Hello, my name is Deborah Norrey and I’m working on the History at Hobsmoor project. Today’s date is Saturday the 2nd September 2017 and I am here with Anne Norrey, who has agreed to be interviewed. Good morning Anne.
Good morning Debbie.
Can you please tell me, Anne, your full name, your date of birth and where you were born please?
My full name is Mrs Anne Norrey. My date of birth is the third of the first 1941 and I was born in Bromsgrove.
And how long were you in Bromsgrove for, Anne?
‘til I was about six months old.
And where did you move to after you left Bromsgrove?
My mother came back to live with her mother-in-law in Harvey Road because my father was called up for the war.
So let’s just quickly recap on that, Anne. So you were born in Bromsgrove, is that because you, your, your dad worked in Bromsgrove?
No, originally he worked at the gun factory in Birmingham but of ‘cause of the air raids they sent the factory to Bromsgrove where I was born.
So what made you mum want to come back to Birmingham then?
She didn’t know anybody out there so obviously she wanted to come back to the family.
So can you, so… can you tell me, Anne, one of your earliest memories?
erm, I suppose I can remember being in the back yard helping mum put the washing through the wringer and listening, er, and you would hear the sirens going off, er, which were up at the police station on the Coventry Road, warning you obviously as a… of a air raid. Erm, but by that time, er… it was only a practice run and most of the bad raids had gone by that time.
So how old were you when, about then, Anne? How old were you about then?
Five. About five, yeah.
So, can you describe the house that you lived in please?
erm, well, it was, erm… Victor, small Victorian old house, I suppose. Erm, it had front room, a back room and a kitchen. Erm, three bedrooms and the toilet was outside. Erm… you know, very basic, none mod cons [laughing]. Bath – used to have a bath in front of the fire in the tin bath. Erm, yeah. But it was a happy home. My grandmother and my grandfather and obviously dad was in the war and his… his… he’d got five brothers that used to come home from time to time when they were on leave. Erm, but most of the time I was just there with mum and my grandparents.
And, Anne, what was your street like?
erm… opposite there used to be a field which are now flats and then there was the school. Harvey Road School. Erm, and everybody knew everybody, you know? And it’s, erm, you could play out, it were very nice really.
Did you used to play out in the street?
What sort of games did you play?
Oh, yeah, erm, hide and seek, skipping, hopscotch. Erm… you know, ringing people’s bells and running away. [Laughing] All the naughty things like that, yeah.
[Laughing] And what about your school, Anne, what, what school did you go to?
I started off going to Church Road School which was opposite. I didn’t like school from the word go. And I was there till just before I was seven when dad came out of the army and they bought a house in Gleneagles Road. And I moved there and then I went to Cockshut Hill School. And I was in the infants there for about six months, then went into the junior school and I was there all through my schooling.
And what was school like in those days? What…?
Oh, very strict, really. You know, you never answered the teachers back. Er, if there was one of you in the class, I can remember, that had got the cheek to answer the teacher back, you know, and we all used to think that was hilarious. But I mean, on the whole, you wouldn’t have said boo, you know, it was… But it… you know, you got through it and, er, thinking back, really, I think it was nicer sometimes than what it is today. You know, you knew your place. Erm… We used to have… do plays, used to enjoy that drama. I was in the netball team, school netball team. Erm… you know, we, it was a… single, the boys and the girls, it was two separate schools. Erm, you know, so… on the whole it was quite nice. We used to have cookery lessons and you had a house, er, like a prefab that was, you’d have to go and clean it once a week. Cook the teachers a dinner. Erm, yeah, which I don’t think they do today, do they? [Laughing]
[Laughing]And so you went there, you did your last year in the infants there and then you went into the juniors and you stayed into the seniors there at the same s…?
All the way through?
I left at fifteen and went straight into …a hairdressing job as an apprentice.
So what didn’t you like about the Church Road School?
Well I didn’t like school totally. At all [laughing]. It was one of those things you had to do, you know? Erm, but, erm, no, I, I was never… er, I was quite happy when it came that I could leave school. In… I… I didn’t have a bad schooling, really, but it… I just didn’t like it [laughing].
So, so tell me a bit about your grandparents ‘cause you, you said you lived with your nan and your granddad one, what, what were they like and what did they do?
erm, well my grandmother, erm… she was a tiny little soul and I can only ever remember her wearing black, always in black and always got a pinny on. Always, except on a Friday when she used to go over, walk over the field that was opposite to the pub. Erm, the Yew Tree pub. Er, and that was a… a weekly do, I suppose that was the only sort of… day out she ever had, or evening out and… And of course in those days you hadn’t got fruit or anything and the one thing I can remember, she used to come home on a Friday night and she’d always got a peach for me in her… To have a peach during the war was… so where that came from I don’t know, it’s probably over the wall as things did in those days, I d… [laughing]. Erm, but yeah and my granddad, he, he worked on the trolley buses along the Coventry Road. Erm, yeah, he worked there, I suppose, until he retired.
And what was his role on the trolley buses?
Driver, bus driver, yeah. Seems funny now, they used to turn round at the Swan. Do you remember that when they…? No? No. [Laughing]
erm. Yeah, we used to go there and get… walk up from the Harvey Road to go into Birmingham town centre and you’d go there, catch the trolley bus into Birmingham and then it’d, that would be the end of the line. There wasn’t any buses any further, you know? Until years later the ordinary buses came in and you could get on it and go down as far as, oh… just before the airport, I suppose, the old airport, and then you’d have to walk from there up to the airport. If you was going to the airport you’d have to have a taxi which never came into being with me. I mean, I didn’t even know what the airport was as a kid [laughing]. You know, you didn’t go on a, holidays abroad or anything like that. In fact, I didn’t go on holiday until I was about ten, I mean, ‘cause after the war my parents found it hard to buy a house, erm, so the first holiday we had we went to Great Yarmouth and, er, it, it was lovely. And we did that for about three or four years, you know, on the trot. Mm… it was quite nice.
So when you, when your dad came back from, erm, Bromsgrove, that was after the war and he bought the house, was he still working with the, was it the gun?
Er, yeah, at the BSA that was. And then he le, when he came back, er, he went to work at the Metropolitan Camel, the bus, er, he was an upholsterer then and he used to upholster the bus seats. So, and that used to be down, er, Mackadown Lane, past the airport, the factory there. And, yes, that was what he did, erm, upholstering all the insides of the buses.
And did your mum work?
Yes. She had to, obviously, to pay the way and, erm, she worked at Slater’s Dairy which was then at the top of Church Road. I mean, it’s all pulled down now and, erm, you used to be able, I used to go up there and wait for her to come out of work and you could see all the bottles going round like this and putting the stamp, the bottle tops on and… yeah. It seems strange how things have changed but, erm. And then from there she went to work at the King Dick, erm, spanners in Kings Road. I don’t know whether that’s there now. Erm, that was hard work but it paid well, yeah, and she worked there until she finished, which she had to ‘cause dad was poorly. Yeah.
So what was your house in Gleneagles Road like?
It was a nice little house, just an ordinary little semi, but it was nice. A nice road, you know, nice little district Glen, up there, Yardley. And again everybody knew everybody and a lot of those houses had been bombed, erm, like mum’s… the house they bought had been bombed and they had… it, they had to have the kitchen rebuilt and the one next door had been bombed, you know, and they had to have that one repaired. But obviously when they bought it it was… alright. But yeah, erm… it was a nice little house, very friendly neighbourhood, you know. We used to play over the field at the back, the park, and of course there was a big barrage balloon there, you know how they used to have to stop the planes or wasn’t it or something. ‘cause I, I never, we never used to take much notice of that but yeah, thinking about it, yeah, there was that there.
So you used to go and play on the park?
We used to play… at the back of where we lived there was like a gully-way and then at the back it was… really where the cars went to the garages but in them days people didn’t have garages. So we used to play up there, er, so you’d got basically nearly all the street [laughing] would go up there and play. And we used to, erm, we’d got a gang called the Blood and Thunder gang [laughing] and…
[Laughing] So, sorry, the Blood and…?
The Blood and Thunder gang, and it, we was dressed up frightingly, not realising now but it looked like the Klu Klux Klan. And we’d got a heart where your heart is and then drips of blood and then a big thunder mark at the top of your head, here. Yeah, and we called ourselves the Blood and… We didn’t do anything [laughing]. Ah yes, it was funny really but thinking on it, yeah, the, the outfits that we’d made ourselves were definitely like the Klu Klux Klan [laughing].
[Laughing] What other memories do you have of the parks in the area, Anne?
Oh, well… the only one, really, was Yardley Park which is still there now. But again… I can remember, erm, there used to be a k, a park-keeper, you know, and you wouldn’t dare do anything wrong in the park. You know, you could go and play tennis or you, and it was lovely flowerbeds and, as I say, the tennis courts and then there was a, a little, erm… I don’t know what, w how, what, what it would be. It was a little round house, thatched, and you could sit round it and the park-keeper’d got a little house inside where he could make himself a cup of tea and all that sort of thing … Yeah, and we, we, we used to go up there and play on our bikes and you know… generally enjoy ourselves. But, er, later on in life, quite a few years later, kids as they are, burnt it down. And, er, I don’t, I haven’t really been in, over there now I, ‘cause I don’t live that way now but I used to often walk through there with the babies when they were little to get to my mother’s. But, erm… so I don’t really know what it’s like now but it’s still there, yeah.
And during the war, was there anything going on in the park during the war?
Never went, never went to the park, it was too far away for me to go. You know, erm, the only place we used to play was on the field opposite and that was… that was nice, especially in the winter ‘cause we used to have heavy snow in those days. So we used, all of us in Harvey Road’d go over there and you’d play and… you know, you was free, it was lovely.
And did they use the park for anything else at any particular time?
Not that I can remember.
That wasn’t on the park. Oh, I see what you mean, yeah. Erm… Yeah, there was another park which was Henry Road Park which was at the top of, erm, Harvey Road. And, erm, I hadn’t used to play over there because at that time it was a refugee camp and I can remember, as a little girl, being inquisitive and walking through it. And even as a little girl I can, I found it shocking, how they were living. You know, there didn’t seem to be any proper toilets or… and they, you know… as a little girl everything seemed dirty, you know, everything was strawn everywhere and… Not nice at all, but I didn’t realise exactly what they were or who the people were. But, as I say, later on I realised that that’s what they were, refugees.
And d’you have any idea where they had come from?
Not really, no. No, I haven’t really, don’t know that.
So, after school you said that you, you got your first job and, and what, what was that?
Hairdressing. I got an… an apprenticeship, er, at a hairdressers.
Is that all, something you’d always wanted to do?
Not really, no. It just came when I was at school that you’d have somebody come along and they’d have a list of jobs that they wanted to fill and most of them were in warehouses. Well I didn’t want to go in a warehouse so I thought, ‘Oh, I know, I’ll be a hairdresser.’ So I told her that I wanted to be a hairdresser, she tried to put me off saying, ‘Oh, you get lung diseases and…’ Anyway she got me three interviews and I went on the Saturday morning down to where I did eventually work and got the job there. And, er, I had a four-year apprenticeship there, I used to have to go to, erm… a Mr Pickering’s in town for the exams. Erm, and I stayed there until I got… well, after I got married, until I had, er, my first, well, we had our first child.
So where was that then? Where was the hairdresser’s?
On the Coventry Road opposite the Bulls Head, big pub, that’s no longer there. Yeah.
And what was that like? What was your first day like? Was you… was it, were you nervous?
Oh yeah, yeah. Erm… ‘cause when you’ve been to school… er, I mean I was only fourteen really and I wasn’t fifteen ‘til the January and we left school on the Christmas and I went straight in. So I was there just over, I suppose only about three weeks, a month, and when I was fourteen, I wasn’t fif… And, erm… you know, I… I had used to, it was like cubicles, little cubicles and I used to go in one when there was an empty one and think, ‘Ooh God,’ I found it scary… you know? Erm, and of course dealing with a lot of strangers as well, ‘cause the type of job it is. I mean all I did was sweep up and hand things out for… twelve months or more. Erm, but yeah, gradually you, you got to enjoy it and I’d, I, I did enjoy my job but obviously at first like, I suppose, anybody when they go into a job it’s scary isn’t it?
So what was your boss like?
Erm, she was alright [laughing]. Erm, yeah, she was very nice really, she was. Yeah. Er, very easy going, really. Erm… yeah.
And you stayed at the hairdresser’s until after you got married and you had your first child?
Yeah. I, er, met John because it was… er, the boss’ son, erm, and I met him there, erm, and then, as I say, four years on we got married. Yeah.
That’s something good come out of it then! [Laughing]
Yeah, it did. [Laughing] Yeah.
So when you were dating John, or courting, what did yous used to do, where did yous used to go?
[Whispers] I’m not telling you. [Laughing]
[Laughing] Like the pictures or dancing?
Yeah. Yes, we used to go to the pictures [laughing]. We used to go down to the Sheldon Picture House and of course you… that was basically the only entertainment you had. And you’d go down there and there was like an underpass, underground pashi, passage, and you’d be queuing up there, waiting to get in to see the film. Er, you know, so you’d have to go early so that you could catch the second viewing, if you like. There’d be one at about five o’clock and then the next one’d be seven, so. But, yeah, we used to go there and John, of course John had got a motorbike and we used to go out on that. Er, ‘cause my pare…I mean my father didn’t like that at all so I used to have to sort of put my old clothes in the veranda, make out I was going out all dressed up, get into the veranda and put me boots and me old coat on ‘cause for warmth, walk up to the… walk through the entry to another road and then he’d meet me there ‘cause I was frightened to let dad know that I was going on his motorbike. But eventually dad said to me this one day when I was going out, he said, ‘Why don’t you tell John to bring his bike round and pick you up here?’ [Laughing] So of course all along he’d basically known what I was doing. [Laughing] Oh dear.
Yes, so we used to go around with a crowd of us and, of course, we wasn’t bikers, as there was then, we were just, he just enjoyed his motorbike with his friends. But you never felt dressed up if you went anywhere and you’d had to put a crash helmet on. And in those days you’d got these big hairdos and it just used to flatten it. So you never felt exactly… you know, posh. [Laughing] So I was always trying to get him to buy a car. Eventually he bought a van… never a car. Erm, but yeah, they were happy days. We had lots of good friends which I still know now. Some have passed on but there’s still some of us about here and then there… They were happy days, those were.
So did you ever go dancing?
No, the, we did used to go, erm, but John never liked, wasn’t a dancer, he didn’t like that, wasn’t into that. But, strangely enough, when we got married and moved to Red House Road and we got friends with everybody there, because everybody moved into a new house, it was a new house, so we were all more or less the same age, well I think John and I were the youngest young couple that moved in. And, erm, one or two of them, they obviously worked at factories or something and they’d have a Christmas dance or different things through the year and we’d get invited. And those are the sort of dances we used to go to. And John’s annual dinner and dance where he worked but we never went dancing as a couple together. But, as I say, at that time suddenly he decided he wanted to learn to dance, and he went dancing lessons to a dancing school in Small Heath, opposite Small Heath Park. I can’t, I just can’t think what her name was but… and, do you know, he got that he could dance better than me. He could do the tango, I mean, and I… I could waltz, foxtrot and do all that… but not the tango. So [laughing] in the end he was a better dancer than me! Yeah. What was… I can’t think of the name. Yeah. I used to say to him, ‘Is it the dancing you like or the girl that’s teaching you?’ [Laughing] Yeah.
So, so how old were you when you met John then?
Oh, I was… when I first met him fifteen, obviously, when I started work but I didn’t start going out with him until I was sixteen. And then that was it.
So, so when he came in the first time did you think, ‘Cor’?
Erm… I can remember, ‘cause it, on a Saturday, er, they used, his dad used to cook, cook everybody a, a lunch time, used to have a meal. And I can remember you used to go in in turns and I can remember being at the table having my dinner and I didn’t know she’d got a son or anything and then, erm… he comes through the gate and he’d got his crash helmet on and all of it, you couldn’t see… and she says, ‘Oh, here’s John, er, you can get his meal now,’ to his dad. So he sat with me and I thought, ‘Ooh,’ you know, ‘He’s nice.’ But, you know, you wouldn’t let them know that you… you thought he was er… you know, I wouldn’t let him know I thought he was nice so he sort of was very aloof. Erm, but gradually and then this one day he just came through to the shop one lunchtime, er, and asked me if I would go out with him to the pictures. So, [exhales] ooh, ‘Yes’. [Laughing]
So… how, so… you, you went back to hairdressing, didn’t you, when the children went to school?
Did you go back to the same place?
No. Erm… no, I went to… John used to go playing, erm, squash and his… the friends he met there, the one girl owned a hairdressing shop at the bottom of, erm… oh… what… what’s the name of that road from the… Yew Tree going into town? Erm…
Hobs Moat Road, is it?
Hobsmoor, Hobsmoor Road.
Yeah, and there’s some shops down there and it was there and I went to work with her part-time ‘cause obviously having the children, erm… I think it was three days a week and mum used to pick them up from school, take them home and then it was a Saturday, so John’d have them or mum would if, you know. So it was only three times, three times a week that I worked. Until Jenny gave the shop up and of course by this time they were a lot older so… erm… Jean, one of the other girls that worked there and myself, bought the business off her and we took the business on for about, seven or eight years. Erm… and then Jean got married and s, wanted a family, obviously, and I kept the business going for a bit but I did… I’d had enough, so packed that in. And, er, I wasn’t really going to bother again and then somebody knocked the door this one day and it was a lady that, erm, at a home down in Stechford, one of these, erm, you know… do they call them, erm, sheltered houses? And they wanted a hairdresser to go in once a week and do the old people’s hair. And I thought, ‘Oh,’ you know, ‘yeah, OK, I’m still working for myself, you know, do the hours that suit me.’ And I, I just thought that would be a… and it ended up being for ten years! So. And then I gave that up, I suppose I was in me fifties, wasn’t I? Yeah, and a retired lady after that.
So when you started at fifteen until you think you, you, you must have saw some changes in, in the hairdressing industry?
Oh gosh, yeah. I mean when I first started when you had a perm it was like a round machine… er, with wires and you’d curl the hair and then you’d take one of the clips off this electric machine and put it on… on the, er, roller on the hair and it was… still attached so it was the heat from this electric machine that was curling the hair [laughing]. And when I think, terrible, yeah. And of course it was, erm, I started off and you had to learn how to finger wave, you know, when they had them sort of hairstyles where there were waves down here. Erm, really old fashioned and then a… then a bit later on you started getting the backcombing stuff, you know, and they liked their hair up in a beehive. Terrible that was. But, erm, yeah. And then… then a bit later on you started getting the straight hairstyles which was a lot easier. Erm, but then I, the, I packed in then. So…. Good.
So going back to you growing up then, Anne, can you tell me a little bit about, erm, the, the Yardley area and how, how it’s changed over the years and… how you remember it and what you think of the changes.
Well [pause] [sighs] the Yew Tree itself , there used to be the old Yew Tree pub that has been pulled down, that’s in recent years, I think. But the, the bank… ‘cause, as I say, that used to be a field, erm, where the flats are now and then we used to go up there and there was the bank wall and we used to play handstands on this bank wall. And then you’d come out by the bank and there’d be some shops there, erm… and it was the old Post Office and, er, the seed shop which, erm, is only in recent years, given up, I believe, the seed shop. It was there, I mean obviously not the same people but, same business. But yeah, erm… The Woolworths, there used to be the Woolworths which was great, you used to go in there and… with your pocket money, you know? Erm… er… but apart from that basically, erm, obviously all down the Coventry Road and all that’s altered. I’ve actually got photographs of the old Coventry Road before it was made into a dual carriageway and… and they pulled the pub down there, erm. Yeah, but apart from that it’s only in recent years, really, isn’t it, that Church Road’s altered, er.
So what about the shops, though, that were at the Swan Centre, for example? What sort of shops were up there?
No, there wasn’t anything like there is now. There was a… it was a good shopping centre. There was, I used to leave work on a Saturday when I was married and go along there, walk up to there and there’d be the butchers and the greengrocers. You’d do, oh, you shop in different little shops and you’d… you could get your weekend joint or your vegetables and every… for the week and that for about a fiver. You know, you can’t believe that now, can you? Mind you, five pounds was a lot of money to us then.
But, yeah, er, and then as you went further along, as I say, there was the Slater’s Dairy and a little hairdresser’s, I think, there. Erm, and then there was nothing there, I believe there’s a bank and that there now, but there wasn’t anything there. There was the Tivoli Picture House where the bank is, yeah. And we used to go to the Tivoli Picture House on a Saturday morning with your sixpence, you know, queue up outside and see the children’s matinee every Saturday morning, that was nice. Yeah. And I used to do that on my own. I’d go from Harvey Road, been, and I’d say, erm … and quite often I’d be standing in the queue and there’d be drains and I’d lose me sixpence down the drain so I’d have to go home, and say, ‘I’ve lost me sixpence mum, can I have another one?’ And of course I suppose sixpence was a lot of money for them then. Er, sometimes I got it and sometimes I didn’t, it depended [laughing]. Yeah, strange how you remember these different things, isn’t it?
So when you were growing up, because I believe there was, erm, a bakery at the…
That’s right, Harding’s Bakery, that was up Church Road at the b, at the top. And we’d walk up past there, oh and you got this lovely smell of bread. It was really nice. Yeah. Erm, and then opposite there were just… there was, erm… a newspaper shop, I think. Yeah, there was. Er… but I think they’d been damaged, the others, during the war and they never seemed to get repaired, the other little bits and shops, until you got onto the Coventry Road and there was a chemist on the corner. I can really always remember that ‘cause they had those big glass, coloured glass bottles in the window. And then a bit further along there was the dentist, we used to call him the butcher… erm. And, as I say, and opposite that then on the main road was the terminal for the tram, tram buses and the big…Sw, erm, Swan pub on the other corner. Yeah, they pulled that down too but… Yeah, it’s changed quite a lot over the years, really.
And did you ever go into the Swan pub when you were…?
No, not really, cause I… erm… I wasn’t old enough, obviously you’d got to be twenty-one in those days to v, go in a pub. Erm… and… thinking back, we never really bothered going in pubs, we used to go out on the motorbike to a place called the Fleur de Lys, Lapworth way. And of course we’d be with our other friends and we’d, we’d drink outside, erm, and you’d have a pie. They used to do steak and kidney pies. But going in… local pubs and spending the evening, no, we didn’t really do that. Erm… And then, of course, they pulled it down so…
So when they, they changed all the road network around the, erm, the Swan area and they put up the [in 38:20] shops and that, obviously it looked completely different to when you were a child. How, how did you see that, did you think it was an improvement? Did you…?
No, not really. Erm, in some… some cases but, er, they built, er, flats, on the one corner and I still think to this day they’re an eyesore. Erm, the other side’s quite smart, it’s offices, isn’t it? Erm, and of course you can’t get down, as I remember it, Old Church Road, you sort of, er, veered off and that’s done very nice. Erm. So that bit’s alright, I would think the worst part is the, the flats considering they’re, they’re, they’re, to me, they’re an eyesore. And the shops going along the main road, it’s like everything else, erm… the supermarkets have taken all the business off them, haven’t they? So all these little shops close down and it looks untidy, doesn’t it? But, you know, [39:36 it’s a shame]. Changes.
So what other memories would you like to share with me, Anne, of you growing up in Yardley? [Pause] Anything that comes back to, that you thought, ‘Oh, I remember that, and we…’?
Erm… I can remember going down… with my dad when he came out the forces. I clung to him like glue ‘cause ooh, I’ve got a daddy. I hadn’t really known him until I was… oh, gone six. Erm… so, oh, I wanted to be everywhere with him. And he used to, he used to take me down to see his brother that lived at the bottom of Clay Lane, you know where the… cemetery is. We used to walk down there and I used to say to dad, ‘Can we go, walk through the cemetery?’ I was fascinated with the cemetery. [Chuckles] And he did this one day, he took me through the cemetery, and I remember all these statues and things and half of those have gone when I’ve had to go up there on occasions. But, erm, yeah, we used to just… bless him. Erm. Yeah, that was… that’s changed as well, really. Erm. What else would I say? Erm…
I can remember I used to play with this little boy a few doors up the road and we used to go out scrumping. And this one day we was on the garage roof … er, that was somewhere by the Yew Tree. We was on this garage roof and unbeknownst to us was this big tub, erm, and it had got a top on it. So I stand on this top of this tub and it gives way… and, erm, I, I don’t go fully in but I, I go up to about here, midway up my leg, and it was tar, black tar. So you can imagine. So I go home to mum and I’ve got this black tar and, er, I can remember I suppose being told off but she had to get marge and she was, I think it was margarine or something that to get this off. I, I don’t know. But she got most of it off but it took ages for this tar… I mean, I could… if… I could have gone right into it, couldn’t I? You know, that’s one of the things kids do, isn’t it, but yeah. Erm… silly.
I think I was a bit of a tomboy on the quiet, really, you know. Er she… when she first went out to work she had to have her sister-in-law look after me and I used, she used to take me round there afore she went to work. I suppose I’d be… five. And eventually this aunt had to say to my mum, ‘Sorry Sibyl,’ she said, ‘but I can’t have her anymore.’ She said, er, ‘She worries me,’ ‘cause I wandered off. I liked doing me own thing, you know? Er, and I’d go off and walk round the neighbourhood and of course she wasn’t used to that, her little girl was a… you know. So [Laughing] mum had to give her first job up ‘cause she… she wouldn’t have me. Ah dear. Yeah.
And of course, erm, I can remember going to a party. Now I’d be four, I mean ‘cause it’s a big memory this is so I’d be four and came home from this party and as it… and I wasn’t feeling very well. I said to mum, ‘I’ve got a tummy ache.’ Erm, she just thought I’d been to the party and I’ve ate too much. So, but as time went on, er, I was getting worse and worse and in the end she called the doctor and, of course, in those days you had to pay to have the doctor come. And it was the next morning and by this time I, I can remember saying to mum, ‘Oh, why the, all the room’s going round, mum.’ And, er, he, he came along and looked at, examined me, and I, and I can remember it so plainly. He went and mum came up to the room and she said, ‘You’re going to have to go to the hospital, Anne, and they’re going to make you better.’ I can remember her saying that so clear. Er, the next thing was I’m in the ambulance but and when I think and I watch these programmes on the television of hospitals in the forties, and they were really Heath Robinson really, compared today. And the next thing I can remember is lying on this bed and looking up and there was this big light, you know, like that. And you didn’t have injections, it’s the glass mask over your face and I can… that is so plain. And then you weren’t allowed… your, your parents weren’t allowed to come and see you in the hospital so for six weeks I never seen my mum and dad. So from the age of four you’re wondering, well, where’s your mum and dad? You, well not me dad, me mother, where’s me mum gone? And that, that has a big effect on a child. Erm… And I, I think it affects you all through your life, a thing like that. Oh … you’re unaware of it but I think it does. And, erm… Ac … mum used to say she used to come to the hospital and she could look at you through the window. You know. Yeah, so I mean that’s changed, hasn’t it? I mean you can stop all the while with your children now, which is how it should be, isn’t it?
So what was wrong with you?
I had peritonitis. So, of course, really I was lucky to survive that, wasn’t I?
[Whispering] What’s that? What’s peritonitis?
Your appendix burst so you got all the poison running round your body, which eventually kills you. So I mean in those days I was lucky to… to survive that. You know, but that came on out the blue. No sign at all and, as I say, to the party and she just thought, ‘Oh,’ which you would, wouldn’t you? Yeah. But that then was the cause of all my other problems in life when I wanted a family, see. It had damaged me inside ‘cause in them days they didn’t operate delicately like they do today. You know, when I watch those programmes and I think, ‘God Almighty, can’t believe how things were’ and yet it isn’t that long ago, is it really?
You know, so… Yeah. But I’m still here to tell the tale.
[Laughing] So I didn’t ask you, Anne, what were, what were you mum and dad’s names?
Mum was Sibyl and dad was George.
And, and what was your maiden name, Anne?
My maiden name was Lee.
So Sibyl Lee and George Lee?
Yeah. Previous she was a Humphries. Erm… So I’m just Anne Lee, it was just Anne Lee, you know, plain and simple, no middle name.
So did your mum and dad grow up in Yardley as well?
Yeah. Yeah, my mother… erm… ‘s parents, granddad, er, lived in the little house on the BSA down in Small Heath, you know, [48:20]? And they lived in the gatehouse, ‘cause granddad was something to do, I, I don’t know exactly, with, er, the BSA and, erm, they lived there for quite a few years and then they moved on to the Coventry Road by, erm… Howard Road, on the corner and there used to be the opticians opposite where they… Er, and then of course my mother’s mother died and she was only thirty-six. She had a brain tumour, erm, so mum lost her mum quite young. Erm, but dad lived in Harvey Road and he’d got nine brothers and sisters. Mum had, two sisters but dad came from a big family. You know, so… er, how… as I say, she was only a tiny little dot, erm, she managed all these sons and brought them up, and of course they didn’t have family allowance in those days or anything. If your husband didn’t work you didn’t eat. And dad often used to say he can remember having hole, or holes in his soles of his shoes and they used to put cardboard in them and things. You know, you don’t realise. That’s why, as I was growing up, he was very, very particular about what shoes I wore. And, I mean, as I grew up in, you know, thir… twelve, thirteen, and you started wanting these, as in them days we used to call them slip-ons and things, he never would let me, I’d got to have brown lace-up shoes because he’d had such, you know, terrible shoes he considered that they were good solid things on your feet. Hmm. Bless him.
So you were an only child weren’t you, Anne?
Do you think that’s why, ‘cause they came from a large family?
Because he had a… I think, no, I think partly, was the fact that it was wartime, wasn’t it, and when dad came out of the forces they, they had to struggle to buy the house so there was no way mum could really give up work to have another baby. But she had used to say to me when I was, you know, prior, to her passing away, really, she wished she’d had another one. And I used to say, ‘Well, I’m glad you never did mum, ‘cause I’ve always had you to myself.’ And I, you know, ‘cause she was lovely. She was lovely. And I lost her too… too early. She was only seventy-four and a very fit lady, you know. You wouldn’t have thought, you’d have thought she’d have gone on forever, you know. That’s life, isn’t it? Yeah. [Laughing]
So when you drive through, through, erm, Yardley now, I don’t think you go that way that often these days, do you Anne?
Er, no. The only… Well, I say no, I go and pick my friend up, funny enough, Doreen, who lives in Vibart Road which is a road opposite …the park. But I don’t… it’s only the top end so I never, I don’t go any further than that. So… no, I haven’t really, I don’t really, no. I do that because, erm… I hadn’t used to, we used to meet in Solihull but since she’s been poorly I go and pick her up and take her back home.
So when, when, whenever you’re sort of driving that way or you’re in that area does, do you ever, do you ever get flashback memories or is it sort of like that’s in the past now and…?
Oh yeah, I do. Erm, especially when I drive down and I turn off and I see the church at the bottom ‘cause that’s where you got married and I got married there. And I think it’s still lovely down there, it’s managed to keep that old worldly charm, hasn’t it? And I can remember … a, again as a child we used to go down there and watch the blacksmith, erm… putting the shoes on the horses and things. Of course now I don’t know whether there is a blacksmith’s there, is there?
I think there still is, yeah.
Oh. He doesn’t shoe horses, though, does he?
No, I don’t think, no.
No. But, erm, yeah. And it… the little houses and everything, it’s… it’s lovely, isn’t it?
Yeah, very nice. That brings back memories. Erm. You know, I, I, I did once drive round out of curiosity to, Gleneagles Road, er, just to see how it had altered, a few years back now. Erm, er, and they… it hadn’t really altered that much, you know, they hadn’t extended or done anything. It still looked a nice little house, yeah. Yeah. And I, I went to a party at the pub, the Yardley Arms pub that used to be on the… the end of where our house was and, erm, I was… quite surprised how they’d altered that. They’d brought the car park right up to the first house where it was just waste ground. Erm… and I basically wanted to have a look see if the garage was still there it, y, that John had built, it was like a cottage at the bottom of the garden, it was massive. Erm, but … I couldn’t see over the fence. But that house had… well it hadn’t altered that much. It had new windows, obviously, everybody does have… It’s still quite a nice little road up there now. Yeah. But I, we, we were happy when we moved here. I loved the garden but I’m afraid it’s getting a bit much for me now [laughing]. Yeah.
Did you always like gardening?
Yeah. Well… obviously… I think I started to get an interest in it a… a few… well, when the children were a bit older and John used to mow the, we had a little bit of lawn. It wasn’t a big garden ‘cause the garage took half of it. Er, he used to mow the lawn and do bits and then suddenly I started watching Gardener’s World, going back. And I thought, ‘Oh yeah,’ so I started doing bits and bobs and that’s how the interest started.
Do you have any other hobbies, Anne?
I go bowling …erm, a thing I thought I’d never do.
Is that ten-pin bowling, Anne?
No, erm …green bowling. …Yeah.
And, and do you enjoy that?
Yes, it’s, erm… it’s… I enjoy it more than I thought I would when I first start… I went after I’d lost John because I thought it’d fill time, time in and… And my friend, I found out that she went so I said, ‘Oh well, I’d like to come along.’ So she says, ‘Yeah, come along.’ And that’s how that started and I’ve been doing that now, really, for nine years, haven’t I? I mean, I’m not good at it but, erm… you know, we don’t go to win prizes, we just go for the fun of it, you know? And we… we’ve got like r there’s… er, Maggie and, erm, Carol and that and we’re like a little group and we go out occasionally to lunch, days out. Erm. One another’s houses for a coffee, tea, and it, it makes you that you do things that you wouldn’t do otherwise. Erm. But it still, it doesn’t matter what you’re doing, or that’s how I am, it still doesn’t feel right. I can’t explain that to you, erm. I go on holiday, even going on holiday with your family, which I do with my daughter and that and it’s really lovely [sighs] but there’s this missing person all the while. Erm, and you know you can’t, you can’t alter that. Erm. It’s… it’s weird really. That’s why you all… er, that’s, that’s why I say now to do the things together because you just never know. I mean I never thought for one … moment [Pause] that I’d lose John like I did …but that’s life, you just don’t know, do you? So do the things and enjoy yourself. Yeah.
Well, just before we finish off, Anne, can I just ask you just… if we just go back on one, one of the memories you were sharing about your time at hospital. Er, what hospital was it you were in?
What, as a child?
Yeah, when you were…
Yeah, Dudley Road Hospital, yeah.
That was quite a distance from home, as well, wasn’t it?
Yeah, yeah. Erm…
And can you just describe like the ward you were in and what the nurses…
A very long ward. Beds all down, you know. A table in the centre where the nurses used to sit and then another, a little room at the end where they used to take you, to put… to put slippers on. And I can remember going in there and there was rows and rows of shelves with slippers on of all different sizes. Couldn’t have had slippers, could we, in…? Oh, I don’t know. But the, I can remember being taken in there for them to put some, fit me with some slippers. Yeah, ain’t it funny how you remember things like that, yeah. Erm, yeah we were all in like cots… you know? And the doctors’d come round and you’d be scared stiff, you know. I mean, you’re only a baby, really, at four, aren’t you? Four going into five, yeah. And not seeing your mother, as I’m saying, to give you any sort of love or anything, you’re just on your own.
Did they not even have like an hour’s visiting?
Nothing at all. Nothing.
And you were there for six weeks?
Six weeks. Yeah. And I can remember the day that, that I came home and mum came up and she was with my nan and her sister-in-law and I… of course I must have been able to walk but they bought a pushchair. I can remember thinking, ‘Oh, I’ve got to go in a pushchair?’ And for quite some time they pushed me around in a pushchair. I can’t remember whether I could walk. I must have been able to walk. And that particular winter was ’47 when the snow was… and I can remember being taken shopping with mum and you… where they’d… they’d banked the snow up either side and it was like two, two walls of snow and you, you went, you know, walked through the centre, yeah? Can’t believe the snow, how deep it was. Yeah… And I think now I don’t know why they pushed me around in a pushchair [laughing]. Oh dear. And I had lots and lots of toys when I came out. They must have all bought me something, you know. Yeah.
So what do you think your highlights of growing up in Yardley would be then?
Highlights? Well, that, it was all happy really when I think about it. I had a good friend from the age of… well, er, oh I met her when we went into senior school. Right… no, the latter end of the junior school, all through the senior school and when we first left school until I started going out with John, and we were like sisters. We went on holidays with our parents, either one or the other. Erm, went out to dances, met boys, and it, the rule was you never accepted a ride in anybody’s car unless the two of you could be together. You know, you never did. Erm, you’d go to the pictures, er, and you’d come out in the summer time and it’d still be light and you’d be walking along [laughing] and you’d turn round and Pat’d say, [whispers] ‘There’s two chaps following us.’ And you’d have… and that, you’d meet people like that. They’d follow you, erm, and eventually catch up with you and say, ‘Can we take you home, girls?’ Erm, then you’d probably meet them again, go to the pictures with them.
But when I think back, I was… really not that interested, you know. And I used to… I used to say to Pat, ‘I don’t, I don’t want to meet them again,’ or d, something or other. Of course we always looked older than we were and I know this one …chap that we met, the one I was with was in the army. Now I suppose he, he’d have to be eighteen, wouldn’t he? Doing his National Service, he would have been doing, wouldn’t he? I think, I don’t know. Erm, and I, we were still at school and we met them and we, we went out this one time and then we arranged to meet them again and she liked the one she was… The one I was with was alright but I used to get scared, you know. I… it was as if I couldn’t handle the situation ‘cause don’t forget I’m… a schoolgirl and he’d be eighteen, expecting a lot more than… And there, er, no. And I said to Pat, ‘N, no,’ and I can remember being at her house and, er, we were supposed to have met, met these two boys. Well they knew where Pat lived, ‘cause we went back to Pat’s. I wouldn’t never let them know where I lived ‘cause of dad. [Laughing] And a knock comes at the door and it was …the one that Pat was going out with, I can’t remember his name. And, erm, she went out talking to him, she come back, she says… his name was Brian, that’s right, ‘Brian’s waiting at the gate, he wants to speak to you.’ And I’m in my school uniform and, erm, I said, erm, ‘I don’t… no, no, no, no, no. I don’t want to speak to him.’ Eventually I do, I go down and I can remember being so nasty, and he’d done nothing to me at all, because I didn’t want to know, you know? I didn’t know how to get out of the situation so I thought be na, be nasty. And he, he was saying, ‘I, I’d really like to see…’ and when I think about it now I think, well, oh, what a shame the way I treated him for no reason at all, really. And he must have known then that I was at school ‘cause, I say, I was in a school uniform. But no. No, no, no, no. [Laughing]
So where did you go dancing with Pat then?
We used to go to the Good Companions. They used to have a dance on there every Saturday night and we used to go to the West End in town, the back of the… the Town Hall. Course that’s not there now, that used to be lovely. You’d go dancing and the floor, you know, was a…
Good Companions was on the Coventry Road, wasn’t it?
Yes, it was opposite, erm… er…. I can say… You know Rowlands Road, your top of Rowlands Road, there, the Good Companions was over there on the corner. It’s a…
Peachykeens or… yeah.
Restaurant or something, isn’t it, now?
Yeah. Yeah. We used to go there… every Saturday, most Saturday nights, you know. And, oh, as I say, we were both at school but looked, looked about sixteen, being tall and that you could get away with… But Pat was always more, erm, how can I say? … forward than I was. Not in a nasty way or anything but I think I was… I don’t know, whether it was being an only one and sheltered a lot. It made me, when I think I was very… I can’t… inhibited is the word, I don’t know? But I… that’s how I was, I wasn’t the type that wanted to… And then I met John and it’s strange, isn’t it, how things click into place and I never really… well I didn’t have anybody else after that. And I can remember the one time Pat came, sh, er, up to see me and I… wanting me to go dancing with her. And, er, I told, I told John I couldn’t see him this one Saturday and I was, I went with her dancing. And, er, I can remember my mum saying, ‘Now, if John comes up here I’m not going to tell him a lie, I’m going to tell him what you’re doing, that you’ve gone dancing.’ It’s a good job he isn’t here, isn’t it, now ‘cause… [laughing]. Er, I said, ‘He won’t come anyway.’ Anyway, I go with Pat and that and, erm, I… he didn’t come but I can remember going out the next time and he turned to me and he said, erm, ‘I’m going to say this to you.’ He says, ‘If you want to go dancing with your friends,’ erm, blah, blah, blah, he… he said, ‘You can do that,’ he says, ‘but you can’t see me.’ Yeah? He said, ‘I’m not… I don’t like you going dancing where you can be dancing with other men,’ that’s what… it was more or less that. So I ne… not that I did go. So I never ever did it again but… I, I don’t know why that he said that because he didn’t go home to mum so how did… Was it a coincidence that he said that or…? Or did he… think it was a bit strange that I didn’t see him on that Saturday?
Maybe some, somebody saw you. Told him.
Yeah, yeah. But, yeah. He, what he was more or less saying was, ‘Well, you make a decision. It’s either your dancing or it’s me.’ I mean, and after… later in me life I used to say to him, ‘You cheeky devil.’ You know, ‘You cheeky devil saying that to me, really.’ I mean but that’s how people were in them days, they wouldn’t stand for it today, would they? I mean, you more or less left home and your father and you got married and your husband took over from that role. I’m not saying that I didn’t like it, you know, but life was so different. You know. I mean you, he didn’t, didn’t do any cooking or any cleaning but he was always a hard worker and did… things round the house. So I didn’t expect him then, ‘cause that’s how things were. A woman’s place was doing the cleaning and… But now… The only time I can ever remember John ironing I was in hospital, only er overnight, and, erm, I said, ‘Can you bring me a nightie?’ I said, ‘There’s one, you know, but it wants ironing.’ And he did, he ironed this nightie and he brought it back and he’d ironed all the little frills. I couldn’t believe how he’d… I says, ‘I didn’t realise you could iron as well as this.’ [Laughing] ‘Do more now!’ Yeah… yeah. And of course… we had the children, God bless ‘em both. Erm, you know and we had a, a nice happy life with them, bringing them up. They … you know, turned out to be two nice kids. [Laughing]
Is there anything else you’d like to add to, to your…?
I can’t think of anything, Debbie. Not that’s strikingly, you know, interesting.
OK then, Anne. Well that’s lovely. I’d just like to say a big thank you for taking part.
That’s, quite alright. I don’t think it’s that interesting really.
Oh, I do. I think it’s excellent. Thank you very much.
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