seriously ill with pneumonia and would I go home with her. I told her I would have to go home first and would come later. So I went home, had my tea and a wash, and explained to Mom about Stan. I didn’t ask her permission, I said I was going and she never said a word. In those days people said that on the ninth day they passed a crisis they would either live or die, and this was the ninth day of Stan’s illness, I sat on the bed holding his hand willing him to live. His Mom sat up all night with him. I went to his home the following night, not knowing whether he was alive or dead. I went to the back door, looking up I could see there was a light on in his bedroom. His Mom said she had had a terrible night with him, but he pulled through. He made a slow recovery and I visited every night. It was about six weeks later that he insisted on taking me home, on Lye Cross who should we meet but Mother, I waited for her reaction and to my surprise she couldn’t have been nicer. She asked him if he was feeling better and said “my lad, you should not be out in this damp night air, Ellie, take him down home.” I was flabberghasted, now my troubles were over.

When fully recovered he went back to work with his Dad in the spade and shovel works down Aston in Birmingham. He worked in the woodwork department, making the wooden handles, and although we both travelled to Birmingham we never met up as our timetables were different. I was doing all right at work, I would hand my pay packet to Mom and she would give me twho shillings and sixpence pocket money, out of which I had to buy my own stockings. One night Ede had a talk to her and told her she wasn’t being fair to me, not giving me a chance to save any money, so Mom decided I should pay rent, which meant I gave her twelve and sixpence a week but had to buy my own clothes. Ede was now expecting and Fred asked Mom if it would be alright for me to have a fortnight off work, to look after the shop. So when Margaret was born I ran the pawn shop. I knew nothing at all about the running of it, but I soon learnt. One night Fred brought an old bike bac on his lorry, half the spokes were missing on the wheels, but I begged him to let me have it. So I took it home, never rode a bike but was determined to learn. I practiced down Engine Lane, the brakes weren’t very good and being a man’s bike, I had to grab the railway bridge to get off. I mastered it and later on I had a new bike from the Co-op. Stan had a bike and we did a lot of cycling together.

I was eighteen years old when we moved to number three Cross Walks, my granddad Taylor owned three cottages on Cross Walks, when one came empty he offered it to Dad, at first mom was reluctant to leave Gran as she was now confined to her bedroom and couldn’t get down the stairs. On the day we moved Uncle Steve went mad, started breaking things up. He fetched the big water jug and bowl from downstairs and smashed it on the pavement, I tried to stop him and a piece of the platter fled up and cut my arm, so I ran as fast as I could to Lye Cross, a policeman was on duty, I explained to him what was happening and seeing the blood dripping from my arm he came with me. He restrained my Uncle and stayed until we were loaded up and away.

A few months after moving, Stan my brother got married to Vi at St john’s Church at Stourbridge. I was bridesmaid and I made my own dress, I had the material from Lewis’s in Birmingham. My Stan was invited and after the reception the four of us went to our Gran’s, still in wedding attire to show her our dresses. Mom went every day to see to Gran’s needs and during the Winter months Stan and I would go and spend an hour or more with her. No doors were ever locked in those days so we had no problem getting in, she would be there in bed, in total darkness, and we would light the candle on the chair at the side of the bed, and we would sit on the bed talking to her. What an existence! But she never complained, always pleasant, and a pleasure for us to visit her.

Fred moved from the pawn shop to Brockshop Hall in Dudley Road and it was there that Margaret took her first steps towards me. They didn’t stay there long before moving to a farm in Netherend. My Gran passed away, she was eighty six years old. I was now twenty and I had to ask Mom if we could get engaged, she consented, and Stan gave me £5 to buy the ring. It was a lot of money in those days, more than Stan earned in a week. Mother went with me to Morris’s to choose it. It was November but I didn’t wear it until Christmas Day. She said I could get married when I was twenty one providing we found somewhere to live, so I started buying things for my bottom drawer when I had spare cash. We would go by train 2d return to Cradley market, a very big outdoor market which kept open till 9pm. It was there we met Stan and Nancy (Janice’s Mom and Dad) and we became lifelong friends. We made up a foursome and went out together, every weekend we tried to do something different. One Saturday night we hired a rowing boat on the canal at Halesowen, neither of us had been in a boat before. The men took turns to row and Nancy and I to steer , laugh? We went from one side of the canal to the other, and at one point we got stuck in the reeds. We managed to get to the Black horse pub, where we got out for a drink. We got back safe, but never went again.

Now back to Fawcetts. One afternoon the R101 airship passed over Birmingham, it passed right in front of our factory, blocking out all the windows, scared us all, couldn’t think what it was. Later on it went up in flames over France. I had progressed well and any samples that came up the foreman would pass on to me and I was paid 3d extra, but my days were numbered there. Stuart Golfar were opening a sewing factory in Stourbridge and I applied for a job there. I left Birmingham, it was great working near home, I went on my bike and went home for my dinner every day. We were now looking for a house, with marriage in mind, and Stan told me of a new housing estate being built in Quinton, two show houses were built and furnished, so we went to see them. They were lovely, so we decided we would go in for one, we picked out the plot and paid the deposit. When I told Mother, she went mad, it was too far away, what if Stan was ill and couldn’t pay the mortgage, she went on and on, she worried me so much we cancelled it. We were back to square one, Frede and Ede were on the move again, they left the farm and went to keep the wollescote stores in Belmont. Ede was pregnant again and Fred asked me to have time off again to take charge of the shop when the baby was born. I kney it left him in a quandary but I had to turn him down and make him realise I was no longer at his beck and call.

I was now twenty two years old, I heard of a house empty in Atwood Street, I knew the landlord well and coming down the street one Saturday morning I met him, stopped him and asked if I had any chance of having it. He said “Nellie, if you want it, it’s yours”. I went home and told Mom. She was all excited and said we must go to Stambermill Church and put the Banns in that afternoon, as I would have to start paying rent. I said I couldn’t do that until I had talked it over with Stan, so she said go and meet him from work. He always went to work on his bike Saturday mornings and I knew he would be on the Hayes around 1pm. So I met him, talked things over and he told me to carry on with the arrangements. He went home, had his dinner and went to bed, never said a word to his mother. When he got up at teatime, there was a real confloption. A man had called from the Eagle House in Stourbridge (a large furniture shop) asking if her son would give them the order for his furniture. Now they had not long moved into a new house, taken out a mortgage and were relying on Stan’s wages to help pay for it, and was dead against us getting married, but our plans went ahead.

The landlord had the house decorated all through, Sim Taylor had a furniture shop right opposite, so Mom and I went to see him and he told me to have everything I wanted. I told him I couldn’t afford to do that, but he said that’s alright, pay down what you can and the rest later, so as each room was finished his son laid the lino and carried the furniture in, so we had a house fully furnished to move into. He even gave me a basket chair, half a tea set and a doormat. He was a good old soul and helped a lot of people in Lye. I made my own dress, also Margaret’s and Bill’s outfit (he was Stan’s younger brother). Both were five years old so we married at Stambermill Church November 14th 1936. I continued to work and Mom was good to me, she did my washing and would bring it back ironed. On Saturday afternoons we would go to Cradley market, everything was cheaper there, and she learnt me the different joints of beef, I always came back with a Sunday roast for one and eight pence. Stan and mom got on fine and whatever she bought Fred and Stan for Christmas, my Stan had the same. I think my mother in law really hated me for going against her wishes, the first Christmas card we sent was pushed back under the door, and she would ignore me if she saw me in the High Street. It worried me at first, but Stan said not to let her upset me, she would relent given time, but it took a heck of a long time.

Carrie, my friend from Birmingham came to my wedding and we corresponded by letter frequently, and we still went out with Stan and Nance Saturday nights, sometimes to the last house in the Central picture house in Stourbridge. There was always a long queue to get in, there was a little cook shop in New Street where they did hot meat sandwiches and we would call at the Labour in Vain pub to wash them down, or go to Cradley Heath and call in Lomy Town for fish and chips and back home on the train, just simple things but we enjoyed our nights out together.

It was 1937, May 12th, the coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (Queen Mother) and we found out there was an excursion running to London on the 13th, so the four of us decided to go. It was a wonderful sight, everything was just as it had been the day before. We went to Westminster Abbey where they were crowned, the flower arrangements were out of this world. Every street was decorated with flowers, flags and streamers. There was a big shop, I can’t remember if it was Selfridges or Harrods, but it had silk draped on the outside of every window, and window boxes full of exotic flowers beneath, we walked the length of the Mall to Buckingham Palace, picnicked in a park and made our way back to the station, tired and weary but we had a great day.

I have over run my story, I’m back to Fred and Ede again, not able to find anybody to run the shop, they had to move out, and having nowhere to go, they moved in with Mom. I married and left on the Saturday and Mary was born the next Saturday at 3 Cross Walks. As soon as Ede was over her confinement, they went to live with Uncle Steve in Engine Lane. They were not there long, Uncle Steve passed away, the house not being in their name, they had to move on, this time to the White Horse pub in Cradley. They didn’t stay there long before moving to Brook Street Lye and finally to Balds Lane, which they made their permanent home and started his potato business.
A few weeks after we were married Stan had a spate of boils on the back of his neck and he was in agony. From the work they sent him to the general hospital, where they told him he must change his job, the sawdust was the cause, clogging all the pores. So he left Birmingham and got a job at the Co-op factory in Dudley, making safes and steel office furniture. A special works bus ran from Lye Cross at 7.45 and brought them home, so there was no transport problems. Working in Birmingham he had to get up at 5.30am to catch the 6.15 train six mornings a week, so he bettered himself all ways.

1937. During that year I remember treating my Mom to a day’s outing. I booked a coach trip to Rhyl, she had never been on a coach, I don’t think she had been any further than Cradley Heath on a train and had never seen the sea. It was a lovely Summer’s day and how she enjoyed it. We did another trip to Brighton with Stan and Nance, and that was our lot, we couldn’t afford a week’s holiday. Vi, my brother Stan;s wife gave birth to a son Stanley on November 1st, and by the end of December I had paid off all my debts.
1938. I became pregnant and I worked up until the August holidays. One day the woman who lived at No 3 The Dock came to see me and asked if I would change houses with her, she wanted to be near her father and sister, and as we both had the same landlord there was no problem there, so we moved during the August holidays while Stan was at home. I stayed to see that everything was loaded up and when I went to No 3 The dock who should be in the living room, my mother in law. It had taken nearly  two years to bury the hatchet, and I know why. She knew I was pregnant, and didn’t intend moving out on her first grandchild. He was born on December 8th 1938, weighed 9.5 pounds at birth and was Christened six weeks later, Colin Stanley, at the congregational Church, Lye. The service was early on the Sunday morning, Mom came with us and Fred Walton and his wife were God parents. They came back for a drink then went home. Stan took Colin in his pram to visit his Mom. Every Saturday afternoon, Edith, Stan’s sister would come and take Colin out and Mom and I would go and do our weekend shopping. He was a very good baby, never had to get up in the night, and good during the day. But come tea time when I had to cook our main meal, he would bawl his head off, just as if he knew he wasn’t  going to get any attention from me. Often I would take him up to Mom’s, with his dummy and a jar of Virol, she would welcome him with open arms. I would fetch him back as soon as I had finished cooking. Mom lived just two minutes walk away.

1939. September 3rd War was declared, colin was just 9 months old. I listened to every news bulletin on the radio wondering what was going to happen. All young men were called up for the forces and the women who had no young children had to go to work in the ammunition factories. The Co-op changed over to war work so Stan was exempt. We had to have black out blinds for all our windows, no lights had to be showing, and all street lights were turned off. They started putting air raid shelters in back yards, making sure everybody had somewhere to go, should there be a raid. We didn;t have one as we had a large arched cellar, where they said we would be quite safe, Near our home was the Church Hall, this was taken over by the fire service and in the yard they erected the siren, to alert everybody in Lye. It was only a few yards away from our bedroom window. I’ll never forget the first night it sounded, I was all of a shake, couldn’t get dressed quick enough, rolled Colin in a shawl and fled down the two flights of steps into the cellar. We were to have many nights down there, but none as nerve wracking as the first time. Ours was a most peculiar house, two stories high at the front and three at the back. We had a front, side and back door, entering by the side door, to the right was the front room which was on ground level. To the left was the living room, which was on the second floor, quite a pleasant outlook and leading off the living room were the nine steps leading into the coal cellar. The coal was tipped through a grating under the front window and passing through another small archway you were in what I called the under kitchen. There was a sink, gas boiler, toilet, washing machine, window and door leading to the back yard, and electric lights. We had a sink unit in the living room so I didn’t have to go down the cellar for water. My store was on the top of the cellar head. It was arranged for an elderly couple, Mr and Mrs Brown, who kept the sweet shop at the bottom of Love Lane, and Lizzie who lived at the back of the shop next door, to come to our cellar when the siren sounded. I felt sorry for Lizzie, her husband had been called up and she had a child the same age as Colin. She would come dashing over with Royston in his pram, all of a shake. The back door was never locked and we could push the pram through into the coal cellar. We had a big old armchair and chairs, where they came from I don’t know, everybody helped each other out, Stan would make us hot drinks, and with a toilet handy, we were a few of the lucky ones.

We would sit listening to the drone of the German planes overhead, not knowing where they would drop their load, but Birmingham was their target, and as the bombs dropped the ground would shake under us, and so the months passed by. Carrie was married and had a little girl Maureen, Harry, her husband, had been called up and was in the Navy on a minesweeper, she wrote and told me they were in the shelter every night, so I invited her over. She came two weekends and luckily we had no alerts. Stan slept downstairs on the couch, Corrie, Maureen and I were in a bed. She was later evacuated to Tibshelf in Derbyshire, we still corresponded. We were issued with ration books, everything was in short supply, always queues. I always  went to the Co-op on a Friday night for our rations, having three books I would have six ounces of butter; six ounces of margarine; six ounces of lard; one packet of tea; six ounces of cheese and if I was lucky, a tin of Nestles condensed milk, a tin of custard powder, and anything off rations. I wrapped everything in to a large piece of brown paper and tied it up with string. I would go to Marsh and Baxters, a well noted pork butchers shop in Lye, where, when available, you could buy what they termed as offal, sometimes a bit of liver, pigs tails, chitterlings and pork bones. I would boil the bones and when cold skim off the fat, which I used to make some pastry, scraped all the meat off the bones, fry an onion, mix with the meat and the pastry on top, it made a meal. Mother would be out every morning to see what was going, she would queue for sweets or buns for the grandchildren. During the Winter months Stan never saw daylight, it would be dark when he left in the morning, all the windows were blacked out, and dark when he got home at night. Twice a week he had to do fire watching at a wood factory all night as well. Tom, Stan’s younger brother had met Marj and he brought her to our house often. It was coming up to Christmas, there were no toys in the shops, so Stan decided to make a train in sheet metal for Colin, and a set of dominoes. After I had got Colin off to bed at night, Tom and Marj, and Harry, another brother would come, and sit filing the metal from the spikes at the wheels for this train, and Marj and I had the job of painting the white spots and lines on the dominoes. He also made the two weighing scales for Margaret and Mary. He assembled the train at work, it was about eighteen inches long, with a coal tender and one wagon at the back. It was a replica of a steam train. Was Colin proud of that train, I can remember Christmas morning , we tied some string to the front and he pulled it up the street to show his Granny Taylor, and being sheet metal it made such a clatter.

Section 4 - published 17th October 2016

Colin started school in the January following his third birthday, his first day over, I asked him if he enjoyed it, his reply was, “it was alright but I don’t think I’ll go tomorrow!” So the months passed, nothing improved. There were no gas fires or electric, everybody depended upon coal. I had always dealt with the Co-op coalman, and always kept a good supply, but it had dwindled and not knowing when I would get the next lot, I would go and queue at Sammy Cramptons, a coal merchant who lived opposite the village church, of course his regular customers would be served first, any left you would be allowed half a hundredweight, half of it would be in bags, or half a hundredweight of coke. He would tip it into a barrow, you had to wheel it home and return the barrow, it was hard going.

Tom was the first to be called up in their family, it broke his mother’s heart as he was her favourite son. Jack and Bill followed later. He joined the Reconnaissance Corp. And Marj joined the ATS. One afternoon I answered a knock on our front door, outside two men were unloading a piano, I told them they had come to the wrong house, they said no, a Mrs Sidaway had given them my address, so the piano was bought into my front room. It was old but had been kept in beautiful condition. Stan was highly delighted, they had always had a piano at home and he could play. How or where it came from we never knew, mother-in-law said she had had it given to her. It was a bit hard to swallow but we let it pass. Tom could play the piano too. He was stationed in Colchester, and when he came on leave he would travel at night, get the first early morning train from Birmingham, call at our house first, shout through the letter box “Come on Nell, I’m here!” Letting him in he would go straight to the piano and start playing “In the mood”. He was a darling, we knew there would be no peace until he went back.

Colin was now about four years old, it was Thursday and he had been playing in the Dock with a gang of children. When he came in his face was flushed and his hair soaked in sweat, I had a terrible night with him. So before going to work Stan went to Mom’s and asked her to go to the doctors and ask him to call. After examining him, he said he would like him to go to Hayley Green hospital, as he thought he had diphtheria. I was not allowed to go with him but the following day being Saturday was the normal visiting day, so I thought we wouldn’t have long to wait. So Stan and I went, full of hope, we had to walk as there was no transport. It was an isolation hospital and visitors had to stand outside and look in through the windows. But we couldn’t find Colin, a nurse came outside, I explained who we were and she said Matron wished to speak to us in her office. She said she was very sorry to give us the sad news but there’s very little hope for him, she shook her head. Then she said had he been inoculated he would have stood a chance, so I said he had been three months ago. The doctor never asked me that when he took particulars I pleaded with her to let me see him, I promised not to break down so she relented. We had to put on white coats and masks, he knew me and understood what I said to him, but he was so ill. We had to leave a phone number in case we were needed during the night, so I gave them Fred’s number as he was the only one I knew who had a phone. I called at Mom’s on the way home and the floodgates opened. We had a house full of people that night, even the Salvation Army out selling their Warcries heard the news, came to our house and prayed for him. I will never forget that night. We went again on the Sunday, there was a little improvement. With their permission I was allowed to take Mom to see him. She asked him what he would like her to bring him, his reply, one of Taylors custards.

On the way home she said “Now what am I going to do, even if I can get one I couldn’t just take it into that hospital.” So instead of going to the shop she went to the bakery, asked to see Mr Taylor and came away with a dozen. She was so pleased, couldn’t get to the hospital quick enough the next day. We were allowed to visit any time the first week, then as he improved, it was just Saturday afternoons and no one allowed in. The Salvation Army captain Mr Marham, would visit him during the week, entertain him with his puppet and report back to me. He did wonderful work during those war years. Colin was in hospital for eight weeks, I had to push him around in his old pushchair as he was too weak to walk. When he came home, he slowly recovered and I took him hop picking. Stan said he could look after himself during the week and he would come down on the train Saturday afternoons and go back Sunday nights. I took Colin’s pushchair, it was very useful, I would push him to the hop fields and it enabled us to go to the Bear public house on a Saturday night, which was almost two miles away. As I said before, they had built new huts and one was used as a shop, and as we were classed as farm workers we were allowed extra rations, we could buy as much cheese as we wished.
Stan always went home with a pound of cheese, some bacon and butter to see him through the week. We were there four weeks and all the fresh air did Colin the world of good. The next year Colin was sent to the open air school at Malvern for three months and parents were only allowed one visit during that time. But his Uncle Tom came home on leave, so we tried to wangle another visit, and Tom in his uniform, they allowed us in.

We went hop picking again in September, it was a break for me, and the iar suited Col and we both loved it. Back home again and the war dragged on, next door lived three teenage girls, their mother died when they were young, then their Nan died at the start of the war. They were terrified when the siren started so they asked Stan if they could bring one of their beds into our cellar, he couldn’t refuse and they slept down there until nearly the end of the war. They opened a British restaurant at the bottom of Talbot Street and I would take Colin most days. He didn’t like the dinners but he liked the puddings, so I would buy him one and give him mine, at least he had something warm to go back to school on.

Stan’s Dad became very ill and had to go to hospital, I was going hop picking, so we took colin up to Corbetts hospital to see his Granddad, children weren’t allowed in. His bed was by a window, so we lifted him up so he was able to see and talk to his Granddad. A week later he passed away. Stan came down to Leigh Court and we went back with him for the funeral. Col and I returned to the country the next day, as we had left our belongings there and we stayed to the end of the season.

We joined the Liberal Club and spent many happy hours there. We made friends with Marj’s Mom and Dad, who were also members, and their friends Mr and Mrs Hudson, she was Canadian and he came from London, a very jolly couple. They had a son and daughter Ray and Lillian, Lillian’s young man was in the RAF, very tall and very smart in his uniform. Occasionally Marj, Tom and Ray would be on leave together and we would have a good get together. There was a large snooker room with two full size snooker tables, and seats all around, this is where we would congregate. Stan loved a game of snooker or billiards and children were allowed in. We started a social cub, they let us use an upstairs room, just one night a week. Harry Matten, who ran a concert party would come along with his pianist and entertain us, we would have competitions, and out of the small subs we had to pay they bought small prizes. One night they announced there was a prize for the person with the dirtiest shoes, everybody was looking at their shoes when in walks Colin, he walked away with the prize. It was a plastic holder with black and brown shoe polish, two brushes and a duster. I still have the holder.
Moving on, it was Christmas time, Tom and Marj came on embarkation leave, tom  was being sent to Egypt and Marj to Germany, and they decided to get married, with so little time it was hectic. She had a married sister that lived in a large flat over Adam’s butchers shop opposite the Clifton which is now Lye Market and it was decided the reception would be held there. I remember going round to all my friends asking if they could spare a spoonful of tea, sugar, a jelly, food was still on rations. She only had to buy her bouquet, she borrowed a white wedding dress, veil, head dress and sandals. And so they were married in Church, Marj in white and Tom in uniform. The reception was held at Joyce’s (Marj’s sister) they had borrowed trestle tables and chairs from the liberal club also their piano, and how they got it up the stairs I’ll never know. Mr Cheetham the Clifton manager came over after the cinema closed, he was a brilliant pianist and the party went on and on, it was 4am when we went home.

Tom and Marj stayed with her sister and two days later they travelled down to Dover, not knowing when they would see each other again. He asked me to write to him every week, we corresponded regularly and he sent me numerous snaps, and photographs to reassure us he was safe and well. The years rolled on and gradually we were coming back to a normal way of life, no more nights in the cellar, but food was still in short supply. We decided to go on holiday, so we went to Morcambe by train and stayed in a small cottage on the sea front. It’s now an ice cream parlour. As soon as we arrived we made friends with a couple who were staying there, she was very outgoing and said she had been a ballet dancer in her younger days. Now Colin had started piano lessons and taken his music with him, there was a piano in the room and he told her he could play. “Oh” she said “come along sweetie pie, you play and I’ll dance” so as he played Bertie’s Birthday she pirouetted  around the room. It broke the ice with everyone and we had a smashing holiday, we went again the next year. Still went hop picking during September.

The British Restaurant closed down and Stuart Golfars opened a sewing factory there, as it was so near home I started work there. They had a small canteen and during the morning break we had a round of toast and a cup of tea for 2d. The cook made little cakes for our afternoon break. I kept mine for colin, he was allowed to come into the factory, eat his cake and wait for me to finish work at 4.30. But my easy life was to come to an end, my Mother became ill and we couldn’t make out what was the matter with her. I took her to see the doctor, he examined her and gave her medicine that made her worse. We were all getting worried and not telling anyone I decided to find out. I saw her doctor, and he handed me her notes, told me to read what he had written down when he examined her, cancer of the liver. He also told me she could live for another three months, at the most six months, I was shattered. It was a Friday night and I went back to Mom’s, knowing my brother Stan would be there, as he visited mom every Friday night. Ede, Fred’s wife, was there too. Not saying anything in front of them I waited for Ede to go, and making an excuse, I had forgotten to tell her something, I ran after Ede, and told her the sad news. She was terribly upset, she regarded my Mom as her own mother, as her own Mother passed away when she was a child. So I went back to Mom’s doing my best to put on a brave face and waited for Stan to leave. Walking down the street I broke the news to him. We were all devastated, talking things over with Stan, I decided to pack in my job, so I was free to look after Mom. Now next door but one lived a fellow and after his Mother passed on and having no other relationship, Mother took pity on him and had done his washing, cooking him a dinner on weekdays. She asked me to carry on, so I had Mom and Dad, Vernie and Colin to cook for. I would have my main meal with Stan at tea time.

Thank goodness there were shops near, no need to go down into Lye. She gradually got worse, in terrible pain, and had to stay in bed. A fortnight before Christmas the doctor sent her to Corbett’s Hospital, and she seemed to improve. Ede and I went to visit her two days before Christmas Day and she begged us to take her home, Ede pleaded with her, saying she would be better looked after there. I knew Ede was thinking of me too, but she started to cry, I had never seen my Mother cry, it was too much for me, so I promised she would go home the next day. It was Christmas Eve, I took all her clothes, helped her to get dressed and she walked out of that hospital, but I had to get her to bed when we got home. Christmas Day, I was cooking a chicken and a large joint of pork, so I dished up a dinner with some chicken for Mom, Dad carried it up, leaving the pork to carry on cooking while I was away. I stayed while she ate her dinner and when I got home Stan had laid the table in the front room, we were going to dine in style. Only to find when I opened the oven door, all the rind on the pork was burnt black. Stan said never mind Nell, I’ll cut off all the  burnt. After tea all Stan’s family came to our house as usual, but I was in no mood for entertaining and went up to Mom’s. Stan’s mother came with me.
The days dragged on and Mom was confined to bed. I really needed help so I went to see nurse Dunn, she was a retired lady and knew Mom well, and agreed to come every day. We knew her end was near and I would stay with her till midnight. One night she asked me to stay until she had said her prayer, and she said the first verse of Abide with me. I knew then that she knew too, it was heartbreaking. Even now I get a lump in my throat whenever I hear that hymn. She passed away in the early hours of Jan 20th 1949, not peacefully, in agony. Her son Stan, Fred, Dad, the nurse and myself were with her.

Section 5 - published 27th Oct 2016

During 1948 tom and Marj came home and stayed with Marj’s sister Joyce. Now Joyce and Wilf were going to Bournemouth on holiday, so Tome and Marj went with them. While there they decided to stay . Tom got a job in a grocer’s shop and Marj at Harvey Nicholls. They got furnished rooms, never to return to the midlands to live again. After all the trauma I was not well and had lost a lot of weight, and Marj invited me down there for a break. Stan had no objection and would look after Colin, so I went for a fortnight. Coming back I still had Dad and Vernie to look after, which meant I was running three homes. I could have stopped looking after Vern, but the money he paid me helped me out.

Colin had passed for the Grammar School having had so much time off school owing to illness it was a surprise to us, but we were very pleased. He was also doing well with his piano lessons. Carrie, my friend in Birmingham, had a nice piano her parents had bought new, haing passed on she inherited it. She now had three children and would never be able to afford to have them taught to play it. Harry needed a new suit, so she said if we would pay for a suit we could have it. So a deal was made, our paino went to a pub in Lye. Fred Walton fetched it in his lorry and Harry had his suit.

The three girls next door all married and left and the landlord begged us to buy, he offered us the two houses for £500, but we hadn’t got that much money, so we missed out on that bargain. With Colin’s education in mind we didn’t want to get into any debts, our rent was only eight shillings a week. Mr and Mrs Homer bought the property and came to live next door.

Stan left the Co-op and went to work for Tooby and Sons in Stourbridge, painting and decorating. He had never done that kind of work but was willing to learn, and stayed there for a number of years. I remember the first car he bought, his younger brother Bill, who had learned  to drive in the army was going to teach him to drive. It was an old thing with blown up seats, I told him he would never get me to go out in it, so they took it to a garage and part exchanged it for a Morris. He passed his test first time in it.

Colin did well in his O Levels, but didn’t want to carry on at school, his headmaster got him an interview with a firm in Birmingham, so he started work in the offices of Crittalls in heating and air conditioning. He also had to attend Dudley Technical College once or twice a week, plus evening classes. They were long days for him, his Dad would go in all weathers to pick him up in Dudley to save him hanging around for buses. I must include our day out with Stan’s brother Jack and Joyce, it was Easter and we decided to go to Southport on Bank holiday Monday. Jack said we would go in his car, as it had been checked over at a garage and more reliable than ours. Stan let Bill and Bett, “his girlfriend” and Colin have our car for the day. So we all set off, we had a good day and picknicked in the sand dunes. On returning home we met up with all the traffic from Blackpool and as it got dark we had no lights and eventually came to a full stop. Stan, Josie and I got out and pushed the car until the engine started, this went on for mile after mile. It was 10pm when we pulled into a garage, they said it would take three hours to charge the battery, so Jack decided to carry on. We went on for a few more miles but at the bottom of a step hill it finally stopped. At the top of the hill we had passed a garage but it was closed so there was no alternative, we would have to spend the night in the car. It was bitterly cold, no water to make a hot drink and no way we could get in touch with Colin to let him know we were safe. As dawn broke I saw a farmhouse, I waited until I saw smoke coming out of the chimney and taking the kettle, off I went up the lane. As I entered the farmyard an old lady came out of the house, she had a mop cap on her head and a piece of sacking round her waist, really queer. I asked if I could have a kettle of water, she pointed to a pump and told me to help myself and away she went. Tea had never tasted so good, it was the first we had had since leaving Southport the previous afternoon. The men set off to see if they could get help from the garage at the top of the hill. They returned with a mechanic, he brought another battery and fitted a new pump. We were away in no time at all, arriving home at 9am. Colin had gone to work so I rang the office to let him know all was well. What a night that was.

So the years went by, as Dad grew older the more trouble he became. I had to carry all his meals up to him, although we lived a short distance away, I had to climb a steep hill. He had four sisters who lived quite near, but not one came to see him. Mom had been gone eight years when one Friday night I took him his tea as usual and found him sitting on the couch trying to light his pipe, matches and tobacco all over the floor. When I spoke to him his voice was slurred and I knew something was wrong. I took his matches off him and told him I would light his pipe when I came back. I went straight for his doctor, called at home and Stan came with me. The doctor confirmed he had had a seizure and must not be left alone, and they got him into bed. I stayed with him until midnight when Stan relieved me, same again on Saturday. I couldn’t get him to eat or drink, Sunday morning Stan went for nurse Bishop, she tried to give him a drink but it just trickled out of his mouth. So we had another day and night vigil, we were both shattered and when the doctor called on the Monday morning he said he would do his best to get him away, and that night he was admitted to All Saints hospital in Bromsgrove. He lived another fifteen months, we visited every Sunday afternoon. He passed away July 1959 aged 82 years.

Vernie had been rehoused into a council flat and I was now free of all obligation. Tom and Marj invited me down for a holiday, they had left Bournemouth and gone to keep a newsagents in Hamsworthy, near Poole. They now had two children, Judith who was three years old and Peter, who was a baby. It was a quaint little place, every morning I took the children to Hamworthy beach, Peter in the pram and Judith trotting along at the side. Later on Tom bought the shop and we had many holidays with them. Returning I started work at Golfar’s sewing factory, Stan left Tooby’s and started working on his own, painting and decorating. We made friends with a couple who lived on the other side of the road, a Mr and Mrs Marshall, they had bought a cottage down Martley and he asked if Stan would be interested in decorating it. He took us down to see it one Saturday night, it was very old and isolated, with a stream running down a spinney, and a little wooden bridge over the stream leading to a large paddock. Stan took on the work and took two young lads to help him out. Marshall was going down one afternoon and Stan asked him if he could take me with him. It was a hot summer’s day and I asked if they would like me to make them a cup of tea before starting back. I found the kettle but there was no tap over the sink, Marshall said there was a well over in the paddock. I found it, it had been bricked over, with a wooden door at the front. As the door was at ground level I had to get down on my hands and knees. Opening the door I looked in, it was full of frogs. I swirled the kettle round and managed to fill it. I went back and made the pot of tea. Waiting until they had drunk it, I asked if they had enjoyed it, they thanked me and said it was very nice. I said you have had tea made with frog water, as the well is full of frogs. The one young lad dashed outside heaving his heart out. Needless to say I didn;t have any, I hate frogs, but they didn’t suffer any after effects.

Stan dealt with Manders in Stourbridge for all his paint and wallpaper, and I had just arrived home from work one afternoon when there was a knock on the front door and in front of the window was a Manders van. Opening the door there were two men, who said they were delivering the wallpaper. Thinking nothing of it I told them to bring it in, thinking it would just be a couple of boxes. After six boxes I said “hang on, how many more?” they said it was a van load. Stan had only bought all Manders discontinued stock and never told me. They stacked them on top of the piano, settee, armchairs and every bit of floor space. When Stan came home I gave him a piece of my mind, but he said “don’t worry Nell we’ll get rid of it, when you go to work tomorrow, tell all your friends we have wallpaper at one shilling and sixpence a roll.” The news soon got round and we barely had time to our tea before people were knocking on the door. We got rid of it and had a holiday in Blackpool out of the profit.

I can’t remember what year it was but we were members of the Liberal club and there was an election coming up. I went to the meetings, helping to address envelopes but they had a problem, they needed a committee room. So I volunteered with the landlord’s permission, they could have the use of our front room. Mr Homer was a strong Liberal and gave me consent. They kept us supplied with sandwiches from the club and I supplied the drinks. After tea, members who had cars came along and I went with them, collecting people who had difficulty getting to a polling station. We didn’t win the election but we had a great day and celebrated at the club afterwards.

This concludes the earlier part of Ellen's memoirs, buy the book! www.sidawaysbostinbooks.com


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