Frances Laker (b.1928/ female)

We lived in Mill View, that was all right there, we used to have bonfires, you know, all the kids round, roast potatoes, chestnuts, everybody mixed. If anybody was ill the next door neighbour would say, ‘Well I’m going into town – anything you want?’ or, ‘I’ll clean up for you,’ and you used to do the same for them.

I remember once we had a dog give us, and he came off a farm and it’d got ringworms and I caught them – then you had to pay for a specialist that was two guineas a time, that was a lot of money. If you was ill you had to pay for your doctors. I remember once my mother sent for the doctor. I wasn’t very old and I couldn’t stand up, I kept tumbling everywhere. Dr. Murray looked at me, ‘The girl’s drunk.’ My mother had made some elderberry wine and you put a big punch in, you know…and I’d only been sitting there sipping it and sipping it. Course, Mum couldn’t understand it ‘cos I kept tumbling all over the place.

Feverfew we used to have for headaches and comfrey was another one, comfrey leaves for bruises. Marshmallow we used to use that a lot – I don’t know what that were for, and bread poultices, you know, if you’d got a thorn in your finger it started to fester, and you got some boiling water and this bread and they put it in a white cloth and…oh it was red hot, they put it on, tied it round to draw it all out…and boils, they used to do it for boils as well. I know if you had a wart – it was rub it with a piece of raw meat and bury it in the garden and don’t tell anyone where you’d buried and the wart’ll drop off. Oh dear, silly things.

Scrumping apples – policeman used to box your ears, ‘Don’t do it again’, you know, ‘No, we wont do it again’. Putting buttons on people’s doors and a bit of cotton and hiding and tapping the window…if my mother got to know the cane used to come out, oh yes, across your bottom. Bulimore – he used to clip you round the ears if you didn’t behave yourself.

I remember my mother taking me to the old police station in Baptist Walk because I’d run away from school one day and of course she’d had a word with this Bulimore, you know, ‘Have a word with her, frighten her so she won’t do it again!’ And all the guns, and there were a cat o’ nine tails up there and he said, ‘If you run away again you’ll have that.’ I never did run away again. The birch, I say that up there, because they used to have them on the wall, all on displays.

We used to sit and make peg rugs at night in the winter. You had a fire grate up there, I mean, if anybody was really ill for a length of time I think we had a coal fire in there but I can only ever remember it being used once when Mum was ill. You couldn’t afford to have a coal fire upstairs and downstairs as well. I don’t think you feel the cold when you’re young – even when you’re courting and it’s snowing – you stand there don’t you, you don’t feel it do you?

I was in Baddesley Ensor, cycled over there to see my grandparents. The war was declared when I was there. When Granddad said – they’d put it on the wireless, you know, it was accumulators and batteries – he said, ‘War’s been declared,’ and I said, ‘Will I be all right to get home? Will they bomb before I get there?’

Everyone mixed, it was merry times – live for today, don’t bother about tomorrow. I think it broadened the outlook. I mean you’d get different nationalities here and up at the aerodrome – Bramcote Aerodrome – you’d get different nationalities up there, you’d got the Belgians, French, all sorts up there. When you used to go dancing you’d meet them all. Go to Nuneaton, go to the dance there and miss the bus and have to walk home, that was nothing. Well if my mum was nights she didn’t know what time I got in did she. If she was at home I used to take my shoes off to go up the stairs quietly you know. I always used to drop my shoes at the top of the stairs and then I had it.

I worked in a shop and then of course the Labour Exchange told me I’d got to go to the railway and I went down there. You used to see the troop trains come in. Some of the fellows used to shout to me, one of them lived in the street below us although I didn’t know him. He says, ‘I know you, you come from Hinckley. Will you go down and tell my mum I’m going overseas?’ And he lived on the corner of Well Lane…he says, ”Cos I can’t write and tell her I’m going.’

Cleaning the carriages out near Nuneaton Trent Valley Station one day, Edie, one of the girls, she used to do the oiling and the King and Queen were coming and everywhere were all spick and span. The platforms were all clean and Edie goes for this oil can and drops it all down and she had to scrub it all up before they come. Oh, there was panic stations. And the King stopped and he was made up, he had more make-up on than…the Queen. Didn’t half make them up.

The Bulls Head at the bottom of Castle Street



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