Friday, January 05, 2007

Further Reading.

Further reading. :-

Wikipedia article on the Black Country.
Locating the Black Country in place and time. 'The area is popularly said to have got its name because of pollution from these heavy industries, which covered the area in black soot and led to the name of The Black Country. There is a famous but dubious anecdote about Queen Victoria ordering the blinds lowered on her carriage as the royal train passed through the area. However, historians have suggested that it is more likely that the name was given earlier, arising from above-ground outcroppings of black coal seams that scarred the early heathland. Also, the coal seam just below the surface meant the soil in the area was very black...'

"Ow we spake" (Black Country dialect dictionary).
The unusual local dialect is one thing that the Black Country is most famous for. Linguists believe that Black Country English is closer to Middle English than other English dialects. Part of the Ancient Manor of Sedgley website, which has a wealth of historical information, photographs etc. (Many of the links on this weblog come from this website).
Further reading at Wolverhampton researches Black Country dialect.

Lives of local people.
'These are articles about the lives of local people who lived or worked in Wolverhampton or the surrounding area.' A large collection of further reminiscences of Black Country life. Of particular relevance - childhood reminiscences of Penn. But don't miss five generations of a lock-making family 1758-1901.

Histories of local areas.
Includes some articles on relevant locations :-
Darlaston in old postcards, part of a series of articles about Darlaston.
Growing up on Penn Common, part of a series of articles about Penn.

Old photographs and images of Wolverhampton.
Don't miss - the Staffordshire Yeomanry 1909-1914, old adverts and postcards, Wolverhampton in the 1960s and 1970s.

Wolverhampton's listed buildings.
Notable local architecture.

Wolverhampton war memorials.

Guide to Black Country and Birmingham canals.
The canal system played a major role in the industial development of the region, and are an interesting aspect of its industrial archaeology.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

When we moved to the bungalow that Ted had built in Yew Tree Lane, my dad and Violet came with us. Other people called their bungalows 'Ivy Dene' or 'Rose Dene', but we called ours 'Flora Dene' because of my name.

Then in August 1946, the club man came and told me, 'Florry I've heard your dad's got married.' It didn't surprise me in the least. He had married Margaret who was the widow of his older brother Jim. Margaret used to wave at my dad as she went past on her way to church, then Aunt Esther encouraged them when they would go out drinking together.

My dad came round right away and said, 'I reckon you've heard I've got married. Well if there's anything you want anytime, I'll help you.' But I never did ask him for anything.

He took all his furniture. Margaret had a general shop in the front room of her council house in Harding Street. After a time they started having rows.

Then one Saturday night, Margaret and my dad came round to the bungalow and she sat herself on the chair by the door. The first words she said were, 'This is mine.' It wasn't very often that I raised my voice but I raised it then. I said, 'Ted, get on your bike. Go to the police station, I'll soon show it whether it's yours or np'. As soon as he got up, Margaret walked out.

The following week, I told my dad, 'It's going up for sale now.' He agreed and I advertised in the Express and Star for a part-exchange. A man came with his wife and said he'd have the bungalow.

We got an old terraced house in Regent Street, Swan Village. The toilet was down the bottom of the yard and was shared with the other houses on the yard. The washing was done in an old brewhouse. Everything was old-fashioned but I didn't mind that. I wanted to get out.

The bungalow had had electricity, but in Regent Street there was a gas lamp fixed on the wall and you lit the jet. There was just one room downstairs for everything. It had a sink in for washing ourselves and for preparing food.

Violet came with us. She went out to work, helping to put up meals at a restaurant. I made friends with Ida who lived on the yard. She worked at home, putting clips onto cards, and she had a little girl called Pamela.


The first time that we went away on holiday was in 1948 when Ted, me, Violet and Carole went to Aberdovey for the week. I sent the big pram by train in advance. We got the bus from Coseley to Wolverhampton, then the steam train to Aberdovey.

The sun was shining when we started out on the Saturday, but it rained all the week afterwards. We stayed in a guest house. When we got there we found we had forgotten to bring the money to pay for the guest house, so I had to write to Stella. She sent us the money and we paid her back afterwards.

There was entertainment in the guest house one night, but Carole didn't like it and she started to cry, so I had to go up to the bathroom with her. One of the other guests and his wife went out one day and came back with a toy boat for Carole.

Violet and Ted went on a boat trip round the estuary while I stayed on the sands and played with Carole.

I met a friend from Sankeys. When she saw me with Ted, she said, 'That's your husband then.' She had seen Ted before doing bricklaying jobs, but she didn't know he was my husband.

We stayed near the church and we used to hear the bells playing a tune.


Wednesday, January 03, 2007

When Ted was in the army he wrote and told me that he hadn't been very well. When he came home on leave I met him at the station and he looked terrible. I had never seen anything like it.

I took him to Dr Waddell's surgery. The doctory examined him and said, 'Let him have his leave. He'll be all right for travelling back. Take his letter to the army MO.'

My cousin Violet and I travelled back with him. We stayed the night in a little room in someone's house. When I met Ted the next morning, he said, 'Florry I've got to go into hospital tomorrow.' He was in hospital a while and then he was discharged from the army. If he had been in the army any longer it would have killed him.

When he came home, he stayed in bed for a while. Dr Waddell came out to visit him. I worked at Sankeys and my sister Violet would look after him while I was at work.

He got a bit of a pension at first but then they took it off him. A friend asked him to do a small painting job on his house. He began to do more jobs and to work for a builder. He got a job with Bilston Council and worked there till he retired at 65.


One of the nicest things was in July 1946 when Carole was born. I woke Ted up at half past four in the morning and told him that I thought I'd better have the midwife. He got up and made his breakfast, then he went to fetch the midwife. Later on he made himself another breakfast. Carole was born about 4:30 in the afternoon. I'd only just had her when Ted's mother and Stella came to visit.

When Dr Waddell came and looked at the baby, he said, 'Ooh, she is lovely. You want to have another one.' My dad told him in a broad Black Country accent, 'Yo day say that when yo had you'rn'. He had only one child. After all, I was 36.

I liked to get out with the pram and show off the baby. She was a beautiful baby. Mrs Fellows, the headmistress of Daisy Bank School, who liked a drink, looked in the pram one day and said, 'Don't let anyone kiss her'.

The following winter was the coldest in living memory. I had a little cot at the side of our bed and kept the baby warm. The was no fire in the bedroom but I saw the baby was well wrapped up. I couldn't push the pram out for nearly 10 weeks because of the snow and ice. I tried to venture out one day but I couldn't manage it.

In February 1947, Stella went into labour. She was booked to have her baby in a nursing home on the Penn Road. The weather was so bad that a taxi couldn't get across Penn Common. Stella and Charlie had to walk through the ice and snow across the Common. The snow was up over the hedges. Stella couldn't push the baby out herself. The had to use forceps. Charlie and Stella paid a lot of money for the nursing hom, but it might have been better if she'd just stayed at home. I had no trouble at home with just the midwife.

When I went to visit them, I was walking over the trees and hedges. You couldn't see the path in the snow. The baby, David, wasn't very well. Ted's mother brought him back to Brook House and Stella stayed in the home for a bit. Later the home was closed down.


Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Ted's mother had an old-fashioned cart that Bessie's husband Jim used to drive to fetch things for the farm. He would fetch grain from the brewery for pig food. Ted's sister Bessie and Edie Perry used to delivery milk by cart. They would go round Sedgley and Gornal with cans of milk. People would come out of their houses with their jugs and Edie would dip a measuring can in the milk and tip it in the jug.

One sunny afternoon, while Ted was away in the army, Ted's mother said, 'Come on, we'll go for a ride in the country'. She said she would take Stella, Charlie, Violet and me to Ebstree in the cart. The pony was named Bob. He was a lovely pony and he was used to stopping at the pub at Ebstree when Jim used to drive him.

They had gone to the trouble of putting rubber wheels on the cart. We got to Ebstree and we'd just started back when the rubber started to come off. The wheels started to make such a row that the pony took fright. I could see the rubber coming off and I said, 'I'm taking no risks'. Charlie, Violet and me all jumped off. Stella and Ted's mother managed to stop the cart by the police station. They had to leave the cart all night and get a wheelwright to fix the wheel. Charlie had to walk the pony back to Penn Common and me and Violet had to walk all the way back to Coseley.


In the Second World War there were doodlebugs. We thought the German planes followed the canals in Coseley. We looked for searchlights in the sky and then we knew bombs were coming. As soon as I knew, I dashed into one of the school shelters. Once I went into a shelter that was all in darkness and I was on my own. It was a really frightening time. We could hear the German planes overhead when we were in the shelters.

There was only Ted and a man named Tom Baker who wouldn't go down in the shelters. One night there were bombs dropped on Roseville and Ted darted under the table.

Eventually little house shelters we built of brick and put on main roads and we used them. Once when Violet and me were out shopping, the sirens went and we shelters in somebody's own Anderson shelter. We didn't know the people but they let us in.

Food was rationed in the war and afterwards. We had ration books with coupons. We got the books from an office in Roseville. You could use the coupones for a quarter of a pound of butter, say, but when you had used all the coupons up, you couldn't get any more food. The rationing was very tight. Margaret, my Uncle Jim's widow, got ham on the black market. She would give my dad a slive and we would have to sit and watch him eat it for his breakfast.

In 1946, I heard there were Jaffa oranges on Dudley market. I was as big as could be because my baby was very nearly due. I went to Dudley and stood in a queue for the oranges. The were beautiful big Jaffas, lovely and juicy.


Monday, January 01, 2007

Ted's father was a very shy man. When I went to Brook House he kept out of the way, doing jobs with the pigs or cattle.

One night Ted had told me that his dad wasn't very well. The next time I should have met Ted he didn't turn up. It was a dark winter's night and I walked all the way from Coseley to Penn Common.

Edie, who use to work for Ted's family milking cows and delivering milk, came to the door. She called me in and said Ted's dad wasn't very well. She asked me if I'd like to see him. I said I would. He was the most good-looking man you ever saw.

Edie said to him, 'Do you know who this is? It's Florry.' Maybe he thought she meand Florry his daught who died when she was a little girl. Ted's dad died the same night.


I once went to Liverpool on the train for the day with Stella, Charl and my dad. Someone had told my dad he had a relative in Liverpool and that's what we were looking for, but we didn't find them.

My dad took us into one place to have a meal but we walked out without eating the food. It wasn't a very nice place. There were women standing on street corners with no shoes on.

When we were walking back to the train station, my dad found some silver sixpences on the floor.


At 20 Yew Tree Lane, the light came from gas lamps on the wall. A pipe carried gas to the lamp. My dad attached another pipe to that pipe. He fixed it so the pipe reache the kitchen table and went into a little ring that was loose on the table.

After we moved into Flora Dene in 1935, we had electric light, but my dad didn't much care for it. He said it didn't suit his eyes.

The wireless had accumulators inside. A man in the next road used to call and take the accumulators and bring them back ready to use. My dad said that, one day, there would be pictures witht he wireless and people would be able to see people in other places. I looked at him amazed.

I used to listen to Housewives' Choice on the wireless in the mornings. My sister Violet used to write in and request records. She had had records played for me and for Ted's mother. She had a lot of records chosen. A reporter from the Express & Star came to see her and asked how she got so many records picked. She said it must be because they liked the records she chose.

In 1956 she had written in toe had a record plahyed for mine and Ted's wedding anniversary. I didn't hear it but one of her neighbours told me it was played on September 7th. The record was 'The September Song' with the words 'These few golden years I spend with you'. She was just 39 and she was already dead when the record was played - she couldn't spend any more years with us.


Sunday, December 31, 2006

I was born in Oak Cottage, Yew Tree Lane, Coseley, but later on we moved to a house at 20, Yew Tree Lane. We moved into number 20 when a couple with a teenage son moved out of there. The son gave me a basket made of wire and he used to do paintings. He had painted a picture of a swan and trees and plants on the parlour door at number 20.

Number 20 had two good-sized rooms downstairs, two rooms upstairs and a brewhouse outside. We didn't use the parlour very much, only if someone special came. Aunt Esther had friends who kept a pub on Church Road, and sometimes she would bring them to our house and take them into the parlour and they would play the organ and sing.

The downstairs rooms had high ceilings. I was always changing the wallpaper. If I went into Wolverhampton and saw some different wallpaper that I liked, I would get it. I did all the papering myself. I mixed flour and water to make a paste and it stuck well. I would paper as far as I could reach and then put a border round. I used to be painting all the while. My dad would say 'You're painting again'. I would be changing the colour of the doors.

I would make rag rugs. I would cut strips from old coats or clothers. I used a podger, which was half a wooden clothes peg, to bodge hols in a piece of sacking and push the strips of material through. The rug would go on the hearth and would be lovely and warm in the winter. I enjoyed making the rugs and it was something to do in the winter nights.

At number 20, there was a big garden out at the front, up to the main road. My dad used to grow all his own vegetables. He grew potatoes, carrots, beans, onions, cabbage and parsley. The new potatoes were gorgeous. He would get us to do the weeding. I had learnt to do the weeding at school, because the headmistress of Christ Church School, Miss Brittain, would pick a few of us to weed her garden. She would take us out of school for half a day to get her garden weeded.


In the early 1930s I liked to follow the fashions. I wore the shorter skirts when they came into fashion. I used to wear some beautiful hats. I had a bowler hat when bowler hats were fashionable. I bought my hats from a shop in Darlaston, and I bought dresses and dress material from Darlaston. I liked bright colours. I made some of my dresses. I didn't have a pattern, I just cut out the material. I made one dress with a cape to match. When fur collars were fashionable, I stitched fur collar on my coats. A fur collar would cost about 4 pounds. I wore high heeled shoes - court shoes with pointed toes.

I always liked to wear jewellery. One year my dad bought me a lovely string of pears for my birthday but I lost them.

It was only once or twice that I went to the hairdresser in Church Road, Coseley. I liked to do my own hair because then I could get it how I wanted it.


My cousin Violet and I were close friends but I was left on my own after she met Lawrence. Lawrence served at the counter of a gents' outfitters and Violet kept walking past the shop where he worked till she went out with him.

I started to go with Billy Webb. At night he would say he had to get back to lock the gates at work. One of the girls at work sent word to me to tell me that he was messing about with another girl. He told me it wasn't true, but I found out for myself that it was when I was out on my bike and I saw him with a girl.

I went to get to his house to get my umbrella because I had left it there. His sisters said 'Oh come in Florry' but I didn't. I went home and wrote him a letter saying I never wanted to see him again.

About a week later I went to Penn Common with my cousin Violet when I met Ted. He said 'If you're here when I come back, I'll bring you a block of chocolate'. I said to Violet that we might as well wait for the chocolate. He asked me to the Pat Collins Bank Holiday fair at Wolverhampton.

He asked me to tea (note - evening meal in Midlands dialect) the next week. Violet went with me to tea at Brook House. Stella (Ted's sister, Florence's brother Charlie's future wife) played the piano and their mother got us a nice farmhouse tea with eggs from the own hens.

I couldn't have wished for a better man.


Saturday, December 30, 2006

Our bread was delivered by Mr Fido who had a bakery in Bradley and came round with his horse and cart. It was beautiful bread. You could smell the newness of it.

For groceries, Tommy Baker had a general shop in Yew Tree Lane, Coseley. He kept bacon and butter on the cellar shelves. He sliced the bacon and cut the butter himself. He would cut you half a pount of lard. It wasn't very hygienic; he used the same knife and the same cloth for everything. The mice used to get into the sacks of oats that he would serve his customers from. He had big jars of sweets that he'd weigh into quarters. He sold potatoes and cabbages that he'd weight out on his big scales. For milk, I'd buy tinned condensed milk. His mother used to make groated pudding that he'd cut up to sell.

My cousin Violet and me would find something to go round for on a Sunday morning. The front door would be shut so we would go round the back door and play the piano in his kitchen. He thought he was courting the daughter of Akerman the solicitor. He would dress himself up, put on his best brown boots and the would go on the train to the theatre in Wolverhampton, but nothing came of it.

Tommy Baker had a backyard where he kept coal and you could buy that from him. We would sometimes get a load of coal from Baggeridge when my uncle Harry and my cousin worked there. They both got the disease of the chest that miners got, though they carried on working with it. There was one man that I used to see in Yew Tree Lane. He was a poor old miner. He couldn't work far. The miners didn't get any compensation.

There used to be pits in Yew Tree Lane; there was one right opposite our house. We used to play on the heavy wheel on the floor and there was a big stack that was blown up. In the General Strike of 1926, miners would dig holes for coal themselves. We used to have boiling hot summers then. Aunt Esther made pop with lemons and sugar, and me and Violet would sell the pop to the sweating miners.

Aunt Esther would go to Horseley Fields where they sold cheap crockery. She would go there with a big straw clothes basket and bring a basket full of crocker back on the train. Me and Violet would go round people's houses selling the crockery.


My dad worked at the Cannon Iron foundries at Deepfields, Coseley as a moulder making gas stoves. He would fill a long ladle with molten iron at the furnace and pour the iron into the pattern. It was a hot, sweaty job. I used to make flannel under-shirts to soak up the sweat. I would buy the material, cut out the shirt and stitch it up anyhow. My dad didn't mind so long as the shirt kept him dry.

My dad would often change his under-shirt when he came home at midday for his dinner and to smoke his cherrywood pipe. He would cut across the fields and I would have his dinner cooked ready. Even though some of the men hadn't got time for their dinner, my dad always had, and he turned out better work. He would be one of the last to stroll into the factory as the hooter was going. My dad's work didn't bother him, but he was a good worker. He didn't make waste like some of the moulders did.

In the First World War, my dad worked at Cranes in Wolverhampton, making ammunition. This was war work and it kept him out of the army. If he had stopped at the Cannon during the war making gas stoves, he might have been called up. We had a shell from a hand grenade by the side of the grate.

He always liked to be smartly dressed. When he went courting my mother, he told us, the children in the street would run away from him because they thought he was the policeman.


Friday, December 29, 2006

There was a man in Coseley who had some old bikes and he'd charge sixpence an hour for us to borrow one. That's how I learnt to ride a bike, by borrowing one of his bikes on a Sunday afternoon.

When I started at the Atlas works, it was a long way to travel to work. I got a Fitzpatrick bike. I'd pay so much a week till it was paid for.

I'd go to Kinver or Clent with Charlie and our cousins on our bikes. When we got there, we would sit down for a bit, then we'd start back. I remember when me and Violet went round Clent Hills. She said 'Come on, we'll have a ride on the horses'. She got on one horse and I went on a big horse. I'd never ridden a horse and I had to hold on tight. Sometimes we would go round to farms and ask for new-laid eggs.

I remember once, Charlie and my cousin Tom and me were riding our bikes in Dudley at the back of the castle. We were going down a steep hill and Tom's bike had no brakes or tyres. He came whizzing past. The Lawtons were tough.


After my mom died in 1918, my aunt Emma looked after the family. In 1926 my aunt Emma died aged 27. I was 16 years old and I had been at work for two years. My dad said, 'Florry you'll have to stay at home'. I didn't want to because I could see my cousin Violet going to work and getting more pocket money than me.

On Mondays I used to go shopping to Bilston market because the food was cheaper there and there was more choice. I would walk to Bilston from Coseley. It was heavy to carry the shopping back but worth it. The meat was beautiful. Or I would get a picnic ham for about 2s 6d from George Mason in Wolverhampton. I would bring it to the boil on the hob on the grate, then leave it to simmer. When it was cold I would cut it for a dinner and sandwiches.

On washdays I would light a fire under the boiler in the brewhouse or sometimes my dad would do it before he went to work. I sorted out the clothes. Whites went in the boiler first with Persil and blue. I'd make a bowl of starch for my dad's collars. I'd rise the clothes in clean water and then put them through the mangle. Outside I used to put a big long line all along the yard past all the houses. I would peg the clothes out to dry.

The next day I ironed the clothes with a sad iron. I heated the iron on a stride in front of the fire. I would have two irons - one to use while the other was heating.

The fire was in a black-leaded grate. There was an oven on the side of the fire. The oven baked cakes beautifully. I put saucepans to simmer on top of the over to cook vegetables. Sometimes I would cook potatoes and swedes together.

Cleaning the grate was a hard job but it did look nice afterwards. I remember my cousin Violet coming in and, seeing how I'd black-leaded the grate, she said 'What! Have you varnished the grate?'. It was a messy job and I'd have to scrub the floor afterwards.

It was hard work but I loved it. I enjoyed my life. I was happy whatever I was doing. The only thing is that I was short of money. My dad couldn't afford to give me much pocket money.


Wednesday, December 27, 2006

My Grandad Ellis was a quiet man. He worked in one of the little factories near his home in Derry Street, Wolverhampton, close enough to walk to work. He smoked a clay pipe and carried a walking stick. He always wore a suit and tie. His seat was on the wooden screen by the fire. When he came in and saw me sitting there, he would plague me by saying 'Come on out of there, back to Coseley'.

His eldest son, Uncle Jim, lived in a little old terraced house in Monmore Green. After Uncle Jim's wife died and their family were all grown up, his met a woman called Pem. Aunt Esther used to take Pem drinking at the Spread Eagle pub in Coseley. One night Pem stayed the night with us at 20 Yew Tree Lane. She slept with me in our little bedroom, that you walked through to get to my dad's room.

My mom's sister, Aunt Fanny, liked her half pint of beer. She lived next door to a pub at the top of Derry Street, Wolverhampton. In the Second World War, her youngest son, Harry, was shot by one of his friends when they were practising for the Home Guard. He was killed outright and Aunt Fanny never got over it.

Another sister, Aunt Ann, died in childbirth with her third child. The baby was a girl who was adopted by a well-off family in Bilston. Our family had to promise not to have any contact with her. Aunt Fanny, Aunt Floss and Aunt Alice went and sat in the church when she was married in the High Church in Bilston, but they couldn't make themselves known.

Uncle Harry never got married. He worked at a little factory nearby and suffered from thrombosis in the legs. He lived with Granny Ellis and later with Aunt Fanny.

Aunt Alice married Aunt Ann's widower for the sake of her sister's two children. Her husband had been affected by fighting in World War One. He was a gardener and a gravedigger and didn't earn much money. When he had money, he would gamble or drink. Aunt Alice would go out and do anything to earn a little money - she would deliver babies and she worked as a cleaner at the Coliseum on the Dudley Road.

Aunt Floss lived in Coseley after her marriage to Jack Hickman. Aunt Emma looked after our family after my mother died, until she herself died young in 1926. She had had rheumatic fever when she was young and it had left her with a weak heart.

When Aunt Harriet was about 17, she fell down the coal cellar steps. Coal dust got in the wound and she died from it.


I left school at 14 and started work at the Atlas works just off Oxford Street in Bilston. The men carved wooven bedsteads and we used to polish them. I learnt French polishing. First I put the bedstead into a hot oven. Then I took it out and sandpapered it down. I put the polish on and then rubbed it off again. When it was all done, I painted the bedstead with a clear varnish.

When I first went there, I was put to work with another woman. The supervisor watched over us all working and one day she told me she wanted me to come and work with her. The woman who I'd been working with grumbled. Later on I worked on my own. We got paid according to how many bedsteads we did, but each bedstead had to be examined and passed.

I would polish big 4ft bed panels, but sometimes I did children's cots and put transfers on like Little Boy Blue. The furniture was sold in a shop in Bilston.

The owner of the works was a farmer from Gospel End called Fred Wilkes. He would walk through about once a week. The first day I was there he told me I was lucky my birthday wasn't a day later or I'd have to have stayed another year at school. Aunt Esther wanted Violet to work there and she got me to go with her to see Fred Wilked but he wouldn't take her on.

Once the works organised a coach trip to Church Stretton. He had a lovely photograph taken. I wore a beautiful white dress and we sat on the side of a hill.


At one time, the Atlas works were short of work so I had to look for another job. My cousin Violet worked at Sankeys at Bilston. She told me to go for a job there and to tell them that I was an experienced welder. So I went to the canteen at Sankeys where they were interviewing for jobs and said that I was an experienced welder, even though I didn't know anything about welding.

They gave me a job. I was given a cylinder and a pipe. I looked around and watched what the others did. We were making parts for aeroplanes. I had to get one pipe hot and the metal melted to weld the pieces together.

When the Atlas started up again I went back to work there.


Tuesday, December 26, 2006

I was about 12 when I started to learn to play the piano. I had lessons with a music teacher called Mr Caddick. I would go to his hous once a week after schoo, before I went home, for a lesson. If I went wrong on the keys he would tap my fingers. After a time, my dad couldn't afford to keep up the payments so I had to drop the lessons.

We had an American organ at home that played beautiful music. Once when I went in Tommy Baker's shop, his brother told me he had been listening by our window to how nicely I could play. But I wasn't satisfied with the organ when my cousin Violet had a piano, so my dad went to Stantons, a shop in Owen Street, Tipton and changed the organ for a second-hand piano. The piano didn't play as well as it should, though Stantons got someone to try to repair it. I would buy sheets of music and I could play hymns. I used to like to play hymns because they were easy reading. I could play all the Christmas carols. We had many a good night when all my friends came round and I would play the piano for them.

Many years later I had a piano in the front room at Kings Road, Sedgley. I used to play the Blue Danube Waltz. I tried to show my sister Violet how to play but she couldn't.


My dad's parents, Granny and Grandad Lawton, lived in a little old house in Harding Street, which was the next street to ours. Grandad Lawton was a moulder at the Cannon Iron Foundries. He was a quiet, gentle, gentleman. He always wore a hard hat and a suit.

In 1925, when Grandad Lawton was dying, Granny Lawton asked me if I wanted to go up and see him. She said 'Come on, I'll take you to see your Grandad'. She took me up to the bedroom. I don't know if he was dying or already dead when she took me up.

After he died, Granny Lawton stayed in the little old house. After a time, when the old houses were being demolished, Granny Lawton wouldn't let them demolish hers. Part of next door was demolished, but they had to leave some of the wall because it was propping her house up.

There were no pensions in those days. Granny Ellis used to go to the overseer to try to get a bit of parish relief. They asked her sons to each give her some money, but there was only my dad who said he'd give her something. He couldn't afford much.

She would run errands for anybody for a copper or two. When people had a load of coal delivered and dumped in the street, Granny Ellis would take it up the side of their gardens to the shed where they kept the coal.

She was a very quiet person. It was my dad's suggestion that she come and have a cup of tea with me every afternoon. She would sit on the old wooden screen and drink her tea. The kettle of water was always on the side of the grate so it was ready to make the tea.


The Lawtons lived near each other in Coseley. My dad's oldest brother, Harry, lived next door but one to us in Yew Tree Lane. He had a big family.

Another brother, Jim, lived next door but one to Granny Lawton in Harding Street. He paid about 5 pounds for a cottage that would soon be demolished.

Another brother, Ernie, lived next door to us in a little old cottage. His wife was Aunt Esther. They had a pig sty at the side of their cottage. One year Aunt Esther was keeping cockerels in the sty and fattening them up for Christmas. One morning just before Christmas, she got up and found that someone had taken the cockerels. You could see the sty from the road and someone must have been keeping an eye on them.

My dad's older sister, Lizzie, lived near the Rainbow pub. He husband was called Richard Turner and he was a boatman on the canal. He worked on the barges and they carried coal. They had several children. One of their daughters had a goitre in the neck. She went to the doctor who sent her to the Royal Hospital. She had an operation and died in the hospital. She would only be about 15.

My dad's younger sister, Susan, married Joseph Slater. When she was in childbirth with her first child, she was so poorly my dad took her to the Royal Hospital, but she died. The baby was called May.

Joseph Slater wouldn't have anything to do with May. Granny Lawton brought her up. I remember once when Joseph was riding his bike past Granny Lawton's house, he should to her 'Good morning ma'. She shouted 'Have you ever seen a monkey ride a bike?'

May used to play with us. She was a very quiet girl, like my sister, Violet. When May got married, she and her husband lived with Granny Ellis for a while.


Monday, December 25, 2006

When I was about 9 I had a large abscess in my mouth. The side of my face was swollen and very painful. Aunt Esther took me to Dr Waddell who lanced the side of my face and poured out the pus. He was very sharp and it hurt a lot. He gave us a note to take to the Royal Hospital. Instead of going to the hospital, Aunt Alice took me to a dentist who removed the infected tooth that was causing the trouble.

Dr Waddell was very strict. He allowed no talking in his waiting room. When Granny Lawton was old and sick and very frail, he told her she had to be ad his surgery by half past eight in the morning or he wouldn't see her.


We had a neighbour called Mrs Homer who was a very religious lady. She had grown-up children but she was very fond of me. She would call to me if she wanted me to do anything for her.

When I was nine or ten I used to take her husband's dinner (note - midday meal in local dialect) to him at his work in Bradley in my school dinner hour. Mrs Homer had cooked the dinner and put it in a pudding basin with a cloth over it. Mr Homer would be waiting upstairs at his work. I would hang his dinner on a hook and he would pull it up.

Mrs Homer would pay me a shilling a week.


They were very hard times. The pawn shop in Coseley was near to Darkhouse Chapel. Mrs Grainger, who lived next door but one to us, used to server in it. My dad would send his suit to the pawn shop on a Monday to pay for the rent. He would get the suit out again at the week-end after he had been paid for the week, but he had to pay extra to get the suit back.

I have gone may a time for Granny Ellis to the pawn shop in a street off Dudley Road, Wolverhampton. She would send me with a bundle of clothes. I wasn't old enough to hand the bundle over myself. Someone older in the shop would sign for me to get the ticket.

People would pay Granny Lawton to take clothes to the pawn shop for them. She would sit with me and wait for people to finish their washing before she could take it to the pawn shop. One day, when my dad was going back to work after his dinner, he saw her pushing a pram with clothes in it. He pushed it along for her and told her 'You ay gonna do this no longer.'

Charlie and I would go coal picking on the coal banks by the cornfields in Coseley. We would take a bucket and fill it with our bare hands. People would give us tuppence or three halfpence for a bucket of coal. They were glad of the coat.

The first time I hung my stocking up at Christmas, I was afraid to go down in the morning in case Santa Claus was coming down the chimney. I let Charlie go downstairs first.

At Christmas I would get an apple, an orange and a new penny in my stocking. One Christmas I remember getting the book 'Daniel in the lions' den'. I didn't like it. It wasn't a girl's book.

One Christmas I had gone to stay with my cousin Gertie in Wolverhampton. She had her stocking filled with little presents and I watched her open them. I got nothing, but it didn't worry me.

When I was older, I would make our Christmas tree that wouldn't cost anything. The grocer would give me a couple of hoops that were used to keep the orange boxes together. I would tie the hoops together, one inside the other. I'd get some pretty paper and cut it into narrow strips and twirl it round the hoops. I'd hang up the hoops for our Christmas tree. I'd hang apples and oranges and sugar pigs from the 'tree'.


None of us children had toys. We made our own things to play with. We all played in the streets. There was no traffic.

We played skipping or spinning a wooden top. We used to draw hopscotch squares on the floor with a brick and hop from one square to another. We played at jumping the rope and we played with a bat and ball.

We would play out in the street at night, around the street lamp. A man used to come round every night with a pole to light the gas in the lamp.


I used to go to visit my granny Ellis in Derry Street Wolverhampton. I'd go up the entry and in the back door. The front door was on the street and there was just a brick yard at the back. The front room (note - parlour) wasn't used much, but later when Gertie had her young man to tea (note - evening meal in Midlands dialect; dinner was the midday meal) she would take him in there. He was something of a snob.

Granny Ellis had a big family living there. In those days they didn't bother too much. If they had some bread and cheese they would be satisfied, though granny Ellis would always cook me a dinner.

When I was about 8 or 9, I'd walk with granny Ellis to the shops in Wolverhampton. She would be wearing a long black skirt the same as she always wore. There were nice little shops on Snow Hill. There was a wet fish shop where she might buy me some shrimps.

There was a chemist where she used to buy a box of special cream that she liked to put on her hair because it was a bit thin.

Also on Snow Hill, the Agricultural Hall was a picture house where later I went to see films like Danny Boy.

The trams went from Wolverhampton to Bilston. You could sit on top of an open tram. Later the trams were connected to overhead wires but very often the tram would come off the lines and we would have to wait for the conductor to connect it up again before it would go.

When I was very young I started Sunday school Darkhouse chapel, Coseley. We had to climb a lot of stairs to the room that the little ones used. I went with my cousin Violet and a girl named Annie Elwell.

At the Sunday school anniversary I was a singer on the top platform. The choir was opposite. An elderly neighbour would give me something to wear for the anniversary - a pair of gloves or some beads. The girls were dressed all in white. I had long fair hair. My aunt Emma would comb my hair straight then curl the hair round strips of material. When the strips were taken out I would have lovely curls. Everyone used to talk about what lovely hair I had.

We had prizes for attending Sunday school. In 1918 I had a copy of the book 'Her Benny'. It was a lovely book. When my mothers was very ill I showed her my prize. I bent over her bed with the book and said 'Mom, look here'. She said 'Florry, I can't see'. She was very very ill. (note - she died during the 1918 influenza pandemic. Much more on that here. )


On my first day at school, my mom and my aunt Esther took me and my cousin Violet together to Christ Church school. The first thing I saw was a big rocking horse and I thought we were going to have a nice playtime here, but we didn't get to use the rocking horse much. That first day, the teacher gave me some coloured counters to play with.

School wasn't very nice. The teachers were very strict, even with the youngest classes. Not all the teachers had been to college. They were nearly all 'Misses'; there were no married ones. One was called Miss Cross - I thought she had got the right name. The headmistress had her house next to the school.

We were taught to write at school, but it was my dad who taught me and Charlie our copperplate handwriting. The girls had sewing and knitting lessons, though I wasn't too interested in sewing or knitting. We used bits of calico for sewing little stitches. When we learned to knit, we learned 'Needle in, wool over, pull through and slip off'.

I was always in the A class and Charl was in the B class. Our sister, Violet, was very clever. She passed the exam to go to Bilston grammar school and the teachers wanted her to go. But there was no way my dad could have afforded it. In those days, you had to pay for all the books, the uniform and all the other things you needed at grammar school, and my dad was bringing up three children without a mother.

Our school dressed up for May 24th 1919, the Empire Day after the end of the First War. Aunt Esther made dressed with red crosses on them for me and Violet to dress up as nurses. We walked with two other girls dresses as nurses at the front of the parade. The teacher dressed as Rule Britannia and sat on a high chair.

When we had a month's holiday from school in the summer, we would go off and play in the fields. We would catch butterflies and bees. I would pick the bees up with their wings and put them in a jar with some clover. I'd let them go after a bit. The fields in Coseley had buttercups and daisies. We would pick the daisies and make daisy chains and put them round our necks or heads. The fields were private. They belonged to Mr Bagnall who kept cows on them and sold the milk. Once Mr Bagnall came running after us. We ran away but he caught my sister Violet and held on to her. As soon as he had gone, we would be in the fields again.


One night in the First War, my aunt Emma was with Charlie and me at our house in Yew Tree Lane, Coseley, while my mom and dad had gone to Bilston with my aunt Esther and uncle Ern for a drink and to go to the market.

We were sitting in the house when suddenly the house shook from under us. Emma ran outside.

Our mom and dad came running from Bilston and said a Zeppelin was over us. It dropped bombs on Tipton and people were killed. We heard it was brought down before it got to the coast.



This project is intended to put online the memories of a young working class woman from the English West Midlands from around the time of World War I and afterwards.