A tin bath in front of the fire, collecting coal in an old pram to keep the family warm, putting coins in the gas meter, visiting a scrap yard to raise a few pennies to help the family budget and even then not realising the family was poor until years later!
These colourful memories come from Christine Glenn and her sister Elaine Tournay Godfrey who was born in the heart of Ipswich in the1940’s and who now both live near Dallas in the USA. The years soon after the Second World War are known as the “Baby Boomer Years”. The Godfrey family is one that lives up to the name!
Christine and her sister Elaine explain. “We are members of the Godfrey family and we had enough kids in our family for a football team and one reserve! Dad was from a large family, and all except one had at least four children. Mum came from a family of five.”
“Our Mum and Dad had six daughters and three sons; Dad had two daughters from a previous marriage. After he died in 1995, we found out he had another daughter from before his first marriage, so there were twelve of us. “We always had someone to play with and someone to fight with. When we had fights we picked sides, it was always sister Sandra's side or Christine, and she was thought to be the mean one! We didn't ever hurt one another though, because we would have really got in trouble from our mum and when all was said and done mum took charge and hit all of us. It didn't matter why or who, she got us all for fighting. I (Christine) threw a shoe at Sandra one night when Mum was working, she ducked and the shoe went through the window. I don't remember what mum did to me for that, I guess I was so scared I blocked it out.”
“Our early years were spent at 5 Adelphi Place, which was from 20 Lower Brook Street. Granddad owned a lot of the houses there. It was a three-story house; we had the ground floor and a bedroom on the second floor at the front. Ann, Judy, Sandra and Christine slept in there in a double bed. Two at the top and two at the bottom. The bath was an old tin one in front of the fire and the toilet was outside, there was also one on the second floor but it didn't have a light. You had to take a candle with you.”
“Bill Shin lived in a room on the second floor and the Versey family had the rest of the second floor and the third.”
“Around 1953 we moved to 29 Tanners Lane, later to become Civic Drive. We had a three bedroom council house and as the family got larger it got a little louder and we really don't think we ever knew what a quiet space was. Usually if it was quiet Mum would think we were up to mischief.”
“At one time six of us slept in the front bedroom upstairs, six in the double bed, three at the top and three at the bottom until we also got a single bed and two moved into it leaving plenty of room for the other four. The three boys slept in the front room downstairs and sisters Judy and Ann had the back bedroom upstairs.”
“We made use of the top and bottom of the bed and 'finding your own space' meant lay down, hold your ground and do not move. Feet either side of your head was common while you slept, strip wash or bath time meant choosing the lesser of two evils, getting washed first or being the last to use the lukewarm, well used, water.”
“We all had jobs to do around the house. At tea time, one would set the table, one would put the kettle on, one would make the tea, one would pour it out, after tea, one would clear the table, one would wash the dishes, one would dry the dishes, and one would sweep the floor. We were very territorial, we did not do someone else's job and they did not do yours.”
“Finding your own space? We never did that, it never occurred to us that there was such a thing, it was 'I baggs it first' and whatever it was, it was yours that's all there was to it. It was an unwritten code.”
“We would go to the bag wash on Saturdays, and I know everyone would try and get in before the Godfrey's would get there and tie up all the machines.”
“Then there were the hand-me downs, depending on where you were in line, you made off like a bandit by getting the clothes first, or were done for, by getting them before they went to the ragbag. We got what the two before us had outgrown. I (Elaine) remember taking a pair of shoes and dragging them along a wall on the way to school trying to get rid of the last bit of wear in them, so mum would buy a new pair. I would get to start them off on the way down the line for a change.”
“Mum would make us help with the cleaning and cooking, she felt that we should all be able to take care of ourselves when we were older and had our own homes.”
“We bought our vegetables at Mrs. Taylor’s greengrocer shop on the Mount or from Mr. Smith, as he pushed his vegetable cart around the neighboring streets. There was also Buckingham's shop on the mount where we would shop on Sunday mornings. We always got our Sunday sweets and Corona pop there, our treat for the week.”
“We also shopped at the Co-op and looked forward to drawing the dividend or “Divi” as mum called it. When the gasman came every quarter and emptied the meter we had another windfall. She would put all the shillings from the rebate on the sideboard shelf and we would all sneak one when she wasn't looking.”
“Having to run up to the shop or to the neighbors to see if they had a shilling for the meter every time the gas or electric went was a pain. People in America look at you like you were from the dark ages when you mention things like that from your childhood!”
“At Easter we got new clothes. A new dress and black lace up shoes that we could also wear for school. One Easter Mum bought us all hats and duster coats to wear to church. We thought we would die, but she was so proud to see us all heading to St Matthew's church dressed to the nines.”
“We also got new clothes at Christmas. Mum and dad belonged to the Christmas Clubs at church. She would start off paying each week and then get behind and in November had to come up with the back dues. We always had a stack of Christmas gifts each year though.”
“We bought clothes at the second hand shops when times were tough. We remember hanging around outside until there was nobody around to see us go in to buy shoes and we remember some horrible clothes that were passed from one to another as we grew.”
“I (Christine) had an awful pair of mustard coloured, suede shoes, that I used to hide behind the backyard fence when I went to school in the morning and I'd wear my plimsolls and then change when I came home in the afternoon. Mum caught me one day and I didn't do it again. One winter I wore blue sandals to school and a girl told me I was stupid for wearing them because it was snowing. They were all I had so I kept wearing them.”
“Our mother was big on education. She made us read to her at night and do sums. She was always determined that we would not struggle through life and that we would 'make something of ourselves”
“We used to collect old rags and newspapers and take them to Sacker's to get money to go to the pictures in the summer holidays. We saw Pollyanna and wanted to grow up to be Hayley Mills. We swung on every tree limb or any overhanging bar or piece of wood after seeing Trapeze and learned to waltz like Yul Brynner in the King and I”.
“We always had birthday parties. Jelly, custard and little potted meat sandwiches and usually invited one friend.”
“Tuesday was family allowance day. We would go to the post office on St. Peter's St and on the way home go to Yapp’s to get two shillings worth of stales for tea. Sometimes we would get cream cakes in the stales and sometimes it was just plain old penny cakes and we always nicked one on the way home.”
“We would have to go to the coal yard to get coal because sometimes we couldn't afford to have a regular delivery. We'd take the pram or tripper and wheel it up to the coal yard near the station and back. One day the wheel came off the tripper and the coal fell in the street. We had to go home, get a shovel and come back and shovel the coal back in the bag. We learned humility at an early age.”
“In the summer we played at the park or in the street in front of the house. We played cowboys and indians, rounders, hopscotch, hide and seek and games that I think we just made up. There were a lot of kids in the neighborhood and we all played together.”
“During the school year we had a set bed time and we were probably the only kids in town that were in bed at 7.30 in the evening when it was still daylight outside and all the other kids were still out playing.”
“We used to go to Felixstowe for the day in the summer, Mum would start getting us ready about 8:00 a.m. and at noon we were still getting ready!
“Minced beef loaf sandwiches, cheese and tomato sandwiches, egg sandwiches and boiled eggs, biscuits, all had to be made to eat on the beach, then we had to find our swimming costumes. Our transportation was our dad's huge furniture removal van. The settee and armchairs were taken out of the house and loaded and strapped down in the lorry, if a neighbor was coming, and need be, their furniture was loaded on the van also. Finally we were all loaded, kids galore, and off we would go singing and hanging out over the tailboard. I think our means of transportation was the pioneer of what is called a travel home now! On the way home we stopped at The Haven on Felixstowe Road and had crisps and a bottle of lemonade.”
“We went 'Penny for the Guy' in Marks and Spencer's one year. We would also go to the clubs where the Americans hung out, they always gave us money. We always had fireworks and a huge bonfire. That's how we got rid of the old furniture because by the time we were through, it was only worth burning. We used to go carol singing too, but just kept the money we collected and bought sweets.”
“Sundays were special in our house. It was the one day of the week we always had dinner together. When we were all at the table you learned to eat with your elbows down in order to all fit in. We were taught table manners, don't lick the knife, eat with your mouth closed, don't talk with food in your mouth and don't leave the table before the meal was finished.”
“We grew up in an age when parents were the law in the house and we did as we were told and never answered back. “There were numerous times when the bills didn't get paid. One day there was a knock at the door and mum said "That's the insurance man, tell him I'm not in" and she hid in the cupboard where the gas meter was. When my sister told the man at the door mum wasn't home he said he was the gasman and wanted to read the meter. He opened the cupboard door and there was mum!”
“Us girls all had long hair and we would wear it plaited with colored ribbons. We used to have to plait each others hair before going to school; the older girl plaited the hair of younger girl on down the line. Everyone knew who we were because we all had the long hair and ribbons. As we were going to school the neighbors on James St would all comment on the "little Godfrey girls" and their long hair. We had to go to “Woolies” every Saturday and buy new ribbon. I spent my first pay packet on a haircut. Went from waist long hair to just below the ears in one quick cut!”
“When we got older and started going into the pubs. People still knew who we were. The landlord would say " I know your Dad, you're one of the Godfrey girls and you aren't old enough to drink" “We didn't know until we were grown up that we were poor.