Helen Edwards interviewing Sandy Coleman for Highfields Remembered.
Now Sandy, can you tell me when and where you were born, please?
My name is Sandy Coleman and I was born on 25th of August 1944 in Bond Street, but my parents lived in Biddulph Avenue, off Biddulph Street, Highfields.
Had your parents lived in Highfields for long?
They lived there just after they got married. They bought a house and that must have been about three years before I was born.
Did you have family in the area as well?
Yes, we had an aunt that lived off the East Park Road, and she had a family.
Where your parents both from Leicester?
Yes, my father is from Wharf Street and my mother is from Merrydale which isn't there any more.
Are they in the Highfields area?
No, Humberstone Road area is Merrydale Road, and the centre of town is Wharf Street.
Can you remember the house that you lived in?
Yes I can, very clearly....it was a little cottage, which sounds very nice and grand, but it was just a row of terraced cottages, two up, two down, with a shared yard with toilet and tap! There was no traffic at all, it was a cobbled stone little avenue. At the front of our house was a small garden. Then you had the cobble stones and then we were actually facing the back of Mere Road. The back garden and their gates came onto our avenue.
How many children were in the family?
Just two, just me and my sister.
And did you have your own toilet?
Was it a shared toilet?
Yes, it was a shared toilet, and we shared a tap when we first lived in the house then. There was a path outside the back door that went the full length of the yard, but my parents fenced off a little area where my dad used to breed rabbits. Later on when they could afford it, they had a toilet plumbed in and we had water laid on in the house so we didn't have to share toilets or taps.
Did you play out in the street?
Yes. When we were young we weren't allowed to go out of the avenue which was safe because as I say, there was nowhere for traffic to go. It was a dead end. There was just an entry at the bottom and there wasn't very much traffic. I mean my dad had the motorbike combination in the latter of my teenage years, but in the early days there just wasn't the transport about. I mean people used to ride their bikes, my dad used to go to work on a bike.
Where did he work?
He worked for Russells' Foundry, which is near the Holiday Inn.
Oh yes. Did your mother work?
Yes, my mother worked at Brevitts which was local, that was on the corner of Nedham Street, the factory that burnt down not so long ago. That used to be Brevitts years ago. My dad was an iron moulder, and my mum worked as a sample machinist in the shoe industry.
So who looked after you?
My mum did work at home for a while when we were very young. I had a bedridden grandma in the front room. We had my mum's big industrial machine in the kitchen, and we used to have a big tin bath that we had out in the kitchen as well. It was only a very small house you know. I mean, how on earth my mum coped I just don't know. But she used to do some machining at home when we were very young.
What sort of machine was it?
I don't really know very much about sewing machines, it had a wheel and the needle used to go up and down!
So, was she actually sewing the shoes up?
Oh yes, she was.
It wasn't finishing or anything?
No. She was a machinist. Yes, a sample machinist. She used to do the samples for Brevitts.
Oh right! So she would get a pattern and she would make it up at home.
No, the shoe was already cut out. I know that they had clickers that cut the shoes out. I can remember seeing flat pieces of leather in the half shape of the shoe that were tied together, and my mum used to join the piece that went on the inside which was separate, and then the front and the side, up to the back seam which was all in one. She used to put those together and make them fancy. They had bows and things like that, she used to do that sort of machining.
So she actually made the women's shoes.
And she finished the complete shoe?
Oh no. I think it's like in a lot of industries. In the shoe industry, you had people that specialised in doing a particular part of the shoe. I mean, she didn't do anything with linings. I can remember that because my auntie was the forelady at Brevitts. My mum was the machinist, and I've often been into Brevitts' factory as a child and always found it fascinating how the shoe was made up and I've actually watched it. I can remember roughly what happened to it. But the toe used to be laminated inside the shoe, and then a lining laminated onto that, and my mum had done this fancy stitchwork first.
Yes, while the leather was flat.
Yeah. Then, you know, it goes through all different stages.
So were they delivered to the house?
And then collected when they were done?
Was that well paid?
I shouldn't think so, and it ruined my mum's eyes, because the only place that she could have a machine was in the middle of the house. Although she had a big lamp on the machine, I think that's what ruined my mum's eyes, because it was very small tedious work.
And then she moved when you were older into the factory to do the same thing.
That's right, yes.
How old would you have been then?
Oooh dear...well, I don't know. It must have been when we went to the senior school, because up until then she used to take me to speech therapy three times a week. She wasn't at Brevitts then, and that was during school time. So it must have been after I started the senior school.
Do you remember starting infant school?
I remember the infant days very well. I went to Medway Street School, I started in the infants at the age of 4. The things that stick in my mind most is that every afternoon we used to have to lay on these sort of foldup beds and have a sleep every afternoon. I used to lay there and my mind would to turn over and over, I used to pretend to be asleep. It was a complete and utter waste of time to me! We used to have cod liver oil which I hated!
I had problems at school because I had a speech impediment. In those days they didn't quite know what to do with me, so I was a bit of a burden to whichever teacher had got me at the time. Really I was left to play or do what I wanted while the rest of the class got on with their work. Because I couldn't talk very well, the teachers couldn't understand me, so if they had difficulty in communicating with me they fetched my sister from her class, and she would translate. My sister and my mum were the only two that could understand me. Obviously I've improved greatly! I went to speech therapy for quite a few years. I went to a big house on the left hand side down the Welford Road before you get to the prison.
So this was a separate house not a hospital?
It wasn't a hospital, no.
A private one?
No, not private. It was something to do with the local authority, and it was them that actually got me admitted. I had an operation on my adenoids, which...whether that just was a coincidence it was the same time that things started to improve. My parents spent a lot of time trying to teach me to speak, and they had help from the speech therapy people as well. I still get blockages now, there are certain words that I can't say, that come out back to front. My spelling hasn't improved over the years, despite my husband's hard work!
Do you remember the teachers at school?
Yes. I can't remember all my teachers. I can only remember a Mr Fletcher at Medway Street Junior School. He was very kind, because having a problem like that, very often I wasn't treated nicely by the other children. I was treated as if I was an idiot by those children's parents. I think my disability has helped me now be more tolerant of other people with a disability. Things that happen in your childhood make you what you are as an adult. But I can remember other kids being quite cruel, but my sister protected me. I was in Mr Fletcher's class for two years, and actually in his class when I was made to take the 11 plus exam, which was a complete farce because I couldn't read and write. But I still, by law, had to take the 11 plus examination. My sister was clever and she had already passed her 11 plus and was at the Collegiate Girls' School. I found it very difficult, coping by myself with a speech impediment and all that was tied in with that, and following in my sister's footsteps who was very clever.
Especially as she had left the school?
Yes. Mr Fletcher just sticks in my mind because he was so very, very kind. He spent a lot of time with me, he was about the only teacher I can remember that put himself out for me. My mum used to go regularly to the school and have discussions with Mr Fletcher, and that's when I had an operation, and the speech therapy started to work. With Mr Fletcher's help things started to get together, so by the time I went to my senior school, I hadn't got such an impediment, although it was still there it was a lot easier. I still couldn't write very well and my spelling was atrocious, but I could at least get through. It was like trying to catch up on all the years I'd missed, which even now, I think I'm still trying to catch up at 50 years old. Obviously I'm never going to make it! But I've done a lot, but it's those early years that are so important.
I mean, there is a big improvement in schools nowadays to what it used to be. I mean there just wasn't the knowledge that there is now. My daughter is a teacher now, and I know what she gives to her children and I just think, well, if I had had a teacher like that when I was young, you know. But that's what I remember. I can remember playing. . .
Out in the street?
Oh yes. I remember playing in the streets, whip and top was one of our favourites. I mean, for every Easter we used to have a new whip and top, and my dad was very clever with his hands, he still is. He used to make us these beautiful tops, and he used to decorate all the tops of them so that when they spun round. We'd got the best ones because our colours were brilliant.
I can remember that we used to play ball and get into trouble, because in the avenue, where the first house on Biddulph Street was, there was a huge wall into the avenue, and we used to all play "Double ball up" against the wall. I can remember my aunty Madge (we used to call all our neighbours 'aunty' or 'uncle', it was disrespectful to do any other) coming out and playing hell with us! We'd all run off because all she could hear was bang, bang, bang, from these balls going up, or our feet going up. We had great fun!
When I was older, I was allowed to actually play in the street and in the entries. If you know the Highfields area you know that houses are back to back, and you go down in-between the terraced houses. Then you go to the bottom of that entry and there's another entry along the bottom that actually leads to everyone's back garden. Well, there's a wall in between these two entries from one street to the next street. So you could actually go from one street to another street without actually coming in contact with streets except to cross them, and when you're playing hide and seek it used to be brilliant!
We'd have great fun just going through these entries, and I can remember the accidents that I've had as well, you know. I split my head open falling off the wall in my rush to get in before they actually spotted me, but oh, we had great fun playing!
We used to have naughty games as well, which must have been infuriating for the people that lived there. On Biddulph Street we used to tie the knockers of the doors together, and as you knocked one door, obviously it pulled it tight so the other door rattled as well, and then we'd run down an entry and just stand and watch as these two people came out at the same time and realise that it was us kids. If kids did that to me today I'd be fuming! We also used to go scrumping.
Well, we were lucky living in Highfields. When I was perhaps 11 or 12, during school holidays, my mum used to pack us up with a bottle of water and jam sandwiches, and we'd walk up to the golf course at Evington, and then we'd spend hours and hours picking up golf balls.
These were lost golf balls and we used to take them. They used to encourage us to do it because we used to take them back and they'd give us a penny for so many golf balls.
There was this house that belonged to a Mr and Mrs Fletcher, and we used to go scrumping for their apples. Once, we got caught and this policeman took me and my friend all the way from Evington to home and I can remember the fear when he was knocking on my front door to tell my mother that I'd been caught scrumping!
Anyway, after I got married, I actually bought one of Mr Fletcher's houses and I live in it still to this day! I didn't realise who the Mr Fletcher was until after I bought this house, but it was Fletcher's the builders, whose apples I used to scrump!
What happened to you?
Well, I got a good telling off from this policeman, and an even worse telling off from my mum. I was tied to the house for I don't know how long, I can't remember. I know I thought it was very unfair, because the friend that I was with also got caught doing the same thing. I think she got a good telling off or she even perhaps got a slap. I didn't get a slap because my parents didn't believe in hitting us, but I had to stop in for a tidy time and she was out playing. She used to come and call for me, and my mother would say, "No way is she allowed out of the house." I thought I was really hard done to!
We used to make our own entertainment. I can't remember the year, I think it was perhaps 1954 and I'd be about 10 years old. There were terrible floods on the east coast, and it was the first time I got my photograph and my name in print. I held a stall in the street, and I went round to all my aunts and uncles houses that lived next door and along the avenue, asking for things that they no longer used. I don't know how much money I made not knowing that what I was doing was illegal. I don't know how the Mercury found out about it, but my mum took me with the money that I'd raised to wherever it was paid in, to this fund, and they found out that I'd been selling on the streets, and my mother was told that that was illegal. I must have a registered sealed collection box to put the money in, etc. and the Mercury got hold of it and they did a big splash in the Mercury about this 10 year old girl that tried her best and had broken the law. That sort of thing.
But you know, we often used to do things like that. I've always liked elderly people and I've always done elderly people's shopping, I enjoy doing it. When I think now, you know, that at 12 years old, I used to regularly wash people's hair, I mean I'd never trust a 12 year old to wash my hair!
Were you in the Guides or the Brownies?
I was in the Brownies, I didn't enjoy the Guides I think because my sister left the Guides. I don't think I enjoyed the Brownies that much, I wasn't that bothered.
Was that in Highfields?
Yes, it was. I used to go to the Brownies, I can't remember the name of the church, on Evington Road it was a church on the corner, and I can't think what the name of it is.
I joined a youth club, at Melbourne Hall, and it was church run because in those days, my sister and I were forced every Sunday to attend church. Although my parents weren't highly religious, they felt strongly that we should attend church every week. Then when we were 15 we were allowed to decide for ourselves whether we went to church or not.
My mother wouldn't let me join the youth club on Dore Road, there was one off East Park Road in a hall. Mum went down and had a look and decided that no, it wasn't for us, but she did allow us to join the one at the church...at Melbourne Hall. That was brilliant . I mean we didn't like the bit where we had to have like a little tiny prayer and what have you did at the beginning, but after that was over the activities were really good, and they were organised activities. I was always quite good with my hands, and we used to have what I call arty-crafty type things to do, and I really enjoyed that, that was smashing.
How old were you?
I should say I'd be about 11,12 years old.
And you went until you left, at what age?
Yes, well. I met my husband when I was 14, I mean by 14 I'd outgrown it.
I grew up very quickly, very early, and I don't know whether it was because my sister and I were so close, if she did things, I went along and she had to put up with a younger sister tagging along, we were good friends then, the same as now. She's my best friend now. She was when I was young as well.
Oh, that's nice.
Nice to have a sister that is your best friend? It's lovely. And we have always got on well. You know, my parents were very fortunate that me and my sister were as close as we were, and I've always said that it's good.
Yes, but talking about playing, I nearly forgot I lived just up the road from Spinney Hill Park. The park was huge to me. When I was young, it seemed absolutely huge. I didn't go back for years, then I actually took my children on a tour of Highfields. They wanted to see where I was born and played as a small child. They'd heard about Spinney Hill Park and the tobogganing and everything that went with Spinney Hill Park. They'd also heard about this wonderful pavilion that we'd got there. So I took my children along, and I couldn't believe how small Spinney Hill Park is! How small the streets all were. When I got to the avenue where I used to live, only half the houses were there, the rest was just rubble. The other end of the avenue has all been knocked down, and my aunty Margaret 's house who lived next door, I couldn't believe it. There was all barbed wire, all rolled, all round her windows upstairs and downstairs. I knocked on the door but no one was in or she wasn't answering. She wouldn't have recognised me after she'd looked through the window....but that sort of broke my heart to look at, because everyone in the avenue...there was like, I think there was a little bit of cliqueyness, and people on Biddulph Street thought we were all stuck up in the avenue because for the coronation we had our own little street party, we didn't join in Biddulph Street, we had our own in the avenue. I think everyone used to care for those little cottages, they were really well loved.
Mm. . .
Then to go back , all those years afterwards to see half of them gone it is heartbreaking, because you know, I've had a nice childhood, apart from the problems with my speech impediment . I've got happy memories of Highfields, but Spinney Hill Park was magic. When it snowed, as I said my dad is clever with his hands and he made us a sledge. Oh, we've had some really, really good sledges. It used to be front page of the Mercury every time there was snow. You never see it now, so whether the kids don't take their toboggans or whether they're not even allowed.
They do in Western Park.
Do they? But it's a terrific hill you see, and there used to be hundreds of us there. It wasn't just the kids, my mum and dad used to come as well, and aunts and uncles, and it would be a big family outing, it was great!
There's a brook runs through Spinney Hill Park. You can follow this brook for miles and miles. I think it goes all the way through Leicester. I think it comes out at Belgrave somewhere. It was a definite 'no go' area for my parents, but both me and my sister used to go. I can remember one of us slipping in once, it was my sister actually, we had to go round to a friend's house and try and wash my sister's socks, and her dress, and try and get them dry because my mother would have known that we'd been in the brook. She would have had us in the house for another month without leaving.
Did you go off to the park for the day then? Would you take sandwiches?
No, not Spinney Hill Park, because Spinney Hill Park was literally just up the hill. In Evington there was 'Five Ways', where St Peters Road and Evington Hill and Mere Road joined up. Well there was an entry, there was a shop called the Sunkist on the corner, with an entry at the side, and if you went down that entry it brought you to the dead end part of the avenue that I lived in.
Oh right, so Spinney Hill Park was so close that even if you'd only got half an
hour to play you'd got time to go down to Spinney Hill Park. Did you come into Leicester at all?
Not until I was older. I can remember coming into Leicester shopping with my mum.
Would that just be clothes shopping? All your food shopping would be done locally wouldn't it?
Ooh, not food. All food shopping was done locally. Yes. We had quite a good shopping area because we'd got shops on the Evington Road which were
very good, the Five-ways was all shops round there on Biddulph Street. I mean on the corner of Laurel Road and Biddulph Street we had a shop that sold everything under the sun, you can't imagine. Like over the road from that was an off license, everything you needed was there, butchers, the post. I can remember the Post Office on Mere Road...yes, you didn't need to go into Leicester. Wee used to walk into Leicester, we never caught the bus, we used to walk into Leicester and do shopping for shoes and things like that, but food, no, we bought food locally.
What about the pictures, did you go there.
Oh, the Evington cinema! Who can live without the Evington cinema? I'm so
pleased they've kept the frontage. Now, my mum worked at the Evington cinema,
she actually did cleaningthere, so we used to get into the tuppenny rush on a Saturday. All the kids used to go. Me and my sister didn't have to pay because my mum worked there. I can't remember his name, we used to call him the owner, but he was most probably the manager. He would let us go into the top and have a look where the projector room was.
Well, I was lucky with my holidays because I had an aunt (who I don't really think is a blood relation), another one that lived in Great Yarmouth, South Beach Bridge. She still lives there now, opposite the Big Dipper. Every holiday was spent there, our annual holiday which used to be in August , two weeks in August. Every holiday we used to go to Great Yarmouth.
On the train?
We used to go on the train but then my dad had a combination, so my mum and dad used to travel on the bike, and me and my sister used to be in the sidecar.
We also used to go to Skegness for the day, or Sutton-on-Sea for the day. If we didn't go away for a long holiday, then we'd perhaps have one day out now and again.
I live at Thurmaston now, but our connection with Thurmaston really came when we were children. I don't know how my parents were first connected with Thurmaston.
Every Easter we used to have a new outfit of summer clothes. No matter what the weather, we wore them on Easter Sunday. And even if we could only afford one outfit a year, you wore that on Easter Sunday.
Was that just a family tradition, or did everybody in the area do it?
I don't know! Well I think most people did that because we didn't have new clothes all year round unlike my children. No matter what time of the year, if they needed something new, then if we could possibly afford it, they had it. But back then, there was like more of a set pattern, it was definitely a new outfit for Easter, that was part of Easter.
I can still remember rationing. We didn't have Easter eggs, we used to have cardboard eggs that my mum used to use over and over again that parted with little things inside, and not necessarily things to eat you know, perhaps things that we'd perhaps taken a shine to. My mum had decided, right, at Easter I'll give that to Sandy or I'll give that to Anne, and it used to be inside your Easter egg.
But we used to go for a walk from Highfields to Thurmaston Locks. I've got great memories of the times we had on those fields where now it's a nature reserve and it's very nice. My children have spent a lot of their childhood there as well. But I don't know how my parents first started going to Thurmaston but that's where we used to go. Every Easter, we used to walk with my parents to Evington.
Sunday afternoons, we'd been to church in the morning, Sunday afternoon, my parents used to say, "Right, what shall we do on Sunday afternoon then?" Because of course you didn't sit in and watch television in those days because we didn't have a television. We used to say, "Ooh, lets go down Chesterfield Road." We used to go house spotting, and it was a big ambition that when my dad won the pools (which he used to do every week), we were going to buy one of these bay fronted semi-detached houses and Anne and I were going to have separate bedrooms, because although we were good friends, there was no privacy!
When we were young we had a tin bath in the kitchen, and then as we got older and we needed privacy, we used to go down to Spence Street Baths and have a slipper bath which I used to hate. You weren't allowed to turn the taps on or off yourself, the woman used to do that, you used to have to sit and queue, you never knew whether the bath was clean because the water was already in there when you went. And I could never tolerate really hot water, and my bath water was always too hot, and she'd be banging on the door, telling me to hurry up and come out, and I hadn't even got in the water because it was too hot! I think I've ran away with myself there, I can't remember what I was telling you!
What about washing clothes?
My mum, well, when we first had the house my memories of when I was little, my mum used to fetch the water in from outside for one of those old-fashioned fireplaces with little ovens at the side, do you know what I mean? We used to have a shallow sink. Quite a big sink, but we did have a drain outside . We had our own drain but then I can remember we had a Baby Burco. Things like my dad's shirts I used to take up to the Chinese laundry, opposite Medway Street School. I can't remember my mum washing sheets. I mean she must have washed sheets. I don't know whether she took them to the launderette.
The laundry or the launderette?
I've got memories of a launderette. I can see all these Bendix washing machines on
St Peters Road, whether that's it, we most probably went there to that launderette I can't really remember to be honest, no.
What about when you were an older teenager from sort of age 13 or 14 onwards, what sort of things did you do for entertainment then?
By the time I was 13, I was still going to the youth club, I played netball for the school, we used to have netball practise one night a week. Then I had a paper round morning and evening, so that used to take up some of my time. I used to go with my sister, as I say, you know, we were good friends, so I used to go with her and her friends.
On Sunday afternoons when we got older, it was quite the done thing to go to Leicester Museum. New Walk was a meeting place for young people. I used to be really proud because my dad used to take us to the Leicester Museum on a Sunday afternoon, and he'd wear his drainpipe trousers, and his beetle crusher shoes with all these music notes all over the front, and I'd see somebody from school and then they'd come up to me on Monday and say, "Your boyfriend's a bit old for you!", and it was my dad! I used to think it was great! But we used to spend a lot of time at the museum, but I don't really think it was to improve our minds, I think it was more of a meeting place. I can't remember what else I used to do as a teenager.
There weren't dances on a Saturday night?
Oh, well I lived at the Palais. Right. On Friday lunchtime if I could possibly get to it, they used to have a lunchtime bop every Friday night. Our school uniform could be enhanced by taking your flat Oxford shoes off and putting on a pair of white stilettos, and it was pale blue gathered skirt and a pale blue blouse My mother's a good dressmaker, so my dresses always had nice styles, you know, with the sweetheart neck and puff sleeves and what have you. And I would put a bright, broad white belt on, with white shoes and nobody would know that was a uniform. We used to get on a bus on Melbourne Road and go straight into Leicester, go to the bop then dash back.
I went to Dale School which is on Melbourne Road, which was a mixed school, but the boys and the girls didn't mix. They had their own playground, we had ours. The thing was we could actually see them and there was like an arched door where the two sets of staircases, their staircase and our staircase came down...and we used to mouth through the glass of these doors, but that's as near as we were allowed.
Were the classes mixed then?
No. Oh no. We weren't allowed to meet any of the boys out of their gate at home time, and they weren't allowed to meet us out of our gate.
So it was just two separate schools within the same building.
That's right. The only time you could see them was when you came down the stairs, because the staircase ran parallel to one another. There was this archway with the glass doors, and we used to make arrangements through these glass doors, but if you were caught you were really in trouble. But I've got happy memories of Dale it was a really good school for me, because that's where I learnt to cook. I learnt to do my dressmaking there, things that have stayed with me the whole of my life.
We had a brilliant headmistress who ruled us with a rod of iron, Miss Bennett. I can even remember every toe on her feet, her bunions, I can remember the lot! I have sat and looked at her feet for that many hours! Every Friday morning, each pupil had to take their satchel into the assembly. As you sat there, she'd take this short service, and then she'd say, "Right, 3A, stand up with your math's book open at your last piece of work." The whole class would stand up, rifle through their satchels, they'd open the book and they'd be panicking because there was ink blobs or perhaps a teacher had written something in red, and then Miss Bennett would come and she'd come down the back of this row of girls, and she'd look over their shoulder and then all you'd get is a push in the back. That meant you had to and stand by her desk at the front of the hall.
I've sat there looking at her feet as she's walked along this line. I can honestly say that I was always treated very fairly by Miss Bennett, and also by the deputy head Miss Collier. I think my mother must have had long chats with them before I went there, because they knew I'd got problems, but I got on very well at Dale, very well. They brought out in me the things that I am best at, they put me in charge of the tuck shop! I helped in the school library, so if ever we'd got parents evening, I was always asked to help bring the parents in because I enjoyed being with people. In my last year I was made prefect, which to me was the best thing out of my whole school life. That I'd actually made it to be prefect. I'd got a deportment girdle! In those days you were encouraged to sit upright. I felt that my 4 years at Dale were 4 good years, and they definitely brought out the best in me.
Were you still living in Highfields?
Yes, we left Highfields and moved to Thurmaston the week after I left school. It was just before I was 15.
And why did your family move?
There was going to be a ring road, and our houses were going to be knocked down for this ring road. Now, nothing has ever come of it, but my parents decided to sell, and they found this bungalow, one and a half thousand pounds I think it cost them when they bought it. I think they got £200 for their cottage . We had new floors, we had all the walls replastered, it was a little palace. My dad came from nothing, (he used to go to school in his mother's shoes), and lived in Wharf Street which was a really rough area of Leicester. I can remember my grandma, (she was dirty) we used to drink out of jam jars in her house. My dad really did something with himself. Our house was brilliant. We even had a fountain!
Your grandma lived in your house for a while didn't she?
She lived with us, yes. She was supposed to have spent 6 months with us, then 6 months with one of my aunties, but it ended up that my mum had her all the while for one reason or another. My mum had a breakdown in the end because she just couldn't cope, my grandma was bedridden you see, she couldn't do a thing for herself. There wasn't the help that there is now and she was a big woman. She ended up going to Hillcrest. My dad did the front room out. We used to go to Margins, the furniture shop on Wharf Street for our furniture and my mum and dad used to pay so much money every week. It wasn't hire purchase because it was paid for before they actually bought it. They paid for it like a club. Yes, my dad had seen this fountain, and it was on a chrome base with a plastic bowl. My dad used to put all plastic roses and things floating on the water, sometimes we'd have pink water, sometimes we'd have green water and then it had this fountain in the middle. It was obviously electrical. I'd forgotten about it. It was my dad's pride and joy, everybody that came to the house was taken into the front room to have a look at the fountain!
Can I ask you one last question that we are asking everybody? How does the Highfields you remember compare to Highfields today. That is, your overall impression of what Highfields was like.
Well, I always look back and think that it was a multicultural area in the early 1950s. I went to school with all sorts of different nationalities. I can remember the Chinese friends that I had, I can remember the Chinese laundries, we had Italians, we had Jewish people, so I think even in those days it had got nationalities all getting on together.
Now, I don't know Highfields that well, only things that I read in the paper and that is often not good things that I've read in the paper. I've been down Melbourne Road recently, and I'm glad to see the renovation that has gone on. I've been down East Park Road recently and there's terrific renovation gone on there which I'm really pleased about because some of the property was beautiful. The lovely big houses have been made into flats now because ordinary people can't afford to run a house like that.
But yes, we all got on really well together. I think it's perhaps better now than it was perhaps 10 or 12 years ago when last I walked in Highfields. I took my children to have a look round. I ought to go and have a look round now because the main roads I've seen have definitely improved. I went to a nativity play in Highfields this Christmas with a group from Age Concern. To see all those children with their mums and their dads going to watch it was brilliant and it made me wonder what all the trouble was about.
I think the area lends itself to getting on with other people. Where I live now, I don't see my neighbours from one week to the next. I've got a car, and because I'm the end house in a cul-de-sac, nobody passes my house.
Have you all got gardens?
Yes. They are all fenced in. My children would no sooner think of calling the next door neighbour, aunty and uncle. No, we got on really well, and I think the area lends itself, just the positioning of the houses, you've got to if you live that close together.
That close together? You've got to be more caring of one another, haven't you?