Florence Radley

page 2


F
ather was a quiet, gentle man, I never did know him to hit me except once. Mother was the one who kept order — we weren’t allowed to talk at the table — if Mother looked at us, that was enough! But Father, he once hit me with his hat. We had cows, you see, and we had to drive them home once we came home from school. Well, I’d come home without doing the cows home, and I was told to go back. I said I wouldn’t go, so he took his hat and layed into me and I soon went for the cows!

We always used to hang our stockings up at Christmas. We got a penny in the toe and an apple and an orange and a handkerchief and a hair ribbon. The stockings were hung up in the other room at Christmas, they put them there on purpose because we were awake so early we weren’t allowed to come down till that was daylight. There used to be a penny on the side of Mother’s and Father’s bed, and whoever wished them a Merry Christmas first, had the penny! But we were never allowed to go and spend it unless Mother told us, and then we had to bring the sweets home and share them. We always had to do that. That was learning us not to be greedy, wasn’t it?

I remember we got up a concert, we always had an instrument of some kind. I remember singing a solo, with a great big music book. What did I sing? ‘Won’t You Buy My Pretty Flowers.’ I pretended I was Mrs Pigott, she used to open her mouth and sing! I remember once we were all in the big bedroom — we were playing at making fields. That’s all we knew, you see, farming. We were making the fields out of buttons from Mother’s button tin.

When Dick and Alice first started at school, my mother had to pay for them, tuppence a week. They went to school one day without the money and they sent them home again. I suppose Mother hadn’t got the money to give them, I don’t know, or she hadn’t got any change or something. It was a long walk, wasn’t it, in the rough hard weather. A long way to go, and you know, we only had one pair of boots.

When my sister started teaching, she was ashamed to walk up to the school. Sometimes you had chilblains and you couldn’t get your boots on. They had iron plates on the heels and we used to have to clean them Saturday nights, Margaret and I, and I remember we were quarrelling one Saturday night who should blacken and who should shine. They used to be wet sometimes, and they wouldn’t let us do it on a Sunday you know. My sister she got the blacking brush and she dubbed it down my face. I come howling in, and Father went for Margaret.

 

 

She pushed Father, she thought he was going to hit her you see, and he fell back into the swill-pan. Oh, she was frightened ! He pretended he was hurt. He used always to go to bed at nine, Father did, because he had to be up early in the morning.

She crept up into the bedroom and kissed him, she thought he was asleep, but he was awake, poor old fellow! Mother was ever so ambitious for us all, I mean she put Dick to brick-laying here, and Alice went to Sarah’ s. Alice never had a lot of ambition of any kind. And Hannah, my sister who lived in Briston (Beck her name was), she was a dress-maker. Margaret was teaching, and I started to be a teacher, but I failed. I went in for the pupil-teacher exam, and I failed. That was when Holt school was in New Street. I went to Holt school for the examination. [Did you only try once?] I didn’t try to pass it. I could have passed it, but I was crazy to get into the shop. I loved shop-work. Of course I was seventeen when I left school. Then my brother next to me, Edmund, was a grocer. He was apprenticed to the International Stores. Of course Muriel was the baby, and she stayed at home. Margaret was clever: she could play the organ and she could make people sing. She had correspondence classes through the post, and that’s how she got so she could be more than a pupil-teacher you see, but of course my mother couldn’t afford to let her go to college. It’s a shame really, isn’t it, people had the brains but there was no chance for them.

When my father got the sack, he was working at Bayfield and my mother took my brother Dick away too. They wouldn’t let him stop. They apprenticed him to a bricklayer at Holt, to a Mr Woods, for half a crown a week. And he used to pay that to an old lady called Mrs Igmore for his lodging. She lived in Bluestone Row and Mother used to cook things for Dick and we used to say ‘Oh Mother, give us a bit,’ and she’d say ‘You can’t have that, that’s for Dick !’ We used to have to walk to Holt and take him his food and then he came home at weekends, then he’d walk back to work.

Dick High as Sunday School teacher

Then they managed to buy him a bicycle, and that had cushion tyres, you know, just a rubber.* -That was ever so hard, and very often he’d come home with the tyre round his neck, and that had come out of the rim! We used to have to come in here and light the fire — we had heaters in those days and irons. We used to heat them red hot, and hold them round this rim to melt the cement to put the tyre on.

When he had learned his trade, Dick worked at Sheringham and we used to go with the donkey cart to meet him on a Saturday.

 
*In the early 1880's the so called safety bicycles appeared. ...
frame safety bicycle which sold for £10 with solid tyres,
or £10.10s.0d with cushion tyres. ...
www.localhistory.scit.wlv.ac.uk/ Museum/Transport/bicycles/Cogent.htm