Three spinster ladies lived in the house next door to us. Two were
elderly and deaf. The third was an insurance agent, bright and nimble
and out all day. One of the deaf ladies was a cook at a big house and
she was also out most of the time. The third lady, Miss Lead, was a
French polisher (her fingers were stained from the polishing) and she
worked from home. She could not hear her doorbell ring, but usually one
of us children did. Immediately we heard it, one of us would grab a
duster or cloth, run up our yard, stand on a suitably placed box and
wave the cloth over the wall. Miss Lead would notice the cloth waving
and go and answer her door. We kids saved her from losing customers!
My brother Gilbert.
Whenever miss Lead made a pot of tea she poured out a cup for herself,
then poured the rest into a jug and brought it round for mother, who was
pleased to have it both thirst and cost wise!
When my Dad was ill and unable to work for a long time, Miss Morris,
the insurance lady, asked mother if she would let me go and clean the
floors of a big house near West Park before new people moved in. There
were no welfare benefits in those days, and after six months illness,
very little money was paid to Dad by his employer. So off I went to
scrub the floors of the big house. At the end of the day, I ran home
with 7/6d., a very useful contribution to the housekeeping.
At the age of 12, children could apply for permission to work a few
hours a week. Mom knew the lady who had the 'household stall' in the
indoor market on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and the lady gave me a
part-time job. I went right from school on Wednesday afternoons and made
sure the pots and pans, enamel dishes, jugs and buckets etc. were clean
and tidy on the stall. At closing time I helped to remove everything
from display and put them away so that the shutters could be put up. On
Saturdays I went early in the morning to put everything out again. I
don't remember exactly how many hours I worked, or how much I was paid,
but it was another contribution to the family income.
There were severe restrictions on how many hours children could work
and the type of work they could do. But some of my brothers did paper
rounds before school in the morning and after school in the early
My brother Harry.