Highfields Remembered top bar showing extracts from some of the images in the database - click to skip navigation

Teenage Years

Roger Cave came to live in Highfields in 1940, the year he was born.
Extract
the first wages I started on were £ 12.00 a week. If I go back before then, I worked in the shoe trade, (there were a lot of shoe factories in Leicester at that time) and I think my first wages there were 4.00 a week at the age of sixteen.

Did that seem enough for all your basic requirements at the time?

It did at the time, yes, there wasn't cause to buy so much as there is now. I suppose that from leaving school and being on virtually nothing to £ 4.00 a week seemed quite a big jump really. It covered the clothes that I bought at that time, but as I say, expectations then really weren't so much as what they would be for youngsters now.

Extract
got to the age of fifteen they would go to work anyway. Their energies would be taken up with that. I don't remember there being many people unemployed then. I think you would probably be a bit of a problem child to be unemployed. There were always jobs in the factories really, so it was quite peaceful in the area.

Read the full interview
Listen to the full interview

Helen Edwards interviewing Sandy Coleman for Highfields Remembered.
Extract
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!

Extract
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.

Extract
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.

Extract
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.

Read the full interview
Listen to the full interview

Linda Cox who was born in 1948.
Extract
When I was nearing my teens, it seemed that my friend Lynda Cowles and myself were always hanging around Charny, looking for bargains or boys! We once got the shock of our lives when we thought we were looking quite glamorous to find we had been covertly photographed by the 'Leicester Chronicle' and appeared on the front page as "Two young window-shoppers". We both had short hair cuts and were wearing our gabardine school macs and ankle socks! We never lived it down.

Read the full interview

Mrs Hazel Jacques came to Highfields in 1942.
Extract
Ruth had some tin curlers, so we tried to curl her hair, we pinched a bit of sugar and put it in water and combed all this sugared water through her hair, then we put these tin curlers in and then all her hair became white and sugary! We couldn't get it out! That was quite funny.

Extract
What happened when you got to 14? Did you have to start work?

Well, if you didn't go home to your parents, you just had to be fostered out. A social worker would come and take you to the new foster home. I was going to another school and living in this foster home. My sister went to this art school but what normally happened was they'd go home with their parents and lived with their mother or the father or whatever and then that was it, it was end of the homes. There was no further help, you were out on a limb really.

You were considered to be grown up then.

Yes. So you walked up the entry with your satchel and three pairs of knickers! That was it, you were out! But we felt free, you know? We skipped off into the mist. I was fostered out to an old couple, older than my grandparents. I didn't get on very well there. Then they sent us to another one on Thurlby Road, that was in the same area as Highfields, just off Humberstone. We stayed there for a few years, it was quite nice there but you still had to be in at 8 o'clock at night. I went to night school just to be out a bit longer, because that was on until 9pm so I could stay up till half past.

Read the full interview
Listen to the full interview

Mr Aidan Maguire came to Highfields in 1962.
Extract
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.

Extract
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.

Extract
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!

Extract
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.

Extract
I was just coming to the corner of Berners Street, when I noticed this bloke at the corner, it was about 11 o'clock. He was about fifteen or something, but the minute I spotted him I knew he looked dangerous. I got to the corner where the delicatessen was, I knew he was coming for me and I ran, I managed to get to our door just in time. I was lucky that night you know. It was that place. I think after that you had to be aware there was two sides to Highfields. You based your life on the street you lived in.

Extract
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.

Extract
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.

Read the full interview

Marjorie Marston was born in Highfields in 1942.
Extract
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.

Extract
When you were a teenager, can you remember the sort of fashion that was around?

Yes, I used to love it, it was the big bouffant skirts, you know, with the stiff underneath skirts with all the ribbons on and things, and the big wide belts and tight fitting bodices. I suppose blouses and high heeled shoes, winkle pickers, you know with the pointed toes. I don't think that did my feet much good, but anyway I used to have those. I wonder how I walked in some of those high heels but I think girls used to look feminine, they used to look very nice. Especially in those skirts I used to love them, we had stockings of course we had stockings and suspenders. I didn't like them so much, tights are much better

Read the full interview
Listen to the full interview

Mrs Margaret Porter came to Highfields in 1923.
Extract
My teenage years were spent during the war, I can remember painting my legs to save on stockings (in those days probably Lisle, as nylon stockings had hardly come in then) and using Vaseline and soot for eye-shadow! We made pixie-hoods in the winter out of long scarves, and wrapped smaller scarves round our heads in the form of turbans.

Read the full interview

Brett Pruce was born in Highfields in 1955.
Extract
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.

Extract
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.

Read the full interview

Mr Eric Tolton was born in Highfields in 1916.
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
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.

Read the full interview
Listen to the full interview

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

There was just her mother and dad and her older sister and after her dad died when she was 12 or 13, she was devastated. She remembers how frightened she was as a 12 or 13 year old seeing her dad in his coffin in the front room of their home. That memory has stayed with her and it's difficult for her to attend a wake or a funeral today. When she was old enough to work, she helped support the family and gave her mother her pay check each week. Some of her jobs included serving tea to the Cricketers in Spinney Park when she was 14 or 15, cloakroom attendant at the local roller skating rink where she skated when she had free time, working as a receptionist at Lady's Pride Cothing Ltd. while in high school and and when she was 19 Marie became a model for Lady's Pride Cothing in Leicester. She always enjoyed going to the movies on Saturdays and going dancing, at the Palaise. She said she enjoyed American movies and dancing to American music was popular growing up.

Marie moved to another location in Leicester in 1959 then moved to the US in 1962 at age 19 to join her sister and mother. She did some modelling, became a stewardess for Delta airlines, married a dentist and lived in Manhattan for many years.


De Montfort University