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.



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