As soon as mother got down stairs, she started mixing the bread dough and left it to prove. The doorstep had to be scrubbed with a donkey stone got from the rag and bone man in exchange for old bits and pieces, and the front cleared right up to the edge of the kerb. Quite a competition with the neighbours to see whose front was cleanest! Out at the back, the outside toilet had to be cleaned. Now it was the downstairs rooms that got mother’s full attention: spit and polish throughout: and the downstairs rugs had to be seen to. Tea-time was fish night even for those who weren’t Catholics, with chips for a treat. All the cleaning could be ruined if we weren’t careful with bathnight. Father would carry in the in bath from its hook on the yard wall [watch out for spiders!] It would be put in front of the kitchen fire and filled with hot water from the kettle, boiler or setpot. It was lovely on a winter’s night the smell of the new bread and a warm towel from the range. On the darker evenings, we would cut up old clothes into strips to make rag rugs which were a great addition to stopping the dreaded chilblains!
Autumn. And bonfire night to plan for. Streets would vie with each other to see who could make the best Guy using old clothes scrounged from parents and neighbours stuffed with rags, straw or old newspapers. And we’d spend what seemed like hours tugging him round on a cart with our shouts of ‘Penny for a Guy’. The cart was just an old box from the greengrocer’s and an old set of pram wheels. We’ld sing the ‘cob coaling’ song, but sometimes the police would chase us for begging! The big boys had to find lots of rubbish and bits of wood to make a fire. And then we had to find a place to have the fire without the grownups knowing. And what fun we had: I remember once when we got some sparklers and bangers. We got into trouble for that. The long evenings were just right for the boys who would play ‘knockadoor runaway’ escaping into the dark or, even worse, tying two doors knockers together so that the men got really angry continually answering the door. I’m sure they must have heard us sniggering!
It was also the season when the girls had to wear their liberty bodices to help to keep them warm. How the braid itched, and how tight they were!
From a book of Memories compiled by Kathryn A. Booth.
This book of memories is compiled from the stories told about life around the time of World War 1. It is used in some Senior Citizens homes to help recall memories of times past. If you would like to add any of your families memories from this time, please use the contact form below.