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Childhood

Roger Cave came to live in Highfields in 1940, the year he was born.
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I was a bit young to remember the bombing but from what my parents said (in 1940) when I was born, I think it was November when the Germans dropped a string of bombs on Highfields. I was taken in a clothes basket when they had the air raid warning to St Peter's School. It was used as a meeting point because the building had been shored up with extra timber so it would stand the blast of bombs. When the siren went off we went to the school to shelter from any bombing, and my parents said they took me in a clothes basket. Infact the night we were there, a bomb dropped only about a hundred yards away from the school building on the corner of Gopsall Street and Sparkenhoe Street, then there was a string of bombs dropped in Highfields Street and down Sparkenhoe Street. After the war, these areas weren't developed for quite a few years. As a child we used to use that as a play area on the bomb sites.

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I was very keen on football, I was also very keen on drawing as well because in those days we didn't have a television set so a lot of the time would be spent reading, drawing or playing with toy soldiers. That was another passion of mine playing toy soldiers. So you made your own entertainment really like that.

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we went to the cinema quite often. There was the Evington cinema on the corner of Chesterfield Road, and there would be special children's matinees on a Saturday afternoon. There would be a special programme for children. We used to go to the Melbourne cinema as well at the bottom of Melbourne Road, they were a good substitute for television really.

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I think the winters tended to be a bit colder than they are now, perhaps for a couple of weeks we would have a heavy fall of snow and it would freeze over, so we used to go sledging.

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Can you tell me about bonfire night?

Yes, well bonfire night used to be quite a thing because they hadn't got the restrictions that they have now. Every street in the area would have at least two bonfires at either end of the street even though they were perhaps dangerously close to buildings. A street like Twycross Street which crosses Melbourne Road could probably have as many as four bonfires in the one street, so to anybody standing at a distance it would look like the whole area was ablaze!

So a lot of people used to come out from the street and just join in?

Yes, they did then, I think there was probably more community atmosphere than there would be now in most areas

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a lot of the houses were used for different types of people. The houses on Melbourne Road had servants' quarters whereas houses in Twycross Street were ordinary six bedroom terraced houses. But the houses on Melbourne Road were of a better quality. I can remember playing as a child, meeting up with friends. We went into their house and in the basement there was a row of bells hanging up with the names of all the different rooms. That would obviously be the servants' quarters so anybody needing attention could pull a cord which would ring the bell. There were quite a few houses like that. I don't know if it could be that perhaps people who acted as servants perhaps lived in the terraced houses (in the basements) in Twycross Street, the side streets, and then they worked at the houses on Melbourne Road

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I can remember as a child, we used to make our own amusements, we would play out more in the streets. I suppose because there wasn't so much television you know, so children would play together more.

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Helen Edwards interviewing Sandy Coleman for Highfields Remembered.
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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we'd spend hours and hours picking up golf balls.

Lost ones?

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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Linda Cox who was born in 1948.
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I was very fortunate in having a wonderful and happy childhood, everything we needed was close at hand. The Spence Street Swimming Baths was situated just at the back of our tiny street, but, being kids, we couldn't take the long way round via Bridge Road, instead we would go down to the brook at the bottom of the street, and slip through a convenient gap in the railings. We went swimming sometimes twice a day in the summer. The pool was closed during the winter months and used for wrestling bouts. The price of a swim then in the 1950s was 6D (2 1/2 pence).

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I remember one day when I was out playing on my own, I saw this man dressed to the hilt in what appeared to be a spaceman's outfit, complete with helmet and visor. I was almost paralysed with fear and ran in home to tell mam and dad that the Martians had landed near the brook! On investigation, it turned out that he was just doing a spot of welding with his oxy-acetylene equipment!

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On Sundays after dinner, I would be sent round the corner to Rossa's Ice Cream Factory (which is still there) to get the milk lollies at 3D each, and delicious they were too!

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I used to go shopping with mam on Saturday mornings in Green Lane Road. We would first go to the grocers, a double fronted shop just a bit further along from Baradells the clothes shop. I remember that the sugar, mixed fruit and other dry goods were weighed and packed into those small blue bags. All the items were listed into my mam's little exercise book, and certain things were put on 'tick' to be carried over to the next week when she could pay. Then it would be a visit over the road to Mr and Mrs Hindmarsh for the fruit and vegetables. Occasionally, we would go to the chemist shop on the corner of Bridge Road, (it had an extremely small customer area in those days) it was run by a friendly husband and wife team. I always loved it when mam could spare a penny, and I would hop onto the old-fashioned scales to be weighed. This was then followed by a stick of barley sugar for me as an extra treat!

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When it came to recreation, I always had lots of trips to the Spinney Hill Park with my dad. We walked along the East Park Road, past the old Marston's sweet factory, and when the windows were open, the smell of the fruit-flavoured sweets was devine – really mouth watering – it's the kind of smell that many local people will remember!

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When I was out playing with my friends, we used to walk for what seemed like miles along the 'hossy' or Willowbrook, underneath the tunnels with our wellies on, or sometimes even barefoot looking for adventure. We would find snails and tiddlers, and on one memorable occasion, we found a complete set of dentures grinning up at us through the murky waters! Mam wasn't very pleased when I went running home with my prized possession!

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In the summer months whole gangs of us kids would go to the park for picnics – we felt very grown up having been given sole charge of any little ones for the day. We took old pop bottles filled to the brim with sugar and water (uggh!) and jam and margarine sandwiches. I remember once when we were really hungry opening the food to find what seemed like thousands of tiny money-spiders crawling around having a banquet on our jam! After the disastrous picnic, we'd paddle in the brook on the park, always keeping a watchful eye for the 'Parky' who used to ride his bike through the park. Many kids used to get their clothes wet in the brook and you could see, boys especially, banging their water-logged thick socks on the bank of the brook, trying to get them somewhere near wearable before they reluctantly returned home!

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My earliest memories of old 'Charny' (Charnwood Street) go back to when I was about 3 years old. I remember, perhaps a couple of afternoons a week, I would listen to the radio prtogramme 'Listen with Mother' then at 2 o'clock. The peg rug was rolled up, the fire guard put up against the coal fire and mam would take me to visit my aunt Betty who lived somewhere near Upper Charnwood Street. There was no push-chair involved – I had to walk!

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Perhaps one afternoon a week, mam would take me to the Imperial Cinema otherwise known as the flea-pit! I think this is now a warehouse and stands on the corner of Mornington Street near to the Laundrette. Once inside the pictures we would sit through the matinee and watch the Three Stooges and Norman Wisdom films. I used to like the smell of the air freshner which the usherettes used to spray around the place.

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Dr Stuart Fraser lived in Highfields from 1946 the year he was born.
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My first impressions of Highfields I suppose was really the fact that I lived in this rather large house, downstairs it had a large hall, a dining room and a front sitting room, a scullery a kitchen, a pantry larder, a small yard at the back with an outside toilet, there was a small Butler's pantry going into the dining room and off that lead the dispensary, a small consulting room and then a large waiting room. The consulting room, dispensary and waiting room were very much forbidden territories for me when I was younger because that was where there were patients and I just kept out of it but a weekends on the Sunday because there were surgeries all the way through Saturday I could play in the waiting room. It had, what I call railway benches all the way round the wall and school benches down the middle of the room and it was quite a good play room, and I could have a competition to see how long I could not touch the floor by running around the furniture and various things is what I remember, but the other rooms were very much forbidden areas altogether, there was a door directly onto the road out of the waiting room and the one thing I do remember there is that they had a brass voice piece there which the idea was that there was a tube going up to the bedside of my parents and the patients could take out a bung and blow in this and a whistle blew at the other end and you could speak, it was the night call tube.

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I really didn't go out a lot into the area because I was shall we say from a different group of people from the people that were living in the area at the time. I suppose it is partly the penalty of being the doctors son.

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I really only had one close, or one friend nearby who was of my own age and that was my neighbours', and my neighbours were Polish, they were displaced persons from the World War Two and I think he had been a Colonel in the Polish army and he was there with his family and he had a son of my age and I used to frequently play with him. However, he had very little English and I had no Polish, but we seemed to get along quite well,

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when I came to being 5 or 6 I was sent to a private school along the London Road and this then alienated me from the children and the people in the area because I was then being educated outside the area and I would of course have had a grey suit, school colours, a cap and a black Mac to look all very smart.

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The striking thing then that I remember about Highfields was that I used to have to walk, I was delivered to school, I was dropped off-he had a Ford Popular car, but I always had to walk home, so he obviously used to drop me off before morning surgery but I used to have to walk home then and this is from Albert Road, which is from the Clarendon Park way and I would walk from the age of 5, I would walk back from Melbourne Street. There was only one major road crossing and that was the Evington Road, St James Road into Evington Road into St Stephens Road and I was told that later on that my mother had another friend who was the wife of a dentist or another doctor and she had instructions to look out of her upstairs window to watch for me crossing the road. That was the nearest I was looked out for in this journey. When I think about it now, it is quite a trek for a 5 year old or a 6 year old child to make unaccompanied and I did it for several years.

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I would come off the London Road down St James Road which is all very pleasant and then I would have to run the gauntlet of Medway Street School and the problems were that if there was a school crocodile out and if they saw me I would get stuffed into the hedge! So I always had to avoid a school crocodile or I would get duffed up and then when I got further down, across the St Peters Road, there wouldn't be so many school children then but if there a gang of them around I would have to run and leg it

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bonfire night. I mentioned that all the side streets of Melbourne Road were made of granite sets. What used to happen on bonfire night was that each street would have at least one bonfire if not two, and of course you could quite happily have a bonfire because it wouldn't damage the road because it was granite sets. And a bonfire was marvellous because you drive down Melbourne Road and every side street would have a bonfire in the middle of it and there would be rockets and fireworks in the street and it was a marvellous time. I can remember a rocket going a bit wrong and taking off up Hartington Road once because the bonfires going to five ways was quite a good spot, that's opposite the Melbourne Cinema because you had five roads up there and you could see lots of bonfires and that's a time that I vividly remember, was the bonfire night.

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there were a lot delivery vans when I was much younger were all horse drawn, milk and bread vans were horse drawn but there were a lot electrical vans as well.

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The surgery was virtually opposite Matlock Street which is quite a steep slope near the Spinney Hill area, and em, it must have been one morning when there was an almighty crash and my mother came out of the front door onto Melbourne Street, and I came out to see what the noise was and I came running back and said to my mother, " Mummy, Mummy all the tarts are lying on the road on their backs!", she wondered quite exactly what was going on until I took her round and sure enough there a bread delivery van that had the breaks had failed and it had come down Matlock Street and gone straight into the house and smashed the wall down so we had a bread van stuffed into the house.

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When you say you used to walk to school at the age of five, and walk back from school, can I assume it was a very safe area to walk at that time?

Well yes, I think the main thing was that the traffic was so much less that I could be trusted – I mean it was safe certainly from the point of view that I wasn't going to get mugged, I think the only danger I had was from a local school boy who was going to give me his warts or fire his catapult at me which would be taken as normal school boy rough and tumble, you would just have to stand up for yourself or talk your way out of it or join them, or leg it and get home! But certainly, there would be no reasons for anyone to worry, and I think that quite honestly if I had gone adrift and got lost I'd feel very much I would have spoken to somebody and of course if I had said who I was I think most people would have said, "Oh you're Doctor so and so's son" and would have known where I lived and taken me home. There would have been no worry.

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I certainly didn't have any friends who came down into this area, and in fact it was one thing that I used to have as a bit of a problem as a school child and I used to say, "why can't we live where my school friends live?" They were all obviously professional and upper class people and I was told "this is where the people are, this is where the work is, this is where we have to live". And so I accepted that.

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Can you remember the local bobbies doing the beat?

I can never recollect seeing a local policeman walking around. As I say the only contact I had with police was when I tried to walk off to Blaby from Stoneygate when I was about seven they picked me up in a black mariah and brought me home and I remember vividly standing in the landing in the house and I think it was a sergeant saying to me "and you won't do that again then son!"

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Mrs Betty Hoyland was born in Highfields.
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One of the tortures of my life as a small girl were the long brown stockings which we wore every day, with a lighter coloured pair for Sundays. These were held up by buttons and tapes tied onto liberty bodices which I hated, I used to long for the first breath of warm spring sunshine to be able to go into short socks and sandals.

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I had one elder sister who possessed beautiful long dark curls which were wetted and put into curling rags every night, and each morning she appeared resplendent at breakfast with long dark gleaming 'sausages' bouncing on her shoulders. I thought she was quite beautiful. Her name as Dorothy May and we slept together in a big brass knobbed bed, and every night we used to make up stories to tell. Our favourite one was how we would manage to survive if left on our own, and how much it would cost us to eat. We had worked it out to the last detail, and had come to the conclusion that 5d. each would suffice our needs!

Our greatest friend was a Jewish girl who lived in one of the large houses opposite to us and wore button boots. We played together at all the seasonable games as they came around, whip and top, hoop and stick, shuttle-cock and battledore, and dressed and undressed each other's dolls.

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Pocket money as such was unknown. Sometimes we had a halfpenny to spend, or perhaps a penny when we would run round the corner to Mrs Normans' sweet shop to buy some home made ice-cream, watching her dive into a big tub behind the counter with a spoon, and bring out a delicious primrose coloured concoction, and wait for the magic words, "Would you like some flavouring dear?" We always did, and she would then pour some sweet red syrup on the top of the primrose nectar, and our heaven was complete!

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Next door to us and divided from us by a tall brick wall, lived our neighbours, – three spinsters, they were not related. The house belonged to one of them, and the other two worked and lodged with her. They had a shaggy black dog called Ben and a snow white cat called Toss. They were all really nice, but their house was dark, and full of shadows. The eldest one worked in a high class drapers in the city and sometimes used to bring us boxes of odd buttons home to play with, and on special occasions would make fancy bonnets for my best doll. The other lodger was a small wispy woman with glasses, and we used to call her Pethwick, why I don't really know, it certainly was not her real name. The owner of the house was a sharp voiced, jolly little woman. In her front room, (the darkest of them all) she used to keep a square flat box of tangerines each wrapped up in silver paper. Sometimes she would ask us in, and then, with excited shivers running down our backs we would brave the dark brown hall and the bead curtains which clattered behind our backs as we passed through them, and be invited into the best room to be handed a tangerine. When we came away, we felt as if we had braved some deep dark forest to reach Aladdin's cave which held the gold and silver treasure in the square box.

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Mrs Hazel Jacques came to Highfields in 1942.
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can you tell me about how the days were spent? Did you actually go out of the home to School, you went to local school?

Yes, we went to Bridge Road Girls' School and Moat Road School. First of all, we got up in the morning and we had to do a job, for example, dust the bedroom floor or get the coal in, or, get the breakfast ready. Then we went to school and at dinner time we had to do all the washing up before we left and it used to be a two hour dinner time then because it was double summer-time and or an hour and a half, it was a long dinner time anyway and then after school we'd have more jobs to do in the evening like getting the potatoes done and ready for the next day, all the potato peelings were taken down to the pig-swill bins which were all collected from East Park Road. We were not allowed to go out after school.

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How did you feel about living in the home?

We didn't mind it at all really, because on Saturday afternoon we went to the Evington cinema and if we didn't, we'd go to church on Sunday, every Sunday.

There was a family of Catholics who came to live with us as well and they went to the Sacred Heart up the hill. They were given priority really because they had to go to confirmation classes after school and things like that. They got a bit more time to get out of the home than we did, you know? And then from the end of the war we went a bit further afield, because when we went to the Evington cinema, the manager there saw us and I had asked him if he could save us some seats! Sometimes we were a bit late getting there. The Evington cinema manager was Mr Bowland. I think he was something to do with the councillors of Leicester. He let us into the cinema for free! We all went upstairs and then instead of spending the pocket money we went for a walk to one of the girl's father's houses. We went and cleaned up for him. He used to work at the Leicester Mercury offices. He was a shift worker and course it was nice for him to come home and have his fire made and table laid for one.

So you saw your parents?

Yes, we used to go to the hospital for our chest X-rays.

Ah, did your parents have tuberculosis?

TB? Yes.

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We all wrote a letter to our parents in hospital, how we didn't like it, and they made us work scrubbing the floors or dusting the bedrooms! Matron read the letters, I mean she shouldn't have. Then she said, "Well, you can't write that," she says, "You'll have to do it again." She gave me another piece of paper and told me what to write because then she knew how I really felt about her.

Gosh, as though you were in prison, really!

Oh yes!

As though it was some sort of punishment!

Yeah, that's right, we used to call it The Prison!

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There was a Roman Catholic girl who I was forever squabbling and fighting. She was the eldest, and I was second eldest. Well I'd been in the home about 2 years, and I felt it wasn't fair that she should come just for a month and then she was the eldest! So I had to go to Countesthorpe for my punishment. I used to scrub the floors there until 10 o'clock at night!

Oh!

Yeah, that was a wicked place, at Countesthorpe.

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we were always well clothed.

Did they choose the clothes for you?

No, we had what was always handed down, they were always brown tweed coats and berets, and blazers and school tunics and blouses.

So you had a uniform really?

Like a uniform, yes.

You couldn't choose your own things at all?

Oh no, no! Our clothes were taken off us as soon as we got there!

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Did they say what sort of hairstyle you had to have?

Yes, it had to be cut short with a ribbon in it. Yeah. It wasn't until one of the little girls, one of the Catholic girls came in (her name was Margaret), with black ringlets, (oh, she was pretty) she didn't want her to have her hair cut, so we said we wouldn't have ours cut either. You couldn't cut those ringlets off you know, we all objected . We hated the hairdressers! The lady would get the clippers and cut the back of our hair, like a boy. It was awful! We hated it! If the sirens went off we used to say, "Hope the hairdresser is bombed!"

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Spinney Hill park, now that had a big hole dug in it, and all the soil went along the other side of the fence in the park, near the poplar trees, they've been cut down. The lads used to ride up and down on their bikes and run up and down the hills.

And what happened with the hole they dug in the middle?

The hole? Well, it was filled with water, and a big concrete casing put round it, and I don't know whether there was anything on top, but somebody did get drowned in it.

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We had a shelter built in our backyard, it was underneath an ammunition factory! Oh, it was quite funny, that! Ma used to let us stay in her sitting room, the french doors used to be open in case we had to run to the shelter. When we slept in the shelter we were in all these bunks. Coventry came in for the very bad bombings. Tichborne Street got a lot of the bombing here in Leicester.

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After the war, when the King and Queen drove through the park, I was in the Guards then, not the Guides- it was the Salvation Army Guards who leader looked after us.
When the King and Queen came, they wanted two girls to stand with the standards at the gate, so me and Betty Matthews stood one side of the gate with the flag, and I stood the other side with the Salvation Army flag and the Union Jack! The King and Queen came through and the King saluted the flag! The minute that the car had gone, everybody was running across the park to go and get another view of them.

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The victory parade was about 3 miles long and it lasted ages. The streets were packed with people coming back, you had to be careful your shoes didn't get stuck in the tramlines. The trams used to run up East Park Road.

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Every Christmas morning we had our photograph taken with the Lord Mayor outside the receiving home on Mill Hill Lane. Then Councillor Court, he used to give us all sixpence, and where the sixpences went, who knows. I don't know where they went. We never spent them!

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Miss Alma Knight was born in Highfields in 1923.
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I know a lot of parents were very caring round here, they would collect the children and take them home. Mothers used to wait for you when you came out because you were at school a bit later then. I think it was about 4pm or 4.15pm, something like that. In the dark winter evenings they all used to meet outside and have a little chat,

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Mr Aidan Maguire came to Highfields in 1962.
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Of course, everyone remembered the place at the top of Sherratt Road and St Saviours Road. It was the Black Boy. I think it stood out for a lot of people because it was a local public house.

Did a lot of people go there?

I think they did, it was quite a meeting place. People went on the Saturday night and some of them took the children and some of them didn't.

Were the children allowed in?

I think they were allowed if I remember rightly. I remember a chap I worked with, Joe Randall, he told me that he used to go sometimes with his father into the 'Snug'. His dad would take him on Saturday nights and they would have a sing song. It was one of those things in them days.

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There was a coal house.

At the back?

Yes, we used to have coke as well.

Did the coalman have to bring the coal through the house?

No, we had an entry at the back, everybody went up and down the entry and everyone played in it. It was great, the coalman used to come to everyone in the area. He would come from down the bottom of Nedham Street.

Did he have horse and cart?

No, I think there was a lorry, a coal lorry.

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We had a teacher there called Mr Foot. I remember him because he had a bird and I was quite good at art. I am still not too bad, but I used to do a lot of drawings. I was quite popular at school I think. There were lots of other people there – West Indian people and Asian people. I remember one of my mates, his name was Rashid, he was a Pakistani kid and one of my best friends.

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I was actually reading something in the Leicester Mercury couple of weeks ago about kids' games. I remarked to one of my sisters that they don't play games like they used to. I suppose there are other things today like computers.

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We used to play Snobs and Marbles! I was an absolute marble fanatic because my mate at school Rashid, was a fantastic marble player. I used to have bags and bags of marbles.

What were Snobs?

Snobs were little square pieces of wood that you put on your hand. You threw one up and you would have to pick another one up. Some of them would be different colours
The girls played with a club ball in a stocking and stand it next to the door. They would lift a leg and bang off the wall!!! I can't remember what that was called now, I don't know.

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You don't realise it until you get a bit older but that to move from one environment to another was like being thrown into a crazy world. There were so many people around, you know, different people as I said. People I had never seen around before, black people and kids in classes with turbans on. It was quite a change to have all them in one year.

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When I arrived in Highfields it was changing. A lot of places were in the process of being knocked down because they had been bombed. We used to call them the 'bombed buildings'. It was just another play area for us.

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We didn't venture too far away from Berners Street, I mean when we were really small. We would class Melbourne Road as miles away, we ventured no further than maybe two or three streets away. When we were growing up we used to always say once you got over Swain Street bridge, we were in a foreign country!

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I remember I was quite trendy really! My mum bought me a pair of hipsters, I was only about 6 or 7. I had a pair of hipster trousers and an imitation leather jacket. My sisters started to buy me things and dressed me like a little mod.

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Did you ever go to the cinema that was on Melbourne Road and Nedham Street?

Yes, every Saturday morning we went there. I remember having my badge with a star on it, I loved it. Even today, I love films and pictures. It was absolutely fantastic. We used to go there on Saturday mornings to the matinees, my little mate Rashid was a film fanatic and all us kids used to go every Saturday morning, it was just absolutely choc-a-block, you could never hear the films because everyone was shouting and going crazy. I always remember everyone's favourite was Captain Marvel, and when he used to turn into Captain Marvel and say 'Shazam!', everyone used to go crazy. I mean we would all come out and run up the street, and we would be cowboys and indians and act out the films. That's what we did for the rest of the week!!!

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I remember I had a friend who lived on the corner of Duffield Street, there was a big Irish family there called the McKanans. Brian was very big for his age, he grew up to be about six foot six eventually, but we dressed him up like a 'guy'. Our 'guy' looked the best around but things got a bit dangerous when we spotted the 'policeman spirit' coming up Melbourne Road. We said to Brian, "Don't move Brian, stay there because here comes policeman spirit." Of course, basically he would class it as begging, all we wanted to get was sweets, but Brian got up and ran up Duffield Street dressed as a 'guy'. The policeman said later on when he caught us, that it was the first time he had seen a walking guy!

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I remember when I was really young there was a band stand.

Can you remember having bands there?

Vaguely, there must have been. I remember there was a big large marble fountain which was near the old Tea Cup. It was a large building. They just let it go, which I thought was terrible, they should have kept really.

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when the summer came they used to have summer schools at the old Moat Boy's school. They were great, everybody went to that.

What is a summer school?

We used to have organised things, sports, there would be cooking for the girls. There was football and you could go in there and do painting and things like that and it was quite good.

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Maybe a lot of the girls round the area looked forward to going there because there was something actually for them. Whether it seemed to be more catered towards the lads I don't know, I never knew there was too many things for girls.

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I actually remember going there I remember going to where the adventure playground is when we were about five or six, our class did a nature thing in a meadow. I remember one of the kids seeing a grass snake!

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Marjorie Marston was born in Highfields in 1942.
Extract
I remember when I first started to school I caught whooping cough so I ended up with bronchitis and double pneumonia. I didn't go back to school again for another year but I used to love school. I went to St Peter's Junior School, St Peter's Infants first then Junior. I made a lot of friends there and we had a really happy time.

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At school at Christmas we used to have fancy dress parties which I remember quite well. I remember going one year as Little Bo Peep with all the crinolines and everything. We didn't have a lot of money, obviously we didn't have television then, we used to listen to the radio a lot, listen to records, it sounds ancient doesn't it? But it was that far back. We just made a lot of our own entertainment , we played cards, played darts. My father used to like playing darts, we generally had quite a happy childhood I think.

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I was only three when the war ended, so I don't really remember an awful lot about the war at all. I remember afterwards having ration books still and going to the local shops to buy sweets with the ration books. I also remember masks you know the oxygen masks they used to wear sort of thing, I remember those we had them in the house.

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You made your own entertainment, you took balls, bats or whatever and played around. We also used to play whip and top a lot, spinning top and hop scotch. When I was younger we used to have a lot of rummage areas or whatever you call them, we used to go on there, set up little camps and play what they call 'mothers and fathers' and that kind of thing. Also on Swain Street, you know Swain Street Bridge? We used to stand there and watch the trains go by, that was a regular place for train spotting.

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Bonfire Night, we used to have bonfires in the middle of the roads. Do you know where St Peter's Junior School is in Twycross Street? Well, in Gopsall Street, there used to be one right outside the school, a great big one and as we lived just over the road, it used to be really handy. We used to be out there probably until twelve at night with this bonfire going and there used to one at the other end of the street as well, because there weren't a lot of cars, it wasn't a problem.

So who used to organise these?

We used to organise them ourselves. We all used to collect some wood and plonk it on the bonfire and everyone used to get their fireworks and start them up and people used to come out, stand on their doorsteps and watch.

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Did you used to make the Guy Fawkes dummy?

Yes, we did. We had the Guy Fawkes to put on the top and roast potatoes and treacle toffee and things all sorts of things. You don't see a lot of that these days. Dancing round bonfires sort of thing you know even that seemed to be safer then

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I remember being in Hospital, the Leicester General Hospital. I must have been about five I think. My mother and father used to come and look at me through the oxygen tent. I took a blue rag doll and I thought this was wonderful but they wouldn't let me bring it out with me and that really upset me. They said it was something to do with germs. Of course they might have had a policy then of not bringing toys out of hospital then, I don't know, but I seem to remember it was left behind for some reason or another. I didn't go back to school for a year then.

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We used to have a nice Christmas, we didn't have much, you know, we used to have a stocking with an orange, an apple, a few coins, some chocolate not a lot of toys the way they have them today. We used to have one toy or one item that we really wanted and that used to be it but we used to enjoy ourselves. The whole family used to get together on Boxing Day; my mum used to make trifles etc. Before she married she used to be Assistant Head Cook at Groby Road Hospital so she could cook, and she passed it on to me

Did you have a Christmas Tree?

Oh yes, we always had a Christmas tree and decorations. We used to have streamers I seem to remember that we had a lot more white Christmas's as well, you know, a lot more snow at Christmas times.

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We always used to have a new dress for Whitsuntide you know, usually a cream one. I don't know why that was, with nice cream shoes and white socks etc., that always happened.

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Did you used to go to the church quite often?

We did, I always went to Sunday School, and we went on a few outings, things like that. Sunday School outings used to be out to Bradgate Park and we used to go and climb over the rocks and everything.

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And the Fairs. I notice you have got something down here about Fairs. We used to have a big Fair on Lee Street Circle, where we have built all the shops now. I remember going down to that one year with my father and my two younger brothers and getting lost, I remember that very well. I think my brother was about two so I must have been about seven or something like that. I remember seeing someone, and this is how safe it was then, I remember seeing someone who reminded me of my next door neighbour and I followed him all the way home. I managed to get home, yes, I just walked behind him because I knew it was somebody I knew. My father was frantically going round the fair looking for me and I was safely at home.

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I remember we used to go to the local shops and get things called locus beans; they were long brown things that we used to chew on instead of sweets because obviously, sweets were short and we could only have a certain amount on a ration book.

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I used to go to the Working Men's Club sometimes because my father used to belong in the Working Men's Club, that was in Oxendon Street I think. They used to put on shows there, we used to sit down and have a drink, a bit like the working clubs are now, children used to sit and have their crisps and their soft drinks that used to be a regular treat every week.

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Mrs Margaret Porter came to Highfields in 1923.
Extract
The sweet shop on that side of Conduit Street was full of wonderful sweets for children which were put into little triangular bags. I think you could get a bag for a farthing or a half-penny in those days. Sweets consisted of aniseed balls, coconut chips, sherbet dabs etc. There was a better quality confectionery shop on the other side of Conduit Street where my mother paid weekly to obtain a Crown Derby teapot full of chocolates one Christmas.

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We shared a large communal back yard with 6 of the shops: Mr Johnson, Mr and Mrs Whittaker, Mr and Mrs Bamford, Mrs Wacks, the tobacconist and Dunkleys (who had their own portioned off section of the yard for a time). We had no garden but the yard was lovely to play in for Joyce and Mary Whittaker and myself (the only children on the yard). We each had our own shed, my father's shed contained his potato-peeling machine and store of potatoes (it was known as the potato shed). There was also a communal wash-house containing two or three mangles and an outside tap. Beyond this at the top of the yard, were the row of toilets, one for each family, and then the very high brick wall separating the yard from the grounds of the workhouse. There was also a loft over the sheds with wooden steps leading up to it, which belonged to Mr Whittaker. This was used as a factory for a time, but later on we children were allowed to play in it (until the steps rotted).

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The living accommodation at the back of the shops was small but cosy. We had no electricity upstairs and had to use candles. (This didn't stop my mother from reading in bed at night with the candle-stick resting on a pillow). We had two bedrooms (no landing) and an attic reached by another set of stairs leading from the back bedroom. I remember playing in the attic with my dolls, as it had a very solid floor and was very clean but above it were the rafters of the roof.

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We walked to school and I can remember once meeting a flock of sheep being driven along Saxby Street (probably from the cattle-market) and hiding behind a tree.

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Brett Pruce was born in Highfields in 1955.
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Can you remember anything much before school?

Not really no, apart from the fact that we were just running round, being able to run around the streets.

You played out in the streets?

Yeah, a lot of the time.

What about the traffic?

Well, at times, when we were aged eight, nine or ten, there'd be three or four games of football in our street, and the odd cry would come up, you know, "car!" We'd grab the ball and stand on the kerb, you'd perhaps be able to play for another half an hour before another car came along.

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So was the playground a bit rough at times when you were very small?

Not so much at Gopsall Street. We had our scrapes. Don't get me wrong, we had our own little gangs if you like to call them, but we tended to be a bit territorial.

Were they the same people that you played with in the street?

Yeah, I think it was good that we all went to school together as well, but I think we had the lads in Stoughton Street and then you had Evington Street and Oxenden Street lads, and you know, every now and again you'd play football against each other, and the bulk of the time you got on well. But every now and again you got rid of your frustrations and there was a bit of a punch up, but nothing serious, nothing of the violence you get today. It was a bit of a twenty-second punch up and then that was it. You'd all be mates and playing football again.

Extract
It wasn't such a fun place by that time, especially when we got to the late Sixties. As I said before, I want tell you the bad points as well as the good points, but by that time things were deteriorating quite badly.

How did that affect you?

Well, it was an all encompassing thing because it affected everything you did. You couldn't play out so much.

Is that because there were cars or were you threatened?

Well, yeah, there were cars, there were also drinking clubs springing up. One opened up on the corner of Stoughton Street which was the John F. Kennedy Club. We experienced a lot of problems there, and there were houses of ill repute. Two sprang up more or less dead opposite to us, which obviously posed their own sort of problems. You know we witnessed quite a bit of violence there. My brother and I had the front bedroom, my mum and dad had the other front bedroom, but then we had to move and share and segregate the middle bedroom at the back of the house because of car doors slamming all night.

Keeping you awake?

Yeah, a car would scream up, two doors would slam, the front door would open, the front door would slam! Ten, fifteen minutes would elapse, the front door would open, the front door would slam, the car would start up and then roar off down the street. And this was going on all night!

And how old were you then?

Well, this is in the mid-Sixties from 1966 to 1967 onwards. Probably that's when I started to notice it. I think it was at the same time as the John F. Kennedy Club opened, and most mornings there would be somebody asleep in our entry. Or at best they would have relieved themselves in the entry! But physically having to step over people when you're going to school doesn't set you off in the right frame of mind. My dad worked and he had always gone so my mum would perhaps deal with it.

So how would you get rid of somebody .

Just wait for them to wake up and make their way home.

Was that people who lived in Highfields, or people coming into Highfields?

Yeah, if they were walking I would assume they lived in Highfields, drinking clubs like that were a bit of a rarity at the time, so I would have thought people would have travelled in to the area to go to their places.

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Did you not go into Leicester much?

Oh, yeah, we walked into town quite a lot and went round, but there wasn't a lot of money to throw around. I used to swim a lot at Vestry Street Baths. We could walk there in ten minutes, straight down over Swain Street bridge. We used to use Vestry Street a lot, and that's where my brother taught me to swim. Going into Leicester, we used to go down to some of the pictures in the town. But generally we used to use the flea pit, you know, Evington Cinema, which had a youngsters club there on a Saturday morning. Or we used to come out here to the Troc because it was a bit more upmarket ! We used to come out here and give the local lads round here some grief! But, not nasty, just rivalry that's what it was. I think that, I don't like calling them gangs, because, but I don't know if there's a better way of describing them, but we were just like a group of people who were very close.

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the late Sixties, early Seventies were a nasty time. I remember going to the youth club at St Peter's Church. I was a choir boy there for most of my youth and for the life of me, I can't remember what the church down at the bottom of Stoughton Street was now, but I was involved in the youth club there as well. But they all sort of disbanded when there were big fights, and drugs were being touted around so they both went, so there wasn't a lot to do. Well, I was in the Scouts. I was in the 23rd Leicester, which was on Egginton Street near the Evington Cinema. I was also in the Cubs. I've got a photo here of me in Stoughton Street in about 1960. I've got photos of the back of my house but nothing really that shows the area very well. At the back of our garden we had a bit of grass and our house backed onto a builders, Fox's Builders, who was in Evington Street. My brother and I used to go and jump over the wall and pinch wood to make sledges and things like that!

Extract
when we were younger, my mum and dad didn't have a lot of money, so we did camping holidays for several years. Mainly caravan holidays. They hated the east coast so we always tended to go down to either Wales or Devon or Cornwall. They really loved the Torquay area, and we tended to go to Paignton or Brixham for a week or two weeks whatever.

Did you go on the train?

Yeah most of the time. A couple of times we went by car. My dad never had a car, or not until- Oh, I think they were both over fifty when they passed their tests. So my dad had a motorbike and sidecar. I remember going all the way to Torquay in my dad's sidecar once. We had a lot of fun. Took a couple of weeks to get over it. They were firm believers in holidays and tried to get us a holiday a year. I know they scrimped and saved to make it a bit of a special event for us. We did go to the east coast a couple of times. A friend of my dad had a caravan in Hunstanton, and he let us use that two years running. It's not the same atmosphere or, it's just not as nice as going down to Devon or wherever.

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What about day trips?

Day trips. I remember going to Bradgate Park when I was as young as eight or nine, with my pals. I mean you could never do that now.

Well my son goes on his bike.

Yeah, I don't think I'd let my eleven year old go on his own. But it was just an idyllic place, you know.

Did you go on your bike?

Yeah, or on a bus. We used to get a bus down to the bus station. Then there was a bus that went out in a morning, then one that came back in the afternoon and we used to pile on that. But there'd be a gang of us, of about eight or nine. You know, the Stoughton Street Lads, if you like! When I see the Bash Street Kids I always think it was too close for comfort because we were rough and ready, and we got into scrapes. There were the odd broken window, but nothing malicious. It was just a different atmosphere .

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You'd decide to go somewhere for the day?

Yeah, and that would be it. We just got up and went with them and that was it. Wicksteed Park was the odd trip, but they were only odd trips but they were special treats. You know I got quite a lot out of the Cubs and Scouts. I remember going to Dover with them and to Scarborough, and also to Conway in North Wales, which was a bit of a Godsend for my mum and dad. If in a year they hadn't got a lot of money, at least, you know, I got a holiday.

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There were eight years between my brother and myself, and I was always a bit of a problem to him, because in the Sixties I was just a young sprog and of course, he was into motorbikes. Yeah, he was one of the rockers , I suppose you'd call them now. You know I was too young for the mods and rockers thing. He was always out on the motorbike in the leather jacket and all the bits. A bit of a god to me, you know.

Was that a group in Highfields? Did he have a similar group to you?

Yeah, all his mates. Again they were all Moat boys. They were all the same age and all had the same interests. There used to be a row of motorbikes outside our house, and of course the younger lads would all be saying, "Look at that", you know, "Let's have a sit on it", or whatever and they were like gods to us because they were doing everything that we couldn't. There were all sorts of fights, but we never saw any of that. Never seemed to happen round our way.

So he had the same sort of friends that you had?

Yeah, oh very much so. It was very community based if you like. You didn't stray much outside your patch.

Extract
at secondary school because obviously when I was at secondary school, we were the minority at Crown Hills, the Highfields lads, probably only half a dozen of us, probably less than that in our class. There used to be four or five of us who would walk to school, or ride to school or go on the bus to school from where we were. But of course everybody else from there were coming from Goodwood and Evington, and Coleman Road. And it opened up new friends to you, you know, I've got pictures in there when we all went to Wembley from School. I could tell you where they all lived, there's nobody from Highfields there. There's one, Phil Chapman. He lived on Donington Street. But yeah, it was a tight knit community I have to admit. That creates its own problems. At times, you can be too tight knit, can't you? Everybody knows everybody else's business.

Was there much gossip?

Oh I think so, yeah. You would hear the expression "Over the garden fence". Well obviously we didn't have garden fences, we had six foot high walls in the back garden. So it was always on the front doorstep. The big gaggle of ladies. I'm not saying it was just ladies. Perhaps if a guy was fiddling with his car or a motorbike there'd be, you know, you'd have a gossip or whatever.

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Cars started in the mid-Sixties really, up at the Highfields. I can't remember if there was a metal working factory on the same side as us. I think that it later turned into an alarm company called Able Alarms. Then there was CES Electrics on the other side so cars parking there tended to creep down towards our house. We were only number 7. We were like the third or fourth house in from when the houses started. The factory units were great because they had big doors that we could play football against. One of them was goal size. Perfect. Absolutely perfect. As things got busier the cars, the parking, encroached all the way down.

Spoilt your games?

Well they did, because when you kicked the ball against their car they got mad. That's when we tended to go up to the Spinney Hill Park.

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Councillor Farook Subedar came to live in Highfields in 1972.
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there was a need for young children to celebrate their Eid because it's an event, Eid itself is happiness. A child needs to identify what Eid means to him or her. So when the Mela came, most of the children were blessed with Duas.

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Mrs Nora Swift was born in Highfields.
Extract
After moving to Garden Suburb we used to walk from there as children (it must have been at least a four mile walk) to visit my aunt at the shop in Bakewell Street, which sold everything from fuel lighters to lovely big square boxes of biscuits, what a sight and smell!

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The most outstanding thing I can remember was walking across Spinney Hill Park. The sheep were grazing on the hillside, what a lovely sight and not one smelly grass mower in sight!

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Mary Thornley came to live in Highfields in 1912.
Extract
Can you remember much of your childhood before you went to school?

Well I suppose I did. I went to school at five and my grandparents lived with us as well so I had plenty of company before I started.

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Do you remember much of the first world war. Does anything stand out in your mind?

Oh yes, Zeppelins and things like that. I got very scared. I used to go to bed and then come down again and sit outside the sitting room door until they found me sitting there in the cold. Yes, it was rather frightening.

Did they make a noise?

Yes they did. I can't remember any bombs or anything dropping there. They did bomb Evington Street quite near to my mother. I don't ever remember being hungry or anything, but I think that there was a shortage of some foods.

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My father had an allotment in Green Lane Road. He used to go with his father. I think they used to keep chickens but they certainly had a vegetable allotment down there and I can remember walking down Green Lane Road when it was more like a country road you know with trees, nothing like it is now.

You walked from your house to Green Lane Road?

Yes, yes.

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Mr Eric Tolton was born in Highfields in 1916.
Extract
Could you remember where you used to get the gas mantles from?

No, because there was a number of shops in Bonsall Street. There was another shop in Egginton Street but quite honestly as a young boy, I wasnt interested in the shopping side of things so Im not sure where anybody got the gas mantles from.

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Just a question, can you remember where your mother did her washing?

Oh, that was a days job in the backyard with a dolly tub.

Was it outside?

Oh yes. My job sometimes was to turn the handle on the mangle.

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I realise that you were very young during the first world war, but do you remember any of it?

No, no, I was born middle of the war. The first thing I remember was my father was in Hospital at Lewisham I think it was, and my mother took me down to see him. I dont remember the hospital, and I dont remember seeing my father but when I came out there was a victory procession going by and I can remember my mother lifting me up on her shoulders so that I could see this parade as that went by and thats all I can remember. I was two years old then.

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Can you remember your first day at school?

Yes, I ran home from Melbourne Road School and the Infants gate was in Berners Street you see, because I had never mixed with other children and there was a lot of rough lads there. I was scared stiff and when it came to playtime, the teachers used to sit on a small bench along one of the walls and Id just go and stand around and be near to them. There was one teacher who would tell me to go and play with the other children. But I would run home. I did that twice. They started locking the gate after that. But mother was the sort to put on her coat and get me straight back to school!

Were the classes big, can you remember?

They didnt strike me as massively big, might have been thirty. A lot of the time we sat on mats on the floors and then round the wall. There must have been a long bench like thing and part-hinged over, and when it was sleeping time you put your head down.
There was a period of time when you were supposed to sit quiet, say nothing and do nothing.

How old were you when you went to school?

Five.

So it would have been 1921?

Yes, yes thats right.

Extract
Moving on out of school time and into what you did in your own time, when you came home from school, did you play out on the street?

We played out a bit because we used to play marbles and faggies.

Cigarette cards?

Yeah.

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When I was eleven I joined the Boys Brigade because they were very good at putting on different activities, we used to go swimming and such like.

Tell me what you did in the Boys Brigade?

Oh we did a First Aid course. Ive got a First Aid badge and I joined the Band and learned to play the drum. We went swimming and did a certain amount of marching. In those days the army marched in columns of four not three like they do nowadays you see, and you formed up in a double rank. You had to do what they call form fours, one step back to make four columns you see. That took a lot of practising and a lot of time was spent doing that. Actually it was through the Boys Brigade that we formed a class at St Johns Ambulance in Seymour Street, off Sparkenhoe Street. I dont know whether it is still there, I should imagine it is. No, I dont know whether St Johns Ambulance is still there, we used to go once a week to a class there doing Ambulance training.

So this would have been 1927, something like that?

Yeah 1927 to 1930.

Extract
Did the Boys Brigade march through the street then?

Oh yes. I dont know whether it was once a month that we had a parade to Wesley Hall, we used to meet in Asfordby Street. You wouldnt know Adcocks the Tripe Shop, corner of Asfordby Street and Green Lane Road. We used to meet there, because both Adock boys were in the Boys Brigade and. Occasionally there was a battalion parade through the whole of the city from the different churches.

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Do you remember about transport buses or trams or getting about?

Well there was the tramcar but you more or less walked everywhere. As I say, I went to City Boys School and lived on Mere Road, but you never dreamt of going on a tramcar to school. You walked to school. I came home for dinner and then it was back to school again. I couldnt do it now. Well, it amazes me coming up from the town on the bus, on the Aylestone Road and school children get on the bus and a couple of stops further on they get off again, I dont know, I never dreamt of that sort of thing when we were young.

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Do you remember, did you use Spinney Hill Park much? You lived very near it.

Ah, as a child yes, it was a thing to take sandwiches and have your tea on Spinney Hill Park and then in later life, I used to go and watch the cricket. There used to be a lot of cricket matches on the mens cricket pitch down there. All the factories played, oh nearly every night. There used to be crowds watching them, theyd got seven or eight matches on the cricket pitch and there was one fella, I cant remember his name now, they all liked to see him, he could hit the ball right over East Park Road. I think he played for the Imperial Typewriters. I think that was the firm he played for but it was a regular thing, you got crowds of men, well girls/women as well I suppose, I wasnt really conscious of the opposite sex at that time.

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Did you go away on holiday much?

Well when the children were younger, prior to that, going back to the beginning before I was married, I had got an aunt at Southampton and an aunt at Oswestry, and they were the two places we used to go on holiday. I do remember going with my mother to Yarmouth or was it Lowestoft? No, Lowestoft for a fortnight. That was a big thing in those days but when I had got the family we used to go to Mablethorpe and this sort of thing then we went to the Isle of Man. The most holidays we had were in the last ten years of my wifes life. We used to go abroad a lot, she loved travelling and I was only too grateful that we were able to do this in our later years, but prior to that with the children, it was just ordinary seaside holidays, it was nothing special. Scarborough, Yarmouth, Torquay, Paignton I think we went to Llandudno.

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you made your own pleasure, there was no television and videos and all these mechanical things that they play with nowadays, nothing like that whatsoever. We used to play whip and top all along Mere Road from one end to another, there was no traffic. Wed stand in the middle of the road and whack the thing and go running after it and bowling hoops, you know the hoops, we used to run all along Mere Road. Whether there was an odd bicycle came a long I dont know.

Was Mere Road then the cobbles that part of it still is?

Some of the bits by the park entrances there are cobbles that are under the tarmac.
You said there was no traffic on the road. No.

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Deliveries like your coal, did they come by horse and cart then?

Horse and cart, yes. We had the milk from the dairy in Berners Street, Cleavers.

Have you heard of Newbys Dairy?

No. There was one in Highfields called, it was Mrs Newby but we dont know where she operated from we have actually got a picture.

There was Mr Flowers along Mere Road. Flowers, a dairy along Mere Road. Oh Flowers he was a Freeman he sat on the Milk Marketing Board during the war. On the far side of St Peters Road that section of Mere Road. But we had our milk from Cleavers in Berners Street and the young fella, he had got a float and he used to pick me up on Saturday mornings and take me round with him. It was quite high up on the back of these things and when he had finished his round and the horse was trotting back down Melbourne Road, yeah it was lovely.

And was this milk in bottles?

No, no it was poured into a jug and you had a lace netting sort of thing to put on the top to keep the flies out.

So people came out with a jug to buy their milk?

Yes, oh yes.

And it was ladled?

Yes, oh yes definitely.

Out of churns?

Yes.

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next door, 168, they were school teachers, it was quite a posh area and a school teacher was somebody to be respected in those days, yes you know, like I was going to say doctors, but I dont know whether doctors are respected nowadays like they used to be. Because I was a naughty boy I was, I used to have an awful temper and my mother wanted me to do something, I cant remember what it was now, and I was playing up kicking my feet and screaming at the bottom of the entry and this lady next door Mrs Bowman, the teacher, she came out oh she didnt half give me a lecture.

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Did you have pocket money?

I had a penny from my mother and my aunt that lived in Worthington Street, I used to do her shopping for her on Saturday morning and I got twopence, that were my pocket money.

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What did you spend your pocket money on?

Sweets, gobstoppers and the like.

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Mrs Muriel Wilmot came to live in Highfields in 1927.
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I remember playing out in the dark in the entrance chasing one another, we thought it was great fun.

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All families on a Sunday night used to gather round the piano and they used to have a sing song. You would probably sing hymns or home sweet home or that type of thing. You made your own amusement. There was court playing. You get little games on the lawn, battle door and shuttle cock and those things, which I don't think kids really experience the pleasure of now, they just sit there looking at that box all while – it spoils conversation in a family household.

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I thank my father for a lot of things I know, because he always used to talk to me. When he came home from work, he used to take me down the country lanes and he used show me the trees and he used to say "Look dear, that's an Oak tree" and he would show me the wild roses and the tips and tell me that you can make syrup out of those tips and everything like that, I learned from my father.

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Mrs Dorothy Woodford was born in Highfields in 1921.
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One day, never to be forgotten, my father brought home a wireless set which he had purchased from a friend for 1. This caused great excitement. Dad fixed it up in the fireside cupboard in the living room and being the eldest, I was entrusted with the job of taking the accumulators to be charged. These were quite heavy for a child to carry, and I was terrified of spilling the contents on my legs as I had been warned they contained sulphuric acid which would cause horrible burns if it came in contact with the flesh.

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At the bottom of Sparkenhoe Street there was a row of small shops – Bamfords the butcher, Whittakers the green-grocers, Halls fish shop, Coles bakery, and opposite, Gearys the chemist, whose windows were resplendent with large bottles filled with brilliant jewel coloured liquids.

Upper Conduit Street was another source of interest. Mrs Smith ran an off licence at the corner of Gartree Street where customers took their jugs to be filled with ale. Opposite was Goodalls the grocer. My favourite shops were the sweet shop run by Mrs Norman, a large rosy cheeked woman with black hair and a jovial manner, and Mrs Markham's general shop on the corner of Framland Street.

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Our Saturday pennies were spent at these two shops. For 1/2d. we could buy an ice-cream cornet from Mrs Norman liberally sprinkled with ruby red colouring. Mrs Markham's small shop was to a child, a veritable Aladdin's Cave – cards of 'jewelled' rings 1/4d, necklaces, beads etc for 1/2d. Novelties galore, and Mrs Markham, a small shrivelled old lady had endless patience whilst we tried to make up our minds what to buy.

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Every Friday evening, we children would look out of the front window waiting for our dad to return from work. Friday was pay day, and on his way home dad would buy a couple of kippers for tea, a real tasty treat!

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Sunday was a busy day. If we had been good during the week we would sometimes find a little treat tied to the brass bedhead, usually a whipped cream walnut (then 2d. each). After breakfast (always egg and bacon), dad would polish our shoes till they shone, and wearing our Sunday 'best' we went off to morning Sunday school held in Gopsall Street. This was presided over by Miss Glover who I believe was also a day school teacher. We all sat in small classes of 5 or 6, were told a Bible story after we had each to do a drawing. At least 3 hymns were followed by prayers – one of which sticks in my mind was for 2 Burmese children 'Eethet' and 'Weesoe' (spelling undoubtedly wrong), but the pronunciation is accurate! We were given a penny for collection and I can honestly say the morning collection went in the bag! Alas, when after a roast Sunday lunch we were again dispatched to afternoon Sunday school (so that our parents could enjoy a nap), I have to confess I would only put 1/2d in the other collection. I would quietly take the other 1/2d. round to Mrs Norman's shop and buy chocolate raisins (which remain a weakness to this day).

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My parents did their very best to instil good standards in us. We were allowed to play with certain friends in Seymour Street and Highfield Street (Gartree Street was considered to be a little lower in the social strata and friendships not particularly encouraged).

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It was quite safe for children to play unsupervised in the local parks – we were merely warned to be careful of the trams when crossing London Road, and told quite firmly what time we had to return home. I remember a very pleasant elderly gentleman who frequented Victoria Park, who always had a pocketful of sweets for the children. I seem to remember my mother telling me it was Percy Gee. Certainly in those days the most caring of parents seemed to have little fear for their children when talking to strangers.

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On the other side of Sparkenhoe Street the houses were rather bigger and my best friend lived in one of these. She was Joyce Hart, a Jewish girl who was a descendant of Sir Israel Hart, one of the city's past benefactors. The Harts had a maid called Florrie as Mrs Hart, (Joyce's mother) helped in the family radio business. Florrie would be detailed to take the three of us to the 'Vicky' Park, and I remember she often seemed rather disgruntled at the responsibility!

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As an only child with both parents working, Joyce was a lonely child and I was often invited to tea. I received these invitations with mixed feelings. I was only used to mother's home-made cakes, and the cream horns and chocolate eclairs gracing the Hart's table were temptation indeed! On the other hand, Joyce's father wore a little skull cap at the table and this for some unaccountable reason scared me a little. Joyce loved to have tea at my house as she so enjoyed my mother's home-made fancy cakes and jam tarts.

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Sunday was the one night of the week we were allowed to stay up for supper – usually cold roast and pickles or (what I preferred) bread, cheese and pickles, though mother was convinced that cheese at night was too indigestible for a child.

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Apart from the usual childhood ailments – Measles, Chicken Pox, etc. we were rarely ill. All good parents made sure their children were 'regular' with a weekly dose of syrup of figs. In spring we had a course of sulphur tablets later followed by brimstone and treacle (a gorgeous concoction) to clear the blood! In the winter we had a daily dose of cod-liver oil and malt, or Scotts Emulsion which was in a fascinating bottle with a label portraying a man carrying a fish over his shoulder almost as big as himself. If we seemed a bit below par mother would buy a bottle of Parish's Food, said to be full of iron, and therefore disastrous to teeth if not cleaned immediately after taking a dose.

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My father was very particular regarding the type of newspaper allowed in the house. The Daily Express was acceptable, as was Titbits (though mother had some reservations). The Mirror and News of the World was definitely out! We children had the Children's Newspaper every Saturday which I recall was a most interesting publication.

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Somehow, my parents always managed to take us to the east coast for a weeks holiday. As funds were low, mother and we girls travelled by either coach or train. Father would set off in the early hours of the morning on his bike- he was always there to meet us on arrival. In Gorleston-on-Sea we had rooms with a Mrs Watson. Mother would take quite a lot of provisions from home (having accrued a 'store' in the preceding weeks) and Mrs Watson would do the cooking for us all. Father, being a Norfolk man, always insisted on Yarmouth bloaters for breakfast. On the last night of the holiday we would be treated by our parents to a sit down fish and chip supper in a sea-front cafe – joy indeed!

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November 5th. Every year my father would bring home a small selection of fireworks – Catherine Wheels (duly pinned on the line prop), Roman Candles, Jumping Jacks and the like. After the display in our small back garden, we would then do the rounds of all the side streets in the neighbourhood where bonfires would be alight in the middle of the street. I suppose it must have been a bit risky, but I don't recall any fire getting out of hand.

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Marie Lawson was born in Highfields in 1943.
Marie's recollections are reported here by by Peter Chamberlain

Marie Lawson was born in 1943 at # 6 Gartree Terrace, Highfields. It was a dead end street with row houses built in the 1600's. Marie grew up at #6 Gartree Terrace from about 1943 until the late 1950's. She told me Gartree Terrace no longer exists having been replaced by new construction when the city was rebuilt after the war.

She attended the Dale School for Girls. She told me she was always active and full of energy as a child. She often ran along the top of the sidewalk barriers on the bridge in front of Midland Station. She and her friends would sometimes steal apples from one of the local apple orchards. Most of the time the apples were green, not ripe, and she'd get a stomach ache after eating them. On one occasion when she, her older sister, Betty and her friends were stealing apples, they all ran away as the owner came out. All except her sister Betty who had climbed up the tree and couldn't get down fast enough. She was caught by the owner before she could escape.

She remembers the cobblestones on Gartree Terrace, the row house built in the 1600's with no heat, no electricity, no indoor plumbing, the steep staircase to the second floor and her father telling her to stop running down the stairs, the lamp lighter who lit the street lamp each evening and sleeping in the same bed with her sister. She has told me she used a hot water bottle on winter nights to warm up the bed. She remembers her mother stoking up the fire in the kitchen fireplace each morning and serving porridge for breakfast. She remembers all the cats roaming around buildings destroyed during the War. She always took in strays.


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