Oral History Interviews

roaming free out of doors

In this interview we hear Joan recollect about playing outside mostly as a young girl. They didn’t have many toys to play with. Occasionally her mother would live them on their own to cope, though there was always people she could call on if needed. Though she remembers fondly going to the library every week, a a fabulous warm place. Once she was an adult Joan remembers going dancing, getting dressed up, and chatting up the boys. Then Joan got married at 20 and had a son at 21.

Free Time Oral History Summary

As a young person Joan was mainly out of doors, roaming free, especially in the summer holidays. They’d make up their own entertainment, though never roam too far from home. Games they played were skipping, hopscotch (though it was called itchy in Carlisle for some reason, it was the same principle of hopscotch, but they called it itchy). They’d make go-karts from orange boxes, pram wheels and bits of rope, they were treacherous, Jane called these bogeys and not go-karts, Jane thinks this is a North country word. They used to have skipping ropes. One thing she remembers playing with is a  wooden top attached with rope; she talks about how she used to play with this wooden top with whip, how to keep it going as long as possible. Joan was seven/eight when she played these games. They used to make tents, they always seemed to be outdoors. She had an older sister who is four years older than her and she could sometimes play with her and her friends and sometimes not. Mostly played with friends in her street. Joan’s mother would go to work and leave the children alone, they were told if there is any trouble to go to one of the neighbours; there was always somebody looking out for them. There would not be somebody baby-sitting them, specifically looking after them, but generally people in the street would be around keeping their eyes open. Joan remembers that quite a lot being on her own without her parents. Her older sister would sometimes look out for her.

When indoors, again they would play make up games. They’d play together. They didn’t have many toys. They play shops, her mum had a button tin and they’d use the buttons as coins. Joan talks about how the shops had vacuum tubes to collect money. Joan remembers in her bedroom imitating this payment system – having cotton and match boxes and hook pins in so they could slide them down the column to imitate shop payment. They used to play concerts for her mum and dad, it was mainly Joan, she was the show off. Should go upstairs get dressed up and come down and make an entrance. She got dressed up as Carmen Miranda.

Joan listened to the radio, she listened to ventriloquist on the radio. They’d all listen to the radio together, apart from Sunday afternoon when her dad listened to the cricket. They did play board games like snakes and ladders, and drafts.

Her mum was an avid reader and she would lose herself in books. She’d take Joan and her sister  to the library a lot. Talks about the fantastic old library she went to in Carlisle, a fabulous warm place. Joan and sister continue throughout their life to read a lot. Joan spend a lot of time in the library, reading and choosing a book. Joan talks about some of the books her grandparents bought her, these were the classics and were too old for them at this stage in their age. Joan talks about one of the book she loved deeply and how years later she managed to find it again and buy it.

We talk about chores she had to do. Joan can’t remember any specific chores but probably did things like washing up or run to the shops.

Jane talks about her father who was on a minesweeper in the war and the austerity they faced in the 10 years after the war ended. They were so cold sometimes they’d have to pile all the coats on top of their bed to keep warm. At weekends she remembers going for walks as a family. They lived at the edge of the city and there was canal walk they’d do, anything that didn’t cost money. Joan talks about them not having much money and little food they could buy.

She did buy sweets, but they could only buy sweets with a ration book. They’d have to wait until the following week for a new ration stamp. The shopkeeper was a scary person though, they all thought she was a witch. The shop was in her front room, Joan describes the shop.

Joan played in the streets around their home. Joan doesn’t remember any strict rules, however her mother was a strict person. All the kids played in the streets together and neighbours would look out for each other, it was very social thing.

Joan moves onto being a teenager, 14 upwards. Mainly this was just hanging out with a friend and chatting. They usually met just after school, Joan went to a grammar school and doesn’t remember really going out so much. Used to meet up with a friend for a girly giggle and talk about clothes and boys.

When Joan was 16, when she left school, she’d started to go dancing. She had wanted to go to technical College but her mother had heart problems and Joan had to get a job. Her sister had left home and gone to Newcastle to become a nurse. It was very easy to get job then, she just got a newspaper run the finger down the job ads list and Joan got the first job she went for.

Once in work she then be going out, getting dressed up, chatting up the boys, dancing twice a week on Tuesday and Saturday, where they’d have a band, apart from in the interval when they play records. All the girls would congregate in one area and all the boys in a different area, all eyeing each other up. Talks about social interaction at the dance hall. There was no bar, there was no drinking, she remembers having a drink once, a gin and lime and she had that because that was what her mum drunk. The dances were held in the county hotel.

Occasionally went to the cinema. They’d see two films and an animation, it was a real night out. She was stay at home making her own clothes, because she needed to. Her wage was 3 pounds a week at 16 and she gave her mother half that. Her mother would do her washing. She get enough material to make a dress for three shillings. Joan make a lot of her clothes on an old treadle sewing machine, this used to keep her fit, it was enormous machine.

There were Teddy boys around, with their slicked back hairstyles and drainpipe trousers and shoes with thick soles – she remembers them calling the shoes brothel creepers. She didn’t go for a teddy boy, her mother would have killed her if she’d brought a teddy boy back.

Moving onto adulthood. She was 19 when she met her husband (that was in Weymouth) and got married quite soon afterwards, when she was 20. She had a son when she was 21 and her second son when she was 22. All her time spent looking after the children. She got on with life, did part-time jobs when she could. They moved back to Carlisle for a bit because of work, for seven years. Talks about her husband’s job, moving around country and how his employer in those days would help with the move and with a deposit for a house.

They made a rule that on the Sunday they would go out as a family.

They had a TV – they find TV can slowly take over your life. Her children were out a lot though, they were living in Wales at the time. The children would disappear up the mountain and come back with their backside hanging out. There was was a certain time in in the early evening when she’d look at the clock and think its about time they were back and she’d open the door and there they were.

Talks about how she hated school, apart from domestic science, as called it then. She loved the  domestic science teacher. This led to Joan always making clothes, throughout her life for her and her children and she still does.

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