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18th November 2014
Location: Brighton Toy and Model Museum
Interviewer: Penelope Nightingale
Videographer: Sean Kelly

00:07 – Linda: Well, my favourite one was one I had at Christmas with a magnificent pram and she was black this doll, and it was about ten years I suppose after the Windrush project of Afro Caribbean people coming into the country that were invited in, if you remember, in the late forties, and the fifties. And in Brighton, nobody ever saw anybody with a coloured skin, it just didn’t occur. But these dolls were seen as incredibly exotic, and we just thought they were absolutely gorgeous. There was nobody at school with a dark skin, or curly hair, and I had a friend who also asked for a black doll for Christmas, so the two of us walked round with our prams with our black dolls in. And when I think about it, looking back, it was quite an interesting stage in the history of this country, that that was happening in such a natural and –

Linda: We pushed them proudly round the streets. We both had prams that were miniatures of those wonderful big sprung prams that babies used to go around in, in those days.

Penelope: Silvercross

Linda: I mean nobody had collapsible things. Beautiful. I mean they were engineered like a magnificent car. Big springs, big dip underneath them, a hood. We had all the works with it, canopy, what have you, stormcover, so even if it was raining we could still carry on playing. And I didn’t realise ‘til many years afterwards that my mother had really really struggled to pay for this pram, and this doll. And we used to go down to a shop, I think it was probably Buxtons, down along towards the seafront, every week, just to make sure that Father Christmas had actually got the message about the doll and the pram that I was wanting. And in actual fact, she was paying off a little bit each week, so that I would have this wonderful pram and doll. So that was how the money was having to be eked out. But it was a beautiful, beautiful pram and a beautiful doll.

Linda: Well I had lots of dolls actually, and I took my responsibility towards them very very seriously. I couldn’t leave home on a cold morning without making sure they were all covered up in the bedroom. So they would be on the floor, on cushions and things and they had to be covered up. So I think I had a very [laughing] I was a bit OCD probably about it, but you know I did feel that they needed my care and attention, most definitely.

Linda: I suppose they were like a little fantasy family for me, and a little world over which I had control. My real family was going through a really difficult time. My father and my grandfather had to deal with the business going bust, my grandmother and my mother had an impact from that of course. Money was very tight. We had moved from a little house in Patcham, all in together because we couldn’t afford to run two homes, so we moved in with grandparents, and so it was all a bit squashed, mother and grandmother sharing a kitchen. There was a lot of tension in the house at that time, and looking back I think that this was another little world over which I had control in my bedroom, or the bedroom I shared with my sister. My sister didn’t have any dolls, was not remotely interested.

ENDS 04m 06s

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18th November 2014
Location: Brighton Toy and Model Museum
Interviewer: Penelope Nightingale
Videographer: Sean Kelly

00:06 – Penelope: So now let me begin, let me begin. Can I ask you where you were born?

Linda: Yes, I was born in Brighton.

Penelope: Oh you were born in Brighton?

Linda: Yes

Penelope: And would you like to tell me which year? You can tell me which decade.

Linda: Nineteen forty eight

Penelope: Nineteen forty eight?

Linda: Yes, I’m sixty six.

Penelope: Ah-ha. A very very big year nineteen forty eight.

Linda: It was. It was indeed, yes.

Penelope: And where did you spend your childhood? Was it here?

Linda: Yes, in Brighton. I grew up mainly at Five Ways in Brighton, and my family has been in Brighton, well I’m the sixth generation so

Penelope: Oh goodness

Linda: hundreds of years.

Penelope: Well done. My goodness [both laugh]

Linda: Which I think is quite unusual, for Brighton. Yes.

Penelope: Was it a family house?

Linda: Yes, it was. Would you like me to go into the background of

Penelope: You may, if you like. What I was going to say was if it was a family house, were there family toys?

Linda: I don’t remember there being family toys actually. That’s quite an interesting one. But my father and grandfather, I lived with my grandparents, my parents and my sister and I, were living together, and my father and grandfather were very keen on things like carpentry and making stuff, so they had their own workbenches down in the cellar of the house, and I had a little version of that to play on, so in the sense that I was using family tools, to make things, that was family stuff, but not the things I was actually playing with, they were new.

Penelope: Well that’s really interesting, in fact maybe we could get to that side of your playtime later on about construction. This interview is basically about any teddy bears, dolls, you may have had. And can I ask you what your parents did?

Linda: Well, my father was the son of a business man who was a builder and estate agent, and when I was five that whole business failed. So the family went from being well off, to being very very impoverished. And my father had not taken any exams at school because he was expected to go into the family business. He was a bright man but he didn’t work at school. He went to Varndean and he didn’t bother working at school. So he ended up working in a factory. My mother worked as a school secretary, and we got by, we got by. So there was a kind of, a kind of genteel poverty about the house, and always a worry about money which will emerge as we talk.

Penelope: I’m sure it will because I can imagine that could well have impacted on the kind of toys ‘it did’ and the number of toys that you (‘yes. Absolutely’) had (‘yes it did’). Did you actually have a teddy bear?

04.59 – Linda: I did have a teddy bear, yes. But dolls were much much more important to me than teddy bears. I think from a very young age I realised that a bear wouldn’t stand in the place of a baby for me [laughs] I was probably very realistic in that sense, you know, it was nice to have fluffy things, but actually what I wanted was to play at being a mother. So dolls were more important. But yes, I did have a teddy bear.

Penelope: So your parents bought you one? Or was there a doll already in the house?

Linda: I think Father Christmas brought the teddy bear.

Penelope: But the dolls came from?

Linda: One of the dolls that I remember in particular did come from Father Christmas as well, but after that I did have dolls from parents. I had an older sister, so I was told about Father Christmas much younger than I was ready for really [laughs].

Penelope: So dolls in particular, they were your main playmate (‘huge’) yes. Tell me about your favourite one.

Linda: Well, my favourite one was one I had at Christmas with a magnificent pram and she was black this doll, and it was about ten years I suppose after the Windrush project of Afro Caribbean people coming into the country that were invited in, if you remember, in the late forties, and the fifties. And in Brighton, nobody ever saw anybody with a coloured skin, it just didn’t occur. But these dolls were seen as incredibly exotic, and we just thought they were absolutely gorgeous. There was nobody at school with a dark skin, or curly hair, and I had a friend who also asked for a black doll for Christmas, so the two of us walked round with our prams with our black dolls in. And when I think about it, looking back, it was quite an interesting stage in the history of this country, that that was happening in such a natural and –

Penelope: It certainly was. So you were a bit of an innovator there, you and your friend?

Linda: I suppose so. I mean nobody thought anything about it. We both asked from Father Christmas for black dolls.

Penelope: What did you do with your friend and these dolls?

Linda: We pushed them proudly round the streets. We both had prams that were miniatures of those wonderful big sprung prams that babies used to go around in, in those days.

Penelope: Silvercross

Linda: I mean nobody had collapsible things. Beautiful. I mean they were engineered like a magnificent car. Big springs, big dip underneath them, a hood. We had all the works with it, canopy, what have you, stormcover, so even if it was raining we could still carry on playing. And I didn’t realise ‘til many years afterwards that my mother had really really struggled to pay for this pram, and this doll. And we used to go down to a shop, I think it was probably Buxtons, down along towards the seafront, every week, just to make sure that Father Christmas had actually got the message about the doll and the pram that I was wanting. And in actual fact, she was paying off a little bit each week, so that I would have this wonderful pram and doll. So that was how the money was having to be eked out. But it was a beautiful, beautiful pram and a beautiful doll. My friend, who I am still in touch with, was an only child, the daughter of a family who ran a couple of businesses, and her pram was a twin pram, with twin black dolls in. [both laugh] But that was fine, that was absolutely fine.

Penelope: This doll was important to you wasn’t it?

Linda: Yes. Very. Annabelle her name was.

Penelope: What was she made of?

Linda: Well she wasn’t breakable, so she wasn’t china. She had hair. She had eyes that closed when she lay back. I suppose Bakelite was coming in in those days. I’m talking about the fifties really, because if I was born in forty eight, this would have been about fifty five, fifty six, fifty seven, so I would imagine some early form of Bakelite.

Penelope: Also cellulose was used for dolls as well.

Linda: Yes, yes, yes.

Penelope: What colour eyes did that black doll have?

Linda: Brown

Penelope: It did have brown eyes, because some of them have blue don’t they?

Linda: Yes. No she did have brown eyes. I did have other dolls that had hair, blonde hair and blue eyes, but this was the one that I remember really well.

Penelope: [overlapping] That was the one. Do you still have her?

Linda: No. No idea what happened (‘do you know what happened to her?’) to her. No. No idea.

Penelope: So she was your primary number one, absolutely adored doll.

Linda: She was yes. Absolutely, yes.

Penelope: What about other dolls that you had?

Linda: Well I had lots of dolls actually, and I took my responsibility towards them very very seriously. I couldn’t leave home on a cold morning without making sure they were all covered up in the bedroom. So they would be on the floor, on cushions and things and they had to be covered up. So I think I had a very [laughing] I was a bit OCD probably about it, but you know I did feel that they needed my care and attention, most definitely.

Penelope: Did you make clothes for them?

Linda: I started to knit yes. Probably very rudimentary things like little scarves and what have you. But, yes. They came with, a doll usually came with an outfit, and then you could maybe ask for another one. My birthday was in February so I could always hope that somebody would give me something that would fit. They had wonderful little shoes, with little plastic buttons and a bar that came across and they were great, putting those on and off.

Penelope: You spent a lot of time with them didn’t you?

Linda: [overlapping] I did. Yes I did.

Penelope: What are your best memories of your dolls?

09.30 – Linda: I suppose they were like a little fantasy family for me, and a little world over which I had control. My real family was going through a really difficult time. My father and my grandfather had to deal with the business going bust, my grandmother and my mother had an impact from that of course. Money was very tight. We had moved from a little house in Patcham, all in together because we couldn’t afford to run two homes, so we moved in with grandparents, and so it was all a bit squashed, mother and grandmother sharing a kitchen. There was a lot of tension in the house at that time, and looking back I think that this was another little world over which I had control in my bedroom, or the bedroom I shared with my sister. My sister didn’t have any dolls, was not remotely interested.

Penelope: But you were?

Linda: I was, yes. Yes.

Penelope: Do you remember how many you had?

Linda: Well, a line of them. I mean there must have been twenty.

Penelope: Do you still have any of them?

Linda: No. I don’t.

Penelope: That’s interesting.

Linda: It is isn’t it? And I have no idea what became of them, none at all, or that beautiful pram. They must have gone on to a cousin I think to be used. I had plenty of cousins so I think it was probably handed on.

Penelope: You said your best memory was of the black doll. Pushing the black doll. (‘mm’) Do you have any specific memories about the other dolls? You said they were sort of white with blonde.

Linda: Yes I do. My sister who was three years older, had a very enquiring mind, let’s put it politely like that, she was very very bright, and she cut the lashes [laughing] of one of the dolls, one of the blonde dolls and poked about the eyes, and the eye fell out, one of the eyes fell out, and in those days in Brighton down by the level there was something called a doll’s hospital

Penelope: there was indeed.

Linda: And so this doll had to go to the dolls’ hospital and have a new eye put in [laughing]

Penelope: How did you feel about that?

Linda: Well, I’d been to hospital myself to have my tonsils out, so I kind of knew that you came out of that situation and all would be well, so I just sort of accepted that that would be alright, and she did come back, with a new blue eye, so that was fine. [both laugh] Wonderful.

Penelope: You obviously loved them.

Linda: I did. Yes, I did.

Penelope:They were a second family for you as you say. Did you feed them? Well you took one of them to hospital?

Linda: I took one of them to hospital. The friend who had the twin pram, whose name is Prunella, and I, used to spend our pocket money, I mean when I look back it seems absolutely bizarre, but we used to spend our pocket money on real baby products, like little Johnsons lotions, and talcum powder and things, and then when we would bathe our dolls we would use these real products. So this was us really I think in training for what we perceived was our destiny, which was to become mothers. It never occurred to us that we would do anything else, the pair of us. I mean we were completely –

Penelope:They had a profound effect upon you and your life.

Linda: I don’t know whether they had an effect on me, or whether they were just my way of expressing who I was at that time. I don’t know. I don’t know how you would sort that one out, but certainly they fulfilled a need in me.

Penelope: You maybe were able to give them the love that wasn’t apparently circulating as freely as it might have done.

Linda: There was love, but there was also turmoil, and I think what I sought was a peaceful, more serene place. My grandfather and I had that in common, but other people in the family were quite feisty.

13.59 – Penelope: You did mention in the beginning that you had a teddy bear, but the teddy bear was not as important as the dolls. (No). What kind of bear?

Linda: It was just a golden teddy bear with a stitched on snout. I think the bear probably did sleep in the bed with me. Interestingly I don’t think I ever had the dolls in bed with me, I think they would have been seen as too hard, but the bear, I think did sometimes sleep in the bed with me. But I didn’t play at being the bear’s mother in the way that I did with my dolls.

Penelope: Tell me a little bit more about the construction of the bear. When did he come into your life?

Linda: Of the bear? I think probably he came with us when we moved from our little house in Patcham to that house at Fiveways. So I think he was a toy that I’d had for a very long time.

Penelope: So it was definitely a he.

Linda: Yes.

Penelope: And did you give him a name?

Linda: No. he was just Bear.

Penelope: He was just Bear

Linda: Dolls had names but he didn’t. No.

Penelope: But he was sometimes more intimately involved with you if he slept with you.

Linda: Well, yes, but he was soft wasn’t he?

Penelope: Yes

Linda: And the dolls were hard.

Penelope: Did he go anywhere else with you? Did he go out on trips or anything like that with you?

Linda: No, the dolls would always come for things like that.

Penelope: He stayed on your bed?

Linda: Yes

Penelope: Did he have clothes or any accessories?

Linda: Well he definitely had a scarf, because I remember thinking of him as a bit like Rupert Bear at one time, and Rupert only ever put a scarf on didn’t he in the winter? In the depths of winter. A scarf was enough wasn’t it?

Penelope: Did he not have a red jacket?

Linda: No. No. didn’t [both laughing] Alas, no. But he was always tucked up nicely, and he was cared for.

Penelope: Well you did I was going to say, you did actually take care of him didn’t you?

Linda: I did, yes.

Penelope: Did he go out of your bedroom? How did you move him around?

Did you carry him by the ear or the leg or what?

Linda: I think, no, I wouldn’t have carried him by the ear. I was very respectful of my dolls and toys. I would have carried him sort of around the waist, tucked under my arm.

Penelope: How big was he?

Linda: I should think he was about that big.

Penelope: That looks to me like about fifteen, sixteen inches?

Linda: Yes. Or maybe, somewhere between a foot and fifteen inches yes.

Penelope: His arms and legs moved?

Linda: They weren’t jointed. They flapped. The legs were sort of, they didn’t have a swivel joint in them they just flapped up and down.

Penelope: I’m just trying to get a picture of him.

Linda: Yes. I don’t think he was very expensive bear, you know not like those very gorgeous ones. What are they called?

Penelope: [whispered] Steiff.

Linda: No, he wasn’t one of those. He was just a little soft toy really, but he looked like a bear.

Penelope: But he still gave you pleasure?

Linda: Yes. He did

Penelope: You have good memories of him?

Linda: Yes I do, mm.

Penelope: He was bear.

Linda: Yes. [laughing]

17.31 – Penelope: You mentioned earlier about your siblings having little construction benches and things and that you had one as well.

Linda: That was my dad. My father and my grandfather

Penelope: Ah, right.

Linda: So we were in a house which had a big cellar underneath it, and all down one side of the cellar was a big workbench, which my grandfather worked at, and my father worked at. Not doing anything in particular, but just as a hobby really, and I had a tiny little vice, that clamped on to the end of this, and we had a little pond in the garden, so I used to hammer nails into bits of wood and make sails, and float these little boats, little flat boats on the water. It was just another thing that I did, but I quite liked being down there, it was sort of away from the house.

Penelope: So you presumably played with those things by yourself, but you constructed them yourself out of odd bits of wood that you found?

Linda: Bits of wood that were lying about, and nails, and I had a little hammer, it wasn’t a child’s hammer, it was just a small version of an adult hammer like the vice was a small version. Looking back its quite interesting that, I think it was unusual for a girl in that era to have had Meccano for instance, but I knew about Meccano, and I had two boys that were in my class at school, twins, and their mother and my mother were very good friends, and so we would be in each other’s houses when they were having a cup of tea and a natter together. And when I went to their house they always had Meccano on their bedroom floor, and so I used to construct things alongside them, and used to think how lovely it would be to have a Meccano set, but I didn’t ever have one, and I don’t think I actually asked for one, I just thought Oh this is a nice thing to play with. But maybe being in the cellar and having that bench kind of answered that need to create something.

Penelope: I find that quite interesting in a girl that you were making things like that.

Linda: Yes. Very simple things, yes.

Penelope: Because you are quite right. When we were thinking about construction toys we were thinking about Meccano, we were thinking about building blocks and Airfix and things like that, but actually you constructed your own toy.

Linda: Well I just. Yes I mean I don’t want to make it sound too grand, it really was just hammering nails into bits of wood and pretending that they were something or other.

Penelope: How old were you when you were doing that?

Linda: Well, I was five when we went to that house, and I was thirteen when we moved away, so somewhere between those ages. But probably not over eleven I would say, probably between five and eleven.

Penelope: So you were happily playing with boys and their Meccano sets?

Linda: Mm [both laugh] Yes, which were wonderful. I mean they were full of tiny little nuts and bolts and screws and things, and I thought that was all wonderful.

Penelope: One of the things which later on in life people often think is that there was something which they would have loved to have had. Some sort of toy that they would have loved to have had

Linda: Yes, yes. Well I’ll tell you what it was for me. My grandfather started to make me, now it was not a dolls house, it was a dolls bungalow. Down in the cellar, on the shed. And he was a perfectionist. He was a really skilled carpenter, self taught, and this dolls bungalow progressed so slowly, that by the time he died when I was eleven, it still wasn’t finished. And then a year later I was through that stage and out the other end, so I never did have my dolls bungalow. But that would have been the kind of thing I could have thrown myself into completely, because there would have been a little domain with tiny tables and chairs and beds and what have you, and I think I would have loved to have had that ready to play with. But sadly it didn’t ever get finished in time for me to benefit from it.

Penelope: I suppose that one’s gone as well?

Linda: It is gone, yes. And I remember that being given to a neighbour.

Penelope: That must have been a bit hard.

Linda: Well I knew I wasn’t going to play with it, and my grandfather had died so

Penelope: And you were too old anyway.

Linda: And I was getting too old, and my father wasn’t going to finish it, so. [both laugh]

Penelope: So, lets go back to the very best memories that you have of any of your toys. I think you’ve probably told me what it was.

Linda: Well it would have to be Annabelle and the pram. Yes, it was an amazing amazing Christmas to get all that lot and have her in this beautiful pram and push her round. Absolutely lovely.

Penelope: It sounds absolutely wonderful.

Linda: Mm It was great, it was lovely [both laugh] And all that tucking in, that careful tucking in and making sure everything was beautiful ‘yes’ mm

Penelope: And you did make one or two clothes for her?

Linda: Yes, I think so, yes.

Penelope: I think you did. Well, I have to say Linda thank you very much for talking to us today.

Linda: You’re very welcome. Great pleasure

INTERVIEW ENDS 23m 13s

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18th November 2014
Location: Brighton Toy and Model Museum
Interviewer: Penelope Nightingale
Videographer: Sean Kelly

Penelope: So now let me begin, let me begin. Can I ask you where you were born?

Linda: Yes, I was born in Brighton.

Penelope: Oh you were born in Brighton?

Linda: Yes

Penelope: And would you like to tell me which year? You can tell me which decade.

Linda: Nineteen forty eight

Penelope: Nineteen forty eight?

Linda: Yes, I’m sixty six.

Penelope: Ah-ha. A very very big year nineteen forty eight.

Linda: It was. It was indeed, yes.

Penelope: And where did you spend your childhood? Was it here?

Linda: Yes, in Brighton. I grew up mainly at Five Ways in Brighton, and my family has been in Brighton, well I’m the sixth generation so

Penelope: Oh goodness

Linda: hundreds of years.

Penelope: Well done. My goodness [both laugh]

Linda: Which I think is quite unusual, for Brighton. Yes.

Penelope: Was it a family house?

Linda: Yes, it was. Would you like me to go into the background of

Penelope: You may, if you like. What I was going to say was if it was a family house, were there family toys?

01.00 – Linda: I don’t remember there being family toys actually. That’s quite an interesting one. But my father and grandfather, I lived with my grandparents, my parents and my sister and I, were living together, and my father and grandfather were very keen on things like carpentry and making stuff, so they had their own workbenches down in the cellar of the house, and I had a little version of that to play on, so in the sense that I was using family tools, to make things, that was family stuff, but not the things I was actually playing with, they were new.

Penelope: Well that’s really interesting, in fact maybe we could get to that side of your playtime later on about construction. This interview is basically about any teddy bears, dolls, you may have had. And can I ask you what your parents did?

Linda: Well, my father was the son of a business man who was a builder and estate agent, and when I was five that whole business failed. So the family went from being well off, to being very very impoverished. And my father had not taken any exams at school because he was expected to go into the family business. He was a bright man but he didn’t work at school. He went to Varndean and he didn’t bother working at school. So he ended up working in a factory. My mother worked as a school secretary, and we got by, we got by. So there was a kind of, a kind of genteel poverty about the house, and always a worry about money which will emerge as we talk.

02.52 – Penelope: I’m sure it will because I can imagine that could well have impacted on the kind of toys ‘it did’ and the number of toys that you (‘yes. Absolutely’) had (‘yes it did’). Did you actually have a teddy bear?

03.02 – Linda: I did have a teddy bear, yes. But dolls were much much more important to me than teddy bears. I think from a very young age I realised that a bear wouldn’t stand in the place of a baby for me [laughs] I was probably very realistic in that sense, you know, it was nice to have fluffy things, but actually what I wanted was to play at being a mother. So dolls were more important. But yes, I did have a teddy bear.

Penelope: So your parents bought you one? Or was there a doll already in the house?

Linda: I think Father Christmas brought the teddy bear.

03.42 – Penelope: But the dolls came from?

Linda: One of the dolls that I remember in particular did come from Father Christmas as well, but after that I did have dolls from parents. I had an older sister, so I was told about Father Christmas much younger than I was ready for really [laughs].

Penelope: So dolls in particular, they were your main playmate (‘huge’) yes. Tell me about your favourite one.

Linda: Well, my favourite one was one I had at Christmas with a magnificent pram and she was black this doll, and it was about ten years I suppose after the Windrush project of Afro Caribbean people coming into the country that were invited in, if you remember, in the late forties, and the fifties. And in Brighton, nobody ever saw anybody with a coloured skin, it just didn’t occur. But these dolls were seen as incredibly exotic, and we just thought they were absolutely gorgeous. There was nobody at school with a dark skin, or curly hair, and I had a friend who also asked for a black doll for Christmas, so the two of us walked round with our prams with our black dolls in. And when I think about it, looking back, it was quite an interesting stage in the history of this country, that that was happening in such a natural and –

Penelope: It certainly was. So you were a bit of an innovator there, you and your friend?

Linda: I suppose so. I mean nobody thought anything about it. We both asked from Father Christmas for black dolls.

Penelope: What did you do with your friend and these dolls?

Linda: We pushed them proudly round the streets. We both had prams that were miniatures of those wonderful big sprung prams that babies used to go around in, in those days.

Penelope: Silvercross

Linda: I mean nobody had collapsible things. Beautiful. I mean they were engineered like a magnificent car. Big springs, big dip underneath them, a hood. We had all the works with it, canopy, what have you, stormcover, so even if it was raining we could still carry on playing. And I didn’t realise ‘til many years afterwards that my mother had really really struggled to pay for this pram, and this doll. And we used to go down to a shop, I think it was probably Buxtons, down along towards the seafront, every week, just to make sure that Father Christmas had actually got the message about the doll and the pram that I was wanting. And in actual fact, she was paying off a little bit each week, so that I would have this wonderful pram and doll. So that was how the money was having to be eked out. But it was a beautiful, beautiful pram and a beautiful doll. My friend, who I am still in touch with, was an only child, the daughter of a family who ran a couple of businesses, and her pram was a twin pram, with twin black dolls in. [both laugh] But that was fine, that was absolutely fine.

Penelope: This doll was important to you wasn’t it?

Linda: Yes. Very. Annabelle her name was.

Penelope: What was she made of?

Linda: Well she wasn’t breakable, so she wasn’t china. She had hair. She had eyes that closed when she lay back. I suppose Bakelite was coming in in those days. I’m talking about the fifties really, because if I was born in forty eight, this would have been about fifty five, fifty six, fifty seven, so I would imagine some early form of Bakelite.

Penelope: Also cellulose was used for dolls as well.

Linda: Yes, yes, yes.

Penelope: What colour eyes did that black doll have?

Linda: Brown

Penelope: It did have brown eyes, because some of them have blue don’t they?

Linda: Yes. No she did have brown eyes. I did have other dolls that had hair, blonde hair and blue eyes, but this was the one that I remember really well.

Penelope: [overlapping] That was the one. Do you still have her?

Linda: No. No idea what happened (‘do you know what happened to her?’) to her. No. No idea.

Penelope: So she was your primary number one, absolutely adored doll.

Linda: She was yes. Absolutely, yes.

Penelope: What about other dolls that you had?

Linda: Well I had lots of dolls actually, and I took my responsibility towards them very very seriously. I couldn’t leave home on a cold morning without making sure they were all covered up in the bedroom. So they would be on the floor, on cushions and things and they had to be covered up. So I think I had a very [laughing] I was a bit OCD probably about it, but you know I did feel that they needed my care and attention, most definitely.

Penelope: Did you make clothes for them?

Linda: I started to knit yes. Probably very rudimentary things like little scarves and what have you. But, yes. They came with, a doll usually came with an outfit, and then you could maybe ask for another one. My birthday was in February so I could always hope that somebody would give me something that would fit. They had wonderful little shoes, with little plastic buttons and a bar that came across and they were great, putting those on and off.

Penelope: You spent a lot of time with them didn’t you?

Linda: [overlapping] I did. Yes I did.

Penelope: What are your best memories of your dolls?

09.28 – Linda: I suppose they were like a little fantasy family for me, and a little world over which I had control. My real family was going through a really difficult time. My father and my grandfather had to deal with the business going bust, my grandmother and my mother had an impact from that of course. Money was very tight. We had moved from a little house in Patcham, all in together because we couldn’t afford to run two homes, so we moved in with grandparents, and so it was all a bit squashed, mother and grandmother sharing a kitchen. There was a lot of tension in the house at that time, and looking back I think that this was another little world over which I had control in my bedroom, or the bedroom I shared with my sister. My sister didn’t have any dolls, was not remotely interested.

Penelope: But you were?

Linda: I was, yes. Yes.

Penelope: Do you remember how many you had?

Linda: Well, a line of them. I mean there must have been twenty.

Penelope: Do you still have any of them?

Linda: No. I don’t.

Penelope: That’s interesting.

Linda: It is isn’t it? And I have no idea what became of them, none at all, or that beautiful pram. They must have gone on to a cousin I think to be used. I had plenty of cousins so I think it was probably handed on.

Penelope: You said your best memory was of the black doll. Pushing the black doll. (‘mm’) Do you have any specific memories about the other dolls? You said they were sort of white with blonde.

Linda: Yes I do. My sister who was three years older, had a very enquiring mind, let’s put it politely like that, she was very very bright, and she cut the lashes [laughing] of one of the dolls, one of the blonde dolls and poked about the eyes, and the eye fell out, one of the eyes fell out, and in those days in Brighton down by the level there was something called a doll’s hospital

Penelope: there was indeed.

Linda: And so this doll had to go to the dolls’ hospital and have a new eye put in [laughing]

Penelope: How did you feel about that?

Linda: Well, I’d been to hospital myself to have my tonsils out, so I kind of knew that you came out of that situation and all would be well, so I just sort of accepted that that would be alright, and she did come back, with a new blue eye, so that was fine. [both laugh] Wonderful.

Penelope: You obviously loved them.

Linda: I did. Yes, I did.

Penelope:They were a second family for you as you say. Did you feed them? Well you took one of them to hospital?

Linda: I took one of them to hospital. The friend who had the twin pram, whose name is Prunella, and I, used to spend our pocket money, I mean when I look back it seems absolutely bizarre, but we used to spend our pocket money on real baby products, like little Johnsons lotions, and talcum powder and things, and then when we would bathe our dolls we would use these real products. So this was us really I think in training for what we perceived was our destiny, which was to become mothers. It never occurred to us that we would do anything else, the pair of us. I mean we were completely –

Penelope:They had a profound effect upon you and your life.

Linda: I don’t know whether they had an effect on me, or whether they were just my way of expressing who I was at that time. I don’t know. I don’t know how you would sort that one out, but certainly they fulfilled a need in me.

Penelope: You maybe were able to give them the love that wasn’t apparently circulating as freely as it might have done.

Linda: There was love, but there was also turmoil, and I think what I sought was a peaceful, more serene place. My grandfather and I had that in common, but other people in the family were quite feisty.

13.57 – Penelope: You did mention in the beginning that you had a teddy bear, but the teddy bear was not as important as the dolls. (No). What kind of bear?

Linda: It was just a golden teddy bear with a stitched on snout. I think the bear probably did sleep in the bed with me. Interestingly I don’t think I ever had the dolls in bed with me, I think they would have been seen as too hard, but the bear, I think did sometimes sleep in the bed with me. But I didn’t play at being the bear’s mother in the way that I did with my dolls.

Penelope: Tell me a little bit more about the construction of the bear. When did he come into your life?

Linda: Of the bear? I think probably he came with us when we moved from our little house in Patcham to that house at Fiveways. So I think he was a toy that I’d had for a very long time.

Penelope: So it was definitely a he.

Linda: Yes.

Penelope: And did you give him a name?

Linda: No. he was just Bear.

Penelope: He was just Bear

Linda: Dolls had names but he didn’t. No.

Penelope: But he was sometimes more intimately involved with you if he slept with you.

Linda: Well, yes, but he was soft wasn’t he?

Penelope: Yes

Linda: And the dolls were hard.

Penelope: Did he go anywhere else with you? Did he go out on trips or anything like that with you?

Linda: No, the dolls would always come for things like that.

Penelope: He stayed on your bed?

Linda: Yes

Penelope: Did he have clothes or any accessories?

Linda: Well he definitely had a scarf, because I remember thinking of him as a bit like Rupert Bear at one time, and Rupert only ever put a scarf on didn’t he in the winter? In the depths of winter. A scarf was enough wasn’t it?

Penelope: Did he not have a red jacket?

Linda: No. No. didn’t [both laughing] Alas, no. But he was always tucked up nicely, and he was cared for.

Penelope: Well you did I was going to say, you did actually take care of him didn’t you?

Linda: I did, yes.

Penelope: Did he go out of your bedroom? How did you move him around? Did you carry him by the ear or the leg or what?

Linda: I think, no, I wouldn’t have carried him by the ear. I was very respectful of my dolls and toys. I would have carried him sort of around the waist, tucked under my arm.

Penelope: How big was he?

Linda: I should think he was about that big.

Penelope: That looks to me like about fifteen, sixteen inches?

Linda: Yes. Or maybe, somewhere between a foot and fifteen inches yes.

Penelope: His arms and legs moved?

Linda: They weren’t jointed. They flapped. The legs were sort of, they didn’t have a swivel joint in them they just flapped up and down.

Penelope: I’m just trying to get a picture of him.

Linda: Yes. I don’t think he was very expensive bear, you know not like those very gorgeous ones. What are they called?

Penelope: [whispered] Steiff.

Linda: No, he wasn’t one of those. He was just a little soft toy really, but he looked like a bear.

Penelope: But he still gave you pleasure?

Linda: Yes. He did

Penelope: You have good memories of him?

Linda: Yes I do, mm.

Penelope: He was bear.

Linda: Yes. [laughing]

17.28 – Penelope: You mentioned earlier about your siblings having little construction benches and things and that you had one as well.

Linda: That was my dad. My father and my grandfather

Penelope: Ah, right.

Linda: So we were in a house which had a big cellar underneath it, and all down one side of the cellar was a big workbench, which my grandfather worked at, and my father worked at. Not doing anything in particular, but just as a hobby really, and I had a tiny little vice, that clamped on to the end of this, and we had a little pond in the garden, so I used to hammer nails into bits of wood and make sails, and float these little boats, little flat boats on the water. It was just another thing that I did, but I quite liked being down there, it was sort of away from the house.

Penelope: So you presumably played with those things by yourself, but you constructed them yourself out of odd bits of wood that you found?

Linda: Bits of wood that were lying about, and nails, and I had a little hammer, it wasn’t a child’s hammer, it was just a small version of an adult hammer like the vice was a small version. Looking back its quite interesting that, I think it was unusual for a girl in that era to have had Meccano for instance, but I knew about Meccano, and I had two boys that were in my class at school, twins, and their mother and my mother were very good friends, and so we would be in each other’s houses when they were having a cup of tea and a natter together. And when I went to their house they always had Meccano on their bedroom floor, and so I used to construct things alongside them, and used to think how lovely it would be to have a Meccano set, but I didn’t ever have one, and I don’t think I actually asked for one, I just thought Oh this is a nice thing to play with. But maybe being in the cellar and having that bench kind of answered that need to create something.

Penelope: I find that quite interesting in a girl that you were making things like that.

Linda: Yes. Very simple things, yes.

Penelope: Because you are quite right. When we were thinking about construction toys we were thinking about Meccano, we were thinking about building blocks and Airfix and things like that, but actually you constructed your own toy.

Linda: Well I just. Yes I mean I don’t want to make it sound too grand, it really was just hammering nails into bits of wood and pretending that they were something or other.

Penelope: How old were you when you were doing that?

Linda: Well, I was five when we went to that house, and I was thirteen when we moved away, so somewhere between those ages. But probably not over eleven I would say, probably between five and eleven.

Penelope: So you were happily playing with boys and their Meccano sets?

Linda: Mm [both laugh] Yes, which were wonderful. I mean they were full of tiny little nuts and bolts and screws and things, and I thought that was all wonderful.

Penelope: One of the things which later on in life people often think is that there was something which they would have loved to have had. Some sort of toy that they would have loved to have had

Linda: Yes, yes. Well I’ll tell you what it was for me. My grandfather started to make me, now it was not a dolls house, it was a dolls bungalow. Down in the cellar, on the shed. And he was a perfectionist. He was a really skilled carpenter, self taught, and this dolls bungalow progressed so slowly, that by the time he died when I was eleven, it still wasn’t finished. And then a year later I was through that stage and out the other end, so I never did have my dolls bungalow. But that would have been the kind of thing I could have thrown myself into completely, because there would have been a little domain with tiny tables and chairs and beds and what have you, and I think I would have loved to have had that ready to play with. But sadly it didn’t ever get finished in time for me to benefit from it.

Penelope: I suppose that one’s gone as well?

Linda: It is gone, yes. And I remember that being given to a neighbour.

Penelope: That must have been a bit hard.

Linda: Well I knew I wasn’t going to play with it, and my grandfather had died so

Penelope: And you were too old anyway.

Linda: And I was getting too old, and my father wasn’t going to finish it, so.

[both laugh]

Penelope: So, lets go back to the very best memories that you have of any of your toys. I think you’ve probably told me what it was.

Linda: Well it would have to be Annabelle and the pram. Yes, it was an amazing amazing Christmas to get all that lot and have her in this beautiful pram and push her round. Absolutely lovely.

Penelope: It sounds absolutely wonderful.

Linda: Mm It was great, it was lovely [both laugh] And all that tucking in, that careful tucking in and making sure everything was beautiful ‘yes’ mm

Penelope: And you did make one or two clothes for her?

Linda: Yes, I think so, yes.

Penelope: I think you did. Well, I have to say Linda thank you very much for talking to us today.

Linda: You’re very welcome. Great pleasure

Penelope: Wonderful to hear about those things, especially the black dolls which is fascinating, absolutely fascinating.

INTERVIEW ENDS 23m 14s

Linda

Linda was born into the sixth generation of a Brighton family in 1948. When she was five the family business failed, and Linda’s family moved from their home in Patcham to live with her grandparents in Fiveways. The short version (04m 06s) of her interview focuses on the dolls that she had as a child and how she felt about them. In the full version (23m 13s) she also teaks about her teddy bear and making wooden boats.