Our weekly routine

On Sunday mornings we went to Sunday School at the Weslyan Methodist chapel. This took place before the 11-00am service, which we also attended. It was Sunday School again in the afternoon. We had attendance cards and these were stamped with a star when we arrived. Each year, prizes were given to children with a good attendance record. The prize might be a Bible or hymnbook, or a story book, and these prizes were treasured.

Mother usually went to the evening service, and as we got old enough, the one who had the best record of behaviour during the week had the privilege of going with her. Dad stayed at home with the rest of us and enchanted us with stories that he made up himself, usually with a moral! During the summer evenings he took some of us on country walks to Penn Common, Baggeridge Woods, Tettenhall, Compton etc.

left to right:
Cyril, Harry, Gilbert, Jim, Granny and Dad.
Monday was washing day. A big job for Mom with six children, especially as we wore a lot of white clothes! The dirty clothes were put into soak on a Sunday evening and the copper filled with water from the pump ready for an early start on Monday morning. The fire was lit under the copper and the big wooden tub brought out. The white clothes went into it and were pummelled with a dolly maid. Then they were rinsed in the stone sink and put through the big iron mangle. Clothes lines were fixed from wall to wall in the yard and the clothes hung out to dry. How things were dried in bad weather I fail to remember. Our meals were always ready when we came home from school. On Mondays there was cold meat from Sunday's joint, with bread and lovely hot gravy. There was always a pudding, rice or tapioca, which had been slowly cooking in the side oven of the range in the living room. The big enamel dish of milk pudding had a brown skin on top, which some of us liked, and some of us didn't.

Mom must have been tired when Dad came in for his meal, which was heating on top of a saucepan of hot water on the hob of the grate. Often, we children stood round Dad watching him eat and begging a bit. It seemed special to share Dad's food although it was exactly the same as we had had for our dinner.

As a sign of love and appreciation, Dad sometimes presented Mom with the gift of a crab on washdays. This was a luxury, but oh dear, it had to be 'dressed' by Mom. What a task after an arduous day. Dad had the meat from the two big claws and we children had the legs, which had to be cracked and sucked to get the meat out. Mother coped with the intricate partitions in the main shell and it provided crab sandwiches for us all. (Is the memory of this special treat why I am still so addicted to crab?)

As the clothes etc. became almost dry, they were folded neatly and mangled. One of us turned the large iron handle that turned the wheel that turned the wooden rollers, thus making tablecloths, sheets etc. flat and easier to iron, or indeed, cutting out altogether the need to iron them. Ironing was a big job as the flat irons had to be heated on a trivet fixed to the fire bars, or on the gas ring. If the iron got smokey, we rubbed it with a piece of kitchen soap. 'Sunlight' was the brand name of the soap. We used 'Lifebouy' as our toilet soap. I cannot recall ever having any scented soap.

Tuesday was allocated to the ironing. When ironed, articles were put away into their respective drawers and cupboards, or put into a pile ready for mending and repair. Buttons needed replacing, socks needed darning etc.

Of course, as well as the weekly washing, all the other household tasks had to be done. As we children got big enough we were allocated jobs, some to be done daily, some weekly. We were duty bound to do them to help Mother. One of my jobs was to clean the windows. I used to push up the sash windows upstairs and sit through on the window ledge to clean the outsides.

Knives were made of steel and were cleaned on a knife board sprinkled with 'Monkey Brand' abrasive. This was Gilbert's job. Harry chopped wood and filled coal buckets from the cellar. Coal was delivered in lcwt sacks by the coalman and tipped into the cellar through a trapdoor outside. 

Granny, Dad, Margaret and Mom.

On hearing desperate cries one day, Mom found Tid hanging down through the gap, just holding on by his fingers to save himself falling down into the cellar amidst the coal.

I cannot now recall what jobs Jim, Tid and Margaret did as they became old enough.

Wednesday was a Market Day, so there was shopping to do to replenish the fruit and vegetables. The first one home from school was often called upon to accompany Mom to the market in the town centre. By 4-00pm the stalls on the market patch were packing up, and as they did not want to take produce back, they started to sell them off cheaply. For example, you could get five or six bananas for 3d.

Dad had an allotment at Alexandra Road in Penn. He used to cycle there to grow greens, carrots and potatoes.

Saturday was also a market day, so it was shopping again, with a different child to help carry home the bags.

On Saturday evening it was my job to prepare the vegetables for Sunday lunch. Imagine scraping sufficient new potatoes to feed eight hearty eaters! If I failed to finish this task in time, the punishment hanging over my head was that I would have to do them instead of going to Sunday School.

Mentioning Sunday School reminds me. When Gilbert and I went to the afternoon session, the public houses were about to close. Drunken men were being turned out, and being unable to stand, fell to the pavement to lay there until they were sober, or collected by family or friends. It took Gil and me a long time to get to Sunday School as there were a lot of pubs on the way. We did not like the smell of beer and dare not risk being knocked down as a drunkard tottered out, so our journey involved a zig-zag crossing of roads to avoid each pub.

Dad in the garden at Lea Road.

I signed the 'Pledge' (to refrain from taking alcohol) early in life and became a 'White Ribboner'. I wore a little badge in the shape of a bow. I honoured this pledge until I became very old and my doctor son-in-law tempted me by providing a drop of whisky in my nightly milk drink to do me good. 'Doctor's Orders' I now convince myself if ever I partake of alcohol.

The 'Band of Hope' was another activity we went to at church and some of us attended the early evening weekly meetings. Although it was sometimes dark by the time we came home, we were never afraid of being molested, kidnapped or murdered!

As my brothers became old enough they joined the Cubs and had green jerseys, green caps, and a neckerchief fixed with a 'woggle'. They enjoyed the weekly evening meetings and the weekend activities. In the summer they went camping. Each boy had a list of food they had to take with them. What an assortment of bread, vegetables etc. Eventually, my Dad talked with the Cub leader and agreed to provide bread for the first few days of the camp and then he took fresh supplies in the middle of the week.

I recall that one of the camps was in a field just outside Wolverhampton and the boys walked there. They took turns to push the two-wheeled cart loaded with equipment and provisions. One night, the leader decided to bring the Cubs home earlier than expected. After the long walk, Tid arrived back just as Mom put her bedroom light out. She was startled to hear a shout from the street. There was Tid, standing on the pavement, very relieved that everyone was not asleep.

A11 four of my brothers eventually joined the Boy Scouts. Margaret joined the Brownies and I became a Girl Guide. We all had happy times and a variety of experiences when we went camping. Those camps taught us many things. We learned how to pitch and strike our tents and we filled clean potato sacks with straw for our beds. We dug holes for our toilets, which we called latrines. We collected and chopped wood for our fires for cooking. Strict discipline was administered by our Guide Captain and we had rotas for various tasks. If the day was wet we put on our macs and wellies and went on conducted walks. We were not allowed to stay in our tents because if we touched the canvas, they were likely to leak. On Sundays we paraded to the nearest church for the morning service. There was always an hour’s rest after our mid-day meal and then a quiet hour when we used to write postcards or letters.

On one occasion, we were near Much Wenlock, on Wenlock Edge. The enforced quiet hour after lunch was too much for me. So, to cause a bit of excitement, I 1ay down and rolled over and over to the level ground at the bottom of the hill. I forget my punishment, but I am sure I did not go scot-free after breaking the rules.

The sheep on the farm where we were camping caused a crisis one night. They got into the store tent and began to eat our food.

In later years we went longer distances to camp with Scouts and Guides, though never together, no mixed camps. We went by train to seaside resorts and other places of interest. Happy days! Wonderful experiences, lasting friendships etc. and no after dinner compulsory rests!

No doubt my brothers and sister could have added many of their own camping tales to my recollections.

Margaret with Christine.

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