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8th December 2014
Location: Blind Veterans UK, Brighton
Interviewer: Andrea Dumbrell
Videographer: Dan Cash
Also present: Jean

Ted: I had Meccano. There was always Meccano about at home.

Jim: Yes, Meccano, that was the big one. Used to make almost anything and everything with Meccano, as long as you had enough bits, and hadn’t lost all the bolts and nuts, because they were nut and bolts connections, there was no sort of screwing, to wood and things like that. But they were good.

Peter Burbery: I had Meccano as well.

Peter Briant: I used to make buildings with my Meccano [Andrea: okay] such as churches and things like that. All bolted together with nut and bolt. Bridges. I made bridges.

Andrea: What did other people make out of their Meccano?

Ted: Cranes and things like that [Peter Burbery: Cranes. Yes.] When my parents took me up to see me grandparents in Albion Hill in Brighton, we was always given a box of like stone bricks,[Andrea: yes] with curved ones and straight ones and you could build things with them. But they were,you know just ordinary straight bricks, you couldn’t connect them together like you could Meccano.

Peter Burbery: Meccano, in my case I can remember building a crane and there was a winch, so you had a piece of string and that, and a pulley wheel at the top, and I still have the grab, in amongst some bits and pieces that are in a drawer of oddments that you throw away but you’ve got no use for, so I’ve still actually got the grab, a metal one obviously, yes I’ve still got that indoors, but the rest of the Meccano goes on you know to your brother or your sister. I had three sisters so there were dolls around, but I didn’t play with the dolls, but yes, Meccano was –

Ted: Yes. I mean our Meccano I’d got three brothers and then two sisters [Peter Burbery:Yes] and the Meccano went down to my brothers, but by the time my sisters were small, I was the eldest of the five of us.

Ted: Cranes was a big thing though wasn’t it? Meccano

Peter Burbery: Crane. Yes, crane. Well mainly because if you had those pulley wheels and the winch and the grab, then it was the obvious thing to do wasn’t it? With so many cranes, proper cranes being about [Ted: in the harbour too wasn’t it] yes

Andrea: And do you remember whether or not you always had all the bits you needed in Meccano?

Ted: I think you ran out of screws and nuts and bolts.

Peter Briant: [overlapping] you could go and buy them. You could buy extra bits at Taylors in Preston Street Brighton. Any parts you wanted for Meccano, you could buy, to increase the size of your set.

Peter Burbery: If you could afford to buy them, if you had the money.

Peter Briant: If you could afford it.

Peter Burbery: Christmas present and that was it wasn’t it, you know.

Ted: A box full of it

Peter Burbery: A box full.

ENDS 03m 41s

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8th December 2014
Location: Blind Veterans UK, Brighton
Interviewer: Andrea Dumbrell
Videographer: Dan Cash
Also present: Jean

00.05 – Andrea: What I’m going to start by asking, is I’m just going to start by asking each of you in turn to just tell us for the sake of the camera, what your name is, when you were born and where you were born. So if we start with Peter.

Peter Burbery: Yes. Date of birth January the thirtieth, nineteen thirty six.

Andrea: Right.

Peter Burbery: Born in Brighton.

Andrea: Okay. Brilliant, and Jim.

Jim: Right, um I was born on the fourth of June nineteen thirty two and that was in Hove, and I’ve lived there most of my life.

Andrea: Okay. Thank you. And Ted.

Ted: I was born in Southwick on the 8th December nineteen twenty four. Ninety years ago today.

Andrea: Today?

Ted: Today

Andrea: Happy birthday.

Ted: Thank you love.

Andrea: And what about yourself? Did you want to –

Peter Briant: I was Peter Briant born in Brighton two ten twenty [Andrea: wonderful thank you very much] and I’ve lived in Brighton all my life except for the Second World War.

Andrea: Okay, now as you may remember the project’s meant to be focussing on teddy bears, dolls and construction toys. Now I know from

Ted: You didn’t mention that, didn’t mention construction toys. Yes?

01.49 – Andrea: Ah, okay. I know from talking to a lot of you last week that some of those may provoke more memories than others, shall we say, but I’m going to ask you anyway, does anyone remember having a teddy bear?

Ted: Yes. I do.

Andrea: Okay, what was it like?

Ted: You call me Ted, but I was christened William Arthur, and the Ted, Ted comes round because of a teddy bear. I was born in a shop in Grange Road in Southwick, and my parents used to put me out the front of the shop, in my pram with a big yellow teddy bear, and people went by and said hello teddy bear, and it stuck to me. And when I went to school I was called Ted Bear.

Andrea: Okay, so it stuck with you all your life?

Ted: And it stuck with me all my life, yes. I’ve never – except for documents, I’ve never used my initials, my William Arthur.

Andrea: Okay. Does anyone else remember having a teddy bear? Yes

Jim: Yes I do. When I was very small I was always scratching him, so he permanently had a sort of naked tummy, just no fur left on him at all, but he was an old faithful. He eventually got replaced by a monkey which was named Jacko, and he wasn’t a patch on Ted, but it was a change.

03.19 – Andrea: [long pause] So the next thing I need to ask you about is dolls. Now, does anyone remember having any dolls?

Ted: No

Andrea: We could define dolls as baby dolls, we could define dolls as just little figures of people, we could have quite a sort of like broad definition of dolls if you want, so if you had you know little figures of people who worked on farms or little soldiers or

Ted: Oh yes, I had lead soldiers that were, and lead farm animals, but I mean lead toys were quite common. I don’t think they’re about now are they?

Andrea: No. they tend not to be about on sale because they’re made of lead. [several voices: yes] We’ve got a lot in the museum.[Ted: Have you, yes.] So did anyone else have lead figures?

Peter Briant: I had lots of Britains’ soldiers and farm animals and farm equipment made by Britains.

Andrea: And how did you play with them?

Peter Briant: Well the farm had tractors and ploughs which I put together and played with, the soldiers I used to form up into ranks, not do much with them, but look at them.

Andrea: So it was about setting them out?

Peter Briant: Setting them out.

Jim: I was a little more untidy with my toy soldiers. I used to go in our back garden which had a lot of rockeries and I’d make fortresses, and I’d gradually lose all these soldiers in the soil. I had a few left over but by that time I was getting a bit too big for them, but I used to play out there, and have little trenches in sand and soil, very untidy, my father was not pleased, but there we are, I didn’t do too much damage.

Andrea: Did they turn up later on?

Jim: Every so often when there was a bit of weeding or digging done, they’d come out, a little tiny figure, very very small, about an inch high, they were a tiny range, and by that time I probably wasn’t interested. I can remember that, just about.

06.08 – Andrea: So, construction toys. Does anyone remember having any construction toys?

Ted: I had Meccano. There was always Meccano about at home.

Jim: Yes, Meccano, that was the big one. Used to make almost anything and everything with Meccano, as long as you had enough bits, and hadn’t lost all the bolts and nuts, because they were nut and bolts connections, there was no sort of screwing, to wood and things like that. But they were good.

Peter Burbery: I had Meccano as well.

Peter Briant: I used to make buildings with my Meccano [Andrea: okay] such as churches and things like that. All bolted together with nut and bolt. Bridges. I made bridges.

Andrea: What did other people make out of their Meccano?

Ted: Cranes and things like that [Peter Burbery: Cranes. Yes.] When my parents took me up to see me grandparents in Albion Hill in Brighton, we was always given a box of like stone bricks,[Andrea: yes] with curved ones and straight ones and you could build things with them. But they were,you know just ordinary straight bricks, you couldn’t connect them together like you could Meccano.

Peter Burbery: Meccano, in my case I can remember building a crane and there was a winch, so you had a piece of string and that, and a pulley wheel at the top, and I still have the grab, in amongst some bits and pieces that are in a drawer of oddments that you throw away but you’ve got no use for, so I’ve still actually got the grab, a metal one obviously, yes I’ve still got that indoors, but the rest of the Meccano goes on you know to your brother or your sister. I had three sisters so there were dolls around, but I didn’t play with the dolls, but yes, Meccano was –

Ted: Yes. I mean our Meccano I’d got three brothers and then two sisters [Peter Burbery:Yes] and the Meccano went down to my brothers, but by the time my sisters were small, I was the eldest of the five of us.

Andrea: Did your sisters play with the Meccano?

Ted: I don’t think they did, no.

Andrea: No I ask because we were talking to some people the other day and we were expecting the women to say oh no we didn’t play with the Meccano, and actually the two women there who must both have been in about their seventies, both said oh yeah, we played with Meccano, which actually surprised us because we didn’t think they were going to say that.

Jim: Did they say what they made with it? What sort of things? Probably dolls prams or miniature [laughter]

Andrea: Possibly, I’d have to listen again. I don’t think they did say what, but you’re quite right, we should have asked them what they made, [Peter Burbery: Yes,] whether they made engineering type things or-

Ted: Cranes was a big thing though wasn’t it? Meccano

Peter Burbery: Crane. Yes, crane. Well mainly because if you had those pulley wheels and the winch and the grab, then it was the obvious thing to do wasn’t it? With so many cranes, proper cranes being about [Ted: in the harbour too wasn’t it] yes

Andrea: And do you remember whether or not you always had all the bits you needed in Meccano?

Ted: I think you ran out of screws and nuts and bolts.

Peter Briant: [overlapping] you could go and buy them. You could buy extra bits at Taylors in Preston Street Brighton. Any parts you wanted for Meccano, you could buy, to increase the size of your set.

Peter Burbery: If you could afford to buy them, if you had the money.

Peter Briant: If you could afford it.

Peter Burbery: Christmas present and that was it wasn’t it, you know.

Ted: A box full of it

Peter Burbery: A box full.

Andrea: And did you make things the instructions told you to make or did you make up your own designs?

Jim: Originals

Peter Briant: I made up my own designs

Andrea: Because I know from talking to some people they were saying that actually when you tried to follow the instructions you quite often found that the instructions weren’t quite right and you had to adapt it anyway.

Peter Burbery: Well that goes even for today in the modern days doesn’t it, with anything. If you’re doing a DIY job and it’s a flat pack, you can never follow the instructions because you just don’t understand them, so – [laughs]

Jim: If modern ones are made in China they have difficulties with the language in the instructions you’ll find. I found that.

Dan: I was reading somewhere that Frank Hornby deliberately put the mistakes into the Meccano instructions to force children to use their ingenuity to overcome the problem that he’d created.

Ted: Yes, that’s reasonable.

Dan: So he’d make better engineers out of the children that he was –

Andrea: Do you think he really did it on purpose, or do you think that was just him covering himself after he’d realised he’d done it?

Peter Briant: Well Frank Hornby not only had Meccano, but was very busy copying the American Tootsietoy, small cars and trucks [Andrea: mm] for his Dublo gauge railway he built for sale with the small cars and tracks that he started building in England.

Andrea: Yes, that’s where the Dinky ones come from originally isn’t it?

Peter Briant: Before the Second World War he had a small range. After the Second World War he had an enormous range of Dinky toys. But Tootsietoys in nineteen thirty, cars and trucks were sixpence, Hornby came out at two and six each vehicle. [pause]

13.10 – Andrea: Did any of you have trainsets?

Ted: Yes.

Peter Briant: Yes. [Andrea: Yes?] Hornby 00, Hornby 0 Gauge, and Italian gauge one. All electric.

Andrea: So electric ones?

Peter Briant: Yes.

Andrea: Is gauge one smaller or larger than 00?

Peter Briant: Gauge one is twice the size of 0 gauge.

Andrea: okay.

Ted: And that needs a lot of room.

Andrea: It does. We’ve got 0 gauge at the museum so

Ted: Yes, that’s right, yes. I mean the train set I went just went round and round in circles I think.

Peter Briant: Well I had a big workshop where I could lay out the track on the floor for 00 and 0 gauge, and Tri-ang had another gauge which was slightly smaller than 00, so I had three railways of different types running, plus the one gauge which was big, and needed a lot more space.

Peter Burbery: Have we got away from us being children with toys?

Andrea: Ooh. I don’t know. How old were you all when you had these trainsets? [laughing]

Peter Briant: From ten ‘til fifteen

Andrea: Right.

Jim: About the same. [pause] Because that’s when you have a sort of boost in pocket money which would help you buy some of those things because the 00 gauge were never cheap [Overlapping: Peter Briant: Christmas presents and birthdays] Yes Christmas and birthdays and saved up pocket money, if you could.[laughs]

Peter Burbery: If you had any pocket money. Ted: Yes. You could have a penny on Saturday

Peter Burbery: [overlapping] I don’t know remember – I don’t know about pocket money.

Andrea: No?

Peter Burbery: No.

Andrea: So would all your toys have been presents?

Peter Burbery: Christmas, yes and birthdays , yes.

Peter Briant: Believe it or not, my entire collection which I kept in a storeroom, was stolen one night and I got three thousand five hundred compensation. I had nothing left. And then when I was thirty I started collecting again, and had two hundred cars and the Dinky toy, Corgi range, Tri-ang, the railways I had again, all until I was eighty when my wife made me sell the lot. [laughter]

Andrea: And did you have it all on a proper layout I assume?

Peter Briant: I had an enormous storeroom where I had it all laid out.

Andrea: Because I ask, because some people when we’ve been asking about construction toys say well oh do trains count as construction toys and I think actually if you’re sort of like constructing the rails, you’re deciding how you put them together, even if it’s just in a circle or if you’ve got a choice or you’re creating a layout with scenery, then that to me is very much construction isn’t it?

Peter Briant: Yes.

Jim: Oh yes.

Andrea: Even more so if you’re actually constructing the locomotives which I know some people do.

Jim: Happy days.

Andrea: Yes [laughter] Anything else that you made as children?

Peter Briant: The Hornby model car, about that size [gestures], came in a kit, and had steering and brakes and everything. Cost about fifteen pounds.[clears throat]

Andrea: What about anyone else? Anything else you made?

17.39 – Jim: I remember some of the very first plastic aeroplane kits which came out just before the start of the Second World War, and they did a very short range, sort of Spitfire, things like that, difficult, but they were a funny sort of plastic, and you had to get a special glue for them and special paint [Andrea: okay] and that used to shatter my father’s finances somewhat. But there weren’t many until after the war, and by that time I was too old to be interested, but just about 1940, one could buy British and German aircraft, small ones in a one seventy second scale. But they since then they’ve been made in all sorts of scales so it’s quite different now, but it was fun in those days.

Andrea: So was this pre Airfix?

Jim: It was pre Airfix yes

Peter Briant: Airfix after the war.

Andrea: Mm, that’s what I thought.

Jim: Yes, Airfix was much later.

Andrea: I’m actually sitting here with an Airfix Spitfire next to me, it’s in bits.

Jim: The one before the war was Frog Penguin they were called. Why penguin I don’t know but they were the Frog company and they made this short range of plastic kits. They were fun.

Andrea: Mm. So anything else that people made that may not have been bought from shops? So I mean you know we were talking to someone earlier who was remembering building forts on the beach because it was sandy.

19.23 – Peter Briant: I built a fort for my children.

Andrea: Okay.

Peter Briant: With soldiers, guns and everything.

Peter Burbery: Micro models, which I think you did have in the Toy Museum.

Andrea: The little cardboard ones?

Peter Burbery: Steam engines and buildings. I’ve probably got twenty or more indoors still in a case. Not on show, I mean attaché case up in the loft. And there are still some unfinished ones in there. I got too old for it didn’t I? Senior school by then. But I used to put cardboard, which was cornflake boxes and things and tape together, and draw tracks out on them, and set the engines up with the coaches and what have you and sidings, shed and –

Peter Briant: There’s one make of model that no one’s mentioned, the Matchbox series, when hundreds of cars and trucks were made minutely in matchboxes and sold for sixpence. Then, suddenly, the Chinese took over everything. Hornby went to China to have its engines made, and slowly but surely the whole thing escalated and then died out.

Andrea: Yes the toy manufacturing industry did go into decline didn’t it?

Peter Briant: Completely finished in England and all went to China.

Andrea: And France. Part of Hornby is now in France I believe as well.

Peter Briant: They still made Jouet models in France of cars and things. J o uet

Andrea: Mm.

21.46 – Peter Burbery: Apart from a box made out of orange boxes, the ends which were fairly solid, and using my dad’s workshop I made a wooden box to put my one pair of shoes in. Hinges as well, I put the shoes in, and the lid wouldn’t go down because the box wasn’t deep enough [laughing] so that’s called learning by your mistakes.

Andrea: Yes. And how old were you when you made that?

Peter Burbery: I would have been about ten or eleven I suppose. Yes because we’d moved – we’d moved up the road, in the same road, and we’d moved up the road and I was next to the greengrocers shop and so the boxes were available, because I mean they came in in wooden boxes, oranges and what have you, and you could break them up and use them for all sorts of things. And that’s what I made, a shoe box. They went in width wise, length wise, but they were too shallow for the lid to shut down on [laughter]

Andrea: So did you use the box for something else?

Peter Burbery: Yes, yes [laughing] I’m thinking about it now, I could have put another piece round couldn’t I?

Ted: Yes.

Peter Burbery: See you weren’t there to tell me were you?

Ted: No.

Peter Burbery: Then put the hinges back on afterwards. Now you tell me [laughter]

Ted: You should have seen Lee with it, he’d have sorted it out.

Peter Burbery: Yes Lee would have sorted it out, yes. That was my – I expect that was probably my first bit of woodwork, which my dad was very clever at. I mentioned about the wooden dog, which wobbled – wobbled along because of the shape of the legs underneath, and it would actually walk along, all four legs being independent of each other. And you could do that on a downhill piece without pulling it as well if it was a steep enough, it would just walk.

Ted: What’s he get, a design for it somewhere?

Peter Burbery: I think there must have been a design, yes, I’m sure. But to make the shape in the bottoms of those legs so that they move like that, and independently and one after the other, I thought that was – whoever thought it up must have been very clever. Yes.

Andrea: So were any of the rest of your toys handmade?

24.25 – Peter Burbery: Yes, and over the weekend when my wife was looking for a particular picture, and we didn’t find it, we came across, see I did remember you were coming on Monday [sings] Is it in amongst my fifty pound notes?

Ted: You left it at home Pete.

Peter Burbery: No no it was there this morning

Ted: It’s a big one isn’t it?

Peter Burbery: No, it’s a little tiny one. Oh there it is.

Andrea: Okay. Ooh.

Peter Burbery: That was another one my father made.

Andrea: I’m going to hand it to Dan so he can wave it at the video camera.

Peter Burbery: [overlapping] I think apart from having a number on it, you have to – because my father worked – during the war worked in the railway works building the engines, or doing engineering parts for engines.

Ted: [overlapping] what at Brighton?

Peter Burbery: Yes, at Brighton, and I think its got a name on it, I think my wife said it was Tich when she looked at it with a magnifying glass.

Dan: I’m getting Dan to take a photo of it so we’ll be able to zoom in on the photo later and – , the photo of the photo as it were.

Peter Burbery: Yes, so that was, I remember that one, and I know my brother, who’s twelve years younger than me, it was still around when he came along, so – but I’m not quite sure where it finished up. It was well looked after, it wasn’t big enough to sit on, [Andrea: mm] but you could put all sorts of things inside it, and I remember it had you know little gauges and handles and things inside where you would expect it to be for driving an engine, yes.

Andrea: Okay. It’s amazing isn’t it? Yes, I think it does say Tich.

Peter Burbery: Tich, yes. I think that’s what

Andrea: TICH

Peter Burbery: Yes.

Andrea: That’s what it looks like to me.

Peter Burbery: Yes. Yes, so that’s – [Andrea: There you go. Thank you] thank you. Yes I’ll have to get that – I’ll have to get it blown up.

Ted: Yes, I bet they’ll do it here. Dave could do it.

Peter Burbery: [overlapping] I think it was – oh Dave would do it yes [Andrea: mm] I think it was yellow in colour, but that’s irrelevant isn’t it. But so there you are, I’ve got a picture of one of my toys [laughs]

26.50 – Andrea: So anything else that anyone remembers making or other people making for them or –

Ted: I know Dad made us a fort for the lead soldiers, and he also made a farmyard for the animals but you know Dad was a bit handy with wood.

Peter Burbery: I made those in later life, and dolls houses. As an adult, but yes, three dolls houses, or two houses and one bungalow to be precise, and I know at least two of those have survived, through our children and then passed on to grandchildren one of them, but I think the fort’s disappeared, did make a fort and there’s two farmyards, one of those still survives. Yes, taking on from my father I suppose, using – always using tools. I think –

Ted: Were you allowed to use your dad’s tools?

Peter Burbery: Yes, yes, yes.

Ted: The old man wouldn’t let us use it, get near his tools.

Peter Burbery: No. No, had his own workshop, I say workshop it was a room, it had other things in it, but that was where he done his work and a tool chest, when I was big enough I could lift the lid up because the lid had three or four saws on it so apart from being a wooden lid, you know about so long that was quite heavy on its own, but once I could lift that up I could find the tools, yes.[pause] Tenon saws was what I used to use, because the other ones were too big, and a tenon saw would be used for most of the sawing of wood.

28.46 – Andrea: So any other thoughts about any types of toy or play we haven’t yet mentioned that you think you’d like to share with the camera as it were.

Ted: um

Jim: Occasionally one got roped into to build, or should we say construct something, that wasn’t quite a toy. One of my cousins wanted to have a tree house so of course we got together and built a tree house. I was about twelve or thirteen, and we even managed to have a little cooker that we took up, and heated it to boil an egg. But the tree house was there for three or four years before it finally fell to pieces, so that was a little bit out of the normal toy range. We had fun building it, and just came to pieces eventually, got a bit old [laughs]

Peter Briant: One of the other things apart from playing with toys, I started collecting stamps as a hobby [Andrea: mm], and had quite a big collection of stamps, then that ended.

Andrea: Mm, yes. [pause] I can see you’ve got something you want to show me.

Ted: If you open it up I’ve written on the back of it. No not, the other side, no Andrea: “Reg teaching his brother John to ride a trike outside of the Central Garage”. Look at that Dan.

Ted: You can have it.

Andrea: Really? Thank you, that’s amazing.

Peter Briant: Where was the Central Garage?

Ted: In Grange Road in Southwick.

Peter Briant: Where?

Ted: In Grange Road in Southwick

Peter Briant: In Southwick?

Andrea: Mm. That’s amazing, thank you very much. So any other thoughts or shall I pull you to a close?

Ted: You said you were interested in memories.

Andrea: mm

Ted: There’s a couple of books that I’ve written.[Andrea: Oh] You can have them

Andrea: Thank you very much.

Ted: My memories of Southwick.

Andrea: Thank you. Much appreciated.

INTERVIEW ENDS 31m 18s

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8th December 2014
Location: Blind Veterans UK, Brighton
Interviewer: Andrea Dumbrell
Videographer: Dan Cash
Also present: Jean

Andrea: And I shall try not to cough.

Dan: Good

Andrea: I’m beginning to feel that this may be the interview when I start coughing.

Peter Burbery: Have you got a drink ready on the table?

Andrea: No, we haven’t. [Peter Burbery: No? oh dear] We haven’t no. I said to Dan earlier if I start coughing I’ll just dive out the room coughing, and Dan can talk to you instead [Peter Burbery: Right] And we might remember to take some photos this time round.

Dan: Hope so.

Peter Burbery: Well I can see there’s legs there, which means there’s a tripod with something on it.

Andrea: Yeah. That’s a video camera.

Peter Burbery: Oh right

Andrea: So. [long pause. Voices in the distance and new people arriving] You can head for the chair just over there, one of these two.

Peter Burbery: Oh no. Not you.[laughing] Mister birthday boy.

Andrea: Shall I move? Is that alright for you Dan?

Jean: That’s it, okay? Alright, give us a call. Are you okay there?

Peter Briant: Yes.

Jean: Okay, are you waiting for somebody?

Peter Briant: No. [Okay] Is there a class here?

Jean: No, they’re just doing an interview. [Okay] No, but you’re okay.

Andrea: Yes, I was just going to say, we’re just going to interview the chaps over here about their memories of toys, but if you want to just sit there that’s –

Peter Briant: About toys?

Andrea: Yeah but if you want to

Peter Briant: Yes you could interview me.

Andrea: If you want to sit there, you’re welcome to stay sitting.

Jean: Okay, see you in a bit then.

Andrea: Okay, will do. So, I’ve got Peter Jim and Ted haven’t I?

Ted: That’s right

Peter Burbery: That’s it, yes

Andrea: And are you all re angled Dan?

Dan: I’m good thank you yes.

Andrea: Dan’s operating the video camera for us. [Peter Burbery:Right] And you’ve remembered me coming in last week, and you know what the project’s all about?

[together: Yes]
Andrea: Okay, so I don’t need to go through that all over again. What I’m going to start by asking, is I’m just going to start by asking each of you in turn to just tell us for the sake of the camera, what your name is, when you were born and where you were born. So if we start with Peter.

03:04 – Peter Burbery: Yes. Date of birth January the thirtieth, nineteen thirty six.

Andrea: Right.

Peter Burbery: Born in Brighton.

Andrea: Okay. Brilliant, and Jim.

Jim: Right, um I was born on the fourth of June nineteen thirty two and that was in Hove, and I’ve lived there most of my life.

Andrea: Okay. Thank you. And Ted.

Ted: I was born in Southwick on the 8th December nineteen twenty four. Ninety years ago today.

Andrea: Today?

Ted: Today

Andrea: Happy birthday.

Ted: Thank you love.

Andrea: And what about yourself? Did you want to –

Peter Briant: I was Peter Briant born in Brighton two ten twenty [Andrea:wonderful thank you very much] and I’ve lived in Brighton all my life except for the Second World War.

Andrea: Okay, now as you may remember the project’s meant to be focussing on teddy bears, dolls and construction toys. Now I know from

Ted: You didn’t mention that, didn’t mention construction toys. Yes?

04.28 – Andrea: Ah, okay. I know from talking to a lot of you last week that some of those may provoke more memories than others, shall we say, but I’m going to ask you anyway, does anyone remember having a teddy bear?

Ted: Yes. I do.

Andrea: Okay, what was it like?

Ted: You call me Ted, but I was christened William Arthur, and the Ted, Ted comes round because of a teddy bear. I was born in a shop in Grange Road in Southwick, and my parents used to put me out the front of the shop, in my pram with a big yellow teddy bear, and people went by and said hello teddy bear, and it stuck to me. And when I went to school I was called Ted Bear.

Andrea: Okay, so it stuck with you all your life?

Ted: And it stuck with me all my life, yes. I’ve never – except for documents, I’ve never used my initials, my William Arthur.

Andrea: Okay. Does anyone else remember having a teddy bear?

Jim: Yes I do. When I was very small I was always scratching him, so he permanently had a sort of naked tummy, just no fur left on him at all, but he was an old faithful. He eventually got replaced by a monkey which was named Jacko, and he wasn’t a patch on Ted, but it was a change.

06.05 – Andrea: [long pause] So the next thing I need to ask you about is dolls. Now, does anyone remember having any dolls?

Ted: No

Andrea: We could define dolls as baby dolls, we could define dolls as just little figures of people, we could have quite a sort of like broad definition of dolls if you want, so if you had you know little figures of people who worked on farms or little soldiers or

Ted: Oh yes, I had lead soldiers that were, and lead farm animals, but I mean lead toys were quite common. I don’t think they’re about now are they?

Andrea: No. they tend not to be about on sale because they’re made of lead. [several voices: yes] We’ve got a lot in the museum.[Ted: Have you, yes.] So did anyone else have lead figures?

Peter Briant: I had lots of Britains’ soldiers and farm animals and farm equipment made by Britains.

Andrea: And how did you play with them?

Peter Briant: Well the farm had tractors and ploughs which I put together and played with, the soldiers I used to form up into ranks, not do much with them, but look at them.

Andrea: So it was about setting them out?

Peter Briant: Setting them out.

Jim: I was a little more untidy with my toy soldiers. I used to go in our back garden which had a lot of rockeries and I’d make fortresses, and I’d gradually lose all these soldiers in the soil. I had a few left over but by that time I was getting a bit too big for them, but I used to play out there, and have little trenches in sand and soil, very untidy, my father was not pleased, but there we are, I didn’t do too much damage.

Andrea: Did they turn up later on?

Jim: Every so often when there was a bit of weeding or digging done, they’d come out, a little tiny figure, very very small, about an inch high, they were a tiny range, and by that time I probably wasn’t interested. I can remember that, just about.

08. 48 – Andrea: So, construction toys. Does anyone remember having any construction toys?

Ted: I had Meccano. There was always Meccano about at home.

Jim: Yes, Meccano, that was the big one. Used to make almost anything and everything with Meccano, as long as you had enough bits, and hadn’t lost all the bolts and nuts, because they were nut and bolts connections, there was no sort of screwing, to wood and things like that. But they were good.

Peter Burbery: I had Meccano as well.

Peter Briant: I used to make buildings with my Meccano [Andrea: okay] such as churches and things like that. All bolted together with nut and bolt. Bridges. I made bridges.

Andrea: What did other people make out of their Meccano?

Ted: Cranes and things like that [Peter Burbery: Cranes. Yes.] When my parents took me up to see me grandparents in Albion Hill in Brighton, we was always given a box of like stone bricks,[Andrea: yes] with curved ones and straight ones and you could build things with them. But they were,you know just ordinary straight bricks, you couldn’t connect them together like you could Meccano.

Peter Burbery: Meccano, in my case I can remember building a crane and there was a winch, so you had a piece of string and that, and a pulley wheel at the top, and I still have the grab, in amongst some bits and pieces that are in a drawer of oddments that you throw away but you’ve got no use for, so I’ve still actually got the grab, a metal one obviously, yes I’ve still got that indoors, but the rest of the Meccano goes on you know to your brother or your sister. I had three sisters so there were dolls around, but I didn’t play with the dolls, but yes, Meccano was –

Ted: Yes. I mean our Meccano I’d got three brothers and then two sisters [Peter Burbery:Yes] and the Meccano went down to my brothers, but by the time my sisters were small, I was the eldest of the five of us.

Andrea: Did your sisters play with the Meccano?

Ted: I don’t think they did, no.

Andrea: No I ask because we were talking to some people the other day and we were expecting the women to say oh no we didn’t play with the Meccano, and actually the two women there who must both have been in about their seventies, both said oh yeah, we played with Meccano, which actually surprised us because we didn’t think they were going to say that.

Jim: Did they say what they made with it? What sort of things? Probably dolls prams or miniature [laughter]

Andrea: Possibly, I’d have to listen again. I don’t think they did say what, but you’re quite right, we should have asked them what they made, [Peter Burbery: Yes,] whether they made engineering type things or-

Ted: Cranes was a big thing though wasn’t it? Meccano

Peter Burbery: Crane. Yes, crane. Well mainly because if you had those pulley wheels and the winch and the grab, then it was the obvious thing to do wasn’t it? With so many cranes, proper cranes being about [Ted: in the harbour too wasn’t it] yes

Andrea: And do you remember whether or not you always had all the bits you needed in Meccano?

Ted: I think you ran out of screws and nuts and bolts.

Peter Briant: [overlapping] you could go and buy them. You could buy extra bits at Taylors in Preston Street Brighton. Any parts you wanted for Meccano, you could buy, to increase the size of your set.

Peter Burbery: If you could afford to buy them, if you had the money.

Peter Briant: If you could afford it.

Peter Burbery: Christmas present and that was it wasn’t it, you know.

Ted: A box full of it

Peter Burbery: A box full.

Andrea: And did you make things the instructions told you to make or did you make up your own designs?

Jim: Originals

Peter Briant: I made up my own designs

Andrea: Because I know from talking to some people they were saying that actually when you tried to follow the instructions you quite often found that the instructions weren’t quite right and you had to adapt it anyway.

Peter Burbery: Well that goes even for today in the modern days doesn’t it, with anything. If you’re doing a DIY job and it’s a flat pack, you can never follow the instructions because you just don’t understand them, so – [laughs]

Jim: If modern ones are made in China they have difficulties with the language in the instructions you’ll find. I found that.

Dan: I was reading somewhere that Frank Hornby deliberately put the mistakes into the Meccano instructions to force children to use their ingenuity to overcome the problem that he’d created.

Ted: Yes, that’s reasonable.

Dan: So he’d make better engineers out of the children that he was –

Andrea: Do you think he really did it on purpose, or do you think that was just him covering himself after he’d realised he’d done it?

Peter Briant: Well Frank Hornby not only had Meccano, but was very busy copying the American Tootsietoy, small cars and trucks [Andrea: mm] for his Dublo gauge railway he built for sale with the small cars and tracks that he started building in England.

Andrea: Yes, that’s where the Dinky ones come from originally isn’t it?

Peter Briant: Before the Second World War he had a small range. After the Second World War he had an enormous range of Dinky toys. But Tootsietoys in nineteen thirty, cars and trucks were sixpence, Hornby came out at two and six each vehicle. [pause]

15.46 – Andrea: Did any of you have trainsets?

Ted: Yes.

Peter Briant: Yes. [Andrea: Yes?] Hornby 00, Hornby 0 Gauge, and Italian gauge one. All electric.

Andrea: So electric ones?

Peter Briant: Yes.

Andrea: Is gauge one smaller or larger than 00?

Peter Briant: Gauge one is twice the size of 0 gauge.

Andrea: okay.

Ted: And that needs a lot of room.

Andrea: It does. We’ve got 0 gauge at the museum so

Ted: Yes, that’s right, yes. I mean the train set I went just went round and round in circles I think.

Peter Briant: Well I had a big workshop where I could lay out the track on the floor for 00 and 0 gauge, and Tri-ang had another gauge which was slightly smaller than 00, so I had three railways of different types running, plus the one gauge which was big, and needed a lot more space.

Peter Burbery: Have we got away from us being children with toys?

Andrea: Ooh. I don’t know. How old were you all when you had these train sets? [laughing]

Peter Briant: From ten ‘til fifteen

Andrea: Right.

Jim: About the same. [pause] Because that’s when you have a sort of boost in pocket money which would help you buy some of those things because the 00 gauge were never cheap [Overlapping: Peter Briant: Christmas presents and birthdays] Yes Christmas and birthdays and saved up pocket money, if you could.[laughs]

Peter Burbery: If you had any pocket money.

Ted: Yes. You could have a penny on Saturday

Peter Burbery: [overlapping] I don’t know remember – I don’t know about pocket money.

Andrea: No?

Peter Burbery: No.

Andrea: So would all your toys have been presents?

Peter Burbery: Christmas, yes and birthdays , yes.

Peter Briant: Believe it or not, my entire collection which I kept in a storeroom, was stolen one night and I got three thousand five hundred compensation. I had nothing left. And then when I was thirty I started collecting again, and had two hundred cars and the Dinky toy, Corgi range, Tri-ang, the railways I had again, all until I was eighty when my wife made me sell the lot. [laughter]

Andrea: And did you have it all on a proper layout I assume?

Peter Briant: I had an enormous storeroom where I had it all laid out.

Andrea: Because I ask, because some people when we’ve been asking about construction toys say well oh do trains count as construction toys and I think actually if you’re sort of like constructing the rails, you’re deciding how you put them together, even if it’s just in a circle or if you’ve got a choice or you’re creating a layout with scenery, then that to me is very much construction isn’t it?

Peter Briant: Yes.

Jim: Oh yes.

Andrea: Even more so if you’re actually constructing the locomotives which I know some people do.

Jim: Happy days.

Andrea: Yes [laughter] Anything else that you made as children?

Peter Briant: The Hornby model car, about that size [gestures], came in a kit, and had steering and brakes and everything. Cost about fifteen pounds.[clears throat]

Andrea: What about anyone else? Anything else you made?

20.18 – Jim: I remember some of the very first plastic aeroplane kits which came out just before the start of the Second World War, and they did a very short range, sort of Spitfire, things like that, difficult, but they were a funny sort of plastic, and you had to get a special glue for them and special paint [Andrea: okay] and that used to shatter my father’s finances somewhat. But there weren’t many until after the war, and by that time I was too old to be interested, but just about 1940, one could buy British and German aircraft, small ones in a one seventy second scale. But they since then they’ve been made in all sorts of scales so it’s quite different now, but it was fun in those days.

Andrea: So was this pre Airfix?

Jim: It was pre Airfix yes

Peter Briant: Airfix after the war.

Andrea: Mm, that’s what I thought.

Jim: Yes, Airfix was much later.

Andrea: I’m actually sitting here with an Airfix Spitfire next to me, it’s in bits.

Jim: The one before the war was Frog Penguin they were called. Why penguin I don’t know but they were the Frog company and they made this short range of plastic kits. They were fun.

Andrea: Mm. So anything else that people made that may not have been bought from shops? So I mean you know we were talking to someone earlier who was remembering building forts on the beach because it was sandy.

Peter Briant: I built a fort for my children.

Andrea: Okay.

Peter Briant: With soldiers, guns and everything.

Peter Burbery: Micro models, which I think you did have in the Toy Museum.

Andrea: The little cardboard ones?

Peter Burbery: Steam engines and buildings. I’ve probably got twenty or more indoors still in a case. Not on show, I mean attaché case up in the loft. And there are still some unfinished ones in there. I got too old for it didn’t I? Senior school by then. But I used to put cardboard, which was cornflake boxes and things and tape together, and draw tracks out on them, and set the engines up with the coaches and what have you and sidings, shed and –

Peter Briant: There’s one make of model that no one’s mentioned, the Matchbox series, when hundreds of cars and trucks were made minutely in matchboxes and sold for sixpence. Then, suddenly, the Chinese took over everything. Hornby went to China to have its engines made, and slowly but surely the whole thing escalated and then died out.

Andrea: Yes the toy manufacturing industry did go into decline didn’t it?

Peter Briant: Completely finished in England and all went to China.

Andrea: And France. Part of Hornby is now in France I believe as well.

Peter Briant: They still made Jouet models in France of cars and things. J o u et

Andrea: Mm.

Peter Burbery: Apart from a box made out of orange boxes, the ends which were fairly solid, and using my dad’s workshop I made a wooden box to put my one pair of shoes in. Hinges as well, I put the shoes in, and the lid wouldn’t go down because the box wasn’t deep enough [laughing] so that’s called learning by your mistakes.

Andrea: Yes. And how old were you when you made that?

Peter Burbery: I would have been about ten or eleven I suppose. Yes because we’d moved – we’d moved up the road, in the same road, and we’d moved up the road and I was next to the greengrocers shop and so the boxes were available, because I mean they came in in wooden boxes, oranges and what have you, and you could break them up and use them for all sorts of things. And that’s what I made, a shoe box. They went in width wise, length wise, but they were too shallow for the lid to shut down on [laughter]

Andrea: So did you use the box for something else?

Peter Burbery: Yes, yes [laughing] I’m thinking about it now, I could have put another piece round couldn’t I?

Ted: Yes.

Peter Burbery: See you weren’t there to tell me were you?

Ted: No.

Peter Burbery: Then put the hinges back on afterwards. Now you tell me [laughter]

Ted: You should have seen Lee with it, he’d have sorted it out.

Peter Burbery: Yes Lee would have sorted it out, yes. That was my – I expect that was probably my first bit of woodwork, which my dad was very clever at. I mentioned about the wooden dog, which wobbled – wobbled along because of the shape of the legs underneath, and it would actually walk along, all four legs being independent of each other. And you could do that on a downhill piece without pulling it as well if it was a steep enough, it would just walk.

Ted: What’s he get, a design for it somewhere?

Peter Burbery: I think there must have been a design, yes, I’m sure. But to make the shape in the bottoms of those legs so that they move like that, and independently and one after the other, I thought that was – whoever thought it up must have been very clever. Yes.

Andrea: So were any of the rest of your toys handmade?

Peter Burbery: Yes, and over the weekend when my wife was looking for a particular picture, and we didn’t find it, we came across, see I did remember you were coming on Monday [sings] Is it in amongst my fifty pound notes?

Ted: You left it at home Pete.

Peter Burbery: No no it was there this morning

Ted: It’s a big one isn’t it?

Peter Burbery: No, it’s a little tiny one. Oh there it is.

Andrea: Okay. Ooh.

Peter Burbery: That was another one my father made.

Andrea: I’m going to hand it to Dan so he can wave it at the video camera.

Peter Burbery: [overlapping] I think apart from having a number on it, you have to – because my father worked – during the war worked in the railway works building the engines, or doing engineering parts for engines.

Ted: [overlapping] what at Brighton?

Peter Burbery: Yes, at Brighton, and I think its got a name on it, I think my wife said it was Tich when she looked at it with a magnifying glass.

Dan: I’m getting Dan to take a photo of it so we’ll be able to zoom in on the photo later and – , the photo of the photo as it were.

Peter Burbery: Yes, so that was, I remember that one, and I know my brother, who’s twelve years younger than me, it was still around when he came along, so – but I’m not quite sure where it finished up. It was well looked after, it wasn’t big enough to sit on, [Andrea: mm] but you could put all sorts of things inside it, and I remember it had you know little gauges and handles and things inside where you would expect it to be for driving an engine, yes.

Andrea: Okay. It’s amazing isn’t it? Yes, I think it does say Tich.

Peter Burbery: Tich, yes. I think that’s what

Andrea: TICH

Peter Burbery: Yes.

Andrea: That’s what it looks like to me.

Peter Burbery: Yes. Yes, so that’s – [Andrea: There you go. Thank you] thank you. Yes I’ll have to get that – I’ll have to get it blown up.

Ted: Yes, I bet they’ll do it here. Dave could do it.

Peter Burbery: [overlapping] I think it was – oh Dave would do it yes [Andrea: mm] I think it was yellow in colour, but that’s irrelevant isn’t it. But so there you are, I’ve got a picture of one of my toys [laughs]

Andrea: So anything else that anyone remembers making or other people making for them or –

Ted: I know Dad made us a fort for the lead soldiers, and he also made a farmyard for the animals but you know Dad was a bit handy with wood.

Peter Burbery: I made those in later life, and dolls houses. As an adult, but yes, three dolls houses, or two houses and one bungalow to be precise, and I know at least two of those have survived, through our children and then passed on to grandchildren one of them, but I think the fort’s disappeared, did make a fort and there’s two farmyards, one of those still survives. Yes, taking on from my father I suppose, using – always using tools. I think –

Ted: Were you allowed to use your dad’s tools?

Peter Burbery: Yes, yes, yes.

Ted: The old man wouldn’t let us use it, get near his tools.

Peter Burbery: No. No, had his own workshop, I say workshop it was a room, it had other things in it, but that was where he done his work and a tool chest, when I was big enough I could lift the lid up because the lid had three or four saws on it so apart from being a wooden lid, you know about so long that was quite heavy on its own, but once I could lift that up I could find the tools, yes.[pause] Tenon saws was what I used to use, because the other ones were too big, and a tenon saw would be used for most of the sawing of wood.

Andrea: So any other thoughts about any types of toy or play we haven’t yet mentioned that you think you’d like to share with the camera as it were.

0:31:39 Ted: um

Jim: Occasionally one got roped into to build, or should we say construct something, that wasn’t quite a toy. One of my cousins wanted to have a tree house so of course we got together and built a tree house. I was about twelve or thirteen, and we even managed to have a little cooker that we took up, and heated it to boil an egg. But the tree house was there for three or four years before it finally fell to pieces, so that was a little bit out of the normal toy range. We had fun building it, and just came to pieces eventually, got a bit old [laughs]

Peter Briant: One of the other things apart from playing with toys, I started collecting stamps as a hobby [Andrea: mm], and had quite a big collection of stamps, then that ended.

Andrea: Mm, yes. [pause] I can see you’ve got something you want to show me.

Ted: If you open it up I’ve written on the back of it. No not, the other side, no Andrea: “Reg teaching his brother John to ride a trike outside of the Central Garage”. Look at that Dan.

Ted: You can have it.

Andrea: Really? That’s amazing, thank you.

Peter Briant: Where was the Central Garage?

Ted: In Grange Road in Southwick.

Peter Briant: Where?

Ted: In Grange Road in Southwick

Peter Briant: In Southwick?

Andrea: Mm. That’s amazing, thank you very much. So any other thoughts or shall I pull you to a close?

Ted: You said you were interested in memories.

Andrea: mm

Ted: There’s a couple of books that I’ve written.[Andrea: Oh] You can have them

Andrea: Thank you very much.

Ted: My memories of Southwick.

Andrea: Thank you. Much appreciated. Is there anything you want to ask Dan?

Dan: No, I think that’s it.

Andrea: Okay. In that case I’m going to get Jean to throw forms at you. So what I’ll do is I’ll go and get Jean actually, I told her I’d let her know when we were done.

Ted: Alright

Andrea: I’ll just press stop.

INTERVIEW ENDS 34m 26s

Peter, Jim, Ted and Peter

Peter, Jim, Ted and Peter were interviewed at Blind Veterans UK, Brighton.

Ted (on left in photograph) was born in a shop in Southwick in 1924.

Peter Burbery (on right in photograph) was born in 1936 in Brighton.

Jim (not in photograph) was born in Hove in 1932.

Peter Briant (not in photograph) was born in Brighton in 1920.

In the short version (03m 41s) of their interview they discuss Meccano. In the full version (31m 18s) they also talk about teddy bears, toy soldiers, train sets, toy planes and handmade toys.