We were all steam train enthusiasts…they have their own smell, you could tell a train was coming from miles away, we could hear them quite well even in Priesthill’s Road, and could always tell when it was going to rain because the sound was different you see, it was the air, how it came across to us.
In those days when we were young, when the fairs came they were pulled up by these traction engines, you know, and I was walking up, we were fascinated by them, and I walked into a lamp post and when I got home I was sent upstairs with no dinner, just for that. My father used to have a strap handy, off the belts they used to have in the hosiery factory and if you misbehaved yourself in the house you’d get a bit of that.
Games them days were hopscotch, shuttlecock and battledore always Shrove Tuesday, snobs, whip and top, bowling along with a hoop. We used to save the cigarette cards and have games with them – you’d set one card up against a wall and the others you’d use to skim and hit it down. The girls used to play buttons. You’d collect a lot of buttons out of your mother’s workbox probably and you’d skim them along the gutters – they used to play marbles the same way.
Indoors we didn’t always have radio did we – what did we have before that? Oh the gramophone. Listen to records if you were lucky enough to have any. I remember the radio coming in 1922. We used to listen to what they called the Savoy Orpheus, Jack Payne and his band, Jack Hilton. After that, your main entertainment, Saturday night particularly, when I was married, would be listening to a radio play where you could use your imagination more.
I had ambitions to be in the engineering but I never went, because the main industry as you know was hosiery and that’s where the wages were, I mean if you wanted engineering you’d probably go to Coventry. You weren’t in charge like they are today, if you wanted money them days you went to where it was – they probably do today – but you didn’t have the choice in those days.
Traveling wasn’t the same as it is today…
You’ve got to realize that then the traveling wasn’t the same as it is today – going from place to place wasn’t as easy as it is now by a long, long way. If you’d got a bike…that’s what you used or you might have a motorbike, very few cars. I mean, when we were really young the traffic was horse-drawn. I can remember in the dry weather it made it really dusty, you could see this cart come round with a sprinkler at the back, a sprinkler on there and a brush to brush it all into the side. That’s what used to happen in The Borough – we used to get the granite chips out and throw them at each other – what you’d call a street battle. You could get the granite chipping out.
The only people who got cars when we were young were those who’d got quite a lot of money – the executives and that, or the factory owners I should say. I can remember collecting car numbers and they were all A1 – the first ones. The first popular car that was on the road was what they called the Tin Lizzy that was a Ford – a T Ford – it was the cheapest car…about £100 then.
I was in a hosiery factory, I finished school at the Easter, March, and I didn’t get a job until September and then it was only because one of the directors of Hudd & Masons lived next door, and he got me a job. Transferring – that was putting the transfer onto the toe of the stocking. You were on what they called piece rate straight away and I know the second week I earned 15 and seven (78p), and do you know my mother was thrilled to death, she was telling people because it was a lot of money then. I was 14. I had to hand it in and I got a bit of pocket money, maybe a shilling or one and six (7p).
Sister: I was in the warehouse where the finished stockings came through and the men paired them up, of course the men were taking the mickey, trying to make me blush, that sort of thing…that was the sort of thing you got. But when I moved downstairs onto a machine some of the women, they were coarse, very coarse and they’d do their best, with ribald jokes and things like that to make you embarrassed because, I mean at 14 in those days you were pretty green, very green, and my mother wasn’t the sort of person who talked about intimate things at all. Most of them would be married women and they soon cottoned onto that and they’d do their best to embarrass you…well, after a day or two you just ignored it.
Brother: I was working 60 hours a week, I was working at Fludes at the outbreak of war, pretty well non-stop. Nights as well as days, twelve hours at night, for the princely sum of about £6.12s (£6.60). No you didn’t work those hours by choice quite frankly. The unions did very little about it. Twelve hours at night and by three o’clock in the morning you were working like a zombie and then you gradually worked out of it, you’d worked through your sleeping period. It wasn’t until I joined the army that I felt better. The first three months in the army I put on about a stone in weight. I went abroad, North Africa and Italy and by the time I got back I lost it.
A major part of the workforce came from Nuneaton, caught trains in those days to come to Hinckley. Eight o’clock in the morning you’d see them pouring out, mostly women, of course, ‘cos a large part of the hosiery was women. A lot of them came on bikes, they used to have to use those carbon lamps. Made their money and took it back to Nuneaton to spend it – it’s true. Bicycle lamps…there’d be all that performance at six o’clock when they’d finished work to get the lamps to burn before they could go home.