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Entertainment

Mr Alex Acheson came to live in Highfields in 1938.
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I was very active in Wycliffe Ward Labour Party. We had some terrific struggles there, losing and winning council elections and that sort of thing. I met all sorts of people in Highfields because as you know, the St George's area and the Highfields' area being near to the railway, there were a lot of railway workers there who could walk to work on the early shifts in a very short time so we stayed there until 1953, when we moved up to Knighton.

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Mr Bakhsish Singh Attwal came to Highfields in 1957.
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Not much entertainment.

After a while somebody who was a Gujarati introduced Asian films. Would book a cinema and watch an Asian film. Everybody used to come otherwise used to go to pub, but I did not consume alcohol. Coach & Horses pub

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We would go to Spinneyhill Park on Sundays and would play cards,

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Roger Cave came to live in Highfields in 1940, the year he was born.
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they used to have boxing. We used to use St Hilda's Church which was over the road. They used to have a boxing competition which I don't think would be allowed these days, it would be classed as dangerous.

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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 my uncles were amateur radio broadcasters and they built their own television set out of a telly radiogram, like a big wooden cabinet that would house a radio and a record player. Well, they converted that, cut a piece out the front and put the television tube sticking through that, it was only a small nine inch. I remember clustering around this at Christmas, it must have been 1948-1950, it wasn't too long after the war.

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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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I can remember at the bottom of Oxendon Street, there was a Working Men's Club. It always used to be called the Highfields Working Men's Club, that was the main leisure centre for the area. I mean a lot of these Working Men's Clubs have died out now really but that was quite a focal point for people.

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Helen Edwards interviewing Sandy Coleman for Highfields Remembered.
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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 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.

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for the coronation we had our own little street party, we didn't join in Biddulph Street, we had our own in the avenue.

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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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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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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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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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My children would no sooner think of calling the next door neighbour, aunty and uncle.

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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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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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Mr Boleslaw Dobski came to Highfields in 1947/48.
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That was our beginning. It was very hard. Mind you, if we sometimes sit together with a beer and talk about the good old days and say "Well yes, it was good, but remember, how many socks did you have?!" You washed the socks so they were ready by tomorrow morning. The beginning was very hard but I should say that in the late Fifties, Sixties we felt we were getting somewhere. We did not ask for anything, we didn't get any grants, we didn't get any help from nobody and yet we managed to stabilise and we are quite alright now.

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Did it hold together as a community?

Yes. It was basically because we had all been ex-servicemen, and some of the women too, so that organisation stuck us together and the church kept us together too. As we have been here in a Protestant country and we are Catholics, we stuck together. We had to stick together otherwise we wouldn't have any churches. And of course, as we had children, we started the school and then we started other various organisations like the Boy Scouts, Girl Guides and so on, and dancing troops and so on. But that was all in the late Fifties and Sixties.

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Cultural activities, yes. Well the school. Well we started the first school around 1950 or 1952.

We got children together to learn the Polish language, the Polish culture. We introduced them to national dancing and theatre. We had a very prosperous theatre and choir and so we started growing as a community. But always we stuck together. Now all the younger generation is spreading into the English community, including myself. I don't go a Polish church anymore. I go to St Thomas Moore because it is nearer, you see.

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So the school started. From the beginning it was in the Dominicans, when we had parents and children. When we had 50, 60 children, we used the local school in Highfields next to our church. With one school there wouldn't have been enough room. There were some of us who had little political differencesbetween one faction and another. You see from the beginning we were all together, but once we had grown let's say, a little bit wiser, or God knows what, then we started quarrelling about politics. Some people accepted the situation in Poland, the communists. But there was another faction, like myself, we didn't agree to it. I have never been to Poland. We have grown into two factions politically and that way we split the school finally. Unfortunate I say, but there you are. That's what happened. And at that time we used to have up to 150 children in Saturday school.

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Do you still have a lunch club there for the elderly people?

No, no they don't. They have it now at the day centre on a Thursday. I am the chairman of the Polish ex-servicemen's association, and I opened a restaurant here. We have about twenty five, thirty people coming here for Sunday lunches in this room. Of course we have to convert it to a dining room. It is a big job but it is almost done and so, many people come in for their drink and their talk and they have their lunch and at three o'clock everybody goes home.

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In the beginning it was very hard, it took a long time to integrate and so probably that's why we stuck together. We had to have our own clubs, our own restaurants, our own church.

Yes, so if you went out for leisure purposes, or a dance or anything you largely went with Polish people did you?

Yes. We had so many dances at De Montfort Hall. We had the coronation celebrations of the Queen in Granby Halls. That floor in Granby Halls was made of asphalt. Have you seen it? We had been dancing all night, and then we came home and started undressing and my wife says to me, "I've got black legs, what's happened?" I pulled my things up. "Yeah, my legs are black too!" The ladies couldn't afford long dresses but we were dancing on the tarmac, and the dust went everywhere!

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Dr Stuart Fraser lived in Highfields from 1946 the year he was born.
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Did you used to have a television in the house?

No, we never had television until I was twelve or thirteen, we did have radio of course and I suppose that is a memory that I will always have, that my mother used to listen to the radio a lot and when I was younger I would be with her sitting and reading or doing whatever and the radio would be on and infact I do remember having blackouts. This would have the very early fifties or the late forties that my mother used to keep a stock of candles on hand in case of the blackouts, and there were black outs in the winter months, and we would have the fire going upstairs and we would have the candles to sit and read by. Of course there was no radio to listen to then.

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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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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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Mr Tirthram Hansrani came to live in Highfields in the late 1940s.
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I was here for 4 years without my family. I used to get up early and have breakfast and go to the market. I used to take 2 days off to buy the stock and do my own shopping. My brother's wife used to cook. I used to go and see my friends and brother for entertainment.

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Mr Abdul Haq came to live in Highfields in 1963.
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There's more Asian shops now, meat, clothing, fancy goods, spices. The park was beautiful, many people used to go summer time in nice weather. Very few Asian families in 1963. Only about three or four.

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Mrs Hazel Jacques came to Highfields in 1942.
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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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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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Mr Amarjit Singh Johl came to Highfields in 1964.
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How long did you stay without family?

My wife joined me after a year and half. But it was a strange feeling being without them, because I came from a large extended family. Here we were all male adults who only had to do the work. Most of them were illiterate and uneducated. I had very little in common with them. We had a different level of mental and psychological thinking, we used to live together and go out together. There were no means of entertainment. I used to keep busy at work.

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How did you entertain at the weekend and holidays?

It was customary to go to the pub after working hours. At the weekends we would go to the Indian pictures and enjoy ourselves. There was no other source of entertainment. There was a psychological and mental vacuum which was lacking. I used to keep myself busy at work so I did not have time to think. It was a hard time. At times it was unbearable.

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There was a couple of cinemas in the area. There was a picture house in Highfields on Melbourne Road. The Indian film society used to rent it for weekend pictures. People used to look forward to see the film next weekend. We use to go to see Indian films. I used to miss Indian music and songs.

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There was a pub near us. Everybody was given a drink at this pub who came from India. It was very popular place to go for drink. It was the first pub I went to when I came to the UK. Asian people were hospitable and I was entertained with many pints of beer. Now the pub has closed.

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Mr Aidan Maguire came to Highfields in 1962.
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Can we come back to when you say you were fifteen and you left school, what did you do in the evenings?

Well, by the time I was fifteen, we used to go a place called Black Friars which was on New Walk, it was adjacent to the Holy Cross Church. It was run by the Brothers. Most of the kids that went there were from Highfields, they were from Corpus Christi School, Moat Boys, Moat Girls and also people came in from English Martyrs which was another Catholic school on Anstey Lane.

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On Monday nights when I was about fifteen or sixteen, we used go to the Palais.

Where was the Palais?

Humberstone Gate. That was where we used to go because it was from fourteen to eighteen year olds on a Monday. We used to go to the discos and it was brilliant. We used to look forward to Friday night and Monday night, I used to get through work as quick as possible, it was something to look forward to really.

What time did they start?

They started at about 7, or half 7, and they would finish about 11 or 11 o'clock.

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We were mad on dancing, we used to love it. We used to go the Palais on Monday night with the West Indian kids who lived round the corner from me. I was really into music so it was great to go there with all the girls of course!

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in my mid teens, I spent a lot of time in a boy's club, a lot of us from Highfields used to go down to St Matthew's Boys' Club. We would play football at the St Matthew's Community Centre and that would take us all over the city. We used to go Eyres Monsell, Northfields and play football.

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There used to be the adventure play ground in Spinney Hill Park as well. We used play there.

Was it a centre of your life when you were young?

It was a place where everybody was drawn to. There would be about seven, eight games of football going on, and then you would have a lot of the Asian kids playing cricket the bottom and near the brook, you would very rarely see it now.

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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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I think it was Bate's Fair that came. I remember the ones in the seventies better because I was older. I mean, I always loved the Fair. I loved sitting in the Dodgems and things like that and you got all the music. The Asians always used to come from all over once the fair was there, all the Asian community seemed to descend on the Fair because they loved it.

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Most people went to the Fair and you know, people could wander round, my sisters would wander round. I would be with my and we would see everyone from posing with older girls friends!

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We used to have them down St Hilda's Church, that was a community thing, everybody went to rummage sales because amongst other things you would get little baked cakes and things like that. I suppose it was like the equivalent of car boot sales now.

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Tell me about this the Boy's Club at St Hildas?

I remember the guy who ran it, Ernie O'Connor. You could go in there for free, it was easy going and you could play table tennis and just mess about basically.

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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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They had the sports round on Spinney Hill Park or Ethel Road, the playing fields on Ethel Road. There were little medals and things for the winners, it was quite good. Everyone enjoyed the summer school round here because people were together.

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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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I used to go to a lot of West Indian's parties in my late teens every Saturday night. I mean I was really into music and one of my mates used to play in one of the famous reggae bands in Leicester called Grand Asians. They played all over the place and Rob was the saxophone player. He used to play at St Peter's Community Centre and the Phoenix Theatre. We would go to concerts and at the time we would go to a lot of concerts at De Montfort Hall, and at the University of Leicester. Then, you know we would go out on the town for a couple of drinks.

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Marjorie Marston was born in Highfields in 1942.
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Did you visit the cinemas?

Yes, our local cinema was the Evington cinema where its now an elderly people's home and also the Melbourne cinema across here.

Do you remember the price of the tickets?

Yes, at the Melbourne cinema it used to be nine pence we used to go in there. Nine pence downstairs and a shilling upstairs. And at the Evington I think it was sixpence, I'm not really sure but we used to queue to get in there every week and they used to be pretty good shows, we used to enjoy that.

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What about your teenage years what did you used to do for leisure?

For leisure, dancing mostly, we used to go out to the local Palais de Dance which is now The Zoots on Humberstone Gate, yes, that used to be quite an outing on a Wednesday. I thinkWednesday was the best night to go. As I say we used to go to the cinema and we also used to go to youth clubs. I used to belong to St Peter's Church and we used to go to the youth club there.

What sort of activities did you have there?

Oh, sport, tennis, we used to go out probably to visit the theatre occasionally odd little outings. It used to be attached to St Hilda's on the Melbourne Road. It's not St Hilda's now, it was attached to a sort of Methodist thing anyway, and we used to have Girls' Guildrey. I used to belong to Girls' Guildrey and I used to be in pantomime sometimes and so we had quite a good social life.

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I used to go out and just window shop in the town and then walk back home. Also we used to walk back from the dancing, we had to if we missed the last bus or whatever. But now I would be quite worried if my daughter was on her own and she had to walk back from anything like that

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we didn't have a television until I was about fourteen.

Did you go anywhere else to watch the television?

Yes, our Reverend had one, so he used to invite part of the Youth Club, (or as many as wanted) to go to his house and we used to go occasionally to watch it. It used to be fun but there again you see, we could walk back home from there and there was no problem. It was a lot safer than today definitely.

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Do you remember anything of the Carnival?

Oh yes, we have been to see it, we try to see it every year. Actually we think it is very good. We like all the music, steel bands, I particularly like those. This year I think it really excelled itself with all the costumes, bird costumes all brightly coloured, they were really nice.

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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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If there were parties or whatever they were local so we used to walk but to go into town we used to use buses. There used to be a bus stop on St Peters Road that I used to use that would take you down Swain Street bridge, straight into town. That's about all really, buses or your feet, you know, we didn't very often have taxis or anything until my father had a car and of course then he used to give us lifts.

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I do remember the Coronation, I didn't see it on television, just read about it in the papers and listened to it on the radio. Most of that day, I spent out marching in the rain in the street but I remember her getting married as well. Actually thinking about it, my mum took me to see her wedding dress in the Newarke Museum, they had it on exhibition there and we queued for ages to get in. That was the original wedding dress, it was doing a tour of the country, but it was lovely, it was worth seeing.

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I used to play tennis a lot on the parks on Victoria Park. I used to go swimming quite a lot either at Spence Street or Vestry Street.

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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.
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On Sundays (the only day the shop was closed) we often went on day trips to Skegness. This entailed packing sandwiches and walking all the way to Belgrave Road station very early in the morning. We knew we were nearing the sea when we saw fields of yellow mustard and Boston Stump (the church tower), and got very excited at the prospect.

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Brett Pruce was born in Highfields in 1955.
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Did he travel from Highfields to Coalville, then?

Oh yeah, he had a little motorbike or whatever it was. I can't remember what it was
now. I know when I was younger he travelled as the family grew, he wanted to get around a bit, so he bought a motorbike and sidecar. He invested in that so that he could get more of us on.

All four of you?

Yes, well no. He couldn't get the whole family on.

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When we were teenagers we used to use the Spinney Hill Park. It was a toss up between Spinney Hill Park or Victoria Park, and depending on the mood we would go and play on one of those parks. We were all football fanatics. We would rush in, have a bite to eat and then go out and play football. I'm not saying it was boring, but there wasn't particularly anything else to do.

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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!

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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.

Extract
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
What about the Fairs on the park? Did you go to those?

I don't remember. I don't remember any on the Spinney Hill Park as such. There was one on Victoria Park once a year I think. Then there was always the big one down at Abbey Park. Yeah, it's just an overall sort of memory of it being such a nice place, such a friendly place which went wrong. I mean I have to admit that was scared you know. I could look after myself , we can all do bits and bobs. But at the end it was out of control.

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Mr Charan Singh came to Highfields in the 1950s.
Extract
I found it hard to speak with the people at work. I used a lot of gestures and signs. After 2-3 weeks I started to speak bits of English. My English colleagues were very helpful. They were polite. The neighbours became friendly and we started to go to one anothers house and have meals. We became so friendly that I forgot about my family, that they were not with me.

Extract
The job was very heavy and difficult. The wage was £10-12. We used to get a Sunday free. On that day I had a bath, did the shopping, the cooking, etc. Then we all used to go to the Black Boy pub. There was a pub on every street.

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Councillor Farook Subedar came to live in Highfields in 1972.
Extract
Can you tell me about leisure activities, what did you used to do in your spare time?

Well, we used to have lots of sports activities here. I remember Highfields Youth and Cultural Centre (HYCC) was built in 1973 and that was our centre point for most of our recreational activities. Every evening, we used to come and play volley ball, then we used to come and set up our cricket team and things like that, and from there we would go to Victoria Park and Spinney Hill Park and play our football, outdoor games, cricket etc.

Extract
Do you remember any of the cinemas that were here?

There was a few cinemas. There was one called Sangam, one on Belgrave Gate, the other one was Evington cinema which is on the corner of East Park Road and Chesterfield Road, now it is an old peoples' home. There is another cinema on Green Lane Road, I'm talking about Asian cinemas. There were lots of English cinemas. I'm just giving you background on the Asian cinemas. Then there was a brand new one built on Belgrave Road called Natraj Cinema, it was purpose built. Nowadays, it's a Sari shop.

What about the Apsara?

Apsara cinema? Sorry I forgot that one. There there were five or six cinemas in the city of Leicester.

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Mrs Nora Swift was born in Highfields.
Extract
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
Do you feel then that people made their own entertainment?

Oh yes, yes I think they did. We used to do a lot at home on Sunday evenings we would have people in for tea and then sang and played. Mother sang a bit, she wasn't a professional, but she had quite a nice voice and I used to have to play my violin.

Extract
Did you find that there were a lot of musicians of your age?

Not so many of my age, but there were quite a lot musicians in Highfields, in Highfields Street itself. The first one I can think of was at the corner of Severn Street and Highfields Street, he was the organist of St Peter's Church, a Mr Bunny. Further along on the other side of Highfields Street towards the London Road end, there was a family called Burrows. Now I didn't know the senior Mr Burrows but his son was
Dr Ben Burrows who has not been dead very long. He was an organist at one or two different churches in Leicester and the daughter was Grace Burrows who was a very well known violinist in Leicester. It was through her that I went to the Symphony Orchestra because she was the leader of that and she ran a pupils' orchestra which had practices at the Edward Wood Hall Building. I'm not sure if it was the actual Hall or one of the small buildings.

Extract
You led a very busy life, did you have time to mix with youngsters or your own age?

Yes, yes I did, mainly through the church which I have mentioned before, like little dances and that sort.

If you went out, did you ever go to the pictures?

Oh yes, I went to the Evington cinema quite a bit and I used to go to things in Leicester like amateur dramatics or musicals, that sort of thing. My mother took part in two lots of Leicester Amateurs then, one was called "Rip Van Winkle" and I was quite a little girl then and "Up Pompeii", I forget who was the composer of that, those were the two she took part in. I had some photographs of her in her costumes.

Extract
Did you ever go down to the Fiveways cinema on Melbourne Road?

Yes, I played there once or twice but not regularly. It was silent films and they had orchestras you see and I have got an idea there was a trio or something violin, cello and piano that played at the Melbourne cinema and I think I went and deputised once or twice for them either when they were ill or went on holiday or something.

Extract
My father also played for the silent films, he played at somewhere called the Empire in Wharf Street off Humberstone Road, don't suppose that's there now, but they had films there and then it turned into more like a music hall and he still played there with one or two other men, violin and cello and I think it was an organ or something similar.

What sort of music did they play at on those occasions?

Well with the silent films they used to try to fit the music to things that were going on, and of course they had to sort of switch from one piece to another rather quickly, sometimes when the scenes changed. I suppose they had some nice sentimental music for the love scenes.

Extract
I didn't realise that we had a music hall actually!

Well, the Palais I think was definitely a music hall because they had some quite well known people there. Vester Tilly was a male impersonator, she's spoken of nowadays I know. I can't remember all the people by name but it was definitely a music hall because you where either the top of the bill or if you were at the bottom you were the next best.

Extract
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.

Extract
in the first world war, my mother and grandmother used to visit the soldiers at North Evington War Hospital which was is the General Hospital now, it was an Infirmary place before the war I think. In the first world war it was quite a big hospital and we used to walk there from Evington Street, straight through down to Melbourne Road, up Derwent Street to Mere Road, down Parkvale Road which is at the side of Spinney Hill, cross over and you are at the corner of Gwendolen Road, walk up Gwendolen Road and your at the hospital main gates. They used to go every Thursday and Saturday or every Thursday and Sunday I think. I used to go sometimes with them and then one or two of the men if they were well enough to get away were allowed to come and have tea and one of the nurses came with them once or twice. I remember one man he came from Nottingham and his name was Waterson, its funny how you remember these names isn't it? And then there was an Australian soldier who visited them after he had been back to Australia and he came to see them after when he came to England again. That was all from the first world war but they certainly had these men in their blue suits with their red ties, they wore flannel like suits.

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Mr Eric Tolton was born in Highfields in 1916.
Extract
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.

Extract
Actually, that has reminded me about something because I went for piano lessons, and in the Boys Brigade there was a young lad who played the violin and one of the Adcocks played banjo, so we formed a little dance band and we used to go down to the Tripe shop for band practise you see.

Did you ever play for parties and things like that, or just for your own pleasure?

Well, occasionally concerts at the chapel, that type of thing. I went to Humberstone Road Chapel, Newby Street Chapel. I cant remember where it was now, but there was a girl to do some dancing, and she plonked some music in front of me and I couldnt see her and she didnt make any noise in the dance at all. I was absolutely lost! I dont know what she thought of me!

Where did you have your piano lessons?

A man in Fairfield Street formed an accordian band, hes still alive. I think he was in charge at Cowlings, yes he worked at Cowlings. When I first went to him to have music lessons he worked for the railway, I dont know what he did but he worked on the railway. I cant think what his name is. They had a Leicester Accordion Band only eighteen months ago across at the church hall here and the ladies that go to church asked me if I would like to go, and I went and I spoke to somebody there. There was one in the Boys Brigade that took to the accordion, I forget his name now. There was this music teacher and I asked the chap that led the band here if they still had anything to do with it. I think they were both still alive but they had quarreled and split. You know this happens when you get organisations. Ive got Busby or something like that on my mind, Mr Busby.

Extract
Lets go back to Wesley Hall and the Boys Brigade. Did you go away on camp?

Oh yes, I went to camp every year. Skegness as a rule.

Did you go under canvas?

Oh yes.

The first camp I went to was a joint camp with Newby Street and they set about twelve to the tent there, oh it was ever so crowded and I got cramp in my leg and Id never had cramp before. It set hard you know, I thought my leg had broken, but one of the boys said to rub it. He got up and rubbed my leg and course the feeling came back. I still get cramp now.

Extract
Oh about five years I should say. I was eleven when I joined. I was still at school or in about my last year when I was sixteen. I got interested in girls and I joined the Labour Party League of Youth which met in New Walk, 29 New Walk that is where I met my wife. My mother was in the Womens Guild at St Hildas Church. There was a lady there, a Mrs Blewitt and she said to my mother, Would your son take my daughter with him because she is interested in politics. I said Id take her. Id seen her about but Id never spoken to her, she was about my age, so I took her and she took up with a pal of mine you see, Ken Shilcock. She is now Mrs Shilcock! They still send me Christmas cards. I picked my wife up and thats how it all started. When all this was going on, I wasnt interested in the Boys Brigade. The friend that I joined with, Alec Chambers, he became Sergeant after I left. Now there is another funny relationship there, Alec Chambers lived in Bonsall Street. His aunt married my mothers brother so we had both got a common aunt and uncle, and their son was a common cousin you see, but we were no actual blood relations ourselves. We went cycling together.

Where did you cycle?

Oh we went to Oswestry where my cousin lived, we went to Southampton and apart from that, Kettering was a regular Saturday visit, the cycle trip at Kettering.

You cycled all the way?

Yes, we joined the Youth Hostel Association and we used to go and stay at nice places. Once I started courting, (my wife couldnt cycle) we used to go hiking. I went over on my bike the next morning and met her there! My other friend Ken married Dorothy, he used to cycle as well. He came to Southampton with me to my aunt and uncle there you see, but Alec used to do the majority of cycling.

Extract
When you were in your teens and interested in girls, what sort of entertainments were around?

Ah well, only going to the cinema and dancing. I couldnt dance anyway so it was only going to the cinema.

Where did you go?

Evington cinema.

The one on the corner of Chesterfield Road?

Yeah, thats right. Strangely enough, one of the ladies up here, she can tell the same story. Sunday night, we used to parade up and down the London Road you know, all the youngsters or teenagers of Leicester. It was a regular procession, we used to walk up giving the girls the glad-eye, and she did the same she met her husband doing it!!! Hes dead now, she lives just across the road. We laugh about it.

Were there any dance halls locally?

Oh, yeah there was one at the fire station at Lancaster Hall, the dance hall that the fire station people used to go to. It was called the Embassy, over the Co-op on the Uppingham Road just before you get to the Uppingham Park, whats the name of the park, is it Humberstone Park? Before you get to Humberstone Park, its quite a big park – the room over that was a dance hall. Of course, the Palais de Dance was going but oh you didnt go there. Mother wouldnt let you go there.

Extract
Can I go back to something you said earlier. You joined the Labour Party League of Youth, were you very involved in local politics?

Well I was at an age where the young people thought they could mould the world. Ive got some photographs, there is one somewhere of a group out hiking, well I dont know where we went I was more interested in the girls, usually out in Charnwood Forest area we used to go. Im not really a good walker but the others didnt bike so we used to go hiking. I cant remember what we got up to were all pretty good, you were in those days not like nowadays you had to behave yourselves.

Did you feel that it was reasonably safe to go anywhere day or night in those days?

Yes, when I started courting, my wife lived in Newfoundpool off the Pool Road, I lived on Mere Road and it was perhaps two in the morning on Saturday night when I left her. I used to think nothing of it and get on my bike and bike home. No you never had any trouble, the only trouble that I had was my bike lamp didnt work!

Extract
The first time I took my wife home after a Christmas party was through the Labour Party League of Youth. A lot of us got together and we had a bit of a Christmas party you see, and she was there so we finished up kissing and cuddling and I took her home. I was walking on air! One night when I got home, my mother was sitting waiting for me, about one in the morning this was!

Extract
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.

Extract
When I started courting we went and played tennis on the Spinney Hill Park. I remember them building a sandpit on the top along the Mere Road. And of course in the winter time, Im jumping up a year or two now, they used to do sledging down the hill, oh it was marvellous because there were one or two odd trees and you had to dodge the trees. The Italian prisoners of war used to come up there sledging from Shady Lane, or was it the Germans? I think it was some of each, Italians for a start and Germans later from the big camp on the Shady Lane there. It was getting towards the end of the war they still hadnt come out, we used to go sledging down the Spinney Hill Park.

Extract
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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Mrs Muriel Wilmot came to live in Highfields in 1927.
Extract
I went to St Peter's Church.

Do you remember what that was like?

Very very nice indeed, I loved it. I used to go to Sunday School in the afternoon and service for grandmother and father at night, and if there was anything on in the week I would go to that also.

Did a lot of people go to that church?

Yes, there were a lot then, it had an atmosphere then which is minus now.

Extract
we always had a holiday. My father always insisted on a weeks holiday at Blackpool and we used to go to Bagworth frequently. We used to walk to Bagworth from here across the fields to Anstey and we used to think it was marvellous. We would take a picnic lunch and probably have an ice-cream, that was a luxury.

Extract
We had a wireless. My father was very fond of making a Crystal set, I don't suppose you'd remember the Crystal set.

I have seen pictures.

Yes, he used to make the Crystals for the wireless set. When we lived in the country, he used to go round all the villages selling them. I can see him now sitting listening with the head phones on, I was about 3 or 4.

Extract
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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Mrs Dorothy Woodford was born in Highfields in 1921.
Extract
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.

Extract
Sunday afternoons after Sunday school, with parents rested and in an amiable frame of mind were quite social occasions. My parents were friendly with a couple – Alfred and Edith Wilson, their daughter Doris was about my age. They would arrive at our house complete with music case and music, and after a wonderful tea of John West salmon, salad, peaches and cream we would be regaled by piano duets by my father and his friend Alfred, followed by my mother singing such songs as 'Come back to Erin', 'Land of my Fathers', 'There's an Old Fashioned House in an Old Fashioned Street', 'Annie Laurie', 'Robin Adair', and one which even today brings tears to my eyes, 'Under the Spreading Chestnut Tree the Village Smithy Stands'. How safe and loved we felt on these family evenings! The following Sunday, complete with our music we would reverse the process and join the Wilsons at their house in Copdale Road. There wasn't any transport, so we walked both ways.

Extract
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!

Extract
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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Mrs Joan Hands came to live in Highfields in 1940.
Extract
Spinney Hill park was my second home. It was the next best thing to being brought up in the countryside rather than in a terraced row of Victorian houses. From a very early age I can remember going up Derwent Street, where I lived with my mother, baby brother Eric, Nan and Grandad and my motherís uncle whilst my father was away in Egypt during the Second World War, to play in the park. The swings were wonderful. There was a row of really high ones that would swing you up almost to heaven and two rows of smaller ones for toddlers, which may have had bars across for safety. They were all made of wood with large metal chains to suspend them. Once, I fell off the taller swings when I had worked my way up to the highest point. I hit my head and lost consciousness for a few minutes, but I never told my parents or I would have been forbidden to play there.

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