Oral History Interviews

We have been lucky

During the second part of our interview with Eric and Doris, we continue to hear about their early lives, of playing with Meccano, of not having toys or games and using your imagination to invent the games you played; of building a sailing boat from a library book; of watching Tottenham Hotspur as a young girl with her dad; of card games and Saturday morning pictures; and of the continued love of music and dancing.

Free Time, Our Stories interview summary

Eric loved Meccano sets and he’d play a lot with this. When he retired he bought a top of the range, which he continued to add to; unfortunately he had to auction off last year as his eyes and hands have deteriorated too much. He’s built an 8 foot long merchant ship, a 7 foot Eiffel Tower; he’s done a lot of Meccano. During the war he used to buy model aeroplane kits, make them up, paint them and then sell them in a local toyshop. As you have to remember there wasn’t a lot of toys available then. In later life he has made a model of his home where they live now and of a barn conversion they did in Wales.

Thunderer - meccano model of a steam tractor engine

Thunderer – meccano model of a steam tractor engine

Doris talks about the imagination games they used to play as a child, of imagining they had a car and playing with her siblings. Doris had a neighbour who had a car, which was quite something in those days, and he used to take them out in it sometimes, so when they played they’d imagine they were in his car.

Eric talks about going to Never Never Land in Southend, his dad would drive them in a car. Eric used to cycle a lot, but this was mainly to get too work or too college in the evening, rather than for leisure. He used to cycle 15 miles to work.

Doris remembers going cycling when they were married with their children. They talk about how little traffic was on the roads in the old days.

Eric tells us about launching his medal aeroplanes from the middle-of-the-road, as there was no real traffic they could do this quite easily.

Doris and Eric talk about how Eric built a sailing boat from a library book. Eric saw the boat in a shop and thought that was nice, so he went and bought an 11 foot pack and built it in the garage. This was in 1957. They’ve had some adventures in this boat.

hand built sailing boat

We talk about eating out. Doris talks about how lucky and compatible they have both been.

Doris talks about radio shows, Monday night at eight radio show and Hancock’s half an hour and radio Luxembourg, which was like ITV nowadays with all the ads. The whole family would gather around the radio, they all loved the radio. They have had a choir singing at their home for the last 30 years.

Doris had a Saturday penny as her weekly allowance, this wasn’t for Saturday morning pictures as she didn’t have to pay for some reason. Eric used to have 6p a week. If he wanted to buy anything he’d have to save his money to get it.

Eric talked about a game called Kitty Knapp, a game like whist, but there is a lot cheating going on [laughs].

Doris talks about the park and that they’d always be a keeper around on the lookout. On the cinema you would see main film, a b-film, a cartoon and news and maybe some ads. You pay your money and you can stay in their as long as you like. Doris talked about walking everywhere, you didn’t expect to do anything else.

Doris remembers her dad taken her on the bus to see football, going to the touchline. They used to go to see Tottenham Hotspur, which was only a small club in those days, this was in the 1930s. Going on the bus with dad was a real treat. It was quite suitable for young girl to go to see football.

Eric talks about trams and them being open at the top. Until 1937 when the trolley buses come on stream. Eric talks about the technology changing on the trolleybuses. We talk about the mayhem in the cheering and the booing that went on during Saturday morning pictures, but how this was always monitored by adults.

Doris talks about how worried her father was about boys who were suitable for his daughters. She goes on to talk about how her sister got pregnant out of wedlock, it was awful but everyone, everyone, was ashamed at the time. When her sister was on her deathbed she told Doris that she’d made a mistake and she’d paid for it throughout her life. Father of this child had come over to mend the bomb damage, he had wanted to marry her and he did marry her. The son in later life traced his fathers family back to Ireland and on going back to Ireland had found out that his father had been a bigamist.

We go on to talk about the games they played at school. Leapfrog, while Eric played the man version called ‘Jimmy Knacker’. He goes on to describe how to play this game, with head under each other’s crutch and link together and the others would jump onto their backs and shake trying to break the chain.

We move onto their leisure as adults. It’s always been dancing, children, music and singing. Doris talks about who Eric has played music for and with; even though he’s never taken a music exam. They had a group of seven who’d come round to their house and they’d play as a sectec in the home. Eric has played the organ for the last 15 years, until he had to give it up because he couldn’t see the sheet music. They used to go dancing in the youth club.

Dancing with the Halex Club

In their 30s they joined the school dance club. Their elder two children were old enough to be more self-reliant at this stage. Such fun. Before their children were born they went to the Manor Hotel in Chingford to go dancing and they learnt sequence dancing, this was in their courtship days. They did quick step, modern ballroom, Tango, etc. Bit later life they went to church hall in Bridport to go dancing.

We talk about how they can live independently now as they have recently lost their car (had their license taken away) and living where they do public transport is a major problem.

They both agree that when they had the children they felt their leisure time stopped. When they had their first children, Doris was still living close to her family and so didn’t mind it too much as she could push the pram home to her parents. They had to stay in every evening and they would be constantly tired, which was why they felt their leisure stopped when you have children. Eric talks about the first home they moved into with their children and that they didn’t have a car. Doris says that they were tired and they didn’t have a lot of money. Doris goes on to talk about when she get got a car, she used to be a great taxi service, giving lifts to people. When you have children you have to consider them first. Doris did go out and meet friends, but it was always walking pushing the pram. They lived in a dip in Chingford so always walk uphill wherever you went.

They didn’t go to the cinema much as a courting couple. They weren’t that way inclined, they have never really gone to the cinema. They have always made their own entertainment with the piano or gone dancing. Doris didn’t feel she got her leisure time back until her daughters were older and off to university, unfortunately just as her two older daughters were about to go off to university Doris got pregnant again and this was a big shock. Doris and Eric had planned that Doris would start travelling with Eric who was having to travel a lot due to work, but the new child changed everything.

Eric talks about the work he was doing at that time, of how he had to travel to America. Doris had a lot of friends around her who could support her during this time.

at the piano

Eric had always had access to Grand piano, right from being a young boy. Talks about some of his pianos he’s had.

Eric enjoys reading factual books and has whole library, he really enjoys reading and he has written three books and had them published – talks about three different books he’s written and had published.

We talk about the leisure time the children got up to and they, much like Doris, would play in their garden and friends would visit them.

Eric talks about almost setting a cornfield alight by playing with magnifying glass, but his parents never found out about this.

Doris father only chucked Eric out once during the courtship days and this was because Eric was holding Doris’s hand.

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