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

Maurice: Well I used to have soldiers and a fort and used to have battles with my brother. You know he was a bit older than me. He used to win all the time.

William: Yes used to be able to buy them. The soldiers would be on a strip of cardboard, so many, and then there’d be horses and they’d have a lance and it moved – their arms moved up and down, that was made of lead. [Andrea: Okay] And then it was painted, beautiful colours you know, and then you had the fort, well that’s it, that was a wooden fort, up in the square, it had the thing what went up and down, you know the drawbridge, and all that kind of thing and you built round it if you know what I mean.

Andrea: I do. So with your fort, is that something that someone would have bought for you or do you think someone made it for you?

William: That would have been made by my Uncle George you know. He was a carpenter, and he made it, and it was just you know, the chains and the little half round hooks that went in, and you could lower it up and down, you know, and it’s that, as you done things you know. And of course going to the films in them days you saw the – you saw out there, the different forts and that, where the whats-a-names were, and you kind of copied it.

Andrea: Okay, what about either Maurice or Pat? Maurice you were saying about soldiers.

Pat: I had some soldiers and a fort, and it was a replica of the famous Fort Apache where – This was in America, Fort Apache, and it was the place was held after, I’m sure most people have heard of the Battle of the Little Big Horn, and this was the only defensive position left to the Americans, and they were being followed up by – they were [??] by these Iroquois Indians. The whole theme of the thing was that this trooper was walking around the ramparts of the fort, and this Iroquois Indian is standing on the cliff – on a cliff top, and he fires this rifle, and it’s a French rifle it’s called La Longue Carbine, and it kills this trooper walking round the fort, and it’s the longest – it’s the furthest that anybody was ever shot by a rifle, it was one thousand and three hundred yards. [pause] And that’s – I was given that by an old friend of mine for a Christmas present, who was also a Scot and also had immigrated to Canada.

ENDS 03m 34s

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8th December 2014
Location: Blind Veterans UK, Brighton
Interviewer: Andrea Dumbrell
Videographer: Dan Cash
Also Present: Patricia
Peter Burbery is there until 00.37

00.05 – Andrea: So if I start with you William, when were you born?

William: At home [Andrea: right] oh sorry Hammersmith.

Andrea: Hammersmith

William: Yes.

Andrea: And what year was that?

William: The tenth. Wait a minute, my birthday is the tenth, hark it now, I can’t think for a second, it’s all right I’ll soon have it. The second of the second, nineteen twenty.

Andrea: Wonderful, thank you. And Maurice what about you?

Maurice: I was born on the 5th February nineteen twenty three.

Andrea: Nineteen twenty three, and where was that?

Maurice: Ramsgate in Kent.

Andrea: Okay. And Pat.

Pat: I was born on the twelfth of May nineteen twenty four.

Andrea: Okay, and where were you born?

Pat: I was born at a place called Glencraig in Fifeshire in Scotland.

Andrea: Wonderful. Thank you. And is that where you spent your childhood?

Pat: No. No. No, when I was two and a half years of age, my father emigrated to Canada, and took me with him.

Andrea: Okay so you grew-

Pat: I spent all my educational days and childhood in Canada.

Andrea: Okay, what about you Maurice. Did you grow up in Ramsgate?

Maurice: All my childhood in Ramsgate, yes.

Andrea: Okay. And William, did you spend all your childhood in Hammersmith?

William: Yes, all around that way.

01.54 – Andrea: Okay. And I’m going to ask you, do any of you remember having teddy bears?

William: Yes

Maurice: Yes, I think I did when I was very small. Andrea: Can you remember anything about it?

William: Yes, they had, the feet had a piece of leather on them, and the hands you know, and that was more or less the things, and the eyes, that was okay, yes.

Andrea: And what size was it? Can you remember was it, big one or a little one.

William: No, only I suppose about a foot high that’s all.

Andrea: Okay, what about you?

Maurice: Mine was about the same as that. I can’t remember it, only vaguely but it was about the same size, and – [Andrea: do you know] I think they’re all brown aren’t they, teddy bears? I can’t remember now.

Andrea: Most of them. Most of them. Do you know where it came from?

Maurice: No I wouldn’t know that. Well what do you mean, from where it was made?

Andrea: No. Just who gave it to you.

Maurice: My parents, would be from my parents.

Andrea: What about you Pat. Do you remember having one?

Pat: I never had any teddy bear. At least I don’t remember ever having any teddy bear [laughs]

William: I know if you pushed its belly it you know growled.

03.33 – Andrea: One of the other things we’re asking people about is dolls. Now when I say dolls, I don’t necessarily mean baby dolls, so did anyone have any toys that were pretending to be people, so that could be dolls, it could be soldiers.

William: Yes.

Andrea: What did you have?

William: I had a golliwog. [Andrea: Okay] and that in them days, we used to have, my aunt Alice who lived under us, she used to wear black stockings, and the body of it was made of the stockings, and then the head, and you know she made it, and the mouth, and the eyes were buttons sewn in, you know, and all that, and it was quite nice. And that’s to say in them days we never had all this nonsense about what you get today. [Andrea: Right]The golliwog that was something, just like the black and white minstrel shows you see.

Andrea: Yes. So what about either you Maurice and Pat?

Maurice: Well I used to have soldiers and a fort and used to have battles with my brother. You know he was a bit older than me. He used to win all the time.

William: Yes used to be able to buy them. The soldiers would be on a strip of cardboard, so many, and then there’d be horses and they’d have a lance and it moved – their arms moved up and down, that was made of lead. [Andrea: Okay] And then it was painted, beautiful colours you know, and then you had the fort, well that’s it, that was a wooden fort, up in the square, it had the thing what went up and down, you know the drawbridge, and all that kind of thing and you built round it if you know what I mean.

Andrea: I do. So with your fort, is that something that someone would have bought for you or do you think someone made it for you?

William: That would have been made by my Uncle George you know. He was a carpenter, and he made it, and it was just you know, the chains and the little half round hooks that went in, and you could lower it up and down, you know, and it’s that, as you done things you know. And of course going to the films in them days you saw the – you saw out there, the different forts and that, where the whats-a-names were, and you kind of copied it.

Andrea: Okay, what about either Maurice or Pat? Maurice you were saying about soldiers.

Pat: I had some soldiers and a fort, and it was a replica of the famous Fort Apache where – This was in America, Fort Apache, and it was the place was held after, I’m sure most people have heard of the Battle of the Little Big Horn, and this was the only defensive position left to the Americans, and they were being followed up by – they were [??] by these Iroquois Indians. The whole theme of the thing was that this trooper was walking around the ramparts of the fort, and this Iroquois Indian is standing on the cliff – on a cliff top, and he fires this rifle, and it’s a French rifle it’s called La Longue Carbine, and it kills this trooper walking round the fort, and it’s the longest – it’s the furthest that anybody was ever shot by a rifle, it was one thousand and three hundred yards. [pause] And that’s – I was given that by an old friend of mine for a Christmas present, who was also a Scot and also had immigrated to Canada.

Andrea: Okay, and did – again, was that a bought thing the fort, or a made thing do you know?

Pat: It was a replica of a lumber fort.

Andrea: Okay

08.35 – William: And when you was about three or two, it was always known you had a wooden horse on a platform. Four wheels, and the horse stood there with the two, four legs the body, the head and the handles, and you pushed that along as a kid, and there you are. By the time you’d finished with it, you’d had a brother born or a sister, and they’d play with it.

Andrea: And is that something that was made for you?

William: They could be made but they were brought.

Andrea: Okay, and then it was passed on to brothers and sisters?

William: Yeah that’s right.

Andrea: Do you think most of your toys were new, or did they come from, I don’t know if you had older brothers or sisters or –

William: No, I was the eldest. What I had was new.

Andrea: Okay, so it was new to you and then passed on.

William: See in them days girl if I try and put your mind at rest, there wasn’t much going. Christmas stocking in them days was an apple and an orange inside, and that was more or less the thing, and then paper chains which you could buy, a packet, they were strips of paper and they cost I think about sixpence something like that for about twenty odd papers or twenty five, and we never had paste like we’ve got today, but Mum used to get flour and water and what used to happen was you put a bit of paste on one length of paper, they’re all coloured papers, you put a bit on one and then you doubled it round to make a circle and it stuck you know.

Andrea: Yep. Got you.

William: And then you get the next one, you – a colour, different colour, you follow it through, and you do that, and in the end you’ve got a paper chain, all different colours. We made our paper chains, and then you had a draw pin, and up on the ceiling, of course in them days we had wooden ceilings tongue and groove, and you just pushed it, the drawing pin and that up there. And you could buy from Woollies, course in them days it was ten and five pennies store, you could go in there and buy a little bell, you know paper bell what opened, ever so small, it only cost a couple of coppers, and we managed to get about half a dozen of them and as the paper chains ended you had one of them up there, and that’s how it was. Then there was a lantern you could make out of paper you see, and that hung up, but you never put a candle in it, it was just a paper coloured lantern.

Andrea: Okay.

William: You could buy them in Woolworths you see, only thruppence. You could go to Woolworths and spend five shillings or more on an article, but – like a swing, you buy the ropes, then you buy the seat, then you buy that, and build it all up and the screws see that’s –

Andrea: Okay so you’d be putting it together.

William: Yes, that’s right

12.19 – Andrea: Yourself. And actually that was the other thing I wanted to talk about, was about constructions toys, you know things that you made, so I think that’s a really good example of one isn’t it?

William: Well the great thing I think all the boys today they’d remember, it was new for us, was the Meccano set [Andrea: yes] That was marvellous. If you got one of them, you was made. They had different sizes, but as a kid you just had a small one, you had the screws, and there you are. You had the pieces of tin, they were all colours, and they had holes in them, and all you done, and you had little round wheels, and you could make a crane out of it, see, you put them together and build the – if you imagine the little different pieces of plate, they’re flat, and they’ve got holes in them, so all you’ve got to do is get another one, put to it, and put the screw and screw it up. So you had a little jar with screws and all that. And then as you got other things you added to it from the oil shop and you could build all kinds of things, you know make a crane and on the end you’d have the little handle you made and you just turn it, and that’d lift up a log and that. And if you got a railway train, you know a little railway brought you a train, as it came round, it stopped, then, you could have tree, a little trunks of trees which you got from downing branches, and what I used to do was cut them and there you are, you could paint them brown and all that, and then, do them up in bundles, and you lift them out and lower them onto the carriage as it got there. You know it’s all kids’ play and mind.

Andrea: Absolutely. So Maurice, Pat did you have Meccano?

Maurice: We had a Meccano, yes that was quite a craze in those days, all the boys you know.

William: Oh yeah, when it got big, there’s some marvellous things made.

Andrea: What did you make Maurice? Did you –

Maurice: We used to make – we had a Hornby train set, which we used – my brother and I, and my dad used to make – well we used to make things like bridges and all that sort of thing, tunnels for the trains you know. And we used to try and make motor cars.

William: See it was easy enough to copy, because all you wanted was a flat bit of wood, and then you got another bit of wood and put on for the bonnet, for the front, you had a bonnet, and then you put square bits on the back and you made a little car, and the wheels, and you put a piece of metal through and of course that’s it, you were shown, you know, and you made your own little car, and then you went one stage further, you could paint it, but there you are, and then you had what – and there was also you could buy from the shops the train – the little wooden train, engine, all it was was a flat bit of wood, a narrow bit underneath for a wheel each side, a narrow bit for wheel at that end, that was the base, then you had a round bit which was the you know the engine part, and then you built up the cab, and then you put the little bit up and round where the coal bunker was. You know it was your idea, you’ve done these little things, and you improved on them as you went.

Andrea: That’s what I was going to ask you, because I think some people who played with Meccano would just follow the instructions, that came in the little booklet, and other people would make up their own ideas and their own designs.

16.39 – William: Oh yes, yes, that’s it. You can follow and then you improve on it. You know this is what it was all about. It’s like when I was at school we sat down. The first school I went to I was only about four, you go in there, and when you sat down all round the class on the walls, that it’s a shame somebody broke into our place I’d have loved to have had them and you could have seen them, but where we sat, in our little desks and the ink well, on the wall would be a man where the island class school had painted that, and underneath it had man, then you went to the next picture and it would be a ball and underneath would be ball, then it would be cat, and then it be dog, then it be car, so all round that room you’re a little boy of three or four and you’ve got all those things you can look at, and she also asked you with the wall, she’d say right, Billy, what is that? And you’d say cat miss, and then she’d point to the next one, she’d say what is that? Of course it’s a man and I’d say a man, and all those kind of things and that’s how we learned. And then we stood all round the class. We got up out of our desks and all the way round, and then she’d start and ask one to spell. And I’ll always remember it, if you didn’t spell it, I was asked to spell milk, and I couldn’t spell MILK milk, and what happened was, when it come to dinner time that’s when you went out for a couple of hours ‘til two o’clock from twelve, you stayed there, and in your book you had to put on the top that – your name and that, and that was your little book there, and you put milk across there about five times, then you went underneath again five times and you filled that page up. You must have done about twenty five times MILK milk MILK milk, and then when you finished you just shut the book up put it on her desk and you went off out [Andrea: Right] and that’s it she’d look at it, that’s how you carried on [Andrea: yes]

19.31- Andrea: So Pat did you have Meccano or –

Pat: Yes I had Meccano set. It was a bought thing, but it wasn’t something that I could sort of do like or add to it – it had certain pieces, mechanical things that you used, like lifts, that quite honestly putting that together and getting it to work you didn’t need any else [laughing]

Andrea: So what did you used to make out of it?

Pat: Well this was the – a coal mine, with the lift going up and down, getting the coal up, and it came down and there was a – there was a tray there where the tubs ran down and emptied. You put whatever you wanted in the tubs, but it was supposed to be coal. And used to take down to this platform, where there was a low loaded wagon that you put together yourself with Meccano bits, and that just took it away. Don’t ask me where it took it away to. [laughter]

Andrea: So it was a coal mine?

Pat: Yes.

Andrea: Okay

21.02 – William: There’s another thing love, what used to happen to us when we were about eight or nine, you go down to the shoe shop and ask for a shoe box, empty one,[Andrea: Yes] and when you got it you cut little holes in it, perhaps about seven, and you put over the little holes numbers. Two, five, four, three or whatever it was, and then we used to put that on the path, the path was very nice in them days, and you got in the gutter, and them you charged a boy two cards to have a go. In other words he gave you two picture cards, they used to be thrown away, they used to be in players boxes, and thrown away. And silver paper and that we saved, and if he got it in four I had to give him four cards back, but course we were cunning in them days, we made the holes tight, course they had marbles, and it wanted some getting in, you know what I mean?

Andrea: [laughing] I do.

William: So you know you learned always, in them days. And then for another thing I used to cut the top, and then I’d stick a coloured paper in, lovely, all done nicely, and then I’d turn it upside down and then I’d cut photos out, because you could always get photos off of all kinds of things what were sold and that, dogs and everything, and I make something up, and then – and soldiers, and I’d stick them on, so that when you looked through the box at the end, you know the side, two holes, you could look through it, and what with the colour on the top of the box, it was a nice colour you’re looking it in a technicolour aren’t you, and you can see a horse perhaps grazing, what you’ve cut out of something or photos and that. I used to get those saucy cards you know what come from the seaside [Andrea: Yes] and I used to put different ones of then in, and charge them two cards to have a look. So I always had a nice lot of cards. Course those cards were fifty in a set, well if you got a set, there you are, and you know that’s the kind of thing you got up to as a kid.

Andrea: How to make money as a child.

William: Me?

Andrea: Yes. So –

William: Always [Andrea: yes] because when I was young, you see these medals today what have been sold and that, they’re bringing pounds aren’t they? [Andrea: yes] and the ones from the Boer War, my wife’s father, he was out there in the Boer War. Well that was in the eighteenth century, and when he came home he’d got – I had a photo of him and that vanished, and you know it’s bloody annoying, some sod’s got it, because them photos they’re saving photos today, and they’re getting money on them now, all that kind of nonsense. And he’s in his red suit you know and he’s got – and there he is wearing the medals, its two medals, and all the different whats-a-names of bars, and there was five bars if you’d been out there. And he had the five bars and that, now when he came home, typical of the country as it is, oh yes we’ve had the men, they go out, they fight, he comes back, oh we don’t – it took three months to get back you know [Andrea: yes, ship] to England because the ships [Andrea: yes] and there was no bloody aeroplanes and all that nonsense then. And when he came back, oh we’ll put you in a reserve, see, we’re not going to keep you in the army. So now he’s on a reserve and he’s not got a job. He was a plumber before, so he’s a plumber now. But what happens, within about – well, another thing about the medals, his wife has got the medals, so now when itcomesto -he’sgonetowork–hecomestoMonday.Iasakidusedtogo round to the different ladies, anything for the pawn shop, we called it Uncles, called him uncles, and she’d say oh yes take this one Billy, and I’d get a ha’penny for taking a parcel down [Andrea: yes] or she’d say now look after them medals, now she’d get three pound for them, think I seen them sold for a thousand [Andrea: yes] once, and she’s got three pound for them, and then when I go round the next week, I’m collecting them to take back, she’s got to pay thruppence on it [Andrea: of course] Three pound three, well she might say oh leave them in for next week, well next week she’s got to pay three pound six, [Andrea: yes] see it goes up, and come the finish they leave them in. [Andrea: yes, of course] and then these sods what in the know they’re in there buying the medals when they’re finished at the end of the year, buying all that stuff up, all kinds of stuff [Andrea: yes] then that’s the kind of thing what went on, and that’s one way I earned money. Another way I used to help Joe the coalman. I was about eight or nine at the time. I had quite a walk down from Olympia, to Warwick Road, and when I got down there, we’d get Patsy the horse out, she had lovely white socks, a tail and a lovely mane, ever so lovely and gentle, and you’d put her in the harness, we go alongside the trains and then you got the blokes what are filling up the coal sacks, they weighed and put on. You’re doing what they call trucking, you’re going round the streets selling. You’d only have a few hundred weights on the horse will be all half hundred weights, you also had scales underneath, and then you used to have the weights and measure man ride round, and when they pulled up in their car, he’d say I’ll have that sack down there, and he had to get hold of it and put it on their scales to make sure it’s the right weight. Well we’d go round selling, and you’d get a woman say I want it up here, and you’re going up about ten steps and then another ten steps to the top, and you take a hundredweight up there, and I never carried it the coal man did them, I carried the half hundredweights as a boy, and he’d tip it and then she’s suddenly say oh that’s enough, see she’s got him to take the bloody coal up and tip it in the bin there, and the rest went down in the coal hole [Andrea: Right] and that’s that. And I would – then as I say get the sacks and if somebody wanted four there used to be in the pavement a round manhole, and when you tipped it down there underneath was two cellars for the people that lived at the top like we did. Of course in them days we never had an house, you wouldn’t – councils. We lived in, you started at number one and it went up to us twenty eight. But we lived in the top flat, that was the family, underneath us was Aunt Alice down underneath them was another lady, and then the other people down the cellar went down backwards, and then into their place, and you went up steps and that, and when you got up to the hall floor, that’s the first floor what was over the basement [Andrea: yeah] that’s it, that was where another family lived. Well as I say you had Marshie, Mrs Lucas next door, she had a family, underneath was Marshes, underneath them was the Ellis’ and then the Cases and that’s how it went down the road, Shepherds and all that [Andrea: Yes] That’s how you lived there, and if you wanted to clean your windows, you lifted them up and you sat on the windowsill and pulled the window up and down, it went on weights [Andrea: mm] and if the cord, the sash cord went, you lifted it up, or I learned how to do it, and then you brought it inside, and went down the oil shop and you got a new cord and put in on the weight and that, just tacked it in, and then you put the window back out again.

31.17- Andrea: Yeah. Just to think again about you know sort of like making things I just wanted to sort of like you know bring Maurice and Pat back in again. Was there anything else that you made that you can remember?

William: Yes.

Andrea: I just want to hear from Maurice for a minute. Give you a moment

William. Maurice anything else?

Maurice: I can’t remember what I used to make is well my dad was an engineer he used to make things, but I used to work to earn money when I got a bit older. [Andrea: yeah] Well when I was very small we’d been by the seaside, my mum used to let some rooms to these people – they used to have these shows on the theatre you know, and we had a load of midgets show once, these tiny people, and I used to hire out my fairy cycle which was my possession, my prized possession, and they used to give me a penny for a ride on it for so long you know.

Andrea: Okay. You said you grew up in Ramsgate didn’t you?

Maurice: Yes.

Andrea: So did you used to – does Ramsgate have a beach?

Maurice: Oh yes.

Andrea: Yes, did you play on the beach?

Maurice: Used to go on the beach a lot yes.

Andrea: And when you were on the beach, did you used to build – I’m trying to remember whether Ramsgate’s stone or –

Maurice: Sand it is.

Andrea: Its sand. [Maurice:Yes] So did you build things in the sand?

Maurice: Oh yes, castles and that. Castles and – one thing perhaps I shouldn’t tell you really, but when we got a bit older we’d go in swimming and we’d change under the bathing station, because we didn’t want to pay, and there was a man come along selling peanuts, and we used to dig a hole in the sand, put a newspaper over the top, sprinkle sand over the top, and he’d come along shouting out peanuts, and he went down this hole, only one leg, and we all shouted out ‘fresh roasted’.

[laughter round the room]

Andrea: Brilliant.

Maurice: That was one of the things we used to do.

Andrea: Well if that’s not a construction toy, I don’t know what is.[laughing]

William: See you said about making money. Well as I say I went out with the coalman and that horse knew the round. And when he pulled up at the pub, there was always a pub at one end of the street and an off licence the other. And when he pulled up, he used to say I’ll get you a lemonade William, and an arrowroot biscuit, and that was good enough. And then my Aunt Alice would come out with a bucket to give the horse a drink, but then that’s when I used to sweep, and as I say make money. I used to sweep the car, I used to do all the bags, they’d be at the back on the left hand side, I’d rope it over, the scales were underneath, the shovel was up there, and I’d get the broom and I’d sweep all the dust up and put in a bucket, that’s all coal dust. And one or two knobs, while I was going round I used to take a knob out here and a knob out there, so when I was cleaning the van up she had a bucket there or me mum did of coal, got me? [Andrea: yeah] and that was that. And then the thing was with that, that was the coalman where I used to get it, and I’d go back with him and all that nonsense. But there was the other things to it you see. You had the man what came round with the fair, he had a roundabout on a little trolley, a donkey pulled it, but if one kid went out with old clothes you know, he’d have to wait ‘til somebody else went out with something because if he started turning it round it would tip over. Honest, this is the truth. And if it happened to happen sometimes you know the women in the street would come out and help him to lift that bloody roundabout up on to the van again, and you know it was a different life, and people just can’t see it and know about it. [Andrea: yeah] and I used to also as I say, with the – go down to the market early in the morning and help the blokes to pull their barrows out. They were – underneath the arches, they used them as workshops some motorcar people were in them, others were just left, and they had them, the market boys did with their barrows, and you pulled your barrow out down along the road where you lived, and that’s it, when you pulled it out you got it chopped up and everything and course the people walked along on the path and that’s where the blokes stood and weighed everything up. And the buses just went along the back, alongside of it.

Andrea: Okay.

William: And you got money for that, and you also, you had a big place where all their old wood could go. [coughing in the background] and you know the boxes, so you took them round there. But although you had a barrow as I said I made a barrow and it was a two wheel barrow with the shafts and that. I also had a four wheel one with a box on it. And we never done each other up because if we did the we set about each other for taking stuff. Where all this stuff was taken, while you were all helping them and working with them, you take anything you know, the rubbish, the boxes and all that, and chuck it round and it’s cleared on a Sunday by the council, that’s something going back to one of the king’s days what they granted that nonsense, and what we used to was, go round there for half an hour, sort out the different boxes and believe you me if you saw some of the wood what came with oranges in you couldn’t use that, but others you could, so I used to break them up and put them on my barrow and leave it there, another bloke would do something with his barrow, all boys, but you never not had anything off of each other [Andrea: yes] because that’d be it. And that’s what we used to do. [Andrea: mm] and then I come back and he’d say oh Billy, I’ve got a lot of cauliflowers in I want you to serve them today. He’d give me an apron, he’d give me five bob in small change that’s thruppeny bits you know, tanner, and all that. You’re learning all the time you see, [Andrea: yeah] Money, you’re adding up and farthings and ha’penny, you know four farthings one penny you know, two ha’pennies one penny, and twelve pennies one shilling, and we didn’t have – we were learning all the time and only kids seven and eight and I was standing he’ll sell with everything, and she’ll come up and say oh I want three cauliflowers. Well you know what a cauliflower is today. Three cauliflowers, three for six, tuppence each. But he told me always give her two little ‘uns and a big ‘un [Andrea: Right] And I’d have a knife in me pocket, not like sods today, and I’d have it hanging on me belt and I’d just cut them big leaves what cover it up over, put them in a box, and that was my bunce. People used to come down because they kept rabbits in the garden, you know in a box, in the shed, and they used to say oh have you got any greens, I used to say yes there’s a box there, and I’d say oh that’s tuppence, and he never worried about that, what I made on that was my money. [Andrea: yes] See, and he also gave me a bloody good – all the veg, and I went home with veg and everything, fruit and that and a wad, so you know there was all those things , you were doing that all the time, so and as I say our friend here who’s lived on the coast, our people only went down the seaside once a year, and that’d be a beano or dads out, and you know from the pub when they played darts, and do you know, we’d go, this is the truth, we’d all go out and we’d go to Southend, Margate, Ramsgate, and we never went no farther, because it was up there whats- is- name is now, so we never got up to there, but we used to go in the charabanc they called it them days, and also get you could get on at Hammersmith, and for sixpence you’re right up there by Tower Bridge. Now they never had the whats- a -name there then, the big – to stop the flooding and that, ‘course all along there [Andrea:Thames Barrier] Barrier? [Andrea: Yes] well all along there in them days every time it was high tide there was floods, the bloody houses were flooded. Oh yes, and also you’d jump on the pleasure boats, and they’re famous for – during the Second World War, going over with – bringing the boys back and all that, boats and anything what went. But the Daffodil was one I can remember, and you jumped on it, and when you got on it, that was it, mum and dad they’d be down – we’d be looking and seeing all the – as we went right through London. See you went through the dockland and that’s where all Britain’s life was then, coming up there with the boats, and all that. And then when I was a young boy you used to have a tug come up, and when the tug went under the bridge, Hammersmith Bridge, he had to pull his chimney down and it used to go [sound effect] and I’ve often heard my mum say ‘ooh, that’s a sign of rain’ [laughter] On the back of that tug, on the back of that tug would be four or six barges and as they come along, them barges would be full of cement bags, sand, ballast, wood, coal, and as they come all the way along, where the boat race comes now, right along there by Hammersmith where we were, they’d ease up and then they’d undo one and them bargemen were good, and they just drifted over to the side and that’s where it would be anchored and that’s where they’d unload it then, and when they got up to Brentford they’d do the same again by Kew Bridge, and the lorries used to back in then and get the cement and take it off somewhere and all that. [Andrea: yes] And that’s how it was in them days, life and that.

Andrea: Yes. I just want to ask Pat actually because you know you’ve been talking William about the sea and the river and Maurice has mentioned the sea. You said you grew up in Canada Pat, anywhere near the sea?

Pat: I lived on the banks of the St Lawrence River.

Andrea: Which river?

Pat: The St Lawrence River. It’s not the longest river in the world, and it’s not the widest river in the world but it has more volume of water falling through it than any of them, any other river in the world. So it’s a huge river. It froze twenty four feet thick in the winter, and when the winter was starting a big gang of us kids we’d take up sacks, first bit of snow that come down we’d go up and down, up and down, and as soon as it was hard enough we would get on there with our skates, and we’d go down this, I mean some of us would take us out ten miles out into the river. One problem came out of this. The problem was you had to skate all the way back, and by the time you skated all the way back you didn’t want to go down that hill again that day. But this fella came out I’ll never forget it, it was like a blind he’s got, we says what’s that then he says you’ll see and off he went and then we skated back. He comes back it’s like a little sail [laughing], so we all tried to make the same kind of sail, we were never as successful as John was. That was a bit of fun really.

Andrea: So would you say that a lot of your play was outside play?

Pat: Yes. Yes. Most decidedly.

Maurice: You played ice hockey didn’t you?

Pat: Yes. I was an ice hockey player. That’s where I learned to play. I’ll always remember when I was about eight or nine years of age and skates you bought for kids they weren’t very substantial – weren’t very very strong, so it wasn’t as easy for you to go down the slope with these skates. So one day one of these of this fella’s father came along and he was an ex ice hockey player, he played for Montreal Canadians, and he said what you young guys need is some cheese cutters, and was swearing at us, cheese cutters, amazing with these they were like a roller skate but instead of wheels on were blades on either side. So there’s more support, so I started going down there, then we cleared a little space of snow away on the river and we’d start up on ice hockey. Ice hockey actually that’s where I learned to play, and I came back to Scotland – to the town I came to, they were building an ice rink and an advert in the paper any kids be interested in learning how to play ice hockey well my brother and I were pretty good ice hockey players, so we more or less formed the nucleus of the junior side, and within about eighteen months comes this other fella, just like us he was a Scot, his name was Bruce MacKenzie and he was even better than us. That year when we formed our team and we entered the Scottish junior league, we won the Scottish junior championship, two years running. And one day the coach came along, “Pat£ he says, “how would you like to play for the Vikings on Monday night?” That was the professional side. Oh I said, yeah, so I got into a professional side and that night I scored three goals, and I was in the professional team until I was called up. So that’s my history as a kid really.

Andrea: So how old were you when you came back?

Pat: I was fourteen years of age.

Andrea: Okay. [pause] So all of your childhood was in Canada then?

Pat: Oh yes [Andrea: yes] I was educated in Canada yes. That’s why I’m such a dumb bell.

Andrea: So any other thoughts about, you know things that you made or things that you played with? Or do you think you’ve come to a sort of halt with what you can remember, and what you want to share with us?

William: Well the girls used to – course there wasn’t many cars in them days only the milk churn going along, but the girls used to have a skipping rope what went across the road, and one of them each end would be turning it, and anything up to fourteen girls would all keep going in and skipping, until one of them upset it and then they’d go out. And us boys used to think it was great to get in there, and do you know, if we busted it up do you know them girls used to give us what for. None of this going home to mum crying, they [laughter] came and gave you a bloody good hiding [laughter] yeah. And then we used to play whipping top. You could have a top what’s shaped you know like a pear, and it got a mag in it. Well we used to take the mag out to put horse manure in it to make it hum [laughter] and I’ll always remember doing that, and you put the piece of string on and then you throw it, and it doesn’t half go round, and you can pick it up on your hand and it tickles the hand and all that nonsense. Well with a whipping top, you start that and you whip it down the road, and then somebody down the road will see it and kick it, and – oh dear oh lor’ [laughter] and my mum will send me down, she’d say right Bill nip down to the – On a Sunday, I’ll get Dad the paper I’ll get him a book of AGs, that’s half ounce of Nosegay, a book of AG papers, and then I’ll go round to the other place and I’ll get three ha’penth of snuff for me Aunt Alice. She used to put that on the back of her hand and smell. Well one day I got inquisitive, and I put a bit on and I – [sniffs] I gave a big smell. And I thought somebody had hit me in the back of the head [laughter] and then I went – then I used to have to go over to the four hour bar, and when you walked in there oh hello Billy what do you want? Aunt Alice said would you get her half a pint of ale, and they’d get the jug, I’d come out with that, and as I go to walk down then I’d go home, I’ve got a load of newspapers, I walk into the fish shop, and they’re all clean and folded up, I give them to him, he used to give me a penny because I had a big load, and what he used to do he’d spread them out, but he’d also add polythene, you know tissue paper whatever it is, so when the fish was put on it, it never you know – But I can remember many a time, getting fish and being able to read the newspaper on it [laughter round the room] But you know that was life in them days.

Andrea: Absolutely. Well, I’m going to say thank you very much, Dan’s going to wave a camera at you and take a couple of pictures, and – so is it Pat or Patricia officially? [Patricia: either] is going to help you do a couple of forms. Patricia is going to help you do some forms, but yes thank you that was wonderful, I really enjoyed your stories actually.

William: I’ve got a million of them.

Andrea: Yes.[laughter]

Patricia: He could keep going for hours couldn’t he?

Andrea: I could keep listening to people for hours actually.

William: When I was in the army [gales of laughter] we used to fall fours in them days, so you tell going back, and I was a little bit slow, I was in the third rank and I didn’t move quick enough, and the sergeant ‘cause they were both Irish and he said – he gave the order, and I thought oh I know what I’ll do when he shouted me name and the third rank, I said sorry sergeant I never understood you. Well I might just as well call him a bastard mightn’t I? He said right you’re on a charge [loud laughter] I had to do seven days under him and another one, Sergeant O’Flynn, and they used to have me for an hour in the evening, I used to have to go on fully dressed, that’s so that the officer in charge of the guard he had a chance to have me and all if me hair wanted cutting or me brass wasn’t clean, and then I had them. And they used to shout and all the orders and that, and at the end of a week they said now you understand Irish don’t you Wolf? Yes sir, yes sir, and that was it, I paid dearly.

Pat: I think it’s been tremendous hasn’t it? Really has.

Andrea: yes.

INTERVIEW ENDS 54m 26s

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Read the transcript of the audio track

8th December 2014
Location: Blind Veterans UK, Brighton
Interviewer: Andrea Dumbrell
Videographer: Dan Cash
Also Present: Patricia
Peter Burbery is there until 00.37

Andrea: So we thought we couldn’t be in the same place as this morning or –

Peter Burbery: Is that a low chair? Or –

Maurice: Yes, they’re all low unfortunately.

Andrea: Yes.

Maurice: There’s cushions there though if you want to sit –

Patricia: Do you want to sit on a cushion? On a couple?

Peter: That would be better for you William. Turn around.

Patricia: Maybe put one at his back. That’s it, there we go.

Peter: Okay, down you go, you’ll be landing on a cushion, and the one behind you as well. Alright. See you later.

William: Thank you Peter, and yes I am here.

Andrea: Thank you

Patricia: Alright love?

William: Is this out of your way?

Andrea: Yes, it’s fine.

William: Thank you, right here we are. Oh.

Andrea: Okay, are you rolling? Okay, I’ll do the door.

Dan: Yes, I’m rolling, walk behind me

Andrea: Oh sorry
[Bell sound]

Andrea: Oh sorry, I did walk straight in front of you, you said you were rolling. [Pause. Door banging] Now I’ll walk behind you. That was me walking in front of the video camera. Right, so just to remind you, we’ve come down from the Toy and Model Museum because we’re doing a project on memories of toys [William: ‘I see’] so what we’d like to do is take up a little bit of your time, just asking you about your memories of toys. But first, just for the record, I’m going to ask you your name, when you were born, and where you were born. So if I start with you William, when were you born?

01.43 – William: At home [Andrea: right] oh sorry Hammersmith.

Andrea: Hammersmith

William: Yes.

Andrea: And what year was that?

William: The tenth. Wait a minute, my birthday is the tenth, hark it now, I can’t think for a second, it’s all right I’ll soon have it. The second of the second, nineteen twenty.

Andrea: Wonderful, thank you. And Maurice what about you?

Maurice: I was born on the 5th February nineteen twenty three.

Andrea: Nineteen twenty three, and where was that?

Maurice: Ramsgate in Kent.

Andrea: Okay. And Pat.

Pat: I was born on the twelfth of May nineteen twenty four.

Andrea: Okay, and where were you born?

Pat: I was born at a place called Glencraig in Fifeshire in Scotland.

Andrea: Wonderful. Thank you. And is that where you spent your childhood?

Pat: No. No. No, when I was two and a half years of age, my father emigrated to Canada, and took me with him.

Andrea: Okay so you grew-

Pat: I spent all my educational days and childhood in Canada.

Andrea: Okay, what about you Maurice. Did you grow up in Ramsgate?

Maurice: All my childhood in Ramsgate, yes.

Andrea: Okay. And William, did you spend all your childhood in Hammersmith?

William: Yes, all around that way.

03.28 – Andrea: Okay. And I’m going to ask you, do any of you remember having teddy bears?

William: Yes

Maurice: Yes, I think I did when I was very small.

Andrea: Can you remember anything about it?

William: Yes, they had, the feet had a piece of leather on them, and the hands you know, and that was more or less the things, and the eyes, that was okay, yes.

Andrea: And what size was it? Can you remember was it, big one or a little one.

William: No, only I suppose about a foot high that’s all.

Andrea: Okay, what about you?

Maurice: Mine was about the same as that. I can’t remember it, only vaguely but it was about the same size, and – [Andrea: do you know] I think they’re all brown aren’t they, teddy bears? I can’t remember now.

Andrea: Most of them. Most of them. Do you know where it came from?

Maurice: No I wouldn’t know that. Well what do you mean, from where it was made?

Andrea: No. Just who gave it to you.

Maurice: My parents, would be from my parents.

Andrea: What about you Pat. Do you remember having one?

Pat: I never had any teddy bear. At least I don’t remember ever having any teddy bear [laughs]

William: I know if you pushed its belly it you know growled.

05.11 – Andrea: One of the other things we’re asking people about is dolls. Now when I say dolls, I don’t necessarily mean baby dolls, so did anyone have any toys that were pretending to be people, so that could be dolls, it could be soldiers.

William: Yes.

Andrea: What did you have?

William: I had a golliwog. [Andrea: Okay] and that in them days, we used to have, my aunt Alice who lived under us, she used to wear black stockings, and the body of it was made of the stockings, and then the head, and you know she made it, and the mouth, and the eyes were buttons sewn in, you know, and all that, and it was quite nice. And that’s to say in them days we never had all this nonsense about what you get today. [Andrea: Right]The golliwog that was something, just like the black and white minstrel shows you see.

Andrea: Yes. So what about either you Maurice and Pat?

Maurice: Well I used to have soldiers and a fort and used to have battles with my brother. You know he was a bit older than me. He used to win all the time.

William: Yes used to be able to buy them. The soldiers would be on a strip of cardboard, so many, and then there’d be horses and they’d have a lance and it moved – their arms moved up and down, that was made of lead. [Andrea: Okay] And then it was painted, beautiful colours you know, and then you had the fort, well that’s it, that was a wooden fort, up in the square, it had the thing what went up and down, you know the drawbridge, and all that kind of thing and you built round it if you know what I mean.

Andrea: I do. So with your fort, is that something that someone would have bought for you or do you think someone made it for you?

William: That would have been made by my Uncle George you know. He was a carpenter, and he made it, and it was just you know, the chains and the little half round hooks that went in, and you could lower it up and down, you know, and it’s that, as you done things you know. And of course going to the films in them days you saw the – you saw out there, the different forts and that, where the whats-a-names were, and you kind of copied it.

Andrea: Okay, what about either Maurice or Pat? Maurice you were saying about soldiers.

Pat: I had some soldiers and a fort, and it was a replica of the famous Fort Apache where – This was in America, Fort Apache, and it was the place was held after, I’m sure most people have heard of the Battle of the Little Big Horn, and this was the only defensive position left to the Americans, and they were being followed up by – they were [??] by these Iroquois Indians. The whole theme of the thing was that this trooper was walking around the ramparts of the fort, and this Iroquois Indian is standing on the cliff – on a cliff top, and he fires this rifle, and it’s a French rifle it’s called La Longue Carbine, and it kills this trooper walking round the fort, and it’s the longest – it’s the furthest that anybody was ever shot by a rifle, it was one thousand and three hundred yards. [pause] And that’s – I was given that by an old friend of mine for a Christmas present, who was also a Scot and also had immigrated to Canada.

Andrea: Okay, and did – again, was that a bought thing the fort, or a made thing do you know?

Pat: It was a replica of a lumber fort.

Andrea: Okay

10.10 – William: And when you was about three or two, it was always known you had a wooden horse on a platform. Four wheels, and the horse stood there with the two, four legs the body, the head and the handles, and you pushed that along as a kid, and there you are. By the time you’d finished with it, you’d had a brother born or a sister, and they’d play with it.

Andrea: And is that something that was made for you?

William: They could be made but they were brought.

Andrea: Okay, and then it was passed on to brothers and sisters?

William: Yeah that’s right.

Andrea: Do you think most of your toys were new, or did they come from, I don’t know if you had older brothers or sisters or –

William: No, I was the eldest. What I had was new.

Andrea: Okay, so it was new to you and then passed on.

William: See in them days girl if I try and put your mind at rest, there wasn’t much going. Christmas stocking in them days was an apple and an orange inside, and that was more or less the thing, and then paper chains which you could buy, a packet, they were strips of paper and they cost I think about sixpence something like that for about twenty odd papers or twenty five, and we never had paste like we’ve got today, but Mum used to get flour and water and what used to happen was you put a bit of paste on one length of paper, they’re all coloured papers, you put a bit on one and then you doubled it round to make a circle and it stuck you know.

Andrea: Yep. Got you.

William: And then you get the next one, you – a colour, different colour, you follow it through, and you do that, and in the end you’ve got a paper chain, all different colours. We made our paper chains, and then you had a draw pin, and up on the ceiling, of course in them days we had wooden ceilings tongue and groove, and you just pushed it, the drawing pin and that up there. And you could buy from Woollies, course in them days it was ten and five pennies store, you could go in there and buy a little bell, you know paper bell what opened, ever so small, it only cost a couple of coppers, and we managed to get about half a dozen of them and as the paper chains ended you had one of them up there, and that’s how it was. Then there was a lantern you could make out of paper you see, and that hung up, but you never put a candle in it, it was just a paper coloured lantern.

Andrea: Okay.

William: You could buy them in Woolworths you see, only thruppence. You could go to Woolworths and spend five shillings or more on an article, but – like a swing, you buy the ropes, then you buy the seat, then you buy that, and build it all up and the screws see that’s –

Andrea: Okay so you’d be putting it together.

William: Yes, that’s right

13.54 – Andrea: Yourself. And actually that was the other thing I wanted to talk about, was about constructions toys, you know things that you made, so I think that’s a really good example of one isn’t it?

William: Well the great thing I think all the boys today they’d remember, it was new for us, was the Meccano set [Andrea: yes] That was marvellous. If you got one of them, you was made. They had different sizes, but as a kid you just had a small one, you had the screws, and there you are. You had the pieces of tin, they were all colours, and they had holes in them, and all you done, and you had little round wheels, and you could make a crane out of it, see, you put them together and build the – if you imagine the little different pieces of plate, they’re flat, and they’ve got holes in them, so all you’ve got to do is get another one, put to it, and put the screw and screw it up. So you had a little jar with screws and all that. And then as you got other things you added to it from the oil shop and you could build all kinds of things, you know make a crane and on the end you’d have the little handle you made and you just turn it, and that’d lift up a log and that. And if you got a railway train, you know a little railway brought you a train, as it came round, it stopped, then, you could have tree, a little trunks of trees which you got from downing branches, and what I used to do was cut them and there you are, you could paint them brown and all that, and then, do them up in bundles, and you lift them out and lower them onto the carriage as it got there. You know it’s all kids’ play and mind.

Andrea: Absolutely. So Maurice, Pat did you have Meccano?

Maurice: We had a Meccano, yes that was quite a craze in those days, all the boys you know.

William: Oh yeah, when it got big, there’s some marvellous things made. Andrea: What did you make Maurice? Did you –

Maurice: We used to make – we had a Hornby train set, which we used – my brother and I, and my dad used to make – well we used to make things like bridges and all that sort of thing, tunnels for the trains you know. And we used to try and make motor cars.

William: See it was easy enough to copy, because all you wanted was a flat bit of wood, and then you got another bit of wood and put on for the bonnet, for the front, you had a bonnet, and then you put square bits on the back and you made a little car, and the wheels, and you put a piece of metal through and of course that’s it, you were shown, you know, and you made your own little car, and then you went one stage further, you could paint it, but there you are, and then you had what – and there was also you could buy from the shops the train – the little wooden train, engine, all it was was a flat bit of wood, a narrow bit underneath for a wheel each side, a narrow bit for wheel at that end, that was the base, then you had a round bit which was the you know the engine part, and then you built up the cab, and then you put the little bit up and round where the coal bunker was. You know it was your idea, you’ve done these little things, and you improved on them as you went.

Andrea: That’s what I was going to ask you, because I think some people who played with Meccano would just follow the instructions, that came in the little booklet, and other people would make up their own ideas and their own designs.

18.12 – William: Oh yes, yes, that’s it. You can follow and then you improve on it. You know this is what it was all about. It’s like when I was at school we sat down. The first school I went to I was only about four, you go in there, and when you sat down all round the class on the walls, that it’s a shame somebody broke into our place I’d have loved to have had them and you could have seen them, but where we sat, in our little desks and the ink well, on the wall would be a man where the island class school had painted that, and underneath it had man, then you went to the next picture and it would be a ball and underneath would be ball, then it would be cat, and then it be dog, then it be car, so all round that room you’re a little boy of three or four and you’ve got all those things you can look at, and she also asked you with the wall, she’d say right, Billy, what is that? And you’d say cat miss, and then she’d point to the next one, she’d say what is that? Of course it’s a man and I’d say a man, and all those kind of things and that’s how we learned. And then we stood all round the class. We got up out of our desks and all the way round, and then she’d start and ask one to spell. And I’ll always remember it, if you didn’t spell it, I was asked to spell milk, and I couldn’t spell MILK milk, and what happened was, when it come to dinner time that’s when you went out for a couple of hours ‘til two o’clock from twelve, you stayed there, and in your book you had to put on the top that – your name and that, and that was your little book there, and you put milk across there about five times, then you went underneath again five times and you filled that page up. You must have done about twenty five times MILK milk MILK milk, and then when you finished you just shut the book up put it on her desk and you went off out [Andrea: Right] and that’s it she’d look at it, that’s how you carried on [Andrea: yes]

21.04 – Andrea: So Pat did you have Meccano or –

Pat: Yes I had Meccano set. It was a bought thing, but it wasn’t something that I could sort of do like or add to it – it had certain pieces, mechanical things that you used, like lifts, that quite honestly putting that together and getting it to work you didn’t need any else [laughing]

Andrea: So what did you used to make out of it?

Pat: Well this was the – a coal mine, with the lift going up and down, getting the coal up, and it came down and there was a – there was a tray there where the tubs ran down and emptied. You put whatever you wanted in the tubs, but it was supposed to be coal. And used to take down to this platform, where there was a low loaded waggon that you put together yourself with Meccano bits, and that just took it away. Don’t ask me where it took it away to. [laughter]

Andrea: So it was a coal mine?

Pat: Yes.

Andrea: Okay

22.35 – William: There’s another thing love, what used to happen to us when we were about eight or nine, you go down to the shoe shop and ask for a shoe box, empty one,[Andrea: Yes] and when you got it you cut little holes in it, perhaps about seven, and you put over the little holes numbers. Two, five, four, three or whatever it was, and then we used to put that on the path, the path was very nice in them days, and you got in the gutter, and them you charged a boy two cards to have a go. In other words he gave you two picture cards, they used to be thrown away, they used to be in players boxes, and thrown away. And silver paper and that we saved, and if he got it in four I had to give him four cards back, but course we were cunning in them days, we made the holes tight, course they had marbles, and it wanted some getting in, you know what I mean?

Andrea: [laughing] I do.

William: So you know you learned always, in them days. And then for another thing I used to cut the top, and then I’d stick a coloured paper in, lovely, all done nicely, and then I’d turn it upside down and then I’d cut photos out, because you could always get photos off of all kinds of things what were sold and that, dogs and everything, and I make something up, and then – and soldiers, and I’d stick them on, so that when you looked through the box at the end, you know the side, two holes, you could look through it, and what with the colour on the top of the box, it was a nice colour you’re looking it in a technicolour aren’t you, and you can see a horse perhaps grazing, what you’ve cut out of something or photos and that. I used to get those saucy cards you know what come from the seaside [Andrea: Yes] and I used to put different ones of then in, and charge them two cards to have a look. So I always had a nice lot of cards. Course those cards were fifty in a set, well if you got a set, there you are, and you know that’s the kind of thing you got up to as a kid.

Andrea: How to make money as a child.

William: Me?

Andrea: Yes. So –

William: Always [Andrea: yes] because when I was young, you see these medals today what have been sold and that, they’re bringing pounds aren’t they? [Andrea: yes] and the ones from the Boer War, my wife’s father, he was out there in the Boer War. Well that was in the eighteenth century, and when he came home he’d got – I had a photo of him and that vanished, and you know it’s bloody annoying, some sod’s got it, because them photos they’re saving photos today, and they’re getting money on them now, all that kind of nonsense. And he’s in his red suit you know and he’s got – and there he is wearing the medals, its two medals, and all the different whats-a-names of bars, and there was five bars if you’d been out there. And he had the five bars and that, now when he came home, typical of the country as it is, oh yes we’ve had the men, they go out, they fight, he comes back, oh we don’t – it took three months to get back you know [Andrea: yes, ship] to England because the ships [Andrea: yes] and there was no bloody aeroplanes and all that nonsense then. And when he came back, oh we’ll put you in a reserve, see, we’re not going to keep you in the army. So now he’s on a reserve and he’s not got a job. He was a plumber before, so he’s a plumber now. But what happens, within about – well, another thing about the medals, his wife has got the medals, so now when itcomesto -he’sgonetowork–hecomestoMonday.Iasakidusedtogo round to the different ladies, anything for the pawn shop, we called it Uncles, called him uncles, and she’d say oh yes take this one Billy, and I’d get a ha’penny for taking a parcel down [Andrea: yes] or she’d say now look after them medals, now she’d get three pound for them, think I seen them sold for a thousand [Andrea: yes] once, and she’s got three pound for them, and then when I go round the next week, I’m collecting them to take back, she’s got to pay thruppence on it [Andrea: of course] Three pound three, well she might say oh leave them in for next week, well next week she’s got to pay three pound six, [Andrea: yes] see it goes up, and come the finish they leave them in. [Andrea: yes, of course] and then these sods what in the know they’re in there buying the medals when they’re finished at the end of the year, buying all that stuff up, all kinds of stuff [Andrea: yes] then that’s the kind of thing what went on, and that’s one way I earned money. Another way I used to help Joe the coalman. I was about eight or nine at the time. I had quite a walk down from Olympia, to Warwick Road, and when I got down there, we’d get Patsy the horse out, she had lovely white socks, a tail and a lovely mane, ever so lovely and gentle, and you’d put her in the harness, we go alongside the trains and then you got the blokes what are filling up the coal sacks, they weighed and put on. You’re doing what they call trucking, you’re going round the streets selling. You’d only have a few hundred weights on the horse will be all half hundred weights, you also had scales underneath, and then you used to have the weights and measure man ride round, and when they pulled up in their car, he’d say I’ll have that sack down there, and he had to get hold of it and put it on their scales to make sure it’s the right weight. Well we’d go round selling, and you’d get a woman say I want it up here, and you’re going up about ten steps and then another ten steps to the top, and you take a hundredweight up there, and I never carried it the coal man did them, I carried the half hundredweights as a boy, and he’d tip it and then she’s suddenly say oh that’s enough, see she’s got him to take the bloody coal up and tip it in the bin there, and the rest went down in the coal hole [Andrea: Right] and that’s that. And I would – then as I say get the sacks and if somebody wanted four there used to be in the pavement a round manhole, and when you tipped it down there underneath was two cellars for the people that lived at the top like we did. Of course in them days we never had an house, you wouldn’t – councils. We lived in, you started at number one and it went up to us twenty eight. But we lived in the top flat, that was the family, underneath us was Aunt Alice down underneath them was another lady, and then the other people down the cellar went down backwards, and then into their place, and you went up steps and that, and when you got up to the hall floor, that’s the first floor what was over the basement [Andrea: yeah] that’s it, that was where another family lived. Well as I say you had Marshie, Mrs Lucas next door, she had a family, underneath was Marshes, underneath them was the Ellis’ and then the Cases and that’s how it went down the road, Shepherds and all that [Andrea: Yes] That’s how you lived there, and if you wanted to clean your windows, you lifted them up and you sat on the windowsill and pulled the window up and down, it went on weights [Andrea: mm] and if the cord, the sash cord went, you lifted it up, or I learned how to do it, and then you brought it inside, and went down the oil shop and you got a new cord and put in on the weight and that, just tacked it in, and then you put the window back out again.

Andrea: Yeah. Just to think again about you know sort of like making things I just wanted to sort of like you know bring Maurice and Pat back in again. Was there anything else that you made that you can remember?

William: Yes.

Andrea: I just want to hear from Maurice for a minute. Give you a moment William. Maurice anything else?

Maurice: I can’t remember what I used to make is well my dad was an engineer he used to make things, but I used to work to earn money when I got a bit older. [Andrea: yeah] Well when I was very small we’d been by the seaside, my mum used to let some rooms to these people – they used to have these shows on the theatre you know, and we had a load of midgets show once, these tiny people, and I used to hire out my fairy cycle which was my possession, my prized possession, and they used to give me a penny for a ride on it for so long you know.

Andrea: Okay. You said you grew up in Ramsgate didn’t you?

Maurice: Yes.

Andrea: So did you used to – does Ramsgate have a beach?

Maurice: Oh yes.

Andrea: Yes, did you play on the beach?

Maurice: Used to go on the beach a lot yes.

Andrea: And when you were on the beach, did you used to build – I’m trying to remember whether Ramsgate’s stone or –

Maurice: Sand it is.

Andrea: Its sand. [Maurice:Yes] So did you build things in the sand?

Maurice: Oh yes, castles and that. Castles and – one thing perhaps I shouldn’t tell you really, but when we got a bit older we’d go in swimming and we’d change under the bathing station, because we didn’t want to pay, and there was a man come along selling peanuts, and we used to dig a hole in the sand, put a newspaper over the top, sprinkle sand over the top, and he’d come along shouting out peanuts, and he went down this hole, only one leg, and we all shouted out ‘fresh roasted’.

[laughter round the room]

Andrea: Brilliant.

Maurice: That was one of the things we used to do.

Andrea: Well if that’s not a construction toy, I don’t know what is.[laughing]

William: See you said about making money. Well as I say I went out with the coalman and that horse knew the round. And when he pulled up at the pub, there was always a pub at one end of the street and an off licence the other. And when he pulled up, he used to say I’ll get you a lemonade William, and an arrowroot biscuit, and that was good enough. And then my Aunt Alice would come out with a bucket to give the horse a drink, but then that’s when I used to sweep, and as I say make money. I used to sweep the car, I used to do all the bags, they’d be at the back on the left hand side, I’d rope it over, the scales were underneath, the shovel was up there, and I’d get the broom and I’d sweep all the dust up and put in a bucket, that’s all coal dust. And one or two knobs, while I was going round I used to take a knob out here and a knob out there, so when I was cleaning the van up she had a bucket there or me mum did of coal, got me? [Andrea: yeah] and that was that. And then the thing was with that, that was the coalman where I used to get it, and I’d go back with him and all that nonsense. But there was the other things to it you see. You had the man what came round with the fair, he had a roundabout on a little trolley, a donkey pulled it, but if one kid went out with old clothes you know, he’d have to wait ‘til somebody else went out with something because if he started turning it round it would tip over. Honest, this is the truth. And if it happened to happen sometimes you know the women in the street would come out and help him to lift that bloody roundabout up on to the van again, and you know it was a different life, and people just can’t see it and know about it. [Andrea: yeah] and I used to also as I say, with the – go down to the market early in the morning and help the blokes to pull their barrows out. They were – underneath the arches, they used them as workshops some motorcar people were in them, others were just left, and they had them, the market boys did with their barrows, and you pulled your barrow out down along the road where you lived, and that’s it, when you pulled it out you got it chopped up and everything and course the people walked along on the path and that’s where the blokes stood and weighed everything up. And the buses just went along the back, alongside of it.

Andrea: Okay.

William: And you got money for that, and you also, you had a big place where all their old wood could go. [coughing in the background] and you know the boxes, so you took them round there. But although you had a barrow as I said I made a barrow and it was a two wheel barrow with the shafts and that. I also had a four wheel one with a box on it. And we never done each other up because if we did the we set about each other for taking stuff. Where all this stuff was taken, while you were all helping them and working with them, you take anything you know, the rubbish, the boxes and all that, and chuck it round and it’s cleared on a Sunday by the council, that’s something going back to one of the king’s days what they granted that nonsense, and what we used to was, go round there for half an hour, sort out the different boxes and believe you me if you saw some of the wood what came with oranges in you couldn’t use that, but others you could, so I used to break them up and put them on my barrow and leave it there, another bloke would do something with his barrow, all boys, but you never not had anything off of each other [Andrea: yes] because that’d be it. And that’s what we used to do. [Andrea: mm] and then I come back and he’d say oh Billy, I’ve got a lot of cauliflowers in I want you to serve them today. He’d give me an apron, he’d give me five bob in small change that’s thruppeny bits you know, tanner, and all that. You’re learning all the time you see, [Andrea: yeah] Money, you’re adding up and farthings and ha’penny, you know four farthings one penny you know, two ha’pennies one penny, and twelve pennies one shilling, and we didn’t have – we were learning all the time and only kids seven and eight and I was standing he’ll sell with everything, and she’ll come up and say oh I want three cauliflowers. Well you know what a cauliflower is today. Three cauliflowers, three for six, tuppence each. But he told me always give her two little ‘uns and a big ‘un [Andrea: Right] And I’d have a knife in me pocket, not like sods today, and I’d have it hanging on me belt and I’d just cut them big leaves what cover it up over, put them in a box, and that was my bunce. People used to come down because they kept rabbits in the garden, you know in a box, in the shed, and they used to say oh have you got any greens, I used to say yes there’s a box there, and I’d say oh that’s tuppence, and he never worried about that, what I made on that was my money. [Andrea: yes] See, and he also gave me a bloody good – all the veg, and I went home with veg and everything, fruit and that and a wad, so you know there was all those things , you were doing that all the time, so and as I say our friend here who’s lived on the coast, our people only went down the seaside once a year, and that’d be a beano or dads out, and you know from the pub when they played darts, and do you know, we’d go, this is the truth, we’d all go out and we’d go to Southend, Margate, Ramsgate, and we never went no farther, because it was up there whats- is- name is now, so we never got up to there, but we used to go in the charabanc they called it them days, and also get you could get on at Hammersmith, and for sixpence you’re right up there by Tower Bridge. Now they never had the whats- a -name there then, the big – to stop the flooding and that, ‘course all along there [Andrea:Thames Barrier] Barrier? [Andrea: Yes] well all along there in them days every time it was high tide there was floods, the bloody houses were flooded. Oh yes, and also you’d jump on the pleasure boats, and they’re famous for – during the Second World War, going over with – bringing the boys back and all that, boats and anything what went. But the Daffodil was one I can remember, and you jumped on it, and when you got on it, that was it, mum and dad they’d be down – we’d be looking and seeing all the – as we went right through London. See you went through the dockland and that’s where all Britain’s life was then, coming up there with the boats, and all that. And then when I was a young boy you used to have a tug come up, and when the tug went under the bridge, Hammersmith Bridge, he had to pull his chimney down and it used to go [sound effect] and I’ve often heard my mum say ‘ooh, that’s a sign of rain’ [laughter] On the back of that tug, on the back of that tug would be four or six barges and as they come along, them barges would be full of cement bags, sand, ballast, wood, coal, and as they come all the way along, where the boat race comes now, right along there by Hammersmith where we were, they’d ease up and then they’d undo one and them bargemen were good, and they just drifted over to the side and that’s where it would be anchored and that’s where they’d unload it then, and when they got up to Brentford they’d do the same again by Kew Bridge, and the lorries used to back in then and get the cement and take it off somewhere and all that. [Andrea: yes] And that’s how it was in them days, life and that.

Andrea: Yes. I just want to ask Pat actually because you know you’ve been talking William about the sea and the river and Maurice has mentioned the sea. You said you grew up in Canada Pat, anywhere near the sea?

Pat: I lived on the banks of the St Lawrence River.

Andrea: Which river?

Pat: The St Lawrence River. It’s not the longest river in the world, and it’s not the widest river in the world but it has more volume of water falling through it than any of them, any other river in the world. So it’s a huge river. It froze twenty four feet thick in the winter, and when the winter was starting a big gang of us kids we’d take up sacks, first bit of snow that come down we’d go up and down, up and down, and as soon as it was hard enough we would get on there with our skates, and we’d go down this, I mean some of us would take us out ten miles out into the river. One problem came out of this. The problem was you had to skate all the way back, and by the time you skated all the way back you didn’t want to go down that hill again that day. But this fella came out I’ll never forget it, it was like a blind he’s got, we says what’s that then he says you’ll see and off he went and then we skated back. He comes back it’s like a little sail [laughing], so we all tried to make the same kind of sail, we were never as successful as John was. That was a bit of fun really.

Andrea: So would you say that a lot of your play was outside play? Pat: Yes. Yes. Most decidedly.

Maurice: You played ice hockey didn’t you?

Pat: Yes. I was an ice hockey player. That’s where I learned to play. I’ll always remember when I was about eight or nine years of age and skates you bought for kids they weren’t very substantial – weren’t very very strong, so it wasn’t as easy for you to go down the slope with these skates. So one day one of these of this fella’s father came along and he was an ex ice hockey player, he played for Montreal Canadians, and he said what you young guys need is some cheese cutters, and was swearing at us, cheese cutters, amazing with these they were like a roller skate but instead of wheels on were blades on either side. So there’s more support, so I started going down there, then we cleared a little space of snow away on the river and we’d start up on ice hockey. Ice hockey actually that’s where I learned to play, and I came back to Scotland – to the town I came to, they were building an ice rink and an advert in the paper any kids be interested in learning how to play ice hockey well my brother and I were pretty good ice hockey players, so we more or less formed the nucleus of the junior side, and within about eighteen months comes this other fella, just like us he was a Scot, his name was Bruce MacKenzie and he was even better than us. That year when we formed our team and we entered the Scottish junior league, we won the Scottish junior championship, two years running. And one day the coach came along, “Pat£ he says, “how would you like to play for the Vikings on Monday night?” That was the professional side. Oh I said, yeah, so I got into a professional side and that night I scored three goals, and I was in the professional team until I was called up. So that’s my history as a kid really.

Andrea: So how old were you when you came back? Pat: I was fourteen years of age.

Andrea: Okay. [pause] So all of your childhood was in Canada then?

Pat: Oh yes [Andrea: yes] I was educated in Canada yes. That’s why I’m such a dumb bell.

Andrea: So any other thoughts about, you know things that you made or things that you played with? Or do you think you’ve come to a sort of halt with what you can remember, and what you want to share with us?

William: Well the girls used to – course there wasn’t many cars in them days only the milk churn going along, but the girls used to have a skipping rope what went across the road, and one of them each end would be turning it, and anything up to fourteen girls would all keep going in and skipping, until one of them upset it and then they’d go out. And us boys used to think it was great to get in there, and do you know, if we busted it up do you know them girls used to give us what for. None of this going home to mum crying, they [laughter] came and gave you a bloody good hiding [laughter] yeah. And then we used to play whipping top. You could have a top what’s shaped you know like a pear, and it got a mag in it. Well we used to take the mag out to put horse manure in it to make it hum [laughter] and I’ll always remember doing that, and you put the piece of string on and then you throw it, and it doesn’t half go round, and you can pick it up on your hand and it tickles the hand and all that nonsense. Well with a whipping top, you start that and you whip it down the road, and then somebody down the road will see it and kick it, and – oh dear oh lor’ [laughter] and my mum will send me down, she’d say right Bill nip down to the – On a Sunday, I’ll get Dad the paper I’ll get him a book of AGs, that’s half ounce of Nosegay, a book of AG papers, and then I’ll go round to the other place and I’ll get three ha’penth of snuff for me Aunt Alice. She used to put that on the back of her hand and smell. Well one day I got inquisitive, and I put a bit on and I – [sniffs] I gave a big smell. And I thought somebody had hit me in the back of the head [laughter] and then I went – then I used to have to go over to the four hour bar, and when you walked in there oh hello Billy what do you want? Aunt Alice said would you get her half a pint of ale, and they’d get the jug, I’d come out with that, and as I go to walk down then I’d go home, I’ve got a load of newspapers, I walk into the fish shop, and they’re all clean and folded up, I give them to him, he used to give me a penny because I had a big load, and what he used to do he’d spread them out, but he’d also add polythene, you know tissue paper whatever it is, so when the fish was put on it, it never you know – But I can remember many a time, getting fish and being able to read the newspaper on it [laughter round the room] But you know that was life in them days.

Andrea: Absolutely. Well, I’m going to say thank you very much, Dan’s going to wave a camera at you and take a couple of pictures, and – so is it Pat or Patricia officially? [Patricia: either] is going to help you do a couple of forms. Patricia is going to help you do some forms, but yes thank you that was wonderful, I really enjoyed your stories actually.

William: I’ve got a million of them.

Andrea: Yes.[laughter]

Patricia: He could keep going for hours couldn’t he?

Andrea: I could keep listening to people for hours actually.

William: When I was in the army [gales of laughter] we used to fall fours in them days, so you tell going back, and I was a little bit slow, I was in the third rank and I didn’t move quick enough, and the sergeant ‘cause they were both Irish and he said – he gave the order, and I thought oh I know what I’ll do when he shouted me name and the third rank, I said sorry sergeant I never understood you. Well I might just as well call him a bastard mightn’t I? He said right you’re on a charge [loud laughter] I had to do seven days under him and another one, Sergeant O’Flynn, and they used to have me for an hour in the evening, I used to have to go on fully dressed, that’s so that the officer in charge of the guard he had a chance to have me and all if me hair wanted cutting or me brass wasn’t clean, and then I had them. And they used to shout and all the orders and that, and at the end of a week they said now you understand Irish don’t you Wolf? Yes sir, yes sir, and that was it, I paid dearly.

Pat: I think it’s been tremendous hasn’t it? Really has.

Andrea: yes.

INTERVIEW ENDS 55m 58s

William, Maurice and Pat

William, Maurice and Pat were interviewed at Blind Veterans UK, Brighton.

William (not in photograph) was born in Hammersmith in 1920. In order to earn money he used to run errands. William died in 2015.

Maurice (on the left in photograph) was born in 1923 in Ramsgate, where his mother used to let out rooms to people appearing in seaside shows.

Pat (on the right in photograph) was born in 1924. An ex ice hockey player, he was born in Glencraig in Scotland but at the age of two and a half moved to the banks of the St Lawrence River in Canada.

In the short version (03m 34s) of their interview they talk about toy soldiers. In the full version (54m 26s) they also discuss Meccano, outdoor play, and their general memories of childhood.