Jessie Bosley and Margaret Christy

Interviewer:  Liz Bloom

March 3rd 2010


Margaret Christy aged 88

I’m Margaret Christy and I was born in Cavendish Road and I lived there until after I got married – I’d been married 3 years ( I think I was about 33 when I moved from Cavendish Road) and then I moved to Glenferrie Road and I was there 17 years and then I lost my husband and then I moved, after 5 years, to Pinewood Close and that is where I live at the moment.  It took me 5 years to settle down there because being up the other end it was different somehow.  Years ago I never used to go into town, only to go to the cattle market which was in St Peter’s Street at the back of the market hall, because we’d got every shop that you needed for everything; barbers, cleaners, literally everything, so you didn’t go into town.  If you used to go into town then it would only cost you about a penny to go to St Peter’s Street.

I used to go to Clarence Park to play all day.  We used to take a bottle of lemonade and go down; we’d play safely all day there.  My mum used to go out to work; she used to do what they called charring then.  She used to go and clean for a lady in Blandford Road and then she worked in town at Buglar’s, there was a restaurant called Buglar’s in town and my dad worked on the gas company; he was a gas fitter.  The gas company used to be down Holywell Hill.

I used to come to Fleetville School and we used to have to walk home every day.  They hadn’t got canteen facilities when I was there; we used to walk home to lunch to Cavendish Road every day and when I was 11 I went to Priory Park Girls School; that was Old London Road.  We used to have to walk home from there; they hadn’t got any canteen or anything like that and the same for sports; we used to have to go to Clarence Park.  For Science and those sorts of things we used to have to walk up to the top of Victoria Street the building…it’s the Maltings Surgery now.

(At Cavendish Road)  I feel it was…you knew everybody that lived in the road then and people used to help you.  It was very close knit like a family all in the road really.  Now, people don’t seem to want to care about other people; I don’t know whether they care but they don’t come and knock on your door; you wouldn’t know if anybody was there.  It’s not friendly, I don’t think, these days.  I think we’ve got to get back to being closer.  It was family orientated in those days.  I lived at 21 Cavendish Road, my grandmother lived at 51 so families were round about then.  We used to play in the street then and I joined the Girls Life Brigade – that was at the Methodist church then.  We used to play in the street – play ball and that – quite safely.  I was very happy; my childhood and everything was very happy then.  I used to go and do shopping for a lady that couldn’t get out and I used to get 7 pence a week for that.  I used to do that after school.  I did two of those, so that was my pocket money for the week.

At the top of Cavendish Road there was a garage, called Butlers, and they had a shop the opposite side of the road, near the Conservative Club now, and that was Butlers the butchers.  That was a family thing, the garage and the butchers over there.  They had Hookers on the next turning which was Albion Road and that was Hookers the glass people; that was a family business.  Then there was a butchers the other side and there was a fish and chip shop in Albion Road and then we had the Post Office down by the Crown.  We had all the businesses coming all the way up; there was Goodies the bakers, there was Cliffe’s the little confectionary, there was Mr Ellis, he was the boot repair man.  The Conservative Club….. has always been there for years and years and then the Liberal Club is further down.  (Before the garage) that was a slaughter house.  They used to kill the animals there; you could hear that when they brought them in.  At the bottom of Cavendish Road there was an orchard, it belonged to a Mr Davies - he lived in Cavendish Road  -and we did all sorts of things.  That was before the Catholic School was built there.  The doctors and that which were at the top of Cavendish Road; they’re still there, and the dentist, they’re still there.  Laurel Road, there was Mr Scott the hairdresser, one side, and the other side it was a Mr Henderson and it was (for) second hand furniture and he used to cut men’s hair then.  That was before the war, when I was young.  There was Ben Pelly further down, that’s past the Liberal Club, and that was a household shop, selling all sorts of things.  That was the double spread where the….it’s now the pet shop and something else.  And then there used to be Sear and Carter’s next to that, before St Paul’s Church and that was to do with the nurseries and things

like that; they sold all garden things….where the flats are now.  Then there was the church, then there was the Co-op Grocery on the corner and then the Co-op Funeral Parlour and then there was the butchers.  Then there was Rollings, and he supplied shops;  that’s before the bakery shop where Jessie was now;  he was a wholesalers.  He used to supply all the shops with cigarettes, confectionary and all that sort if thing, in this area.  There was a dairy on the corner of Glenferrie Road and then you’ve got the Methodist Church and we had the bank down there; Westminster Bank, but later on we had 3 banks.  We had the Midland Bank, Westminster Bank and Barclays.  We had all those; they’ve all gone now.  Mr Orihashu was on the corner of Harlesden Road because my sister used to go there for piano lessons.  His wife taught piano.  (They were both Japanese).

(In Cavendish Road during the war)  I can remember the first siren; it was on the Sunday when the siren went.  It was rather scary to hear the sirens going because, I mean, they’re such a wail, and I just got down under the table, that’s all we could do.  We hadn’t got air-raid shelters, not in the street then.  Yes, I can remember that, it was quite scary.  Of course, everywhere was black at night.  There were no lights at all then; even if you lit a cigarette up you’d get into trouble then.  We got used to that, I think, during the war, being in the dark and that sort of thing.

We had two evacuees; they didn’t stay long.  They got homesick; they came out from London.  I think they only stayed about a couple of months, I think.  They got very home sick so they went back home then.  I think a lot of them did.  They’d never been away from home and missed mum and dad which I is understandable.

My father used to wear loose collars and they were starched years ago and my mother used to mend the shirts.  The same with the sheets; they would ‘top and end’ them if the sheet split, they’d mend it and then they’d turn it the best way round.  We always used to darn socks, we darned all the socks then, we used to.  Mum used to do crocheting; she used to crochet little table mats for the dressing table and covers for the armchairs so that they didn’t get dirty.

Of course, we used to play conkers year ago.  We used to have a lot of fun.  I used to go over to the cemetery conkering when they were in season.  We used to collect a lot then.  All the children used to have conkers on string and we used to play conkers.  We used to skip; we had skipping ropes to play skipping in the street. And paper chase; we used to have bits of paper and drop them down and go and find them, all in the street we did.

I went away for two and a half years; I joined up in the NAFFI.  I went down to Aldershot and I stayed in a camp there; it was a Canadian camp.  Then after six weeks I was moved to an ENSA hostel where the ENSA entertainers used to come and we used to look after them.  But then I had to come home after two and a half years because my mum had heart trouble and my dad was retired by then, so I came home to help them.  I had one brother and one sister; they’d left home then when I came out of the NAAFI.

(For clothing)  We used to have clothing coupons then and also sweet coupons.  I forget how many we were allowed; it wasn’t many.  We’d let them accumulate a bit, especially your clothes coupons to help out.  My mum used to do a lot of mending; you did in those days because you couldn’t afford to buy new things.  I wasn’t a dress maker but mum used to do a lot of sewing.  They had sewing machines years ago.  

Jessie Bosley aged 86

I came to Hertfordshire when I was 14.  I was an orphan; I was brought up in Feltham in Middlesex, but I came into Hertfordshire when I was 14.  I left school on Friday and I was put into service at Stanmore.  That would be 1938 and I was put into service which I didn’t really take to.  My grandmother brought us up and I was the last girl at home and I’d got more stamina than the other girls; you know, I wouldn’t wait on the boys.  You understand what I mean by that?  Because the girls did everything, didn’t they Margaret?  The boys never lifted a hand.

M: They got spoilt.

When the war first came, I was at Green Lane at Stanmore and there was a barrage balloon place at the bottom in the village there, you know, and sirens went off and we were all brought down into the cellars in this big place.  It was called Culverlands, at the top of Green Lane, and we used to sleep on the floor.  The people that owned the place, they went off and hid themselves; well, you know what I mean, and left us skivvies there.  After a year, I just packed my clothes and went home which didn’t (make me) very popular, but I went home.  The war had then started, I was 14 coming 15, and I was put to work in a…. my first job in the war was at Colgates factory on the Great West Road packing Dentifrice for the troops.  A seven mile ride there on a bike and a seven mile ride back – all weathers.  We packed saccharine as well and that used to make me sick.  My granny got me moved back home and then I had to go and work in an aircraft factory - Turrells aircraft factory - and that’s where I met my husband.  We made cockpits for Spitfires.  It was behind the Mini Max works which made all the fire extinguishers in those days – I think they still do.  Yes, that’s near Hounslow.  Then, of course, through the war, I did most things in the factory, you know.  I had my daughter and then I married Jack and we started a bakery at the end of the war in Feltham which Mr Morrison had to give….Jack had to go to Parliament to get….you may not believe this but Jack had to go to Parliament to get permission to open a bakery.  Well, you know, Mr Morrison (I’m not really talking politics really) they were Labour, and a lot of Labour people were what I call Communist; it’s like Mr Foot has died today – he was a Communist to me.  They all were; they joined Labour because they couldn’t get anywhere.  You see, the Co-op had a place there and they said the Co-op could serve them all.  But Jack appealed because he was a determined little man, wasn’t he, really, and we got a licence.  Eventually, as the war progressed and we made…my husband’s shirts were made into shirts for my little boy; a shilling it cost to have a shirt made into a shirt.  I knitted and sewed.  I couldn’t knit, you know, until I had the babies, and I knitted the vests for Sue because you couldn’t buy them really; you couldn’t afford the stamps anyway.  I sewed all the while, yes, I’d been taught to sew.  I mean, I’d had cut-down clothes since….I don’t think I’d ever had a new coat until I was about 17.  They were all cut-down clothes.

M:  My dad wouldn’t let me wear makeup; very strict he was.

I used to hide mine under the doorstep.  But I came through the war…It was terrible in Feltham really because we were on the Waterloo line, from Waterloo to Basingstoke, you know.  Feltham was a barrack town as well; regiment…REMI (?) and of course, it all went down to Aldershot…all the stuff came down there, you know, and they (German Luftwaffe) used to drop the vary lights each side of the railway and then come in and bomb us.  We didn’t know what it was to get a night’s sleep.

M:  I think St Albans was very lucky during the war.  I think there was one dropped in Ellenbrook (?) Avenue…We were very lucky considering we were only 20 miles.  Yes, Ellenbrook Avenue, that’s out towards Hatfield, that way.  Of course that was DeHavilland that way then.

Jack sent me away with the buzz bombs because he came from Malverne…. Malverne Hills, and I was like the evacuees; I came back.  I’d sooner face the bombs than the country!  We moved to Somerset for a while with our businesses and then about 60 years ago we came into St Albans from Watford.  I didn’t take very kindly to St Albans, you know.  It was what I called….everybody was a cousin….you know, in my little place in Sutton Road, yes.  Although we did quite well there.  I mean, there was Mr Price on the corner and the butcher and the Co-op – we had a Co-op there as well, you know.  Mr Gray, the fish and chip shop which is still there.  

M:  We had Nicholson’s, the big firm down there, didn’t we?

We supplied all them.  I supplied Marconi’s with their stuff.

M:  At the Crown, we had Peak’s.  They used to make coats.  What was their other name?.....Aquascutum.  It was Peak’s when they started off and then they went over to Aquascutum.

The same as Jessie; I left school at 14 and I went to work down at Taylor’s, the printing place, dwon by the station sort of at the corner of London Road and Ridgemont Road.  They’re a big block of flats now.  I worked there ‘til the war broke out.  I was 17 and a half then and you couldn’t go where you wanted to; you had to go somewhere else, but I went to Fisher and Knights on Lattimore Road, got a job there.  I joined up from there – I was away 2 and a half years -  but when I came back, I couldn’t go and get a job anywhere, I was directed; I had to go into something to do with the war.  I’d never been out to Welwyn Garden City and I had to go and work at Murphy’s; I had no option, so I used to have to get the bus there.  They were electrical because you had to do something to do with the war; radios and all that sort of thing.

I didn’t really settle in Sutton Road and the train used to go over the bridge there and the vans used to get stuck under there.  I walked this road for nearly 33 years to the shop down there….33 years!  I remember once when the Briggs had it here; they used to have the papers delivered, you know, on the corner here; the Post Office.  I remember Jack was ill and I used to have to go and take over the bakery while the shifts changed over – half past five/five in the morning.  3 times I nearly got killed because the papers….they used to chuck the papers out on the pavement, didn’t they?  These delivery men, they nearly killed me 3 times because they didn’t expect anybody.  I walked that for 33 years; think about it!

M:  Interesting characters; I thought of one.  We used to call him Old Tramp.  Where the flats are just along here, you know the flats along Hatfield Road;  that used to be like an open field, a bit of space just between the shops and he used to go in the hedges round there.  We used to call him Tramp Dick.  He was quite harmless; he was an educated man. He was there for years.

The other tramp used to come regularly to the shop and we used to give him a bottle of tea and a cake and people didn’t understand that he didn’t eat meat and they would buy my ham roll and he would throw it away, you see; he was a vegetarian.  When my brother died we gave him all his suits but he never ever wore them.  He had three overcoats and he whiffed a bit.  We used to let him sit round the corner and I always made him tea – bottled tea.  He used to go down Highfield Lane.  He used to live underneath the holly bush down there, in all weathers.  The last I saw of him he was on the roundabout on Spaghetti Junction in Birmingham when he died.

M:  They were very nice people; just a drop out, obviously.

Of course, just after the war, the Italians came to St Albans, didn’t they Margaret?

M:  We were overrun with Irish years ago.

But the Italians came.  Parents couldn’t talk.  The children always came to the shop and did the ordering.  They all had confirmations, you know, boys and girls did, you know, then.  I have what I call an Italian day, sometimes when I go out because they always think that I should be dead and they see that I’m still alive!  Well, they all stop me, the Italians, if I go down the town, it’s what I call an Italian day because if they’re down there they all stop me.  And then, of course, the Pakistani’s came to work at the rubber works which was up Camp Hill.  The Moroccans came to work at the nurseries down the end of Hatfield Road at Smallford.  I had several rows with the Moroccans because I thought they ill-treated their women.

M:  We used to get people down here just the same, I mean, Irish; we used to get the Irish in St Albans.  I mean there were fights then.  Friday nights there were fights.  They used to go to the Robin Hood and get a few totties and get drunk and on a Saturday they used to go over to the Victoria Dance Hall (on the corner of Victoria Street and Upper Lattimore Road).  That floor is still there as far as we know.

We used to get the gypsies at the Camp which was an older pub than it is now.  They used to come there and have their fights.  It’s a pub I would never go in.  Me and Sue used to creep in the off licence sometimes and get a bottle of beer.  Didn’t go into pubs.  

I’ve been a biker in my time. Well, Jack had motor bikes and my son had a motor bike.  Their motor bikes came before the car; we all had cars, we did.  My John loved his motor bike; my John was killed on a motor bike a few years ago.  You see, he was in his fifties; he had a car but he used the motor bike.  John, Susan’s husband, had a motor bike and sidecar.

M:  We didn’t have a car at all.  We used to have to walk everywhere.  My husband and I used to load the pram up and walk down to the Verulam Lake with the children then.  I joined a cycling club; the Verulam Cycling Club it was.  There was an Albanian Cycling Club and the Verulam Cycling Club then year ago.

When Sue had her children; half day Wednesday – the shop was always open – we’d walk down to the lake, then we’d walk home up London Road, round by the Mile House, she lived.  We thought nothing of it; I never thought nothing of it, you know.  There used to be a waterfall, didn’t there, Margaret, in the park?

M:  Yes, they had a big fountain.  I’ve got a feeling that is still somewhere - in what I call the first park.  There was the first park and the second park.  The second park was where all the cricket is and the first park; you go in and turn left and it was about half way between the two, before you get to the steps coming out near the railway bridge, there was a big fountain.  It was marble, all marble.  I don’t think they destroyed it.

We supplied all the canteens for the Rubber Works and Marconi’s and I went to all the whist drives that I could go to.

M:  I think our childhood was very happy, I really do.

Oh yes; we played!

M:  I know we hadn’t got much money but we were contented.  Now they’re having to pay people to teach children how to play and I think that’s very sad.  I mean, we used to make our own, didn’t we then, years ago.  I think our parents were stricter – my dad was.  I wouldn’t dare disobey my father.

My sister said to me, not long ago, when we hear all these things happening in the world today - my sister’s 92.  She said to me,” Jess you know,” she said,” I reckon me and you were brought up in a very secluded atmosphere.”  We never knew what the other half was doing.  At 14 I wouldn’t have known where a baby came from and yet I come from a big family – 13, with us three.  I wouldn’t have known what went on.  No, a sheltered family, she called us.

M:  If I went out I had to tell my father where I was going.  I had to be in by 11 o’clock and if I was late, I got into trouble. I know I did once and we had a row and he told me, “While you’re under my roof, you do as I say.”

At 16 when I was in Feltham, I watched the docks burn.  You could see the docks burning in Feltham with its red glow.  My grandmother used to have a fit if I went out.  I was born at the time when the Flappers were about; you understand – women were more able to do things.  I was the only one with short hair – the others were all long haired.

M:  I can remember the party we all had after the war finished in the street.  That was wonderful! (In Cavendish Road)  Everybody got together and they had a sort of meeting.  Different people did different things and it was lovely to see the whole length (of) tables down the street.  They had hats and everything, of course I mean you were so restricted during the war, even just after the war.  You hadn’t got a lot of things but everybody clubbed together and got things for the tea.  It was lovely, a nice camaraderie.

Fish paste and jam sandwiches.

M:  We need to get back to some of this camaraderie.

Later, when the Queen came, you know, there was Cambridge Road which had street parties.  Some of the ladies at St Lukes still keep together with that, don’t they?  It was Cambridge Road then; we had great parties.  When we had the carnivals, Cambridge Road used to come first!  We had great street parties.





Jessie Bosley & Margaret Christy

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